Growing A Vertical Garden

by | Apr 8, 2017 | 2 comments

I have always admired living walls. I have seen them growing outside on buildings and inside with houseplants, but hadn’t tried growing one of my own. I was doubtful about the way they would grow. Would the plants grow out or up and get long and unshapely. So, I finally decided to see for myself, and so went off to the garden center to find some plants. I already had a Grovert living wall planter from Bright Green (a Michigan company) that I had purchased previously. The framed Grovert wall below was seen on a garden walk. The homeowner created it in a class at a local greenhouse and put the frame around it which she found at a thrift store. That alone should have made me run home and make one! I love it! The next three pictures are from Longwood Gardens. I love how they covered a door with tillandsias or air plants to disguise it. The last picture is from the orchid show at the New York Botanical Garden in 2012. The whole orchid show that year was a nod to Patrick Blanc, the famous living wall creator. The walls were gorgeous!

So with the planter and some newly purchased Exotic Angel plants, I potted up the wall. I bought 4″ plants along with a pothos in an 8″ hanging basket that could be separated making more than one plant. I knew I wanted some pothos or philodendron, but the store where I bought them, only had a hanging basket of pothos.

More Exotic Angel plants

Make sure when choosing plants, to choose ones that have the same water and light preferences. As you may notice from the tags, I did buy low and medium light plants. I’m sure they will all do fine together. What’s nice about having 10 “cubicles” in the wall planter is that if a plant isn’t doing well, it can easily be replaced.

Exotic Angel plants

Exotic Angel plant for my living wall

Below, I left the plants in their pots, and arranged and rearranged them in the wall, trying to decide how the plants would look the best. (The picture below is not the final placement.) I put the cascading plants at the bottom, so that as they grow, the plants below won’t be covered. That can become a problem. If the top plants cascade down over the lower plants, they will stunt their growth and possibly kill them as they wouldn’t get enough light.

Soil ready to plant the wall. Put my plants in to see how I like them.

The tags below are from the plants I used in the wall. I do have one more square to fill, but may leave it if the other plants fill in well. The rabbit’s foot fern is on the top with another small fern, and I will let the fuzzy rhizomes crawl around in the planter.

Plant tags

The plants include ferns, pothos, fittonia, ivy, syngonium, and dracaena.

Living wall planted up.

I’ll let the plants root a little while before I hang it on the wall, but it would probably be fine because the planting cubicles slant upwards. I will keep you updated as it grows. I’m excited to see how it likes it in my sun room on the wall.

Finished living wall

During the time I was writing this, I visited my friend, Pauline,  in Port Huron. I met her many years ago at flower shows that were sponsored by our respective garden clubs. She is a fabulous flower designer and just an all around extremely creative person. So, when I walked in her house and saw the projects she had been working on, I wasn’t surprised. Here is Pauline’s take on the living wall and it is nothing I would have ever thought of. They are both beautiful works of art. I’ll start from the beginning, showing you her process.

It started when she found a wooden frame at a friend’s house. It was a deep frame, like a shadow box, and so her creative wheels started spinning….I’m not sure they are ever NOT turning. Anyway, she had her husband cut a back for the frame from plywood and stained the whole thing. They also added wire to hang it with.

Add wire to the back of the frame for hanging

She then added hardware cloth fencing where the glass would normally be and on top of that added sheet moss, green side to the front, of course. This will add beauty to the wall, soften the hardware cloth, and hold the soil in.

The first layer is moss on top of the hardware cloth to hold the soil in

She then added soil on top of the moss, filling it until it was level with the back of the frame. As you can see from the picture below, the frame is about 2″ deep or a little more. The plywood back was attached and it is turned over, ready to be planted.

Soil is then added on top of the moss

Wire cutters were used to cut larger holes in the wire to fit the plant root balls through. The jade plant is a cutting but still needed a larger hole to stick the stem into.

She used succulents for the picture, including a jade stem (Crassula ovata), echeveria, aeonium, and a string of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus). 

Finished wall by Pauline with succulents

The next one is a frame she bought and her husband built a box for the back to hold the soil.It is displayed on an ornate easel.

Artistic living wall designed by Pauline Flynn

As we know there is always more than one way to do anything, usually many ways. Thank God for the creativity of talented people who can think outside of the box. I never would have thought of using a frame and hardware cloth to make a living wall. Just like with cooking and baking, I have to have a recipe and I follow it to the letter. So whether you buy a pre-made wall and fill it with plants you like or take the artistic, “from scratch” route, making a living wall can be fun. I’m really excited to see how mine fills in and takes shape.

Let me know if you have a living wall and how its doing, any problems you’ve had and successes in the comments below.

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  1. kylo

    Definitely need to do an air plant vertical garden next. As you know, air plants don’t need soil and in this case make a frame like yours incredibly easy to make. Next time right?

    • Lisa Steinkopf

      That would work! I love air plants.


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