Vertical gardening: bring nature closer to your home
A pleasant atmosphere and a healthier microclimate: These are just two of the many advantages of a wall covered in greenery. What’s more, it is an absolute eye-catcher no matter how you design it.
Your living situation and personal taste will set the tone for the various options you have for your vertical garden: When we talk about a green living wall, we are referring to cloaking an entire wall in climbing plants. If, on the other hand, you only want to cover individual parts of a wall in green with a specific design, you might consider a wall hanging garden. The third option is a vertical garden in which individual plants are hung vertically from a wall.
Lots of green and many variations: We will show you the advantages and disadvantages of vertical gardens and what you need to consider in each case when bringing a piece of nature into your home.
Adding plants to a wall
When we add greenery to a wall, we often refer to it as a green façade treatment. Whether the whole building or just the garden shed, the buildings in question are usually completely cloaked in green.
Whether or not you would personally choose to transform the front of your home into a green wall, it does offer a great degree of charm and has many advantages: The dense foliage protects the structure from heat in the summer and – as a natural air-conditioner – ensures more pleasant temperatures and better quality air. The greenery also acts as insulation in winter, keeping the building warmer. In addition, the copious foliage absorbs noise and filters pollutants.
Buildings with green walls are also very positive for nature conservation: They provide shelter for many animals and if the plants produce berries, they provide a source of food for birds. A few insects will naturally also find shelter there. But don’t fret! Studies have shown that the greenery doesn’t have an effect on the number of spiders in the respective houses.
But which plant species are actually suitable for adding greenery to a wall and what considerations do you have to make in each case? In general, you will need climbers such as ivy. This climbing plant is an evergreen and ensures a uniform green façade (fig. 1). And it will do so quite quickly and for a long time: Ivy can grow up to 20 metres high and live for centuries. You only need one single plant for one outside wall. April is the best month for planting. It is worth watering the budding ivy regularly and fertilizing it a little when getting started. However, as soon as it starts to thrive after a few years, it will form deep roots and you can leave it alone.
However, you should only plant ivy if your wall’s structure is solid and in good condition. In the case of apartment buildings, you must first talk to the building owner before you do anything. Ivy tendrils like to try to penetrate damp cracks and in the worst case it can even break open the plaster. In addition, the plant should be cut back regularly; windows, gutters, bricks or vents must be inspected and kept clear. And when it comes to pruning, you do not need to worry much. The plant will bounce back relatively quickly. Make absolutely sure that the ivy does not spread to the neighbouring home. It is extremely difficult to remove this climbing plant without leaving a trace.
The Virginia creeper is another traditional plant when covering a façade in greenery (fig. 2). It has a beautiful green colour in summer and in autumn it makes your wall shimmer in impressive shades of red and orange, especially if your façade receives a lot of sun. However, it will lose its foliage in winter.
The best time to plant it is in spring after the last frost or in early autumn. The soil in front of your home should be fertilised with either horn and hoof meal or compost; otherwise, these spots are often too poor in nutrients. Depending on the surface area of the façade, you might consider placing several plants at a distance of about four metres from one another. You should regularly water the Virginia creeper with substantial amounts of water initially so that it grows quickly. The plant is self-clinging.
It is best to prune the plant a little once it has grown some. In this manner the climbing shrub will start to branch out more. But in general, the Virginia creeper is very easy to care for. However, like ivy, it must be cut back regularly to keep windows, gutters and other areas free of growth. After all, this climber can also spread vigorously and it is difficult to remove.
There are also other alternatives to making a green wall, in addition to these two best known plants: For example, the climbing hydrangea grows well in partial shade at heights up to six metres and it produces beautiful flowers.
The blue hydrangea prospers better on sunny walls and is one of the stronger climbing plants. It can also grow up to 20 metres high.
A wall hanging garden
A wall hanging garden means you can precisely determine the extent of the green area and even the exact shape, in contrast to a wall or green façade treatment. This type of vertical garden is a great alternative to potted plants, etc. if you do not have so much space on your balcony or terrace: Instead of having everything lying around on the ground, you simply move the greenery to the wall. It is great for the environment, improves the acoustics and without doubt, has a more contemporary and high-class look.
However, there are a few things you need to consider if you want to attach plants to a wall. Since you are not using self-clinging plants that will take root and ease their way up the wall, you will need to use something onto which the plants can take hold in order to create your wall hanging garden.
First of all, it is important to know which plants are suitable for vertical gardening at all. The conditions here are quite strict: The plants you choose should be able to survive with little water, withstand heat and direct light and not grow too fast or uncontrolled. These requirements restrict the choices considerably. In this regard, mosses, succulents, ferns, white adder’s mouth, money plants, laceleaf and painted nettles have proven to be ideal. However, you can also plant some herbs vertically if they can take the above conditions.
Have you decided on a plant or two? Then the question you need to ask yourself is how to hang the plants vertically. Hanging pots and plants requires special support systems. People often use wooden frames, which can then be filled with soil. The soil is held in place by a thin-mesh chicken wire attached to the frame.
An elegant variant of the wall hanging garden is, for example, the window frame depicted in figure 1. The method mentioned above is used in this case. Our step-by-step guide will show you how to proceed for this project.
But you can even transform a rather simple wooden box into a hanging wall garden. We show you how to make one using moss here (fig. 2).
Before you attach the support systems to the wall, make sure that your wall can support the weight of the plants. This can add up to a few kilograms per square metre if you consider the additional weight of damp soil. In addition, you need to make sure that the above requirements are met again when you start looking for a suitable place.
If you can't find a suitable wall space, you don't have to give up the idea of a hanging wall garden for your own home: You can easily build a panel with pallets that is wonderfully suited for planting greenery, adding more privacy to your yard (fig. 3). You can find out everything else about this project here.
Once your hanging wall garden is set up, you still need to keep in mind the right care. Watering is generally the biggest challenge. You need to be aware of moisture in the walls and mould if your selection of plants needs regular watering. Therefore, it is essential to choose plants that can thrive with little water. If you do so, you can also manage with careful watering (if necessary, by removing the plant and watering it in a horizontal position) or moistening with a spray bottle.
However, if you want to have plants that need regular watering, you’re going to need some sort of watering system. Relevant professional systems rely on thin hoses that release the required amount of water in drips. However, a prerequisite for such a system is a suitable water connection near the hanging wall garden. Alternatively, you can choose a system with water reservoirs. If you are considering a system like this, it is certainly helpful to talk to a professional at a building or garden centre.
The further care – apart from watering – will then depend entirely on the plant species you choose and their characteristics.
A vertical garden is your third option for adding greenery to a wall. This is certainly the simplest way to place plants, or in this case flowers, vertically on the wall. There is relatively little to take into account, in contrast to a green living wall or hanging wall garden. Why? If we consider a hanging wall garden, it is because the plants are generally placed in pots or flower boxes. The only question is how to attach them to the wall. The nice thing about it is there are countless variations and many creative ideas. We want to give you a little inspiration. We’ll explain how you can implement different decoration ideas here.
A vertical garden is just the thing if you love flowers and plants but simply don't have enough floor space. You can use your balcony, a small terrace or a small garden. Planting 2.0 is quite space-saving and in most cases is even quite straightforward. In many cases, you can start by using thin-mesh chicken wire. You can conveniently attach it to a wall using screws. It works perfectly as a support for trendy glass pots, for example (fig. 1). If you’d like to get a bit more creative, you can also hang soup ladles from the lattice (fig. 2). A large enough ladle also has enough room for a little soil to nurture a tiny plant.
Some wooden furniture is also very suitable for a vertical garden. Many pieces of balcony furniture already have crossbars, shelves or rakes to which small containers or pots can be attached (fig. 3). So you can even easily put together a vertical herb garden.
Do you value sustainability and are you keen on upcycling projects? You’ll find a set of creative ideas for vertical gardening here: For example, you can even repurpose a gutter (fig. 4). Thanks to its shape and convenient hanging options, it offers space for various herbs, wildflowers or even a head of lettuce. We will explain here how to proceed with this project step by step.
And here’s creative project for you if you want your guests to instantly see a small vertical garden when they visit: a house number sign (fig. 5). You not only showcase your name or house number visibly next to the door with this idea, but you can also create a cute miniature garden. Our step-by-step guide will show you how to build your very own house number sign using just a few materials.
By now you’ve understood: When it comes to vertical gardening, it has less to do with your gardening skills and more to do with tapping into your creative side. For this reason, we cannot give you general tips on how to maintain a vertical garden. You will need to find out for yourself just exactly what your plants need: how much light/shade, what temperature range, how much water will they need, etc.
We hope you enjoy nurturing your green thumb when you start looking around for walls that you can cloak in green somehow.