We all have that one wall or fence that just isn’t adding anything to the garden’s beauty. Or perhaps space is limited, and we have no choice but to grow up rather than out. There are plenty of solutions to these problems, of course. A bright lick of paint here, a strategically placed climber there. But what if an entire mini-garden with a multitude of colorful and varied plants could inhabit the space instead?
Tired, dull, vertical spaces can be transformed relatively quickly and easily with the addition of some carefully chosen varieties planted at the right time of year. This is where a plant wall or ‘living wall’ can really come to the rescue.
Another advantage is the choice of plants that can be adapted to this growing. Bright, flowering annuals, grasses, perennials, and even fruit and veg can all thrive when planted vertically. There are so many exciting possibilities!
So how can you get started building your own gorgeous new plant wall? Below, I’ll lay out my step-by-step advice on setting up and planting the wall, and I’ll also clue you in on my suggestions for 25 of the best varieties of plants to include in your wall.
Steps on Setting up Plant Wall
Step 1. Select the structure you’ll build on.
As long as the surface you want to attach your framework to is reasonably solid, you have options. I’d recommend a sturdy fence, garden shed, wall, or even straight onto the side of your home. A word of warning, though; if using your house wall, you may want to fix a waterproof liner between your home and your framework.
This will prevent any moisture ingress to your home, as well as making sure all your watering goes where it’s supposed to – the plants!
It’s also important to consider the aspect of your wall. Does it catch the sun for most of the day, or is it on the shadier side? To get the best out of your wall, you’ll need to know this so that you can pick plants that will thrive in the area you have.
Step 2. Attach your frame and planters.
Once you’ve selected a suitable area, it’s time to attach the framework for your plant wall. If you’re handy, you can, of course, DIY the framework of your wall. The aim is to cover the frame itself with lush plant life, so you can really use any old trellising, timber, or wire you have spare to construct it.
As long you will be able to attach your planters, you can get creative.
But don’t worry if woodworking isn’t your strong suit – there are plenty of decent, pre-made frames available at most garden centers or online.
These come in many different formats, from pouch systems, which give you dense and uniform plant spacing, to frames with individual planters that you can attach randomly, giving a more natural, flowing result.
Some versions even come with interconnecting planters and reservoirs so that water and feed can be distributed through your entire system with ease and efficiency. If you choose this option, remember that different plants have different needs, so you will do well to bear that in mind when deciding what to plant.
Step 3. Attach the planters.
If you’ve opted for a pre-made frame, it may come complete with planters attached. In which case, you can get straight to plopping your plants in! If you’re DIYing it, you can get creative with the containers you use.
Why not get the kids involved and upcycle some old coffee cans and containers from your home? Once you have drilled a few drainage holes in the bottoms, these can be colorfully painted to compliment the blooms you are planning and fix onto your frame to add a bit of character to your wall.
I love doing this, as the kids really take an interest in how ‘their’ pot is growing, and it encourages them to help with the ongoing care of the plants.
Step 4. Select your plants.
Here comes the best part – filling the blank canvas of your frame with an abundance of greenery and color! There really is no limit to the variety of effects you can create. You may want to keep things wild and loose with grasses, ferns, and ivy. Or you could go for a desert theme with succulents and cacti. Designing your wall is truly something you can and should have fun with. There are, however, a few factors to think about before you get stuck in.
Plants are like people. They all have their own specific preferences, and some can be quite fussy! Therefore, I highly recommend selecting plants that you know have similar needs for things like light, shelter, and moisture. This will make your job much easier when it comes to maintaining and caring for your plant wall.
Size when mature.
You’ll want the plants in your wall to complement each other and look great as a whole. Therefore, you’ll need to choose varieties that will have similar sizes when fully grown. I’ve seen plenty of design projects that look great when first planted but soon lose their impact when one plant starts towering over the rest!
When do you want it to look its best?
One thing I always consider when planning the planting for a new area is the time of year that I want the best display from the plants. Annuals are the obvious choice if it’s a big, bold summer show that you’re looking for.
Boisterous Begonias and pretty Pelargoniums never fail to catch the eye. Or, if you prefer a bit of year-round interest, hardy perennials like Heucheras, ivy, and Vinca are a great option.
You can even use the space to grow an edible crop, and in this case, you’ll want to stagger the harvest times of your plants so that you get food for longer.
When to plant.
You can grow many plants from seed very cheaply or buy them as plugs in the spring and plant them straight away. Spring is, without a doubt, the best time to start building your plant wall.
Warmer temperatures and showers provide peak growing conditions, and your newbies will pour all the energy they soak up into establishing themselves in their new home.
Just be sure to protect young plants with garden fleece if the nights are still cold in your area.
Step 5. Caring for your plant wall.
Once you’ve spent time and effort selecting your ideal plants and settling them into your wall, you’ll want to make sure that they get the best care to keep them looking fantastic. Maintaining your plant wall is very similar to caring for hanging baskets or potted plants.
All of its needs must be met by you. There is no natural moisture in the compost, and the rain will not penetrate the umbrella of foliage enough to irrigate it, especially for the plants near the bottom of the wall.
So regular watering, at least every 2-3 days, or even daily in parched weather, is essential. Depending on the plants you’ve selected, your wall may also benefit from a feed every few weeks.
This applies particularly to things like flowering annuals and fruiting plants. Although many composts are sold with added feed mixed through, all the summer watering you’ll be doing can wash this through and out of the soil before it reaches your hungry plants.
I’d recommend giving fruiting and flowering plants a regular feed with a potassium-rich product like Tomorite or Miracle-Gro. This will encourage an abundance of beautiful blooms and juicy fruits.
Varieties of Plants For Your Plant Wall
One of my favorite things about plant walls is the variety of effects you can create through different plant choices. Your wall can be structural, leafy, showy, or even edible! Take your time to think about what you want to achieve and how you are building your wall, and choose your plants from that basis. And as promised, here is a list of twenty-five varieties to get you started, no matter what your plant wall plans may be.
Nothing beats the taste of your own home-grown produce, shared with family and friends on a summer’s evening. Why not use your plant wall to harvest some of these tasty treats:
- Salad leaves
The sight of showy, colorful annuals in full bloom is truly uplifting and signifies that summer is full swing. Here are some of the best:
- Lobelia, both trailing and bush.
Not every garden has a sunny outlook, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a pop of color and vibrance from these shade-loving favorites.
- Vinca ‘Illuminations’
- Ajuga ‘Atropurpurea’
- Heuchera (mixed varieties for colorful foliage)
- Trailing Ivy
If you want your plant wall to keep performing throughout the year, why not opt for some hardy perennials with interesting and long-lasting foliage.
- Brunnera ‘Hadspen Cream’
- Adiantum (Maidenhair fern)
- Carex ‘Evergold’
- Pieris ‘Little Heath’
- Tiarella ‘Cascade Creeper’
- Lithadora ‘Heavenly Blue’
- Fuschia ‘Ricartonii’
- Geranium ‘Thumbling’
Conclusion on how to build a plant wall
So, as you can see, a plant wall is a truly versatile addition to your garden. Whether you want to brighten up an unattractive vertical surface, make the most of a small space, or harvest an edible crop without committing to an entire allotment, a plant wall can provide the solution. I hope this blog entry has inspired you to get planting and discover what a plant wall can add to your garden.
If you found value in this article, subscribe to the blog for all future updates. You can do that below.