New This Month


Vertical Gardens or Living Walls

Source: The Martha Stewart Show, October 2008


Vertical gardens or "living walls" are a hot new trend among environmentally aware architects, designers, and gardeners. This is when plants are grown outdoors on the side of a building, or grown inside in a specially designed structure.

Benefits of Indoor Living Walls:
Indoor plants naturally purify the air and create a better living or working environment. In the late 1980s, a study by NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) resulted in excellent news for homeowners and office workers everywhere. The study concluded that common houseplants such as peace lilies and spider plants not only make indoor spaces more attractive; they also help to purify the air! For a complete list of NASA's top 15 plants, please visit

Benefits of Outdoor Living Walls:
There are also benefits to having an outdoor living wall. They help mitigate the Urban Heat Island Effect, which is a phenomenon caused by the centralized heat in urban cities caused by vehicle exhaust, air conditioners, and massive quantities of heat harboring in asphalt and concrete. Living walls and green roofs greatly reduce this effect by absorbing a lot of the heat through the evaporation process. 

Indirectly, living walls and green roofs reduce air-conditioning requirements and energy consumption of urban buildings through cooling the city. Through the soil medium and the plants, living walls have the ability to absorb sound as well. Living walls and green roofs help to provide a natural habitat for birds, butterflies, and bees.

How a living wall works:
The living wall featured on our set was made of a 20-by-20-by-3 inch piece of HDPE (high-density polyurethane -- or plastic), which is recycled and recyclable. There are 45 cells in each panel, which are slanted at a 30-degree angle in which each plant is planted into with a little growing medium.

With a water reservoir at the top of each panel, the water, through capillary action, migrates through the cells by a series of little slits in the angled channels. The panels fit into each other allowing you to go as high or as wide as you desire. The water flows through a drainage hole at the bottom of each panel into the next, allowing the water to flow vertically through the whole system.

Plants that work well with living walls:
An endless array of plants will work in a living wall, as long as they have relatively small root systems. You can do a mixture of different plants in a single panel as long as they have similar care requirements.

Succulents do well because they need very little water and have slow, shallow roots, which help to extend their life in the wall. They also come in an extensive array of colors and textures. A combination of tropicals and ferns work well also, as they have similar care requirements as each other.

Best Place for Living Walls
Anywhere in your home that has good light and makes a good focal point works well for as a spot for a living wall. You could make an herb garden for a sunny kitchen wall, or choose to cover an entire side of your building with it. The options are endless.

Care Tips for Living Walls
If the wall has the right plants, is watered appropriately, and gets the right amount of light, then the care tips are extremely minimal. Living walls are living organisms, so as with any landscape application, you should check for appropriate moisture levels, weed, adjust water levels throughout the time of year, fertilize as needed, and depending on the type of plant, trim as needed or desired.

Special Thanks
Special thanks to our guest, Scott Hutcheon of Greenroots, a company that makes the frames for living walls, for showing us this new gardening trend.

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