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How to Build a Living Wall

How to Build a Green Wall from Start to Finish

A Living Wall, also known as Green Wall, is self-contained vertical structure that is covered by live vegetation. It is usually equipped with a irrigation system to keep it hydrated. In this article, I will walk you through all necessary steps to build a successful and long lasting living wall.

What are the benefits of Green Walls?

Living walls provide the following benefits:

  • Lowering of urban temperatures
  • Reduction in power costs and thermal benefits to the buildings
  • Acoustic Protection
  • Improvement in human health
  • Reduction in air pollution
  • Enhancement of biodiversity
  • Exhibit the sense of well-being
  • Provokes creativity and productivity

How to Create a Green Wall with Plants?

If you love plants, you have undoubtedly fantasized about how gorgeous your home or work space will look with an entire wall covered with greenery. A living wall is a stunning addition to any space, and it can even be used to replace a gallery wall if desired.

However, as lovely as a vertical garden can appear (especially in a small city apartment with limited horizontal space), you should be conscious of your limitations.

Below mentioned are the points that will help you in maintaining a customized living wall designed as per your desire:

1. Make Sure the Living Wall Design Suits Your Space

If your first option for a living wall location does not get enough light, you should choose another location to avoid your plants from dying. Alternatively, if it is too near to the air conditioner, you’ll have to have specify the selected plants. Cacti and succulents will thrive if your wall receives a lot of suns, but tropical plants will thrive in your room is hot and damp. Many other options do exist to implement the practical ideas.

2. Choose Your Plants with Care

Mixing plants with different care criteria would undo all the hard work that went into building the living wall. In essence, whatever plants you choose for your living wall, will occupy the same room, so they should be cared for in the same way. Plants that grow in the same conditions of sun, temperature, and watering should be chosen. You might certainly try a few more complex combinations, such as ferns or spider plants, if they all have the same watering schedule and light requirements.

3. Consider the Distance Between Each Plant

Do not overcrowd your planters. Make sure your plants have enough room to expand. You do not want to have to replace the plants after six months of development after all this effort.

4. Understand Your Personality Style

A living wall may not be for you if you are a perfectionist who insists on every plant in your wall always looking flawless. You will have to accept that these plants will evolve in whatever way they want. It is also important to remember that you’ll have to replace plants when they die, so maintenance can take longer than it should if you were only working on one plant.

5. Make a Layout of Your Watering System

If watering your wall often and preparing to replant seems like too much effort, do not despair. You will just have to pay a little more money to have a professional living wall system built. If you go for a modular piece system, you can easily extend once you have gotten the hang of caring for parts in a self-watering or integrated watering system. These systems are usually low maintenance, but they do require skilled installation to avoid mold growing on your plants, which is unattractive. The initial investment, however, is well worth the convenience it provides. It just makes maintaining a living wall so much easier.

6. Remember the Mounts

Selecting mounts that complement your home’s aesthetic is critical to ensuring that your living wall complements rather than detracts from it. Fortunately, there are many choices available these days, ranging from wood and cork to clay and metal.

A grouping of installed plants is often recommended as a fast and simple alternative to modular living wall systems. Many epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants) can be moss-mounted on boards or cork pieces and thrive with very little root space. Plants with upright and cascading growth habits are provided by a mixture of staghorn ferns on various sized wood boards or vining tropicals on the cork. The fact that these parts are watered separately makes it a little easier to attend to the needs of each plant.

Precision is very important here. Measure twice, mount once. Plan your wall on paper and measure it out before you start drilling anchors in it. You will only need to water a hand-watered wall like this once a week. So, either keep a step ladder handy or install planters where you can reach them.

Types of Media Required

Green walls are typically made up of modular panels that carry a growing medium. Media reclassified as:

  • Freestanding Media
  • Loose Media
  • Mat Media
  • Sheet Media
  • Structural Media

Freestanding Media

Freestanding media are interior landscaping-friendly, portable living walls. Zauben living walls are made with hydroponic technology, which saves 75% more water than soil-grown plants, self-irrigates, and has moisture sensors.

Loose Media

The most common types of loose medium walls are “soil-on-a-shelf” or “soil-in-a-bag” systems. The soil in loose medium systems is packed into a shelf or bag and then hung on the wall. The media in these networks must be replaced at least once a year on the exteriors and every two years on the interiors. Loose soil systems are not well suited to seismically active regions.

Mat Media

Coir fiber or felt mats are the most popular mat types. Mat media, even in multiple layers, is quite thin, and as a result, it cannot support vibrant root systems of mature plants for more than three to five years before the roots overtake the mat and water cannot wick through the mats effectively.

Sheet Media

In recent years, semi-open cell polyurethane sheet media with an egg crate pattern has been successfully used for both outdoor roof gardens and vertical walls. These designed polyurethanes have a far higher water-holding ability than coir and felt-based systems. Since polyurethanes do not biodegrade, they can be used as an active substrate for up to 20 years. Vertical wall systems made of polyurethane sheeting typically use a sandwich construction in which a waterproof membrane is applied to the back, the polyurethane sheeting (typically two sheets with irrigation lines in between) is laid, and then the assembly is secured to the wall with mesh or anchor braces/bars.

Structural Media

Structural media are “boxes” of growth medium that are neither loose nor mats but combine the best features of both into a single block that can be made in a variety of sizes, shapes, and thicknesses. These media have the advantages of not breaking down for 10 to 15 years, being able to be made with a higher or lower water holding capacity depending on the plant range for the wall, being able to have their pH and EC customized to fit the plants and being easy to maintain and repair.

Types of Green Wall Systems

There are three different ways in which green walls are established. These include:

  1. Tray Systems
  2. Hydroponic Systems
  3. Felt Pockets

Tray Systems

The easiest green walls to install and maintain are tray systems. Plant replacement is as simple as popping in a plant still in its growing pot, thanks to a grid of 4” slots. The plants are never removed from the nursery’s tub. Tray systems are irrigated once every week to ten days, with the pots sitting in small quantities of water until the moisture is completely absorbed.

Plants in 4” containers will eventually become root-bound and will need to be replaced regularly. Although the grid system can still grow to be very lush, it lacks the design versatility of the hydroponic wall. However, for locations that need a specific, easy-to-maintain design, this is often the best choice.

Hydroponic Systems

These systems have the lightest load of the three since they use little or no soil for root mass. The nutrients are supplied via a solution mixed in with the water source and the roots expand behind a wall of capillary cloth.

The plants will expand uninhibitedly, allowing them to meet larger masses. Since hydroponic green wall systems rely on multiple regular waterings, they have a higher risk of catastrophic failure, which can occur because of events such as a water line being accidentally shut off or power outages.

Plants can develop larger root systems over time, allowing them to completely establish themselves. Although this adds to the wall’s impressive appearance, it can also lead to higher maintenance costs, as if a plant dies, the root system must be completely removed from behind the wall to prevent pathogens from spreading. Over time, some plants will outcompete other plants, resulting in an untidy appearance that is difficult to correct. As a result, skilled horticulturist maintenance is required regularly.

Hydroponic systems, when performed correctly, produce stunning results at the cost of a little more risk and upkeep.

Felt Pockets

Felt pockets use the same basic irrigation method as the tray system, but instead of putting plants in nursery pots, they need them to be planted directly in felt-encased soil. Woolly Pockets are the most common and cost-effective of these systems, but since the pockets are wide and filled with dirt, they put the most structural stress on the wall of all the systems.

Each Wooly Pocket has a wide planting area to cover. Because of their scale, covering the felt with plants is difficult, and it necessitates the most pruning to achieve the desired look. Black felt will show up on even the most expertly planted wall.

Felt allows for easy air and water flow, and these systems are simple to dry. They are most effective in outdoor environments, where humidity and rain will help sustain the right climate. Irrigation systems, when used within, are important for long-term health. Maintenance can be time-consuming since larger cascading plants are often used in the design.

Best Plants for Living Walls in the Sun

  • Achillea
  • Acorus
  • Armeria maritima
  • Bergenia
  • Bidens
  • Calamintha nepeta
  • Carex
  • Convolvulus cneorum
  • Erica
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Liriope
  • Pansy
  • Rosemary
  • Sedum
  • Solidago
  • Thyme
  • Westringia

Best Plants for Living Walls in the Shade

  • Adiantum
  • Asplenium
  • Begonia
  • Bergenia
  • Chlorophytum comosum
  • Erica
  • Euphorbia
  • Heuchera
  • Polystichum
  • Snowdrop

Best Plants for Herbal Living Walls

  • Basil
  • Bay laurel
  • Caraway
  • Chamomile
  • Chives
  • Coriander
  • Curry plant
  • Dill
  • Lavender
  • Lemon balm
  • Lemongrass
  • Marjoram
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Sorrel
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme

Other Living Wall Ideas

  • Edible Living Walls
  • Tropical Living Walls
  • Perennial Living Walls
  • Annual Living Walls
  • Succulent Living Walls

To Wrap it Up

In a nutshell, bringing nature into our cities is critical for a long-term future. In this increasingly urban world, our connection to the natural world had faded to a greater extend. Green infrastructure, such as green walls, green roofs, and pocket parks, can be strategically placed to carry plants to exactly where they are needed and can add value. Green walls should reach out in the heart of our cities where land is financially at a premium.

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