Green Living

Everything you need to know about living walls

Going up instead of out makes sense as space becomes scarcer. Outside In horticulturalist Ryan McQuerry explains why living walls are the perfect way to bring the outside in


Everything you need to know about living walls

As cities grow and open space becomes scarce, many cities are going green by either positioning nature on the sides of their buildings or bringing it indoors. ‘Living walls’ or ‘green walls’ refer to any plant or moss application to a wall that creates a green facade. There are many types of green walls, some more complicated than others, and the following information aims to give some ideas to garden-lovers.

Edible green walls

People are increasingly worried about where their food comes from, how it is grown and the types of sprays used. As a result, more and more people are starting to grow their own veges and herbs. Edible green walls are a way to grow organic produce in a place where space is tight. And they manage to look super-cool at the same time. We put this edible green wall in a cafe whose owners use the fresh produce throughout their menu.


Integrated green walls

Integrated green walls are the crème de la crème of vertical gardening. They can hold up to 50 plants per square metre, giving them a very full look, and come with an integrated irrigation system, fertiliser injector unit and integrated waste-water system. These walls can be used in commercial applications, including covering everything from the outside of a large building to a few square metres indoors. This type of system requires a qualified green wall professional who will select the correct plants, set up an integrated watering and drainage system and water-proof the backing wall.


Natural green walls

There are plenty of natural ways to grow an outdoor green wall. One option is to choose a climbing plant and let it attach itself to a wall or frame. It will create a green facade as it slowly climbs up and covers the wall. Alternatively, you can run wires for the plants to be trained onto. Both these options require more patience as it typically takes a number of years for the climber to grow and cover a wall.


A built-in water system is key to the success of what is considered the crème de a crème of vertical gardening, integrated green walls.

Moss walls and logos

Moss walls are a new way of achieving a green facade with a system that doesn’t require any watering. They are called moss walls but they are technically made from a lichen that is hydroscopic – it doesn’t have roots, but draws moisture and nutrients out of the air. They work well in low light and can be used to create a logo or pattern on a wall. Moss walls can’t be used outdoors as it is too difficult to control humidity levels.


DIY green walls

DIY-lovers have adapted some of the ‘living wall’ concepts to make it easier to apply them at home. One clever idea is to cut holes in a plank of timber and set graduated-sized pots into the holes. The other is to place pots with hanging foliage on the top of a shelf and allow the foliage to drape down. It’s important to select plants that will survive in the prescribed space – indoor plants for an indoor setting, or shade-loving plants for a shady, low-light space outdoors. You also need to consider how you will get water to the plants, but remember to not overwater them.

Tips and tricks

  • Pick the right plants For an indoor green wall, you’ll want plants that can tolerate a lower light level. Plenty of ferns and philodendrons do well indoors.
  • Take note of light levels Plants need light to grow and some plants require more than others. You may consider pointing some indoor lights at your plant wall. You can use LED lights but they need to be a very white light.
  • How will you water the plants? Make sure the plants aren’t hanging over anything that might get damaged if some water is spilled. Also, if you’re affixing your green wall high up, consider how difficult it may be to access the top to maintain your plants. Some plants – particularly herbs – may require watering every day, but others may only need water every two weeks or so. You should know how you will get adequate water to your plants before you go about installing your vertical garden. For areas that can’t be watered, you could consider an indoor moss wall.

Steel plant frames

This is a creative way of affixing large numbers of plants to a wall to give a living green facade in a way that is not as complicated or costly as an integrated green wall. They can be used as a room divider or affixed to a wall. They come in different shapes and sizes and can be powder-coated to match the space.


Words by: Ryan McQuerry. Photography by: Ryan McQuerry and Ruth Beale of Hope Photography.

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