What Is A Living Wall? (8 Key Benefits Of A Green Wall)


Plants are a great way to add beauty to the landscape outdoors or to add style indoors.  However, there is a way to do it that saves you space by going vertical: a living wall.

So, what is a living wall?  A living wall is a wall that is covered with plant growth, which gives it the appearance of a hedge made of several different types of plants.  A living wall may contain moss, herbs, succulents, vegetables, and vines.  A living wall may use soil or a non-soil medium to grow the plants.

What Is A Living Wall?

A living wall (or green wall) is a wall covered with plant growth, giving it the appearance of a hedge.

Burnaby green wall living wall
A living wall can contain all kinds of different plants, including moss, succulents, and vines.

Many types of plants may cover a living wall, including:

  • Moss (to cover areas between other plants)
  • Herbs (you could create a wall with all the herbs you need for cooking!)
  • Succulents (their low water requirements make them ideal for a low-maintenance wall)
  • Vegetables (you could an edible living wall that you can harvest from!)
  • Vines (flowering ones will add dazzling color to your wall)

Living walls can stand alone indoors or outdoors.  They can also be built on or near existing walls.

Some living walls use soil as a growing medium.  However, there are other possibilities for a living wall, including:

  • Aeroponics (growing plants without soil using a nutrient mist system)
  • Aquaponics (growing plants and fish together – think hydroponics + fish)
  • Hydroponics (growing plants without soil by putting their roots in nutrient-rich water)
  • Hydroculture Felt

You can learn more about growing plants without soil in my article here.

Usually, a green wall has plants rooted at all levels of the structure.  Compare this to a green façade, which often has climbing plants rooted only at the base of the structure.

green wall in madrid living wall
Outdoor living walls (green walls) add natural beauty to buildings.

There are lots of ways to build a living wall, and they offer many benefits to those who adopt them.

What Are The Benefits Of Living Walls?

Living walls offer many benefits to anyone who adopts these green structures:

  • Better health at home (connection to nature, less anxiety, faster recovery).
  • Cleaner air (plants can remove air pollutants)
  • Increased workplace performance (reduced fatigue and tension).
  • Soundproofing (some plants cancel noise quite well, and they can be used to create private quiet areas in an office).
  • Cooler temperatures (plants reduce air temperature when water is evaporated).
  • Easier access to fresh food (if you grow herbs or vegetables on your wall).
  • Natural Beauty (adds to any indoor setting or outdoor landscape).
  • Endless customization options (there are too many combinations and arrangements of plants to count!)

This isn’t just my opinion!  According to the Penn State University Extension, research suggests that living walls in buildings improve our health and performance.

Longwood Gardens green wall living wall
A living wall indoors can improve the health and performance of workers.

Once you decide that a living wall is for you, it’s time to decide on which plants to include.

What Plants Are Best For Living Walls?

Some good plants for living walls include moss, herbs, succulents, vegetables, and vines.

Moss For Living Walls

Moss is more likely to grow well in shady, damp areas with acidic soil.  So, moss is a good candidate if you want to put your living wall in an area without much sun.

moss in forest
Moss grows naturally in the forest, but you can use it for a living wall.

Moss is a good complement to any living wall.  It is great for filling in the spaces between other plants in the wall.

Since moss has no roots, it does not need much of a growing medium at all.  It will gladly attach itself wherever you decide to put it (eventually).

If you like, you can build a wall made entirely from moss.  Verdure is a good place to start looking.

Herbs For Living Walls

You can try lots of different herbs for your living wall, but here are a few classic herbs you might like:

  • Basil – great for pesto, caprese salad, tomato sauce, and lots of other dishes.  It has an unmistakable aroma that will make you want to walk by your living wall as often as possible.
  • Mintthere are hundreds of different types of mint, many with interesting flavors.  You can use mint for tea and other drinks or for cooking.  Mint can help to round out an herb wall with something a little sweeter.
  • Rosemary – this herb has a nice aroma that adds something special to many dishes.  Its fragrant needles make a good addition to a living herb wall.
  • Lavender – the scent of lavender is desired by many for use in soaps, perfumes, potpourri, and essential oils.  If you grow it on your living wall, prepare for a burst of purple color in addition to the nice smell.
  • Sage – the grayish green leaves of sage add a distinctive appearance to a living herb wall.  Its flowers can come in blue, purple, pink, and white, so there is no shortage of colors from this herb.  Sage likes full sun and well-draining soil.
  • Thyme – this pungent but pleasing herb is originally from the MediterraneanIt does not need much water, and it will eventually flower, attracting pollinators if your living wall is outside.
basil
Basil is great for cooking, and it adds deep green leaves with a great aroma to a living wall.

Succulents For Living Walls

Succulents do not need much water.  In fact, they are well-equipped to handle extended periods of dry weather or drought due to their fleshy leaves that store water.

If you want a living wall that doesn’t need much watering, succulents are a smart choice to include.  Some succulents you might want to use for a living wall include:

  • Crassula
  • Echeveria
  • Sedum
  • Sempervivum
succulent echeveria
Echeveria is a succulent that makes a good addition to a living wall.

You can learn more about these succulents (and how to use them in living walls) from Good Succulents and Lush Living Walls.

Vegetables For Living Walls

If you want an edible living wall that gives you food in addition to green beauty, consider adding some vegetables.  Some of them will climb all the way up the wall, while others will fill in any empty spaces that appear.

Some vegetables for a living wall include:

  • Lettuce – the classic salad vegetable, lettuce can grow on a living wall.  There are lots of different colors of lettuce available, including light green, dark green, red, and even deep reddish purple.
  • Peppers – a relative of tomatoes and a nice plant to have on a living wall.  They often will not grow as tall as tomatoes in a single growing season, but the fruit goes well with tomatoes and onions to make salsa.
  • Spinach – this is a nice, deep green plant to fill in gaps in your edible living wall.  It works great in salad, and for this reason, it is a good complement to lettuce.
  • Tomatoes – smaller determinate varieties may work better for limited spaces.  However, you can also plant taller indeterminate varieties at the base of the living wall and let them climb all the way up!
tomato plants with twine rope stake
Tomato plants climb up twine or stakes with their vines, but will also climb a living wall.

Vines For Living Walls

Vines are great because you can plant them at the base of a living wall and let them climb all the way up.  Then you can put other plants in place to fill in any gaps.

There are lots of options to choose from when it comes to flowering vines for a living wall: some tolerate shade, while others do well in full sun.  Others have beautiful flowers in red, purple, white, and other colors.

Here are some good choices for vines for a living wall:

  • Blue Glory Vine – this is a perennial vine with showy purple flowers. It grows to a manageable height of 4 to 6 feet.
  • Bougainvillea – this vine can produce purple, red, or orange flowers repeatedly during the year.  It tolerates drought once established.
  • Clematis – the ‘Rouge Cardinal’ variety of this perennial vine produces showy red flowers.  It can tolerate severe cold.
  • Climbing Hydrangea – this deciduous vine produce showy, fragrant 1 to 2 inch white flowers.  It can grow up to 40 feet tall in nature, and it can withstand extreme cold.
  • Gloriosa Lily – also called Flame Lily, this deciduous vine produces large, showy flowers that are red, pink, orange, and yellow.  It grows 4 to 6 feet tall – perfect for a living wall.
  • Lipstick Plant – this evergreen vine produces small, showy flowers that have red and purple coloring. 
  • Sweetheart Hoya – this one is actually a succulent vine with tiny, fragrant white flowers.  It can grow to a height of 13 feet, and it tolerates full sun or partial shade.
bougainvillea
Bougainvillea is a flowering vine that tolerates drought when established. It is a good choice for a living wall.

Where To Buy A Living Wall

There are lots of places to buy individual sections (tiles) for a living wall or even an entire wall:

  • Etsy – there are many talented artists on Etsy, so of course you can find living walls that are beautiful and lively.  Many start at prices of upwards of $100, with larger and more intricate walls getting more expensive.
  • Live WallLive Wall offers both indoor and outdoor living walls.  They have lots of information on their website about the advantages of these systems, the need for supplemental lighting, and what you can grow on them.
  • Plants On WallsPlants On Walls offers felt pockets to hold soil (or any growing medium you like) so that you can hang them on a living wall to grow plants.
living wall green wall
You can buy sections for a living wall (or an entire living wall) from Etsy, Live Wall, or Plants On Walls.

How To Make A Living Wall

You can buy an entire living wall (or the components) from Live Wall (listed above).  You can also try to build your own from scratch if you like DIY projects.

Wooden pallets are one option for the wall itself.  You could also use some old tomato stakes (sturdy metal or wooden ones might work well) to hold up a chain link fence for growing vines for a living wall.

As long as you can create a solid wall structure, you can hang pockets to hold soil and plants (like the felt ones from Plants On Walls).

If you don’t want to build a new wall structure, you can work with an existing fence on your property.  Get creative and don’t be afraid to the many possibilities for your living wall!

living wall vines green wall
One easy way to make a living wall is to plant vines at the base of an existing fence or wall and let them climb their way up!

Conclusion

Now you know a little more about what living walls are and the benefits they offer.  You also have some ideas for the types of plants you can use for a living wall – whether indoor or outdoor, edible or not.

You can learn more about living walls and vertical gardening in this article from the University of Florida Extension.

You can also learn about advantages and disadvantages of vertical farming in my article here.

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here.  Enjoy!

~Jonathon

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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