As people in dense urban settings seek to maximise their spaces and to re-establish a lost connection with nature, the idea of a vertical garden or living green walls has become increasingly popular. The green wall craze was started by French botanist Patrick Blanc who has created dozens of his so-called “living painting” or “vegetal wall” installations around the world.
Blanc’s idea—intentionally covering a vertical built structure with greenery—has since blossomed to encompass any system of bags, pots or panels that has an integrated water supply. Many companies now offer modular living green wall systems which make vertical gardens completely idiot-proof and really open up the concept to gardeners of all abilities.
But the definition of vertical gardening can be loosened up still more to include any method of growing plants on the vertical plane rather than the horizontal, whether with an irrigation system or not.
1. Vertical pallet garden
Choosing your mount or support structure will really come down to your personal taste and the aesthetics of the rest of your home. It’s a good idea to go with complementary materials – below, a simple raw pallet vertical garden works well against the wooden floorboards.
Remember to anchor your vertical garden structure in place in some way before planting, for safety. The heavier the plants, the more solid the structure should be, and this means some will become quite heavy. It’s a good idea to have a carpenter assess that your designated wall is able to handle the weight.
2. Le Original “green wall”
Can you believe this is the interior of an apartment in France? This is one of Patrick Blanc’s classic installations – an interior garden wall measuring 6×7 metres, resulting in a massive wall feature in this living room.
Blanc uses mainly metal structures lined with felt, which the plants grow into. A stunning mix of leaf colours, shapes and textures, vertical gardens like this can be hung on walls or freestanding.
Not only do living green walls purify the air and bring nature in, but they also just provide plenty of “wow factor”. And where else would you expect an insta-worthy space than at the headquarters of Instagram itself? This minimalist white setting contrasts beautifully with the living wall, which spans two floors and is supplemented by champagne, fresh juice and gelato bar. A step up from the average office water cooler space.
4. Painting with plants
An abundance of plants brings a plain wall to life and changes the mood of a room to create a healing, peaceful space. Better for the planet—a lush planting but a small footprint—and better for you thanks to the air purification abilities of plants.
Below, a gorgeous green tapestry connects this indoor space to the outdoors. For a shady indoor area, plants that will do best include ferns, bromeliads, begonias and violets.
The painted green wall also adds for a dramatic impact and the vertical garden wall gives it texture. If you want to add a focal point to a room, check out these feature wall ideas or skip ahead and find a painter near you.
5. Parts to play
The beauty of going with a system of discrete, interchangeable elements is the sheer ease of removing any individual plant for maintenance. This gorgeous colour gradient installation outside a store called Pigment in San Diego is made up of 88 self-watering wall planters (made from 100% recycled plastic), stuffed with bromeliads and succulents.
6. Fill in pergolas
Pergolas and other exterior structures are ideal for covering in vines, moss and other climbing plants. Some plants will need to be physically attached to your structure while others have a twining habit and naturally loop themselves around the material—ask a garden designer for tips on a planting palette.
One advantage of creating an outdoor vertical garden is that there’s plenty of natural direct light to help them thrive, and you’ll be able to choose sun-loving plants. Here, the lush greenery contrasts beautifully with black stained timber and stone pavers.
7. Indoor vines
Training plants to climb up the inside of your house and across the roof is a great conversation starter. Here, a range of vining plants has been grown in containers but their effect is amplified through the way they have started to ramble wildly.
Vertical gardens give you the chance to extend your greenery far beyond the confines of their pot, without needing more floor space, soil and water to do it.
8. Easy vertical garden
The space-saving advantages of vertical gardens are undeniable. Stacking containers means you maximise your space and you can still garden a whole range of plants even if you don’t have a big yard. This colourful but humble arrangement of wooden crates would be a great way to inspire the kids to get involved in gardening.
9. Hanging gardens
When you have no lawns, you can always look upwards for ways to bring greenery into your outdoor space. Creating whimsical green curtains out of hanging vines is a moody way to enliven any area, such as this pool deck in Vietnam. The walkways of this apartment complex are all draped with these hanging gardens, which also create a verdant view for the apartment dwellers.
10. Succulent outdoor green wall
This green façade faces the brutal sun all day and is therefore made up of tough, sun-loving succulents including Rhipsalis, sedum and three types of crassula. Succulents are a great choice for an outdoor green façade thanks to being so low maintenance, water-efficient and even fire-resistant. They also come in wonderful, unusual colours.
11. A long way to the top
Many architects and designers who deliberately incorporate vertical gardens say their intent is to prioritise relaxation and to extend nature into the home by introducing organic vibes.
Below this has been achieved with a canopy of wooden slats continuing indoors from the terrace. The timber vertical supports create unusual upright planters and their natural tone and white background go perfectly with the rest of the home’s colour palette of Scandi neutrals (light grey, white, pale timber).
The density of a full green wall means it acts as a great privacy barrier and will also help reduce noise as the thick plant walls become natural acoustic barriers. Green wall also helps filter the sun’s rays and channel winds. The trick is to design for density with certain plants that will form substantial foliage quickly as well as being easy-care (suggested species include star jasmine, wisteria and honeysuckle).
Below, a contemporary family home that has been designed with floor-to-ceiling windows to maximise the enjoyment of relaxing views like this one. For a neat contrast to a lush green wall, make sure the rest of your yard is minimal and orderly. Also, it makes for a very pretty privacy fence too!
13. Indoor green arch
Vertical gardens are a great way to attract attention to a particular feature or space or to disguise unattractive elements. I love how this plant has been trained to grow right across the support beam, creating a lovely organic archway and drawing attention to the room division. The owners of this home were keen to combine their indoors and outdoors in a “seamless transition” and I think they’ve achieved it with restraint here.
14. Home fernishings
Get it… Here’s an example of how growing vertically has allowed this homeowner to create a curious feeling of the outdoors being, well, indoors. Hanging planters with cascading greenery are perfect for dressing up windows and balconies but when dangled from the ceiling at varying heights, the effect is three dimensional and immersive. It may not be for everyone!
So, f you do decide to go for a wilder, jungle look then choose plants and hangers that are subtle. This round hanging planter has a nice slim profile and feels airy, in contrast to the bushy ferns.
15. Flow on effect
Certain plants are better suited to vertical gardens than others. For example trailing, cascading plants with their romantic waterfall aesthetic is ideal for hanging vertically. For indoor plants that cascade beautifully, try Boston ferns, a string of Pearls and string of Hearts, heartleaf philodendron and spiderplants.
16. Vertical veggie garden
A modular, stacked vertical garden is perfect for growing herbs or vegies rather than houseplants. Vertical edible gardens are ideal for small spaces, and it’s considered a “greener” way of gardening with its smaller footprint. You can repurpose pallets or if you’re handy, whack together a quick DIY wooden stack.
Think about planting fruit vines like kiwi or passionfruit, vertical growing veg like peas and tomatoes, and edible flowers like vining nasturtium. You might also like to check out our ultimate guide on how to start your own veggie garden for pointers.
17. Cascading vines
Historically, vines have been used to decorate garden arches and pergolas. Classic favourites include climbing roses, wisteria, clematis and honeysuckle. Some annual and perennial vines prefer sun and some prefer shade, so placement of your vertical structures is important.
Try to choose vines which don’t get too heavy as they climb, such as cypress vine and scarlet runner bean. Vines like clematis and ivy are easy growers in full sun, while some vines like climbing hydrangea or chocolate vine prefer more shade.
18. Trailing over balconies
Using plants to fill a vertical plane is becoming more popular in urban environments where people have less space and less natural connection to nature. Bringing nature in, or just making it more salient, creates a sense of peace and a feeling of connection between humans and nature.
Apartments with balconies are ideal to engender this sense of harmony with nature and also that idea of community, through sharing.
A green wall with oversized, mammoth foliage like these extravagant monsteras will create instant tropical feels. The sun loungers here are completely dwarfed by the leaves and really bring the jungle vibes! Interested in pool design? You might also like to read our articles on pool ideas, paving ideas or decking ideas.
For a pretty, swirling floral display ambling up your walls, choose vining plants like climbing roses or other blooms (such as petunias, sweet peas and nasturtiums). Remember to choose forgiving, lower maintenance species of plants and ideally position them near plenty of natural light.
What’s so good about vertical gardens?
- There’s plenty to love about vertical gardens, whether indoor or outdoor. As they create such a gorgeous tapestry of texture and colours, the aesthetics of green walls clearly plays a major role in their surging popularity.
- They simply look impressive with their added dimensionality and their striking incongruity on the vertical plane.
- Plants help us tap into nature’s calming power and will also actively filter out air pollutants and contribute to good air circulation.
- They add extra insulation to your home, they reduce heat, bring down cooling costs, lower your energy bill and save on harmful emissions output.
- Vertical gardens are also less work to set up than traditional garden beds with less soil preparation and digging.
- Less maintenance, a smaller watering area and gravity make irrigation very efficient.
21. Living shower wall
Having a living wall in your shower certainly provides ease of watering. Shower green walls are quite popular and look their most stunning in a minimal, spa-styled space where their bushiness will be best set off.
Although ease of watering is a bonus, but you’ll also need to carefully consider the growth habit of the plants you want to install, and where their roots will be allowed to grow.
22. Thriving vertical edibles
Vertical gardens are perfect for creating a kitchen garden whether in some shelving, planters, pots or hangers. Grow some leafy veggies like lettuces and spinach, and some trailing herbs like oregano, thyme and marjoram.
In the mix below, a tiny edible garden is bursting with edible nasturtium flowers with mustard, parsley, sage and basil. You might also like to read our tips on how to grow potted herbs on a balcony.
23. Follow the sun
I love the design of this house, which has a series of metal cables affixed to a concrete wall to create a trellis full of climbing vines. The futuristic home is actually a 1930s American dwelling called the Sun Path House.
Its shape was designed to enable a dining room, bedroom and sundeck to conform to the movement of the sun during the summer solstice. The vines provide privacy but allow the sun in and create the sense of being surrounded by nature.
24. Succulent artworks
Succulents are becoming very popular in vertical displays–they come in a wonderful range of textures, colours and shapes making them ideal to liven up a dull wall. What’s more, they’re low maintenance, have low water needs and are hardy enough to grow under a lot of harsh conditions. Make a unique statement piece with DIY vertical garden artworks like these ones.
25. Living green curtains
Innovation out of Vietnam again, this time with a “green veil” of creeper plants growing on steel mesh surrounding a tiny Ho Chi Minh City apartment. The veil is a softening layer to the hard spaces and offers the residents a green view they would otherwise be unlikely to have.
The usual benefits of green walls apply; filtered sunlight, purified city air, and bringing Mother Nature in closer. The designers were keen to create a green space that affords privacy without isolation.
26. Simple vertical planter
A raised bed or “no dig” gardening is another kind of vertical gardening that is great when you don’t have much room for soil and really want to maximise your vertical space. However, raised beds can take up a fair bit of horizontal space as well. But you can still squeeze a raised garden bed into a tiny space, such as a balcony. Look for streamlined planters like this one, which has a trellis already attached to guide the plants upwards. We’ve also got a stack of raised garden bed ideas for you too.
27. Green facades
Sometimes a theoretical distinction is made between green walls and green facades, with facades usually preferencing climbing plants with roots in the ground, growing up a trellis. But the line is getting blurry as green facades are now often also genuine green walls, growing sideways out of vertical structures.
This green façade is in a Bohemian area of Brazil’s Sao Paolo, where residents often experiment with art and design. But it’s not just about aesthetics: exterior vertical gardens provide buildings with protection and insulation. Like these permeable pavers? Read more about your options for paving including ones that can grow greenery.
28. Wall boxes
Having upward-facing planters means you have more plant choices than having a forward-facing green wall structure, as you can think about creating displays with plants with deeper roots as well.
Succulents are a great choice for wall boxes and planters because they’re lower maintenance than many other plants. They also have plenty of trailing plant options, which look gorgeous flowing over the edges of containers.
29. Build a wall
In California, this oversized living wall was once a construction trailer but is now hailed as a masterpiece that’s the state’s largest green wall. It’s made up of local natives that attract pollinators, thereby earning its keep in the local ecological system. And it also incorporates edibles (herbs and vegies only, I think!) in containers. For more ideas for front garden impact, you might like to also read our article on front garden designs.
30. Tiered garden
A terraced or tiered garden is another form of age-old vertical gardening, developed to handle very steep or sloping sites. Levels are artificially created with retaining walls, steps and ramps so that it’s possible to garden on a site that would normally just wash downhill. Here, a hillside garden in San Francisco.
31. Metal grid
Pegboards and metal grids are an easy way to create a support for hanging wall planters and allow you to design your own customisable modular living wall system. Below, timber plant holders hanging from pale leather straps have a pleasing minimalist order about them.
32. Courtyard vertical garden
A vertical garden gives you maximum visual impact when you only have a minimal space, but they also offer added benefits for homeowners—such as providing a home with insulation against temperature changes, and protection from UV radiation, heavy rain and winds. They also give dwellers more privacy and can block out high-frequency noise.
If you have a smaller outdoor area in your home, check out these courtyard ideas to really maximise your space.
33. Living wall with planters
Make your life easy by choosing from the various kinds of self-watering wall planters that are on the market now. Designed to be water efficient and low maintenance, they also come in so many chic styles. I love these little metallic planters, but ones made of natural materials also look stylish.
34. Maximalist wall trellis
At travel oasis, the Dreamcatcher Guesthouse in Puerto Rico, the hosts have decorated their space with objects d’art and curios, “rescued” materials and furniture, and liberal doses of greenery. I love the use of plants to create rippling, shimmering, living green curtains.
35. Extreme green architecture
Green architecture, which makes major use of vertical gardening, is having its day. So-called “green building design” has the aim of minimising human impacts on the environment, by creating fully-sustainable urban living models, with all the health benefits that go along with greening up our lives. High-rise structures are being reinvented as environmentally friendly dwellings which have sustainable initiatives built into their fundamental design.
Rising Canes Pavilion in Beijing is one such development which uses nature as a primary design element. It’s an ecological modular system can expand into every direction, as population density demands. It uses recyclable materials (bamboo and ropes, no nails or screws) and incorporates green facades, vertical gardens and roofs and terraces vegetated with communal edible gardens. The ultimate vertical garden?
Where to start?
The kind of vertical garden you can install in your home will depend on your environmental conditions—temperature, available light, whether it’s near airconditioning or heaters and so on. This will determine the type of plants that will thrive in the space. It’s a good idea to mix plants that have similar care needs to make maintenance simpler.
A huge variety of plants can be added to vertical gardens. The best ones are low-growing plants with shallow root systems, and obviously all the creeping vines and trailing seasonal bloomers, especially those with thick, lush foliage that will fill a space (such as wisteria, geraniums or petunias). Succulents, ferns and other drought-tolerant species will also do well and require less maintenance.
To mount them, you can buy ready-made vertical garden structures, modular systems and kits, but it’s also very easy to DIY your own simplified version. Wooden pallets are a popular choice but lattices and trellises could be made from anything—garden netting, even old pocket-style shoe organisers. Existing garden structures like fences, pergolas, arches, arbors and garage shed walls are also popular spots. And, of course, wall boxes and planters can create an instant vertical garden – there’s ample choice here.
There are so many ways you can make a vertical garden and that’s why I’ve curated a broad selection of ideas just to show you what’s possible. Ready to take your gardening up another level?
Now it’s over to you—which vertical garden is your favourite? I’m inclining towards a vertical potted herb garden for my kitchen—seems like an easy way to test the waters!
Whether you decide to grow a green wall from scratch or install a modular system that you can instantly fill with gorgeous plants, it’s a great idea to get some help from a professional landscape designer, especially someone who really understands vertical gardening. You’ll get the lowdown on the best plants to use for your project, and they’ll also be able to help you with any questions you have regarding automatic watering systems. Happy planting!