We are always looking for creative ways to incorporate plant life into our spaces. Whether it's finding the perfect hanging plant or just picking out the prettiest vase, there are infinite ways to arrange your plants to create the relaxing feeling of being inside your own curated little jungle. But there's one plant incorporation technique you might not have tried.
If you are curious to dabble in plant design or if you're in charge of making your office space more green, consider installing a green wall.
What Is a Green Wall?
A green wall in its name is a living structure created on a vertical plane using live plant material. It holds both aesthetic and health benefits, especially when used in very sterile environments such as office spaces. It can be applied in both interior and exterior situations.
"From an aesthetic standpoint, a green wall is a very polarizing statement piece," Ralph Portillano, the senior design manager at PlantShed, says. "A lush green living work of art against a cold facade or wall creates a focal point that draws the eye into the space."
Meet the Expert
Ralph Portillano is the senior design manager at PlantShed in New York. PlantShed is a family-owned floral destination offering same-day floral and plant delivery in New York, plant installation, and floral event design.
He explains that there are two common design approaches for designing your green wall: natural and structured/patterned design. A naturally designed green wall has plants placed sporadically to imitate the look of something you'd find in nature, while a structured or patterned green wall gives off a completely different look.
"They can be done in checkerboard fashion, horizontal and diagonal lines, or even be formulated to portray large images," Portillano explains.
No matter which design approach you choose or whether you decide to build your wall inside or outside, the steps for creating your green wall will be similar. Here's how to build a green wall indoors or outdoors.
Select the Proper Space
Whether you choose to construct your green wall indoors or outdoors, you'll need to be careful to select the proper space. You'll also want to consider what kind of materials you'll need to use to build and install your wall.
If you're building a green wall outdoors, Portillano says you'll need to consider the natural lighting available, the type of conditions your wall might face (wind, severe direct sun, pollution), any weight restrictions for your wall, as well as the region you live in.
A living wall in Florida needs more tropical material, where one in the Northeast should be composed of plants more tolerant to extreme winter conditions.
If you're constructing your green wall indoors, you'll need to consider the natural lighting available and decide if you need to add grow lights.
"If you are going to supplement with grow lights, it is important to use full-spectrum bulbs to make sure your plants receive the right amount of red and blue light," Portillano says.
The location of your indoor green wall also matters. Is it near a place where it can get harsh cold air swifts or knocked into by doors? It's important to place your green wall in a place that is protected from high traffic.
Identify Your Support Structure
You will need a support structure for your wall, whether it's beams, pallets, or rows of small containers. When deciding on your support structure, make sure that your wall will hold the weight of your structure and the weight of the plants, soil, and the watered soil.
"For small green walls, a regular galvanized metal frame can be used," Portillano says. "For larger green walls, support structures and beams may have to be erected to sustain the weight of the materials."
Install the Plants
Next, it's time to install your plants. This can be done in a variety of ways, but Portillano says there are three main ways people usually install their plants on a green wall: troughs, bags, and inserts.
If you choose to install long troughs, you can plant larger plants, and the soil can hold more water to mean a little less upkeep for you. However, this could also lead to overwatering, so it's a fine line. You'll also need to make sure your structure can hold the weight on such large troughs.
If you install your plants with bags, this means your plants are planted directly into small bags instead of troughs. This method might avoid any watering issues.
For inserts, Portillano explains: "Plants are kept in their grower pots and inserted into individual mini wall panels. This is one of the best ways to install the plants because it not only mitigates over water but also makes replacements easier."
Create a Watering System
"If the plants are in a trough, an irrigation system like a drip system or a wick and riser system can be used where a reservoir is filled weekly," Portillano says. "For plants in bags or inserts, a drip system is recommended."
He also recommends incorporating a slow drip fertilizer into your irrigation system to feed the plants on a consistent basis.
Maintain Your Green Wall
Maintaining your green wall can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to be. You can choose to stay on top of pruning by opting for monthly prunings, but at the very least, you should be pruning your green wall every 3 to 4 months.
Portillano points out that easy access to all areas of your wall is important to the pruning process. Make sure you have a chair or ladder that allows you to reach the top of your green wall.
It's also important to note that you'll eventually need to replace or switch out the plants. This is not a one-time DIY project. It will require upkeep.
Long term, a living wall will most likely need a large refresh eventually as plants become overgrown, tired-looking, or perish. This is inevitable: the space they are grown in can only allow for so much potential growth.
Avoid Potential Challenges
"Potential challenges are environmental factors that could adversely affect the plants, such as lighting, placement, and temperatures, as well as human intervention," Portillano says. He adds that pests are a common plant issue, and green walls are no exception, especially indoor green walls.
"Take care not to overwater or over-fertilize, as this is the common catalyst for insect pests and bacterial diseases to develop."
While green walls are stable structures, plants are not, so you'll likely move them around and care for them as you would if they were in a single container in your home.
"Plants are living creatures and not decorations that never move or change. You should be prepared to adjust the plants as needed and give them the care they need for the wall to thrive properly," Portillano adds.
Whether you choose to place your green wall indoors or outdoors, you'll be able to enjoy your greenery in a new, beautiful way while also making a stunning design statement.
“What Is WELL? | U.S. Green Building Council.” Accessed August 27, 2021. https://www.usgbc.org/articles/what-well.