Climbing The Walls! A Guide To Vertical Gardening

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

We normally write about gardening on the ground, we have been known to write about gardening on roofs, but this time we thought we’d write about gardening on walls! If you’re struggling to find growing space in a smaller garden or wish you could grow something in your paved patio or balcony, a vertical garden might be the solution.  We’ve been finding out all about the logistics, benefits and downsides of different options.

Vertical garden

These towers are planted with 800 trees, 4000 shrubs and 15,000 vines and perennials

Vertical Garden: Options

Vertical planters come in 3 main types.  The cheapest and most basic are just fabric pouches. Plastic cylindrical towers with pre-cut planting holes are the mid-range and can be freestanding or wall mounted. Larger, free-standing containers provide the longer term solution. Or you can make your own (more on that later).

The Burgon and Ball Verti-plant

The Burgon and Ball Verti-plant


Polanter planter

Polanter planter


Easiwall green-wall system

Easiwall green-wall system

Vertical Garden: Practicalities

There are some things to consider before you decide which type of vertical planter is right for you:

  • What do you want grow- the smaller pockets and towers are better for drought tolerant plants as less water can be stored in the soil. They aren’t as suitable for greedy plants like tomatoes which do best in a pot of at least 10L. Woollypocket has a great list of plants suitable for either indoor or outdoor vertical walls. Try to grow the plants from small plugs as these will more readily cope with being transplanted into a confined space.
  • Will the planter get enough/too much sun? If it will get less than half a day in full summer then go for plants suitable for shade. If it is in full sun be wary of getting a metal system as this will obviously get very hot during the day, drying out the soil and becoming a hazard to you, pets and children.
  • Why do you want to grow it- as a disguise, as a design feature or as a cropping space?
  • What is your budget?
  • Aesthetics- some only come in one colour way.
  • How will you water it? All planters need regular watering and some designs will be difficult to water above chest height so consider irrigation systems.
  • The containers will be heavy once fully planted/watered and hard to move.  The structure needs to cope with this weight.
  • How much time do you have to look after the plants? You will need to prune, deadhead and fill any spaces that develop if plants die.
  • Cylindrical towers needs a bit of time to plant up as you should fill them gradually, firming compost and planting each layer in turn. So won’t necessarily give you an instant impact.
  • How exposed is the site as free standing tower systems could be blown over and this type seems to dry out more readily than other vertical planters?

Benefits – disguise

We all know that greenery and plants have a wonderful calming and stress reducing effect. Much better than staring at the back of your neighbours fence that’s painted in the colour you never liked anyway! If you’re simply looking to disguise a fence or wall, you might be interested in pre-grown ivy screens. The ivy is pre-grown for 2-3 years on galvanised wire mesh. These can be planted directly into your ground or into troughs with some compost and slow release fertiliser.  They don’t require too much maintenance, just a trim once or twice a year and watering of course if they are in troughs.

Ivy screens

Ivy screens provide an instant living wall to disguise other structures

Wall hung sedum planters have been popping up all over the internet recently and we do think they look fab initially.  But longer term trials are starting to reveal that sedums are not suited to vertical growth.  It seems that the need to grow towards sunlight causes the plant stems to weaken and break. So by all means use these as a temporary green wall but not as a permanent feature.

Vertical garden

Planting screens with sedums can make a stunning focal point for a wall

Benefits- environment

Taken to the extreme, vertical planting can help purify the air in cities.

The 25 Verde building in Turin

The 25 Verde building in Turin has striking living walls

The structure of this building in Turin includes 150 trees which absorb almost 200,000L of C02 per hour and reduce noise pollution from cars. Plants and trees in urban areas also regulate air temperature and vegetation on a building insulates it helping to reduce heating bills!

Benefits- accessibility

Another benefit of vertical systems is that you can have planters at a height optimised for you. So if you’re in a wheelchair or have trouble reaching up or down, you can set up your own perfect system.


Now we’ve gotten you all onboard with the benefits and how great vertical planters are, why not have a go yourself?  A lot of the larger container style vertical planters are not at all innovative, they are just containers that you can grow climbing plants in, or they are a bit like window boxes hung on a wall. I feel a Vialii pallet project coming on…..

This would be amazing as a herb garden outside the kitchen door.


Modular pallet vertical garden

Modular pallet vertical garden with removable planter boxes

If you’ve got a bit more space, this pyramid would make a great functional focal point and would be ideal for strawberries.

The pyramid planter

The pyramid planter is practical as well as stylish

If you prefer a clean, minimalist aesthetic, stacked cedar boxes attached to the side of your home make for a striking vertical garden.

Cedar boxes

Cedar boxes give a very modern look

You could even plant up an old chest of drawers and stagger how far the drawers open.  Not sure how long that would last however as the supporting structure for any vertical planter needs to be able to withstand a lot of moisture so it would probably need a bit of reinforcement.

Chest of drawers planter

This chest of drawers planter works well with the picture frames and mirror

If you need advice on any aspect of creating a green wall or would like a quote to have a bespoke planter built and installed, please get in touch.

Best wishes

All at Vialii

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