Everything You Need to Know About Creating a Living Wall
You’ll have a green thumb before you know it.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:56 AM
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We’re suckers for gorgeous greenery displayed in a home—there’s just something about a plant that gives your space an instant makeover. Especially in the depths of winter, a bright green succulent adds an especially sunny vibe… but have you ever considered a wall full of them?
While you might think creating a modular living wall system would be too difficult—not to mention challenging to keep alive—we’re here to help. We tapped plant expert Mėgan Twilegar, owner of Pistils Nursery, a plant shop in Portland, Oregon, for her top tips on creating the perfect one. Having designed several over the course of her career, Twilegar knows a thing or two about temperamental plants, and insists that for her clients, she uses a more simplistic, yet chic approach: Think plants on a pegboard, tiling plants on white walls, and using wood-mounted planters.
So, if you’ve always dreamed of creating that perfect lush green wall, know it’s a lot closer than you think.
Figure out where your wall will be.
The first thing to consider in creating a living wall is the environmental conditions in your home. “Where do you want to install your plants? What kind of light does this space get? Is the area near an AC unit, heater, or fireplace? Answering these questions will help you determine both if the spot is suitable for a living wall at all, and if so, what sorts of plants will thrive,” says Twilegar. “For example, a southern exposure will provide direct sun that will keep succulents and cacti happy, whereas northern or eastern exposures are more well-suited for tropical plants that don’t require direct sun.” Once you pick your wall location, choosing the plants will be much easier.
Pick your plants carefully.
“As a general rule, we like to use plants that are tolerant of drought/periods of under-watering in our living walls,” says Twilegar. “When mounted on wood or cork, plants are going to have less soil space than if planted in a traditional pot. Plus, these mounted plants will have air circulation around their roots, so you can expect them to dry out more quickly. Inevitably, life gets in the way, and you might forget about your plants at some point—better to have species that are going to be forgiving and recover more quickly to promote the longevity of your wall.” Some options? Jungle cacti, ferns, and tropicals.
It’s all in the styling.
“When designing the installation, pick plants that complement one another,” says Twilegar. “To me, this means keeping tropicals with tropicals, cacti with cacti (and so on), because these plants are going to have similar care requirements. But with that said, within each plant type, there is a world of variety. When doing tropical installations, we like to pick some specimens that cascade and some that are upright with a variety of leaf colors, shapes, and textures to keep things dynamic.”
Don’t forget the mounts.
“Consider the raw materials and aesthetic of your home, and choose mounts made with complementary or sympathetic materials,” says Twilegar. “We love putting our mounted staghorn ferns near our reclaimed doug fir shelving, as the warm wood tones look perfect next to one another.” And with so many options these days—from wood and cork mounts to clay, metal, and glazed pottery—it’s easy to choose the one that works best for you.
“On watering day, it’s generally best to take things off the wall, even if you have a wall mounted planter that you could otherwise water directly,” explains Twilegar. “We always recommend being sure it’s actually time to water your plants by using your finger to assess the moisture level in the soil, rather than relying on a schedule. Taking your plants down when it’s time to water them will make this much easier.”