When you first walk into a botanical garden with larger-than-life displays of plants all over the place, the first thing that will genuinely take your breath away is the vertical garden. These masterful uses of plant life and the things they offer are some of the most remarkable ways we have learned to grow our plants. Chances are you will seriously consider creating your own vertical garden after seeing such wonders; with that comes a list of things you will need to know.
Vertical gardens need specific orientation based on their plants; they will need more water than usual, access to good sunlight, and high nutrition from compost. With every vertical garden having just the right number of plants, proper drainage to avoid over watering, along with a good frame, combined with appropriate mesh and plastic sheets. Fortunately, it can be easy to replant things in vertical gardens, allowing you to choose the right mixture of plants for your garden.
These are just the basic things that you need to know to create and care for a vertical garden; there are many complex aspects of building and managing these beautiful structures that you will need to know. Through experience and research, we have learned how to create vertical gardens that will flourish and amaze in equal measure. Each step of the process is essential and requires using some innovative ideas to create a unique vertical garden.
How Much Does It Cost to Build A Vertical Garden?
Before we can take a look at what you need to create a vertical garden, what you need to know about the base, and which plants to use for a vertical garden, we need to look at the cost. Each vertical garden will have a different cost; the lowest price for a vertical garden is $60, with the average cost being around $160. Larger, more complex gardens will naturally cost a lot more and require more work to keep running. (Source: The Pricer)
This difference in cost is not because of the building materials required; the basic sub-structure of vertical gardens is the same. The difference in pricing will usually come from the type and quality plants you are using along with the type of irrigation system. More tropical and rare plants will naturally cost more to get and keep growing, while local plants and succulents might even be available for free.
Irrigation is one of the essential parts of your vertical garden, and it is something that you will have to install. Many vertical gardens are made for large walls that can be difficult to manually water, especially if they are more than 8 feet high. Therefore, the irrigation system you install will be rather expensive and require some new piping to enable proper watering.
What Do You Need for A Vertical Garden?
Once you have decided to start your vertical garden, you will need to start planning everything. Unlike normal gardens that can be added onto and changed with ease at a later stage, vertical gardens require a lot of planning to be executed properly. Many vertical gardens die long before they are built simply because the creator did not carefully plan.
We have ten things that we recommend that you know and prepare for long before you start building and mounting your vertical garden. Each one researched and designed for your vertical garden will be one step closer to reaching completion. Creating a proper vertical garden is not that difficult; it just requires planning and preparation to ensure everything happens at the right time.
- Orientation: If you plant something with its roots pointing upwards and the leaves dangling down, the plant will naturally start expending energy to right itself. This is what we mean with orientation for vertical gardens; if all your plants are at weird angles, they will spend a lot of energy to get themselves back to what they think is their rightful position! This is why it is recommended that you use plants that have hanging leaves, odd directions of growth, or simply strong succulents that can use up that energy without any side effects!
- Light: All plants need light to flourish, and vertical gardens are not an exception to this rule, which is why they are usually located somewhere outside. You cannot use simple indoor lighting to provide the right light for your vertical garden, with the positioning of the garden also affecting the overall sunlight that shines on it. It would help if you chose an area where at least one hour of natural light will shine on every plant in the garden to ensure constant, healthy growth.
- Plastic: It may be surprising, but walls are not always waterproof when kept constantly moist, which will happen when you install a vertical garden. Before installing the vertical garden, you need to put down a layer of weatherproofing underneath it. Depending on what type of wall you are using, it can be anything from normal plastic sheeting to suitable waterproof plastic that has been designed to insulate concrete.
- Water: The watering issue is something that all vertical garden lovers have to learn to overcome. It is recommended that you have a sprinkler system that waters the entire garden at the same time to ensure ease of use. Watering the vertical garden is important because the plants will not have as much soil to retain the moisture they need.
- Drainage: Your plants will all have different requirements for water; when it is raining, or you are watering them, they will need to be able to drain excess away. Having pots that allow the moisture to escape and flow away easily will ensure that your plants are not drowning. As the plants grow larger and larger, you may find that they retain more water in their root systems as well. Drainage is what prevents root rot, plants from dying, and unwanted algae growth.
- Mesh: The mesh will serve multiple purposes depending on the type of vertical garden you are planning. For smaller plants, you will use a fabric mesh that will house the plants, their roots, and the moisture they need. For more extensive, more complex vertical gardens, you will add wire mesh to help strengthen the frame and hold the pots in place. Choosing a good mesh will allow your vertical garden to withstand the test of time.
- Nutrition: When planting a vertical garden, there are several factors that make nutrition a priority! Think about the fact that your plants will not benefit from creatures such as worms creating healthy, nutritious ground (have you ever seen a vertical worm??) Vertical gardens are tough to add soil to, so a lot of them don’t have the luxury of the nutrients fresh soil would bring. This means that you will have to provide nutrition for them, either by using special fertilizer or enriching the water you are adding. Doing so will ensure that the plants can get everything they usually get from the water they absorb.
- Easy Replanting: This is more a benefit of having a vertical garden than a requirement; if you decide that a series of plants are not working, you can quickly replant them. Because the plants are usually not entirely held by a deep root system, they can be pulled out with ease. This is handy for some plants that will need your help, as they are seasonal and require that you store them somewhere more controlled when it becomes too cold.
- Frame: A solid and well-built frame is essential for the success and longevity of your vertical garden; your plant choice and desired garden location will affect the frame size and shape. You must ensure that the frame can support the total weight of everything while the structure should be easy to attach to the wall.
- Plants: Long plants, big plants, evergreen plants, or plain easy-to-grow plants; each can and should be used in a vertical garden. Your plant selection will directly influence the choices you are making for the rest of the vertical garden. The watering system, the amount of drainage, the strength and shape of the frame all rely on the types of plants you would like to grow.
How Long Should A Vertical Garden Last?
This depends entirely on the types of plants you have in your vertical garden; some gardens will only last around six to twelve months, while others can last more than two years. If you are constantly trimming, replanting, fixing, and adjusting the vertical garden, then it can easily last a lifetime. (Source: Lush Living Walls)
The large and impossible-looking vertical gardens that you will see on the side of commercial buildings are only meant to last a few years. While private vertical gardens are made to last until the plants almost literally die out thanks to lack of water. We have found that many gardeners that have space and time create vertical gardens that become permanent.
Examples of permanent vertical gardens that you may find are those built into retaining walls in a garden. These get watered both naturally and through sprinkler systems, have access to unlimited ground nutrients, and usually grow out of control if left alone. How you are planning the vertical garden and choosing the plants in them will significantly affect the overall success and age of the garden.
Which Plants Are Best for A Vertical Garden?
Now that you know what will affect the shape, size, and longevity of the vertical garden you are creating, you will need to know which plants to use. Technically, you can choose any plant you want as long as they never grow too tall (they are hanging off a wall after all!), but there are several that we know are best. Several plants have been known to flourish when used in vertical gardens; these are the ones that we recommend starting with.
We will be focusing on three specific types of plants that can easily make your vertical garden look like a forest rising from oblivion 🙂 Each plant has its unique way of growing and aging, allowing you to either leave them to grow entirely naturally or to trim them as and when needed. We highly recommend that you do some tending and then leave the vertical garden for the first week or two to grow naturally.
(Source: Nursery Live)
To put it mildly, ferns are the champions and the masters of a vertical garden growing as they would grow in the wild in much the same way. Mixed in with the right plants that creep or cover them, ferns will happily and completely grow to cover every corner of the vertical garden. Because of their vertical growth and the different sizes of their leaves, you will have to keep a close eye on how large they are growing.
Ferns can quickly grow almost too large for your garden, causing stress on some parts and taking essential resources from other plants. However, if it is your first vertical garden, we highly recommend that you make the entire garden from different types of ferns. This will allow you to focus on the other parts of the setup-like irrigation and strength without stressing about the plant’s sensitivity to sudden changes.
Surviving on anything you can throw at them, these are the most typical house plants you will find worldwide. If you love plants, you may already be aware of these little plants and their available varieties. We recommend using them to fill in the holes of your vertical garden, making the entire thing green and multi-layered.
With some Pothos growing like vines and others just sprouting multiple leaf-like appendages, you should use them to your advantage. You will often find that these plants are incredibly forgiving, allowing you to have a relaxed approach to watering. Leaving you to worry about the sunlight (or lack of it) instead 🙂 Surviving minor droughts, little sunlight, or just overzealous care being thrown at them.
If you are not a lover of high maintenance, wildly growing plants, you should be thinking and planning with succulents. These plants can grow at seemingly impossible angles, with seemingly impossible conditions thrown at them. The only requirement most succulents need is some water once a week and a good amount of sunlight.
When you have almost no trust in yourself or the environment you are growing the vertical garden in; you should seriously consider using only succulents. They can come in every color imaginable and will usually grow in the vertical garden that you are creating. Just be sure that there is something for the roots to grab onto and that you aren’t giving them too much water.
Vertical gardens are some of the most amazing things you will find globally and will always be a visually appealing addition to your own home. We highly recommend that you work towards creating a vertical garden that is both visually appealing and growing almost uncontrollably.
Please always ensure that your garden is secured correctly though, no one wants to cut a leaf at the top to have years of work tumbling to the floor!