Vertical plantings? Why not?



This living/green wall concept seems kind of neat to me. I
would go for a small unit of wall plants that I could hand water. It reminds me
of when we were in Campania on vacation. Our apartment near Amalfi (in a
smaller village called Atrani) seemed to have been built around the rocky cliff
and the living room’s back wall was all rock with succulents growing out of it (shown here). They also seemed to have glued random objects to it—guess they got carried
away. It made for an interesting environment. I was always
amazed—when in that part of Italy—at how many plants seemed happy to grow out
of completely barren rock or earth.




As someone who already maintains quite a number of plants
inside the house (there were over 80 when we did the plant census a while back,
including pots of forced bulbs), the idea of vertical plants does not seem
terribly intimidating. They’d have to be low light and need minimal water, like
some of the lower maintenance office-type plants, but I can see how such
plants, which can be boring in pots, would look more interesting as a wall
tapestry. I can also see how it would look best in a cleaner—read more
modern—environment than I have. But it’s giving me ideas. We’re in the middle
of a kitchen renovation and it will leave us with several blank wall areas. Walls
where a plant tapestry might be just the thing.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. The concept of the “living wall” is gaining a lot of momentum right now in many venues. Statistical proof has shown living walls used in shopping malls calm people down and cause them to spend more time there. Living walls are being used widely in Europe as garden spots in cities providing people with grand opportunities to relax in small spots. Plants in vertical places, even attached to downspouts, are filtering stormwater runoff. The vertical surface is offering great new vistas for gardeners. Good luck with your house wall; can’t wait to see the pictures!

  2. I love the whole vertical garden thing. It’s not something I’d ever do myself–too busy thinning the turnips!–but I think wall gardens are very beautiful.

    When I was in Naples, plants were growing out of the crumbling buildings two or three stories up.

  3. I was shocked when I realized that Oregon Stonecrop grew all over rock surfaces along our coast and up into Washington State. Since we go up and down the coast frequently, it is wonderful to watch the plants throughout the season. Bright yellow blooms in the spring, green in the summer, and red flush in the fall. Ferns grow all over here too because of the dampness. I think that if the right plant is in the right place you can pull it off. I just don’t know any other climate than my own though and virtually everything grows here!

  4. I think the only vertical or wall garden I’d be interested in is one that was populated entirely by epiphytes that would need some light and humidity. Gee this is Florida; do you think we have any humidity here?

    The best example of this type of wall that I’ve seen is at Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Coral Gables, FL. I have posted photos on my website.

  5. All I can think is that the indoor felines would love a vertical plant wall. To the detriments of the plants. I can see their eyes getting bright, their ears pricking forward and their whiskers vibrating with excitement. Let the climbing and plant shredding begin!

  6. They are higher maintenance than most people imagine, but they are gorgeous, aren’t they?

    Another thing you can do is orchid-on-a-stick: I have a Laelia gouldiana, along with a bit of moss, wrapped around a piece of driftwood. I dip it in the fountain to water it and hang it up here and there depending on the weather conditions. So much nicer and easier than an ugly plastic pot.

  7. If you want to see a fabulous example of a living wall, google Madrid’s Caixaforum Museum. I guess cities themselves are unsustainable in a way. If a wall of plants can give city dwellers a sense of peace and calm, and an awareness of the natural world, it would seem to be a great benefit even if they require some extra resources to maintain. And of course the plants are helping to clean the air and moderate the temperature where they are, altho I don’t know about the metrics of the trade-off between maintenance and benefits.

  8. The ultimate natural living walls that I have seen through slide lectures via the S.F. Bromeliad Society are located in South America, specifically the Tepui of Venezuela. Massive cliffs and mountain sides veneered with clinging colorful textural epiphytes.

    Tillandsias , Nidulariums, Dyckia , Fascicularia, Neoredglia , Aechemeas cling to the porous volcanic rock faces.

    I’ve been inspired by these images to create my own natural living green walls by attaching a variety of epiphytes to pieces of rock, wood posts and wiring them to the trunks of palm trees that grow in my garden.

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