Vertical gardening, both indoors and out, is a hot trend right now. It’s space saving and striking in appearance. Nothing brings the outdoors in like an interior vertical planting wall…you really do feel like you are in a garden when beside it! 1970s gardeners used macramé plant hangers to create the effect. Plants set on a shelf, if the light conditions are right, also work. A vertical planting wall assembled in plant pockets, where the containers seem to disappear once the plants take over, is especially effective. If you’ve got a wall near a window, you’ve got the potential for a vertical planting wall.
I used two individual 7-pocket felt hanging planter bags found at http://www.banggood.com. Similar types of planter bags can be found online and in garden centers, including the popular (and expensive) Wooly Pockets. If you sew, you could easily construct your own. If used outdoors, I would plant directly into the felt pockets I purchased, but I wanted a tidier and drier situation, so my plants are potted in one-quart, plastic sandwich bags and nestled into the pockets. Some spilling still happens, but the felt absorbs it and keeps the wall behind the pockets dry.
Potting the plants and watering. I recommend a high-quality potting soil that will not compact and is crumbly and easy to work with. There is no drainage with the sandwich bags I use, nor do I incorporate any drainage medium at the bottom of the bags (to save space) so fastidious watering is a must. Bi-weekly, small waterings along with occasional misting from a spray bottle works. For a couple months, pull out the pockets and check for standing water and adjust the dosage as needed. You will get a sense of how much your wall requires. I fertilize very sparingly – half the recommended dosage during the summer months. This seems to help plants to thrive, while keeping growth in check.
A note on potting: Fold the side of the bag down, like cuffing a pant leg, sprinkle an inch or so of soil at the bottom and then break up the roots of the plant. Nestle the root ball into the soil and begin adding soil around it, shaking the container as you go to get the dirt into crevices. Pat the dirt down as you go, continue shaking and overfill a little as it will quickly settle.
Plant selection. Because conditions aren’t ideal, mainly due to lack of drainage, but also the close quarters, getting the right plants is key. I have had the best luck with the old stand-by, iron horse houseplants. Pothos and philodendrons have done great and are available in varieties that bring a assortment of colors and forms. Look for pothos ‘Marble Queen,’ ‘Golden’ and ‘Neon.’ Philodendron ‘Brasil’ adds a lot of visual interest. I have also had success with hypoestes (polka dot plant), and to a certain extent, Tradescantia pallida and ivy. Ivy seems to do best if you begin with a larger plant. Generally speaking, plants that do well in a terrarium setting seem to thrive in this particular setting and you don’t need a lot of plants with interesting leaves to have an impact – two or three will do. Your specific light conditions will also dictate plant selection, though pothos and philodendron will do well just about anywhere.
Other tips and tricks
- Isolate new plants for a couple weeks to check for infestation. Plants become intertwined and bugs spread quickly. (I learned this the hard way.)
- Check the planting bags and add soil if need be, particularly a month or so after planting.
- Orchids do well in the planting wall. Search for pots that are small enough to tuck easily into the pockets.
- Air plants (Tillandsia) work wonderfully to tuck in around the wall to fill holes.
- Consider houseplant cuttings in the planting wall, including pothos, philodendron, ivy and coleus. I use plastic water bottles (the new recycled plastic varieties are very easy to cut) and fill them with water and tuck into place.