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The Basics of Living Walls, Green Walls, and Vertical Gardens

Updated on December 28, 2009

When many people first hear the term "living wall," they think of ivy covered houses and other buildings. Though the appearance might be similar, the execution is very different.

Ivy growing up a wall is anchored in the ground. Though it may produce tendrils that grow roots into the wall, its main source of nutrients and water is still the soil at the base of the wall.

Living walls, which are also known as green walls and vertical gardens, are constructed from modular panels, each of which contains its own soil or other growing medium. This increases the variety of plants that can be used beyond the use of climbing vines.

Living walls can be either interior or exterior, and may be either a passive or an active system. (More about the distinction in a moment.)

A verdant living wall at the Queen's university, Kingston, Ontario. Source: Wikipedia.
A verdant living wall at the Queen's university, Kingston, Ontario. Source: Wikipedia.

The Benefits of Living Walls

  • Living walls are extremely space efficient. Living walls make use of vertical walls - areas that would otherwise be wasted space in the garden. In small city lots, they are a perfect way to expand your garden and increase the number of plants you can grow.
  • Living walls can help cut your heating and cooling bills. On exterior walls, both the growing medium and the plants themselves provide insulation and shade to the sides of buildings, cutting heating and cooling bills, in many regions significantly. Interior walls provide insulation. The insulating qualities of living walls also make excellent sound barriers to reduce street noise.
  • Living walls can improve air quality. Both exterior and interior living walls can improve air quality. So-called "active" living walls are specifically designed to provide biofiltration and improve air quality. "Passive" living walls may or may not significantly improve air quality, depending on the choice of plants. In addition to their use as air purifiers, some active walls are also designed to reuse or purify greywater or stormwater runoff.
  • Living walls can help cut your food bills. A number of edible plants can be grown on living walls, including many herbs, salad greens, and other vegetables and fruits.
  • Living walls can provide an urban refuge for wildlife. Depending on the plants chosen, birds, butterflies, and other wildlife may visit exterior living walls.
  • Living walls are beautiful. Instead of looking at the boring side of a building, you can look at a veritable explosion of greenery and flowers. Studies have shown that people whose windows look out on green spaces and other natural areas report lower stress, higher satisfaction in their job and personal lives, and other benefits.

The famous living wall of the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, France. Photo by laurenatclemson.
The famous living wall of the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, France. Photo by laurenatclemson.

DIY Living Wall


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    • arusho profile image


      7 years ago from University Place, Wa.

      I am a landscape designer and love green walls and roofs! I have a small green wall at my house from Woolly Pocket. I'm trying to push more of my clients to have green walls at their homes. It really does make the side of a house or building look great. I especially love Patrick Le Blanc's work. Great hub!

    • melodyandes profile image


      7 years ago

      W O W, very nice, I really2x like it.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      how do u water them?

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 

      8 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      blackmarx gave me the heads-up on this one, what an idea. There is hope for mankind after all, well done kerry!

    • blackmarx profile image


      8 years ago from Rice Lake, WI

      awesome!, now that's what I call a green house.

    • ajcor profile image


      8 years ago from NSW. Australia

      What a marvellous idea - and beautiful as well - thanks for this Kerry....cheers

    • tech02 profile image


      8 years ago from India

      Excellent information about the benefits of living walls. Thanks kerry

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      On top of all the benefits already listed, green walls also help to reduce the "heat island" effect generated by cities and can protect buildings by adding an additional layer of insulation against rain, UV radiation and wind.

    • Deborah-Lynn profile image


      9 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      This is a very interesting garden concept, I enjoyed your Hub, Thanks!

    • Joy At Home profile image

      Joilene Rasmussen 

      9 years ago from United States

      What a fantastic idea! Thanks for the kickstart.

    • Teresa McGurk profile image


      9 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Brilliant -- I'm intrigued. Thanks for the info.

    • C.Ferreira profile image


      9 years ago from Rutland, VT

      I've just bookmarked this Hub! I have never heard of this either but it is definitely something I want to try. I will certainly be looking up more information as I would like to start an interior living wall.

      That video provides some great info, but I am confused as to how that panel's water system works! I'm really excited about this...probably one of my favorite Hubs I've read to date!


    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      9 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I have never heard of these living walls - what an interesting idea. And the photo of the wall in Paris is so beautiful!


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