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Vintage Door Vertical Succulent Garden | How to Make a Living Wall

Updated on June 13, 2013

Living Walls

Recently, there has been a lot of buzz about "living walls" made of succulents and other plants. A "living wall" is a vertical garden, planted vertically rather than the traditional horizontal orientation. Seeing pictures so many great ideas for vertical gardens in magazines and on the internet, I thought that they were very beautiful, displaying succulent plants of all sizes, shapes and colors. Succulents grow very well in the desert where I live, if they are provided with plenty of water and a little protection from the summer sun and winter cold. So I decided to make one of my own. Here's how I did it, and how you can, too!

Succulents planted in a picture frame.
Succulents planted in a picture frame.

Creating a Frame

I wanted a unique frame for my living wall. Coincidentally, several months ago my neighbor had discarded an old door which had three of the window panes missing. I really loved the antique look of the door, so I had pulled it into my yard from the alley without any initial plan concerning what I would do with it. It was resting on its side against my block wall for several months before I decided that it could be a wonderful frame for a living wall, and the wood was in bad shape from exposure to the elements. I sanded it down and brushed it with white paint, rubbing some of the wet paint off with a soft cloth to enhance the antique look. This was followed by a coat of polyurethane to protect the wood during our harsh summer climate, since my project would be displayed outdoors.

Old doors and windows make fabulous frames for living walls. They can be obtained from antique and salvage stores, if you don't find one in the trash! Shadow box frames, old pallets or wooden boxes can be repurposed as vertical gardens. Any number of creative ideas can be found on the internet, as well as commercial frame kits for purchase.

There is a large selection of how-to books and supplies for creating vertical walls on Amazon. Super Saver shipping is free on qualified orders over $25, so when I shop, I stock up on the items that I need. I get them for a great price with no added tax or shipping fees. Here are a few examples of the products and books that are available.

A succulent frame that will hang on the wall must be deep enough to hold soil.
A succulent frame that will hang on the wall must be deep enough to hold soil.

Preparing the Back of the Frame

The door was ready to be decorated. I laid it on a tarp with the back side facing up and used a staple gun to attach chicken wire across the empty window panes. The chicken wire will hold the succulents in place.

On top of the wire, I affixed permeable landscape fabric, placing staples close together all the way around each of the window frames so that the fabric would hold potting soil. Landscape fabric will not only hold in soil, but also moisture. At the same time, it is porous, allowing oxygen to my plants' roots so that the project does not mildew. A good substitute for landscape fabric would be burlap, which is also permeable. Chicken wire or "poultry fence," burlap and landscape fabric can be purchased at your local home improvement store or on Amazon.

My project will be free-standing, so I am not worried about make the back side of the project flat. A project that will hang on a wall, however, will heed to have a frame that is deep enough to hold soil and still be flush to the wall on the back.

Plant one succulent in each section of the chicken wire.
Plant one succulent in each section of the chicken wire.

Planting the Frame

Once the back was prepared, I turned the door over so that the front was facing up, and filled the panes with cactus mix potting soil, rubbing it in through the chicken wire until it was level underneath the wire. Cactus mix can be purchased at your local nursery or home improvement store.

I had purchased my succulent plants from a local garden center, and found that it was more economical to buy plants in larger containers and divide the pups rather than purchase each little pup individually. This required patience on my part as pups taken from a parent plant need to have the stems dried for a couple of days prior to planting to prevent fungal infections.

When the stems were dry, I inserted a small succulent plant into each hole in the chicken wire. To secure them tightly into the wire and fill in gaps, I pushed pieces of wet sphagnum peat moss around the plants. When all of the plants were secured into the screen, they were watered well and allowed to lie flat for a couple of days so that rooting could begin, which would provide additional support to the plants once the project was vertical.

Hanging the Frame

While my wall was lying flat for a couple of days, I dug a trench about 6 inches deep in order to “plant” the door in my garden. Placing the bottom of the door in the trench, I filled in the gaps with dirt and packed it in tightly. To provide additional support, two metal fence stakes were pounded into the ground behind the trench, and screwed tightly to the back of the door.

Succulents need a little extra water during the summertime in my area of the country. To my existing drip system, I added a couple of emitters that run up the back of the door to each of the planted panes. Finally, I added a welcome sign and a decorative bird cage to complete the project.

To Creat Your Own Living Wall...

To create your own living wall project, consult the internet using the search terms "living walls," "vertical gardens," or "succulent walls" for ideas and instructions. I have posted some links at the bottom of the page to get you started.

Low maintenance and beautiful, succulent walls are easy to make and add drama to your garden or home. And they are guaranteed to impress your friends who will be asking, "How did you do that?"

What kind of garden do you grow?

Visit our container gardening lens.
Visit our container gardening lens.

Gardening is no longer a routine matter. Though in-ground beds are still the workhorse of the garden, creativity abounds! What kinds of gardens do you grow? Do you have a unique gardening idea? Vote in the poll and tell us about your garden in the comments section.

My garden includes...

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More vertical wall projects to explore...

The links below are for some places that I love on the web. Lots of fun craft, gardening, homesteading, cooking and DIY projects are posted here.

We would love to hear from you! Leave your comments and questions below.

Thank you for stopping by!

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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Finally, a Lens in the garden section that isn't just a series of affiliate links. Love what you did with the old door. Leaving the glass in the unbroken panels really makes it a standout piece.

    • Fcuk Hub profile image

      Fcuk Hub 

      8 years ago

      Never thought about that before. Creative :)

    • profile image

      Oneshotvariety LM 

      8 years ago

      Thank you for the great tips. Very helpful lens.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks so much for sharing your vertical garden with us. What a wonderful idea and you always provide great directions. Thanks for linking up at Transformed Tuesday. Hugs, Peggy~PJH Designs

    • tvyps profile image

      Teri Villars 

      9 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I have cat's claw but it isn't doing too well here in Az..

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

      Oh, I'm so glad I realized this was not the end of the page! I almost left, thinking it was still under construction, but then I noticed my slider wasn't even halfway to the bottom. What a great idea! The door adds such an interesting element to your garden. Thank you for the step-by-step. This looks like a really fun project to try.

    • LittleLindaPinda profile image

      Little Linda Pinda 

      9 years ago from Florida

      That door is really pretty. I like your creative thinking. using an old door.

    • bohica96 profile image


      9 years ago

      Nice concept. Thanks for the idea.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • delia-delia profile image


      9 years ago

      Nice lens! Oh this gives me a great idea...I found a dozen window dividers 6 squares within that were thrown away...these would make great succulent wall containers..I have used them to put paintings behind of outdoor scenes.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Enjoyed reading this lens, well done!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      What a great idea to repurpose a door!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I love this! I have a door insert that would be perfect to try this! Great lens!

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 

      9 years ago from Land of Aloha

      This project is so inspiring; I love the look and the fact that you just dragged that door into your yard. haha Awesome!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      What a lovely idea! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Scotties-Rock profile image


      9 years ago from OREFIELD, PA

      How beautiful! Now I want one too!

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image


      9 years ago

      I think this is a great idea. I love your creativity here! You've got me wanting to create a living wall as well! Thank you!


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