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How to Create a Living Wall in Your Apartment

By: Susan Finch
August 21, 2020

Breathe new life into your apartment with a living wall full of fresh plants, blooms, and greenery. You may have already seen these unique walls around your city, atriums, and commercial centers. If you’ve never heard of them, these intriguing walls can transform small and large apartments alike with a touch of nature.

What is a Living Wall?

Living walls are sometimes called green walls, vertical gardens, or wall gardens. However, they’re all the same thing.

These gorgeous green gardens grow vertically with a series of planters and mounts. They can cover a large or small expanse of wall to suit your decor needs.

Despite their rising popularity, living walls aren't a new idea. These vertical gardens date back to 1938 when Stanley Hart White patented the idea.

They were popular outdoors as green facades in urban environments. They were known to bolster installation from the weather.

Today, they're common indoors. They help give small living spaces a touch of nature.

Benefits of a Living Wall

There are also health benefits to installing a living wall in your apartment. Your vertical garden can improve air quality by absorbing and cleaning pollutants, removing carbon dioxide, and producing more oxygen in your apartment. Living walls can also produce as much oxygen as a tree.

Trees and plants are also known to help ease people's stress and fatigue. And unlike trees, you can add several living walls in your apartment to transform your home's health.

Green walls are also known for their longevity. They can last well over a decade and require minimal care, depending on the plants you choose.

They also take up minimal wall space instead of floor or surface space. This can be a big win for renters living in a studio or apartment with small living rooms. You also don't need a balcony to grow that garden you've been dreaming of.

Check Your Lease

Before you get started on your living wall, double-check your lease terms. There may be rules against adding mounting or installing anything on your wall without permission from your landlord.

It may be worth asking in advance if you're unclear about the terms. However, you can also install a living wall outside on a patio or balcony if you need to.

Location, Location, Location

Vertical gardens are usually easier to take care of than a traditional garden. However, they do require some specific care and consideration.

Location is everything. So, start by making sure your living wall has enough light.

Natural light is also best for your living wall's health and longevity. However, there are other options to consider. A full-spectrum LED light or LED grow lights can also help your plants grow in rooms with poor light.

Beyond lighting considerations, the location is up to you. Vertical gardens look fantastic in bedrooms, kitchens, home offices, and hallways. They’re also ideal for areas that need a decor boost or an awkward nook you can’t put to good use.

How to Set Up a Living Wall

Ready to dive in and get started? Here's how to set up a living wall in your apartment.

1. Find your studs

Your living wall will probably require mounts to attach to your wall. You’ll need a way to locate your wall studs to help secure your mounts and hardware. Otherwise, it could rip through your drywall and permanently damage your walls.

It's possible to tap on your walls and listen for the hollow versus the solid sounds. The latter indicates you've located a stud.

Unless you have a keen ear, it’s possible you could misinterpret the sounds. The easier and more reliable way is to use a stud finder. They’re available at any hardware store.

2. Design your space

Once you've found your studs, it's time to design your living wall space around it. Simplify your design. Avoid over the top, ornate arrangements until you get the hang of setting up a living wall.

You can start by sketching out how you want the planters to look. Then, add markings on your wall to help chart your layout.

Depending on your watering system, you'll need to water your living wall regularly. Periodic pruning may also be necessary.

Make sure to not design your wall so high that you can't easily reach it with a stepladder.

3. Protect your walls

Living walls are generally safe and won't damage your walls with the right preparation. Plywood, green boards, and cement boards can help create a barrier between your wall and planters.

This step may not be necessary depending on if you use a DIY approach, kit, or consultant. Just make sure your planters won't leak water on your wall, and any plant roots stay contained.

4. Don't overpack your planters

Your plants need room to grow, so avoid overpacking your planters. Otherwise, you could end up with tangled roots watering challenges.

You should also consider spacing out the planters. That’ll allow the leaves and greenery to fill the space.

5. Select your water system

Your living wall requires a watering system to stay healthy. You can try hand watering the living wall with a watering can.

Another option is to install a drip water system that collects water at the bottom. If you’re not sure where to get started, look for modular kits available on sites like Amazon that come with drip irrigation and pots.

6. Select mounts that go with the aesthetic of your home

You can select generic, black mounts for your living wall or get creative with your options to enhance your decor. Select mounts that complement the aesthetic of your apartments like vibrant colors or metal finishes.

How to Choose the Right Plants

Plant selection is crucial to a healthy, vibrant living wall. Popular plant options include annuals and perennials. They’re known for being eye-catching yet durable.

It's also important to pick plants that align with your wall's lighting, from direct sunlight to lowlight.

The plants you select should all require the same level of care and be relatively low-maintenance. You want to avoid some plants thriving while another variety struggles.

It's also important to remember living walls aren't curated, pruned masterpieces. They tend to fill out your wall with leaves, vines, and some blooms that hang at a vertical angle. It's generally impossible to make them look like a perfect work of art.

Whatever types of plants you choose, remember your living wall doesn't need to be for decor-only purposes. You can also mix it up by creating a vertical herb, vegetable, or strawberry garden. That’ll enhance your apartment and your cooking!

Tips for Maintaining Your Living Wall

Maintaining your living wall depends on your watering system and level of available light. A hand watering system requires monitoring the soil and care instructions of your plants.

Depending on your plants, you'll probably need to water them every one to two weeks. Self-watering requires less care. However, you should still monitor them to ensure the health of your plants.

You may also discover that the light in your apartment changes depending on the season. It may also change after a new building goes up across the street.

You may need to choose LED to grow lights or different plants if they fail to thrive. If so, you can try again with a different variety.

Final Thoughts

A living wall brings fresh decor and health benefits to your apartment. Start with a small, simple project. Then, expand to different rooms in your apartment. No green thumb required!

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Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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