Living Wall Installations

Green Walls, aka Living Walls are vertical surfaces that are densely covered with vegetation. The perfect focal point for reception areas, entrances or seating areas, these systems can help maximize designs with limited floor space.

Green Walls can be achieved in a variety methods, techniques and living wall systems, ranging from trailing ivy trellises to irrigated pre-grown planted panels.

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Reception area living wall background  options - great for smaller spaces

Reception area living wall background
options – great for smaller spaces

Types of Systems

Soil-less Media Live Wall Systems

Systems in which the plants are rooted into a non-perishable material such as foam, synthetic fiber or rock-wool are the most durable panel-based systems. This method is most applicable in large-scale commercial walls, requiring built-in irrigation systems, drainage and natural light or artificial lighting supplements.

Organic Media Live Wall Systems

System that use soil and organic growing media are separated into two categories, panel based and potted plant based.

  • Panel Based Organic Media systems are where plants are pre-grown into panels made from organic fibers. These panels can be very effective in creating a flourishing environment for plants and its roots. However, like all organic material the media will erode over-time and re-planting will be required.
  • Potted-Plant Based systems are structure that hold plants in either 4” or 6” grow-pots. These systems are idea of areas that require frequent and efficient rotations, such as living wall displays with flowering plants or areas such as office environments with low-light. Most potted-plant style systems are pre-manufactured with water tight panels. Although the individual plants can be supplied in a soilless growing media, the frequency of the plant rotations do not necessarily warrant this practice, as the plants will be exchange before the media disintegrates and erodes overtime. These walls require the plants to be on a rotation or replacement schedule, depending on the location and the size of the wall this is often the most cost-effective technique to install and maintain a live green wall.
Living Wall Ivy at MGM Grand

Living Wall Ivy at MGM Grand

Trellises and Vining Living Walls

If your installation doesn’t require an immediate green wall, a trellis system is a simple yet effective method which fills into a green wall overtime. The speed of growth is dependent on the plants selected, growing conditions and the compatibility of the trellis to the plant’s natural growth patterns. Expert horticultural care is important in caring for these vines, as it will take years to re-grow any vines that die-off.

Living Frames

A smaller option that is space and cost effective, Living Frames provide an opportunity for those not fully ready to commit to a larger scale living wall project. Living Frames also provide an opportunity to get artistic on a smaller level with the plant variety and color choices.

It is Planterra’s practice to match the client site with a living wall system that will work best for the space and the overall objectives of the project. Most wall systems are hung or bolted to a wall surface. A masonry surface is the most stable. If the wall is drywall, we recommend that the client water-proof the wall prior to installation as each system has differences in its level of water-tightness and water proofing integrity.

Built-in systems require:
• Natural or artificial light, which coverage over the live surface.
• A water source for the irrigation system.
• A drain for excess water to exit the area.
• A stable surface to mount the system.
• Maintenance access

Self-contained systems require:
• Natural or artificial light
• A stable surface to mount the system.
• Accessibility to a nearby water source (to fill the tank manually)
• Maintenance access

Living wall segment options

Self contained living wall options.

Alternative Green Walls Methods

In some applications simplicity trumps method in achieving a lush green surface.

Moss and Natural Green Walls

Natural walls are green surfaces that are produced with the most traditional of methods (think the old fashion way). These are bare concrete or masonry surfaces that vining plants or mosses attach to (aka the natural green wall). One of the most effective climbing vine ideal for interior concrete surface is the Creeping Fig Ficus pumila.

Preserved Green Walls

If you are approaching your green wall project as if it were a wall covering, preserved and dried material such as dyed mosses and lichens can be simple and low-maintenance solution. Like all material preserved, these organic elements have a finite lifecycle, which is dependent on the location, humidity and if the wall is accessible to the general public (i.e. touching, handling).
Largest  living wall in Michigan at Planterra Conservatory

Largest soil-less living wall in Michigan at Planterra Conservatory

Replica Green Walls

These are walls made from manufactured replica plant, aka faux or artificial plants. This is applicable for indoor or outdoor applications with UV rated replica foliage. Even though these installations aren’t technically alive, the walls are not entirely maintenance free either. Depending on the location of the installation, the replica plant material will require dusting and cleaning on a quarterly basis. Replica plants have a life-span too, the duration is largely dependent on the type of replica installed and the environmental conditions of the location.

Background and Use in Architecture

As Frankly Lloyd Wright famously said “A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines,” the concept of a wall covered with greenery is not new, as vines have covered build structures as long as manmade structures and buildings have existed.

Green oases and views of nature are important to psyche of the human condition. This is called biophilia, the human attraction to nature. This concept is most important in areas where people are separated from nature the most, such as in densely populated cities, building interiors and places where people may become isolated from the outdoors such as hospitals or nursing homes.

Green walls offer a practical solution of adding greenery into buildings and tight areas with limited square footage. In fact, a massing of green can effectively make a space appear larger as it tricks the brain into thinking that it’s the entry of a densely forested area.   Planterra achieved this when we installed our first large-scale living wall in 2005 at the Joel Robuchon restaurant in the Mansion at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Planterra was given the assignment to create an “outdoor patio” environment for celebrity chef Joel Robuchon, except the restaurant was located within the center of the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino with no skylights as there are floors of hotel above the restaurant. The tight space called for us to cover a 14-foot long wall with live greenery and we achieve this by planting thousands of trailing ivies into planter boxes. The end result was so successful, that wine Spectator Magazine recommended that diners reserve the limited seats on the patio.