Suite Plants - Living Wall Systems

Articles

Living Walls 101

Welcome to the Suite Plants Blog! We are a leading green wall system manufacturer in North America and we love to educate and inform people about all things green! The green building movement is growing each day in the US and all over the world so visit us to learn about the latest trends in green building technologies and design thinking.

Living Walls 101 Part 1: Going Vertical

Exterior living wall on building by Suite Plants.

Exterior living wall on building by Suite Plants.

Living Walls, also known as Green Walls, Plant Walls or Vertical Gardens, are a method for growing plants vertically on indoor or outdoor walls. These vegetated wall systems usually consist of a growing medium, irrigation & drainage system and a method for affixing the system to the underlying structural wall.

What’s the rationale behind having plants grow vertically? Why not just have them on the ground, in planters for example?

In short, because floor space is a valuable commodity! Using vertical space is much more practical as it’s often open and usually isn’t being used for any other purpose. Let’s examine a hypothetical example: a restaurant. It’s nice to have plants in restaurants, but a restaurant with its floor covered in plants would go out of business fairly quickly! The same rationale can be applied to office spaces and residential spaces alike.

A successful living wall system will have the following characteristics:

  1. Allows the plants to grow vertically in a safe and healthy manner
  2. Provides irrigation for the plants and built-in protections to make sure the underlying wall doesn’t get damaged
  3. Allows for maintenance to be performed on the wall

There are 4 different approaches to creating a healthy and beautiful living wall:

  1. Tray systems
  2. Containers
  3. Modules
  4. Fixed One Pieces

Tray systems
A configuration of angled plastic shelves, designed to hold both plant pots and water, is affixed to the wall.  Once the support structure is in place, simply place the plants, along with their pots, into the shelves.

 Individual plant tray. Plant pots with their plastic cups are placed directly into the tray

 Individual plant tray. Plant pots with their plastic cups are placed directly into the tray

Plant Tray living wall configuration

Plant Tray living wall configuration

 

Containers
In a container system, plants are taken out of their plastic grow pots and planted directly into pouches, cups or bins that each hold 1-2 plants. Below we have an example of a felt pocket system.

Felt pockets for living wall

Felt pockets for living wall

 
 

Modules
 Suite Plants’ Live Panel is a good example of a modular living wall system.

In a modular system, plants are taken out of their plastic grow pots and planted directly into modules that each hold 6-12 plants.

The Suite Plants Live Panel system uses high density foam plant cassettes or cartridges as the modules, but other manufacturers use plastic boxes, planters, or growth media tiles to hold the plants in place.

Pre-planting living wall plant cassette for Suite Plants living wall system, LivePanel

Pre-planting living wall plant cassette for Suite Plants living wall system, LivePanel

Modular Plant Cassette for Suite Plants living wall system, LivePanel

Modular Plant Cassette for Suite Plants living wall system, LivePanel

 

As the above illustrations depict, the plants are placed directly into the individual plant cups within the cartridges. Once the cassettes are planted, they need to be inserted into the framing structure.

Aluminum extrusion and plant cassette mounting detail for Suite Plants living wall system, LivePanel

Aluminum extrusion and plant cassette mounting detail for Suite Plants living wall system, LivePanel

 

For the LivePanel system, hollow aluminum extrusions are mounted to the wall and act as the frame for the plant cassettes. The plant cassettes can be inserted in between 2 rows of extrusions.

Below is an example of a finished living wall configuration. As it is a modular system, the size can vary from this given configuration. From a design perspective, a system such as LivePanel works best and looks cleanest when incorporating squares and rectangles, but we have done some other interesting system configurations as well--we’ll have to cover those in another post 😊

 

Sample wall configuration for Suite Plants’ living wall system, LivePanel

Sample wall configuration for Suite Plants’ living wall system, LivePanel

 
 

Fixed One Piece
The godfather of the living wall movement, Patric Blanc, is an artist and design genius in his own regard. His works are world famous and we have nothing but praise and accolades for his work.

Patric uses a fixed one piece system for his living walls. In the fixed one piece system, plants are taken out of their plastic grow pots and planted directly into a quilt-like planting medium by manually cutting a hole for the plant into the medium. Designs can be intricate and highly customized.

Patric Blanc plant design for Rue D’Abokour Living wall. source: verticalgardenpatricblanc.com

Patric Blanc plant design for Rue D’Abokour Living wall. source: verticalgardenpatricblanc.com

 

The finished living wall looks something like this!

 

Patric Blank Rue D’Abokour living wall

Patric Blank Rue D’Abokour living wall

 

This has been a brief summary of the main approaches to growing plants vertically. In our next blog post, we will investigate the different methods for irrigating living walls.

If you have any questions or comments about what we’ve written here, please feel free to write us an email. Thanks for reading!

Sincerely,

The Suite Plants Team

 

 

Bharath Sithian