My neighbor asked me to help her build a green wall for her the other day. As a home improvement professional, I jumped at the chance to get into something as exciting as this.
So, what is a green wall? Basically, it is a garden, a green, wall. Rather than sitting on the floor, it is vertical and stands against a wall (or is a wall on its own). In other words, think of it as a hanging garden without all the hooks, and without all the space taken up.
A green wall is a great way to spruce up your house, get a little “greener,” and feel better in your home. The benefits of building a green wall include aesthetics, energy savings, and improved indoor air quality. Below, we’ll discuss which plants are best for specific toxins. Here’s how to build a green wall of your own.
How to Build a Green Wall of Your Own
Here are the materials you’ll need for your project:
For the Frame:
1” aluminum square stock
Cedar Strips 1”x 3” (this is the more eco-friendly choice) Or T1-11 Sheet Siding.
alternatively cut from sheet siding || source: eichlervision.com
For the Surface:
Corrugated Polyethylene plastic sheets – 10mm (commonly available through sign companies).
To Hold Plants:
Two (2) 3/16” thick Moisture Retention Mats (MRM14)
For Plant Box / Water Basin:
Plastic basin(s) or trough from local home improvement store. (Flower Box Planters on Amazon)
Rust proof (not rust resistant) staples – 1/2″
Step-by-Step Basic DIY Green Wall
My neighbor wanted a fairly small green wall. Some green walls can contain over 2,000 plants, so I was a little relieved to hear that she didn’t want something really that ambitious.
So here’s a step-by-step guide to build a smaller green wall that you can enjoy in your home. This project assumes that you would hang your green wall on a wall in your house. Your wall can be any size you want, but know that the larger your wall, the more plants you will need to take care of.
Find the Perfect Spot
To ensure safest placement for your green wall, find a spot where your plants will get enough light and that the wall is sturdy enough to hold the structure you’re placing on it. Then, place your aluminum square stock or cedar strips there.
Assemble the Frame
Screw the aluminum or cedar strips to the wall and to the floor. Add fasteners as needed for extra support.
Mount Corrugated Plastic to the Frame
Using your rust proof staples, staple the corrugated plastic to the frame.
Staple the Moisture Retention Mats (MRM) to the Plastic
Staple your two layers of MRM to the plastic.
Cut Slits in the MRM
Cut slits into the first layer of the MRM where the plants will go. For best spacing, cut slits five inches wide with two inches in between each slit. Then, the next row should be four inches below that and staggered. (So, where your two inch gap is on the first row, place your five inch slit there in a row below.)
Place Plants in the Slits
Place a plant into slit. Be sure to keep the dirt on the root when you place it in the pocket. This will ensure you can avoid having to create your own synthetic soil.
Add a Secondary Layer of MRM
Staple the MRM around the plant into the second layer of MRM. This will form a pocket around the plant, ensuring it doesn’t fall and can retain water. Here, be sure not to infringe on the plants below or to the sides.
Repeat until wall is covered.
Your wall will look something like this below, but please note that in this photograph they used slightly different materials and went for a different look than what was described above.
Placing the Basin
If you have an oddly-shaped wall, you may need to build a custom basin. The basin is placed at the bottom of the wall to catch excess water and dirt that may fall after watering the wall. This does not need to be attached to the wall, but it does need to be positioned at the bottom of the wall in such a way that it will catch all that water. (You don’t want to grow mold on your floors, after all.)
Now go ahead and treat your new wall just like any garden. You may need to consult gardening guides to get the best results for specific plants, but water infused with vitamins & minerals (because the MRM doesn’t have any of these naturally occurring) and some plant food will certainly do the trick for most plants. One dose of plant food should typically suffice for the life of your plant. Otherwise, watering regularly will be sufficient.
The Advantages of Having a Green Wall
- Green walls are aesthetically pleasing. They add a vibrancy to your home that is unmatched by art or traditional wallpaper.
- Green walls improve your indoor air quality (more on that in a little bit).
- Green walls help you with energy savings (more money in your pocket). Plants thrive on sunlight, but they also help soak up that sunlight coming in through windows. Because the plants are bringing in sunlight, your house will actually be cooler than if you didn’t have the wall, which saves you money on electricity bills.
Improved Indoor Air Quality
There are many household toxins and air quality issues that everyone has to deal with. Maybe you’ve asked, “Well, isn’t my central air conditioner supposed to help purify the air?” AC units will help a little, but in general they will not help remove the contaminants found below.
Maybe you’ve thought too that putting green filters in your AC unit would help with indoor pollutants. I’ve got news for you – no amount of synthetic filtration will help alleviate the following pollutants. Very little will. Luckily, though, there are plenty of plants that help reduce the amount of these pollutants in our homes. Here are a few of those pollutants and which plants help neutralize them.
* Formaldehyde –
This is found in products like furniture, wallpaper, cardboard and even facial tissue. It can also be found in plastics, paints, varnishes, dishwashing liquids, fabric softeners, and cosmetics, such as nail polish. This is found in nearly all homes, and can cause asthma-like symptoms, such as coughing and wheezing in low dosages. In high dosages, it has been known to cause cancer of the nasal cavity.
Plants that best neutralize formaldehyde:
- Peace lily
- Boston fern
- English ivy
* Carbon Monoxide –
We’ve all heard of people dying from carbon monoxide. But what causes it? It’s produced by open fires, gas stoves, appliances and heaters. Vehicle exhaust and high concentrations of cigarette smoke will also emit a lot of carbon monoxide.
Plants that best neutralize carbon monoxide:
- Spider plant
- Janet Craig Dracaena
* Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) –
These are found in all petroleum products. It can also be found in flooring adhesives, paint, furniture, wall materials, electronic equipment, cigarette smoke, household cleaning products and air fresheners. Yes, even air fresheners. This is the primary cause of ground-level smog. Smog’s effects on health are well-documented.
Plants that best neutralize VOCs:
- Golden Pothos
- Devil’s Ivy
* Trichloroethylene (TCE) –
This is a common indoor pollutant found in paints, dry cleaning, adhesives, pesticides, and in the ink in copiers, fax machines and printers. It can be deadly in high concentrations, while low concentrations will cause irritation of the nose and throat, and depression of the central nervous system.
Plants that best neutralize TCE:
- Mother-in-law’s tongue
* Benzene, Toluene, Xylene –
This comes from the vapor of gas, oil, paints, glues, inks, plastics and rubber. It’s also in detergents, explosives, pharmaceuticals, foams and dyes. These will irritate the skin and eyes, but they are also known carcinogens, which can lead to cancer.
Plants that best neutralize Benzene, Toluene and Xylene:
- Kimberly Queen Fern
These are recommended plants, but if you don’t feel comfortable taking care of something you don’t know about, just get your basic plants, or plants that you are comfortable with. Any plants on your green wall are better than no plants in this case.
So there you have it. A green wall isn’t hard to create, but you’ll need to pay attention to the plants, just like you would in any garden. The positive effects are numerous and the reactions you’ll get will be amazing. Have fun and live green!
Diane Kuehl is a freelance DIY/home improvement professional. She lives in Springfield, Illinois with her husband and two kids. She has contributed for us previously, the article — The Benefits of a Home Generator. To read more from us on “greening the home”, perhaps this article — Things to Consider with a Green Roof. ~jb