Gardens - Indoor Gardening

Grow a vertical garden in your home

By
Anja Sonnenberg

Purify the air in your home with a living wall

Imagine a wall in your living room filled with cascading plants—a mini-jungle that purifies the air in your home and fills the room with botanical energy. Living walls have long been a popular feature in outdoor landscape installations; today, these vertical gardens are becoming a trendy and healthy feature within the home.

The benefits of growing a living wall indoors
According to research conducted by NASA in the 1980s, peace lilies, spider plants and other common tropical plants were shown to absorb volatile organic compounds. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemical compounds that can become hazardous air pollutants. In the home, these VOCs are released from solvents, paints, cleaners, glues and other products that are used within the home. The University of Guelph furthered NASA's research and found that living walls are effective biofilters, helping to control dust, temperature and humidity in the home, while eliminating airborne pollutants. Using the plants' respiratory properties, a vertical garden actually helps cool the home in the summer and adds humidity to the air during the dry winter months.

How the wall works
A living wall structure is either built of wood or metal. The frame is composed of modules that house individual plants, growing medium and a watering system. Plants are usually either rooted in soil or a lightweight soil substitute. Some living walls take a hydroponic approach and eliminate the need for soil; since the dirt is merely a physical support for the plant's root system, plants do quite well without it. For lower maintenance, some living wall kits come with an irrigation system. A pump pulls water to the top of the wall, which then flows down through the interior of the plant wall, providing the perfect amount of water for the plants.

Choosing the plants
When deciding which plants to choose for your indoor vertical garden, you need to consider a few things: how much light plants will receive, the depth of plant roots and where plants will be placed on the wall. Different types of tropicals can be planted in one area, as long as their cultural requirements are similar (low light conditions, for example). Plants with shallow roots or relatively small root systems are ideal because of the restricted growing space. As for choosing the location of plants on the wall, you may want to consider placing taller plants on the outside of the wall towards the bottom so they have more room to grow and bushier plants towards the centre of the wall. If you're worried about how the plants will adapt to these new vertical growing conditions, don't be—all plants need is water, light and carbon dioxide to be healthy and happy.

Photo courtesy of the Royal Botanical Gardens

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