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A succulent wall, also known as a vertical garden or living wall, is a creative and visually appealing way to display and grow succulent plants. Succulents are well-suited for vertical gardens because they are often drought-tolerant and have shallow root systems. Creating a succulent wall can be a fun DIY project, and can even be given as a gift!.
Obviously, there are multiple different ways to take on this project. One method would be to start entirely from scratch. You may need to take this option if you are opting to create a particularly unique shape (a first initial, a number, etc). Another method, however, would be to get thrifty. You can scour the local flea market for a frame, or repurpose something you already own which has begun to collect dust.
And, of course, you can simply shop for a pre-made vertical garden, or shop for a custom creation from an artisan or expert. No judgment! We will provide some basic care tips for vertical succulent gardens, regardless of how you came across them.
Keep reading to see our tips on cultivating the perfect living art setup, created specifically to suit your taste!
Step 1: Gather Materials
What you need:
- Frame or shadow box
- Staple gun
- Wire mesh
- Growing medium
- Sphagnum moss
- Paint (optional)
- Wood (if necessary)
Step 2: Select a Frame
- Choose or build a frame that can support the weight of the soil and plants. This could be a wooden frame, a pallet, a metal grid, or a specially designed vertical garden planter. Get experimental. Try to imagine different shapes- look for round or octagonal shapes. Make a heart shaped frame as living valentines, or create an evergreen element of holiday decor this winter season.
- Make sure the frame is sturdy. You can reinforce an empty frame you purchased with a shadow box, to allow for sturdier rooting systems to develop, as well as stabilize the structure of your vertical garden. Simply use glue, staples, or nails to adhere the empty frame to the back of a shadow box with an outer edge that aligns with the inner edge of the frame.
- Find directions for making a shadow box here, or simply buy a shallow tray/ box from a local craft store.
Step 3: Prepare the Frame
- If your frame doesn't have a backing, attach a breathable material like landscape fabric or a plastic mesh to hold the soil in place while allowing water to drain. Some grow walls incorporate canvas bags to hold the growing medium, as well as individual plants.
- You may also want to put a “gutter” into your frame to catch drainage.
- Some builders have suggested using a slatted wooden structure, such as repurposed shutters, as a mount for your succulents. This will help secure the growing medium, as well as be a more stable base for your plants.
- You can personalize your frame by choosing a color to paint it. You can also choose your perfect selection of plants. Make sure you select ones which fit your needs for care
Step 4: Consider Care Needs
- Use a well-draining succulent or cactus mix for the growing medium. You may need to mix this with a small amount of sand or perlite to improve drainage.
- Consider including moss or other elements to add bio-diversity to your living wall.
- Perhaps fit in a light, or an irrigation system. Both these things can create a unique look, and also aid in plant care.The Grove™ Grow Bar Light is an easily installed piece of tech to both aid in the health of keeping your plants, and also add a gallery like aesthetic to your display.
Step 5: Select Succulents
- Choose a variety of succulents with different shapes, colors, and sizes for visual interest. Ensure they have similar light and water requirements.
- Succulents generally require bright, indirect light. You will either need to be extremely cautious about your placement of these plants, or you will need to invest in a grow light to ensure the proper conditions for optimal growing of your plants. We recommend the Highland™ Track Light System for vertical gardens such as this. Often, succulents can tolerate lower light environments, but this does not ensure productive growth for them.
Step 6: Planting Your Succulents
- Make sure you leave enough space for your succulents to root properly. The plants should not be too crowded, as it will impede their growth. You will also need to consider air circulation, as succulents do best in porous soil which should not become too dense.
- Monitor the succulents regularly for signs of overwatering, pests, or diseases. Prune or trim as needed to maintain the desired shape and appearance.
A large vertical wall will require many succulents, and to collect this amount and in a variety of different types may take a fair amount of time and money. Of course, half the joy is in the search, and watching the project come together. However, if you want to save your wallet, an excellent way of collecting your featured plants is by propagating from other collections!
Propagating succulents is a rewarding and cost-effective way to grow new plants from existing ones. Here are several methods for propagating succulents:
1. Leaf Cuttings:
- Gently twist a healthy leaf from the stem of the succulent. Ensure that the leaf comes off cleanly.
- Allow the leaf to dry and callous for a day or two. This helps prevent rotting.
- Place the dried leaf on well-draining soil, either in a pot or directly in the ground.
- Water sparingly until you see roots and new growth, then gradually increase the watering.
2. Offsets or "Pups" (for rosette-forming succulents):
- Some succulents produce offsets or small shoots around the base of the plant. Gently separate these from the main plant.
- Allow the offsets to dry and callous for a day.
- Plant the offsets in well-draining soil, burying the stem slightly.
- Water lightly until roots develop and the new plant is established.
3. Stem Cuttings:
- Cut a healthy stem of a succulent with a clean, sharp knife or scissors.
- Allow the cut end to dry and callous for a day or two.
- Plant the stem in well-draining soil, burying a portion of the stem.
- Water sparingly until roots and new growth appear.
4. Division (for clumping succulents):
- For succulents that form clusters or clumps, you can divide them by gently pulling apart the individual plants.
- Ensure each division has roots attached.
- Plant the divisions in their new containers or areas, following the general care guidelines for the specific succulent species.
- Collect seeds from mature succulent plants.
- Plant the seeds in a well-draining soil mix.
- Keep the soil consistently moist until the seeds germinate.
- Once seedlings have developed, gradually reduce watering and treat them like mature succulents.
Tips for Successful Propagation:
- Use Well-Draining Soil: Succulents prefer soil that allows water to drain quickly, preventing root rot. You can use a commercial succulent or cactus mix or create your own mix with sand, perlite, and potting soil.
- Provide Indirect Light: While succulents generally like bright light, newly propagated plants should be shielded from direct sunlight until they are established. Gradually introduce them to brighter light over time.
- Be Patient: Succulent propagation takes time. It may take weeks or even months for roots to develop and new growth to emerge.
Remember that not all succulents propagate the same way, so it's helpful to research the specific needs of the succulent species you are working with. Additionally, cleanliness is crucial when handling cuttings to prevent disease.
Remember that the success of your succulent wall depends on the specific needs of the succulents you choose, so be sure to research the care requirements of each species. Additionally, consider the climate in your area, as extreme temperatures or humidity levels can affect the well-being of your succulent wall.
Growing Succulents Indoors: Troubleshooting
Of course, for those who just want to focus on succulent care, here is a brief overview of the basics. You will need to stay up to date on what your specific plants require. Even if you grow them vertically, does not mean succulents aren't susceptible to the same issues traditionally planted succulents are. Here are some troubleshooting tips, no matter how you go about gardening them.
One common problem is overwatering, leading to root rot. If the soil feels constantly damp or the leaves appear mushy, reduce watering frequency and ensure proper drainage. On the flip side, wrinkled or shriveled leaves indicate underwatering. Adjust your watering schedule, ensuring the soil is thoroughly moistened when watering.
Insufficient sunlight can result in elongated, stretched stems as the plant reaches for light. Move the succulent to a brighter location, ensuring it receives adequate sunlight for healthy growth. Yellowing leaves may signal nutrient deficiencies or overly compacted soil. Consider fertilizing during the growing season and repotting with a well-balanced mix.
Pests, such as aphids or mealybugs, can infest succulents. Inspect the plants regularly and treat with insecticidal soap if needed. Mushy, discolored spots may indicate a fungal infection; isolate affected plants and adjust watering practices.
Finally, temperature extremes can stress succulents. Protect them from frost, as most succulents are not cold-tolerant. By addressing these common issues promptly, you can maintain vibrant and thriving succulents in your indoor or outdoor garden.
Troubleshooting your Setup
Some people just love the ritual of tending a garden. You don’t need to break out the tool box if woodworking isn't your thing, just enjoy the process of nurturing green life! In many ways, a hand built project may require some upkeep a professionally made item won’t. To those of us who love crafting, this is half the fun!
Here are some troubleshooting tips for improvements!
As was previously noted, dry or wilting plants can result from insufficient water reaching certain plants. Uneven watering results from some areas receiving more water than others, a common issue with vertical setups. Adjust your watering system to ensure even water distribution. Monitor soil moisture levels and make necessary changes to the watering schedule. Check for clogs or malfunctions in your irrigation system, if you use one. Increase water flow to affected areas, and consider adjusting the positioning of emitters or drippers.
Alternatively, over watering is also an issue if proper drainage is not ensured in your frame. Improve drainage by modifying the soil mix or adjusting the slope of the plant wall. Reduce watering frequency and ensure proper ventilation.
Temperature extremes can cause issues for succulents, especially colder weather. If your vertical garden is kept inside, you shouldn’t have too much of an issue with abrupt temperature changes. If you do opt to keep your piece in a non-temperature controlled venue, provide insulation or shading to protect plants from excessive heat or cold. Consider relocating the plant wall to a more temperature-controlled environment if necessary.
Succulents do best in porous soil, and it can be difficult to ensure these conditions in a vertical setup, given the density of soil will often be what results in its ability to remain in place or not. Mesh or landscaping canvas can be a helpful addition, one which will help the soil remain in the appropriate placement without forcing it to become over compacted.
Keeping succulents is a wonderful hobby in itself, but creating your own vertical setup can add a whole new element to your passion for gardening! As well, framed succulent gardens serve as green artwork, a more sustainable decor element, and even a meaningful gift. Share the love through cuttings, or start from scratch for a fully unique piece! The possibilities are endless, especially with Soltech grow lights!