Learn how to make a vertical succulent planter from an inexpensive rustic wood frame and box to showcase splendid succulents in a bed of sphagnum moss.
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Table of contents
- What is a Vertical Planter or Living Wall?
- My Inspiration
- Why I Chose This Vertical Garden Design
- DIY Living Wall Project Overview
- How to Make an Easy Vertical Succulent Wall Planter
- Video: Adding Moss and Succulents to Vertical Planter
- Related Content
What is a Vertical Planter or Living Wall?
A living wall, also called a green wall, a vertical planter, or a vertical garden, is a collection of plants mounted on an indoor or outdoor wall. Their design and construction can vary from simple to elaborate. Once installed on a wall or fence, the vertical planter becomes a living picture that helps to create a serene and relaxing environment. Vertical gardening also is terrific option for a small space.
I first discovered living walls when I visited a local Westin hotel. Dominating a wall in the hotel lobby was a large, three-dimensional piece of living art consisting of luscious plants in a variety of shapes, colors and textures. By contrast, this verdant tapestry was encased in a simple wood frame. It was beautiful.
Immediately I knew that I wanted to create an outdoor living wall for my yard, albeit a much smaller and more basic version of the style I saw at the Westin. I envisioned a frame surrounding a small canvas of living plants for this simple DIY project.
After watching many YouTube videos, I decided to model my vertical garden after ones I saw on Laura Eubank’s YouTube channel. Laura is an award-winning succulent designer and runs her own landscape design business, called Design For Serenity. Check out her YouTube channel!
Why I Chose This Vertical Garden Design
I chose this design for a variety of reasons.
This simple design consisted of a box, frame, chicken wire, the growing medium/substrate, and plants.
Watering is easy with this design–just mist the plants with a hose. I did not want to deal with the complexity involved with making the box waterproof or creating a self-watering system.
Drainage and Air Circulation
The box design helps with drainage and air circulation. For simplicity, I decided not to add water proofing paper or landscape fabric. However, because the wood is not protected from water, the wood backing eventually will need to be replaced. If you want to protect the wall (or fence) behind the plant or the planter itself, then then drainage and waterproofing become more important.
The design is conducive to growing succulents. Another reason I decided to plant succulents in my Green Wall was that they seemed to be more forgiving than other types of plants (especially if you don’t have a green thumb). When choosing plants, you need to consider factors such as location (do you plan to install your garden inside or out?) and lighting (will the garden receive direct or indirect light?). In addition, you’ll want plants with a shallow root system.
Sphagnum moss can be used in this planter for growing succulents instead of potting soil. As a result, the planter is lighter, as wet soil is heavier and more messy. For more information check out this article on growing succulents in sphagnum moss.
DIY Living Wall Project Overview
As I mentioned above, my vertical succulent garden consisted of a box to hold the plants, a decorative frame, sphagnum moss, chicken wire (to help contain the moss and plants), and succulents. I decided to make two versions of the vertical garden–an easy version and an intermediate version. I cover the intermediate version in a separate post.
For the simple version, I purchased the box and the frame. The only tools I needed were wire cutters, staple gun and a drill. I’ve described the materials and steps in making the simple version in more detail below.
For the intermediate version, I built the box and frame. The intermediate project required the use of a variety of power tools and I covered it another post.
How to Make an Easy Vertical Succulent Wall Planter
Here’s What I Used
- Wood box
- Picture frame to cover box
- Chicken wire or wire mesh to cover opening in frame
- Staples (for electric stapler)
- 4 small screws
- Aleene’s Original Clear Gel Tacky Glue
- Long-Fibered Sphagnum Moss
- Succulent plants (different colors and shapes)
Thompson’s WaterSeal Waterproofing Wood Protector Clear Aerosol
- Wire cutters
- Staple gun
- Spade or large-diameter drill bit
- Safety glasses (mine contain readers so I don’t need to wear my reading glasses and safety glasses!)
- Dust mask
Vertical Succulent Planter Steps
- Purchase Box and Frame
Purchase a wood box and a picture from that covers the box. I purchased an inexpensive wood box from Michaels. Technically, it was an unfinished 10” wooden square “plaque,” but if you flip it over – voila – it’s a box!
After finding the box, I meandered around Michaels in search of a frame that would cover the box. I hit the jackpot in the clearance section when I found a frame made of rustic wood. Even though the frame was for an 8 x 10 picture, the frame itself was wide enough to cover all sides of the 10″ square box.
- Prepare the Frame
I removed the glass and backing from the frame and set it aside for use on some other project in the future.
- Cut and Attach Chicken Wire
Using wire cutters (and wearing work gloves), I cut a piece of chicken wire large enough to cover the opening of the frame. Then I stapled the mesh/chicken wire to the inside of the frame with my electric staple gun and trimmed off the excess with wire cutters. Wearing work gloves and safety glasses is important for this step.
- Add Drainage Holes
To enable drainage and air flow, I drilled holes in the bottom of the box. I used a spade drill bit to make the holes, but I also could have used larger-sized drill bit or drilled multiple holes near each other to make wider holes. Since drilling the holes stirs up dust, I wore a dust mask and safety glasses for this step.
- Stain and Waterproof Planter Box and Frame (if Desired)
As I mentioned earlier, I did not stain or waterproof my planter. To prevent water damage to the planter, you could apply Thompson’s Waterseal Waterproofing Wood Protector Clear Aerosol (they also make a version with stain). Apply the aerosol spray on the wood and let it dry for the length of time specified on the can. Also, follow the safety instructions and detailed directions on the can.
- Attach Frame to Box
To attached the frame to the box, I inserted 4 small screws up through the sides of the box at an angle into the back of the frame.
- Fill Box with Sphagnum Moss
After assembling the planter, I stuffed the box with long-fibered sphagnum moss through the top of the mesh. I used Orchid Grass Moss because that was the only Sphagnum Moss available at my local home improvement store. The garden center employee assured me it would work for succulents even though it was labeled for Orchids.
- Select Plants
I purchased a variety of small succulents from my local Home Depot and Lowes (I assumed that if they sold the succulents in my local stores, they should be appropriate for growing in my yard). Later, I found a tool on World of Succulents to help identify identify succulents for particular growing zones and I could have determined what was best for my Hardiness Zone (zone 9b)
- Insert Succulent Clippings Into the Moss
To help attach the succulent cuttings to the moss, I used Aileen clear tacky glue. I applied the glue and stuffed the succulents through the holes in the chicken wire into the moss. This glue is nontoxic and dries clear. I randomly arranged the succulents to showcase a variety of shapes, colors, textures. Next time I want more variety in colors and possibly arrange the colors in a pattern.
- Display Your Beautiful Living Wall
Once finished, I propped my vertical garden up on a table on my front porch. The planter also could be hung on a wall or fence by adding a picture hook or hanging wire on the back of the planter or by hanging it on a nail through one of the drainage holes.
Video: Adding Moss and Succulents to Vertical Planter
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Have you made a living wall? What types of plants would you grow in yours? If you like working with power tools, check out the post on how I made my own wood box and frame for another living wall.