Growing Succulents Vertically: Making A Vertical Succulent Planter
By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden
You don’t need climbing plants to get started with growing succulents vertically. Although there are some succulents that can be trained to grow upward, there are many more that can be grown in a vertical arrangement.
Vertical Succulent Planters
Many vertical succulent gardens are grown in a simple wooden box, with a depth of about two inches (5 cm.). The optimum size of the box should be no bigger than 18 inches x 24 inches (46 x 61 cm.). Bigger sizes tend to get out of hand, loosing soil or even plants when hanging on a wall.
Since succulents normally have a shallow root system, they can become established in just an inch (2.5 cm.) or so of soil. Use rooting hormone or even a sprinkle of cinnamon to encourage root growth. Wait a couple weeks before watering.
To start a vertical garden with cuttings, add a wire screen in the box. This helps hold both the soil and the plants. After working in the right quick-draining soil, gently push treated cuttings through the holes and allow time for rooting. Then just hang on your wall.
Once roots are in place, they hold the soil. Allow two or three months for root establishment. Acclimate to the amount of sun they will get when hanging during this time. The box can then be turned vertically and attached to a wall, usually without soil dumping out. Combine several boxes to fill the entire wall or as much as you wish to cover.
Remove the boxes for watering. Succulents need watering less often than traditional plants, but they still need it now and again. Bottom leaves will wrinkle when it is time to irrigate.
Grow Succulents Up a Wall
You can also create an entire frame to go against your walls, which is great for outdoors. Most living walls are back and front, but this is not an absolute. If you’re handy with putting wood together, try this option. Add shelves with drainage in which to plant or shelves in which to locate containers.
Some succulents, like those of the creeping sedum family, can be planted in the ground and encouraged to grow up a wall outdoors. As herbaceous perennials, they die back in winter in cold areas. Reattaching might be necessary each spring as they emerge. They also make attractive groundcover if you decide to abandon the chore and leave them growing.
Succulents for Vertical Display
Choose plants wisely to avoid frequent watering and even cold winter temperatures. If you live in a location where winters get below freezing, use sempervivums, commonly called hens and chicks. These are hardy in USDA zones 3-8, even in winter’s cold. Combine with hardy groundcover sedum for even more variety.
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Vertical Succulent Garden – How To Grow Succulents Up A Wall - garden
A succulent brick wall, this is what dreams are made of. Just when we thought we couldn’t love succulents or vertical planters even more this idea came along. A succulent brick wall: simple, beautiful and brilliant. Start saving your bricks.
This idea comes from Lily Huynh of Seattle, Washington. As a fellow succulent fan, Lily decided she wanted to get married in front of a wall of succulents. To make her succulent brick wall Lily bought engineering bricks from Earthwise in Seattle and got succulent clippings from a generous friend. She then assembled the brick-ulents.
Here’s how to make a succulent brick wall:
- Source engineering bricks. These are the bricks with 3 holes, although they can have up to 10 or even 16 holes. Don’t be afraid to mix it up with bricks with various amounts of holes.
- Now get your succulents. Succulent clippings do really well. So if you don’t want to buy new succulents don’t be shy to ask your friends for clippings.
- Mix potting soil with cactus soil for a succulent friendly mix.
- Place your brick holes down in a baking pan with about a half inch of water at the bottom. Fill the holes with soil and arrange your succulents in the holes.
- Place the newly assembled brick-ulent somewhere were it can rest for a few days. This will give the succulents a chance to acclimatize before turning the bricks sideways in a vertical planter.
- When the succulents are ready arrange your new succulent brick wall.
- Invite friends over to admire your handiwork.
This frame is designed for smaller applications where the individual frame is not built larger than about 18” x 24”. Once you exceed that size, the frame becomes awkward and needs quite a bit of modification to prevent things like soil slump. The most common sizes I have used in this type frame are 6x12, 12x12, 12x18, and 18x24. The depth of each of these is about 2”. Placing a grouping of these frames on a wall can solve the problem of attractively filling a larger wall space. These frames are low tech and do not incorporate watering systems, so they must be removed from the wall or hung on a hinge system to make it possible to flatten each frame for watering. The frames can be modified to accept a drip system, especially with today’s wide array of drip materials available.
The other system I use is a plastic panel 19.5”x19.5”x2.5”, specifically designed for vertical gardening. This is the high tech system, which is designed to accept drip and is scalable to whatever size is desirable. Each panel has 45 slanted pockets that allow water to flow from pocket to pocket. This frame anticipates some of the issues for vertical gardening on a large scale. Some of the primary issues would include uniform watering, soil slump, ease of mounting and ease of removal.
There are some differences and similarities when gardening with each of these types of frames, or systems. The following is an attempt to describe each system and how to use them from planting to hanging and maintenance.
A Succulent Wall Garden
We were really excited to tackle this project! A company called Watex sent us one of their Expandable Green Wall Kits to try out. And honestly after working with this system and getting our succulent garden installed we can’t say enough good things!
Watex has given us a discount code to share with you all on their Expandable Green Wall Kits – the four panel kit or the single panel kit. Use code DALLAVITA20 for 20% off and get to work on planting a green wall of your own!
These green wall panels are great for any type of plants. They are super efficient and easy to use. Irrigation is already installed with drippers woven through to each planter making watering your plants a breeze. All you have to do is connect the hose to the side of one of the panels and the entire wall garden gets watered at once. It really is awesome. The panels also keep the planters set out away from the wall, which helps prevent any water damage to your wall long term.
- Watex Vertical Garden Kit (Single panel or 4 panels)
- Succulents (Or any type of plants)
We installed the four panel kit, which you can configure into different shapes to fit your wall space. You can add on as many panels as you’d like creating as large of a green wall as you need. The pieces easily connect together and then hang from a really simple bracket system.
We chose to use mostly succulents for this project, because we wanted a really bright and colorful garden. This wall does receive full sun for the last half of the day so our plants will receive a great amount of light. We used a few different Sedums, Echeverias, Kalanchoes, Jade, Crassula, and a few Bromeliads for an added lush, tropical vibe.
We planted each planter individually, and then attached it to the wall. What’s great is that you can move the planters around as your plants grow and fill in. So overtime you can adjust for spacing and cover more of the panels and black surface area.
We really did have so much fun doing this project. The green wall was so easy to put together and watering was a piece of cake. The drippers work so that the soil has time to absorb the water, giving your plants a deep, thorough soak.
Already our garden is so colorful and pretty lush, but overtime it is going to fill in and look amazing. We plan to water our garden about once a week since it receives full sun. And since it is growing season for most succulents, we are going to fertilize about once every two weeks. We like to use a succulent & cacti fertilizer to really get our plants growing and filling in quickly.
In no time at all these plants will have all the visible black space covered and it will look like one large, full garden. In the mean time though, the black background does make the plants really pop, so we don’t mind that at all either.
Again, Watex has given us a discount code to share with you all on their Expandable Green Wall Kits – the four panel kit, or the single panel kit. You don’t want to miss out on a chance to use this product if you are thinking of creating a green wall of your own! Use code DALLAVITA20 for 20% off and get to planting!!
This system works amazing for a succulent garden, but you can also create amazing lush green walls, or how great would an herb garden be?!
How to make a vertical garden succulent frame
To make your vertical garden, you’ll need:
- Picture frame with back and glass panel removed (a thicker frame works better for this project)
- 4 x pieces of wood (2 cm x 2 cm thick and the same length as the dimensions of the frame) to make the shadow box. Try using hard wood like redwood or cedar, or treating the wood to resist water.
- Wood drill
- Wire mesh (holes roughly 2 cm square) to fit the dimensions of the frame
- Staple gun
- Plywood or plastic backing to fit the dimensions of the shadow box
- Paint (optional)
- Cactus/succulent potting soil
- Succulent cuttings
- Hooks or wire for hanging the frame
1. Remove the glass and the back from the frame.
2. Cut the wire mesh to fit inside the frame opening, making sure to leave enough to staple to the inside edges of the opening.
3. With the frame face down, insert the mesh. Staple the mesh to the inside edges of the frame, stretching it as you go to make sure that it is nice and taut.
4. Now time to construct the shadow box on the back of the frame to create space for the soil and plants. Cut the wood to the dimensions of the back of the frame – we had two longer pieces and two shorter pieces to form a rectangle. Use a wood drill to make holes slightly smaller than the nails or screws. Drill all the way down through the wood and into the frame. Nail or screw into place.
5. Cut the plywood or plastic backing to the size of the shadow box. Place the backing on the back of the shadow box and nail into place.
6. (Optional) – Paint the frame your desired colour (black looks really cool!) and let it dry. You could also stain the wood of the shadow box so that it’s the same colour as the frame.
7. With the frame facing up, pour succulent soil on top of the wire mesh, using your hands to push it through the openings. Shake the frame periodically to evenly disperse the soil. Add more soil until it fills the shadow box, reaching the bottom of the wire grid.
8. Separate the succulents into small clumps and place through the wire mesh to create a design. Tuck in larger plants first, followed by smaller ones. You may need to cut and bend the wire squares so that the bigger plants can fit – be careful not to cut too much, otherwise your wire grid will fall apart! Plant as close together as the grid allows. After planting, you may see hints of the wire, but as the succulents grow, they’ll close the gaps.
9. Attach hooks or wire to the back of the frame, hang it up and admire your handiwork!
This mini vertical garden is a sure-fire way to impress it looks great! If you fill it with succulents, it can be used to easily decorate any wall space, indoors or outdoors. Best of all, it requires very low maintenance, only needing a sunny spot and monthly watering or regular misting… so it’s perfect for those serial-plant-killers (like me. ).
Until next time! – Mike (and the Mannkraft team).
Don’t forget to pin the image below so you can try it later!
Hello, I'm Mike! I started this blog in 2013, and it's since become a part-time job for me. I've always been obsessed with crafts (my very first memories are of making things. and I've never grown out of it!). So it really is a dream come true that I can now share this joy with people like you, every single day. Thank you for being here! READ MORE
Vertical Gardening Panels for Succulents
My interest in gardening vertically began in the late 1970’s, when I created a redwood box for hanging on a wall once planted with succulents. I called this a living picture/mural. That interest has grown over the past several years, with ambitious projects such as the now famous “Cube” for the Organic Mechanics’ gold-medal winning display at the 2010 San Francisco Flower & Garden Show.
photo courtesy of the SF Flower & Garden Show
For this project I designed and created a 144-square-foot mural that wrapped around four 12’x12’ walls. Each wall used 49 20”x20” square plastic panels, each with 45 slanted pockets. 196 panels in all. Two 2” potted plants went into each pocket, making 90 plants per panel, about 4,400 plants per wall, or a little under 18,000 plants for the entire project. We planted the panels months before the show. (Here is Sean Stout of Organic Mechanics posing with a panel, in front of the “Cube” mural laid out in our greenhouse).
Having trialed and reviewed a number of different container systems designed for vertical gardening, I’ve determined that the best panels for what I do with succulents are the plastic panels originally designed by Greg Garner of ELT Living Walls and since modified into other sizes and configurations by Greg and Bright Green USA.
In addition to the 20”x20” panel I have also been trialing two new plastic panels, the 12”x12” and the more recent 8”x16”. These two panels are about one inch deeper and the pockets are slightly larger than the 20”x20” panel. Some of the succulents seem to appreciate the added soil volume provided by the deeper, larger pockets.
This panel was also used to produce the “Dovecote” for the Filoli/Garden Route display at the 2011 San Francisco Flower & Garden Show, and more recently on a gazebo that made its debut at Sunset Celebration, and is currently on display at our nursery.
We’ve learned a lot about this process over the years. Most important is to think of the panels as containers for living plants not unchanging architectural features. Like other containers on a patio, you might use them for many years, to house many different types of plants.
All of the plastic panels are mounted in a similar manner by being hung on a bracket that is mounted on the wall. The most important thing about mounting the bracket is to mount it level.
The pockets of the panels are large enough to plant up to a 4” pot size plant in each pocket. For the Cube we used two 2” size plants per pocket for instant fullness, but generally I don’t use potted succulents for vertical designs, preferring to use cuttings in the same fluid manner as my redwood frame plantings. For a 20-inch square panel we use about 200 cuttings.
The 20"x20" panel is designed to water properly when placed in a vertical, hanging position. No additional modification is needed for proper watering.
These panels are designed to be watered by a drip system installed along top panel (one emitter for each vertical column). Water moves down through the panel and exits at the bottom, either into the next panel below, or falling out the bottom. (Drip systems are not included with the panels and must be separately installed). We have successfully watered 5 layers of panels with one drip line of emitters at the top
We are often asked if vertical plantings can be watered by a hose spray from the front. The answer is no, not really. At least not on a large-scale planting. Hand watering is not as effective as drip because it is difficult to hand water at a slow enough rate to achieve even and thorough distribution of water in all the individual pockets. If you want to do a good job watering, install a drip system.
As for watering frequency, the answer to this varies according to a number of different factors such as climate and exposure. As conditions and plant sizes vary, so will the water requirements of the plants. Our panels are typically watered about once each week.
We will discuss maintenance in our next post, but in general we tend to use varieties the do well in shallow soils and do not grow extremely large. When plants get too large, we just pull them out and replant.
We have a complete display of our vertical gardening products that you are welcome to come see for yourself, Tuesday through Saturday, April through October! Also available for purchase on our website.