Vertical garden

It used to be that if you lived in a small space like an apartment or a condo, you could simply wash your hands of eco-friendly shenanigans like “composting” and “keeping plants alive.” But then some genius came along and started teaching people about vermicomposting and how to create entire gardens without taking up any floor space at all, and now there’s no excuse!

The last roadblock has been removed, and now what stands between you and a home full of beautiful greenery isn’t your square footage at all, but your own creativity (or lack thereof).

Vertical gardening using recycled silk screens
Image courtesy of FarOutFlora

To help your inspiration grow, here are some of the best vertical garden ideas we have come across yet, ranging from DIY to OMG.

The Roof’s the Limit

We’ll start you off easy.

1. Plants on Walls

It doesn’t get easier than these pre-fab Florafelt wall-hanging planters. Simply select the size and type of planter you want, and then fill the tastefully designed felt pockets with your favorite herbs, or fruits and vegetable plants. The soft felt is sustainable and food-friendly, and the unique design of this system allows for moisture to circulate through the planter while still protecting your walls.

2. Kitchen Kitsch

If DIY is more your style, revive the ’70s with this tutorial for a simple macramé plant hanger. This one is pretty simple, just three terra-cotta plant pots suspended from a knotted rope. But it’s an inexpensive intro to vertical gardening and a great way to grow herbs in a kitchen that’s short  on counter space.

3. Succulent Wall

This creative take on vertical gardening combines different succulent plants for a beautiful display, creating a living mosaic that is low-maintenance but high-impact. Succulent plants come in an incredible array of colors, sizes, and textures, and with their low water needs, they’re perfect for this decorative version of a vertical garden — even in areas experiencing drought or other water restrictions.

4. Taking It Up a Notch

Okay, we’re now getting a bit beyond three-pot macramé planters. This extensive hanging wall garden in São Paulo, Brazil, is constructed from recycled pop bottles that contain a variety of herb plants.

5. Aquaponic Living

This mobile eco-wall combines a vertical growing surface for plants with an aquarium base filled with fish and other aquatic life. It’s a fantastic use of space and great way to bring a little bit of the outdoors inside. This particular unit was designed for use in classrooms, but would look great in virtually any space.

6. Urban Jungles

It’s not just families and classrooms embracing the vertical gardening phenomenon — urban planners have begun using green walls to increase the health and vibrancy of cities, replacing lifeless gray concrete with lush expanses of plants.

7. Vertical Forest

These two residential towers in Milan, Italy, are absolutely breathtaking. The innovative, heavily forested towers rise from the dense city around them, providing a breath of fresh air. Literally. Coming in at only 5 percent more expensive than similar conventionally built towers, this piece of architecture is significant in proving the feasibility of vertical gardening on a larger scale.

8. A Different Kind of Building

The mention of Tokyo might bring to mind crowded streets and high-tech innovation rather than eco-friendly design, but the Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall seamlessly reconciles all three.

9. Wishful Thinking

Is it too much to hope that graffiti artists might hop on board the vertical gardening trend and exchange their spray cans for bits of moss instead? This tutorial shows how to easily create a living artscape using moss, a little binding material, and a paintbrush.

Green graffiti? Yes, please.

Editor’s note: Originally published on August 3, 2017, this article was updated in September 2019.

Feature image courtesy of Ruth Hartnup

By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.