Now that you have decided to display your plants on a wall, you need to think about which plants to use. There are a few factors to consider, relating to size, shape and the environmental conditions in the room.  Our guide will help you to choose which plants will give you the look you want, and which will be easiest to care for.

Small, but mighty

Vertical plant display systems are quite shallow.  They are designed to not protrude too far from the wall into the room, which is especially important if they are at face level as you do not want to risk banging your head against them.

living picture with ficus pumila side-on view

This means that the plants that you use have to come in small pots - usually between 8cm and 10cm in diameter.  Often, foliage plants in such small pots don’t have much instant impact, so I would recommend those that have a trailing habit, some spectacular variegation and colour, or which are fast growing.  (Check our specially selected plant collections for plants that are perfect for such displays).

 

Ideal plants for vertical plant displays

Ficus pumila - the creeping fig

This has small, dainty leaves that grow on creeping and trailing stems, and is ideal for low light areas and bathrooms.

Flint wall art with ficus pumila

Hedera helix - common ivy 

One of only a tiny handful of British native plants that can survive indoors.  Ornamental varieties are often highly variegated and there are many really attractive types available.  They need a little more light than the creeping fig, but they are also very cold hardy, so are ideal for cooler rooms, porches and conservatories.

Fittonia albivenis - the nerve plant, or mosaic plant

This small colourful plant from the rainforests of South America is available in a large number of varieties.  The ‘nerves’ are coloured veins in the leaves and come in shades of white (hence albivenis - white veined), pink and red.  This plant likes warm temperatures, high humidity and moist soil, and can cope in conditions of low light - another plant well suited to bathrooms.

Fittonias are quite fast growing and can get a little leggy and will soon fill in any gaps in the display. 

living picture with fittonia mixed plants

The related species - Hypoestes phyllostachya, or polka dot plant - has similar requirements and also comes in a wide variety of colours.  It is a little faster growing and can get leggy, but you can pinch out the tips of the plant to create a more bushy habit.

Rhipsalis baccifera - the mistletoe cactus

Cactus by name, but not by nature. This species grows high in the cloud forests of Central and South America and produces long trailing stems which carry small flowers and white berries (hence its name).  It is semi-succulent, so can cope with soil drying out a little, but it likes good humidity around its ‘foliage’.  Like all cacti, these plants are leafless, but their long jointed stems have the same function as leaves in other species.

Flint wall art with rhipsalis side-on view

Chlorophytum comosum - the spider plant

This plant, especially the smaller varieties, is ideal for vertical displays.  It is very robust, almost unkillable and can tolerate a wide range of conditions.  It has boldly striped leaves and produces long stems that carry offset ‘baby’ plants and small flowers.  The stems droop gracefully over the front of the display so you can get a large amount of foliage impact for very little effort.

 

The importance of compatibility

Some vertical plant display systems, such as our Living Pictures, are designed so that the plants share the same space and soil.  They also have a uniform amount of moisture due to their capillary watering systems.  This means that the plants used in such displays must have very similar requirements for water, light and temperature.  They also need to grow at roughly the same rate, otherwise the more vigorous species will outgrow the others and swamp them.  To keep things simple, we offer Living Pictures with a carefully selected collection of plants that we know will thrive in each others’ company - either a mixed selection of Fittonia albivenis (the Nerve Plant) or Ficus pumila (Creeping Fig).

Features such as the wall art range (Charcoal, Cobble and Flint) can be set up so the plants remain in their grow pots, but they too will be watered as one so will need to have similar requirements.  However, with these displays, you can mix up the plant species a little more and move them around, or replace an individual if one of them gets too big.

As with Living Pictures, we offer two selections of plants: Ficus pumila and Rhipsalis baccifera (the Mistletoe Cactus).

Cobble wall art with rhipsalis

Flint wall art with rhipsalis

Can I use succulents?

As well as the mistletoe cactus mentioned above, which likes quite moist and humid conditions, there are other succulents that can be used in vertical plant features - especially systems such as the ‘Wally’, where you can manage watering and allow the soil to dry out a little between watering.  The only downside is that most succulents don’t have much of a trailing habit, so won’t grow forwards and down the face of the display.

Having said that, upright cacti and succulents can be very effectively displayed in such features and look great when viewed face on.  They are often quite columnar in shape, so don’t spread too far, and displaying them in such a manner means that the sharp spines can be kept out of reach of pets and children.  Do be very careful, however, to make sure that they are above eye level.

 

By Kenneth Freeman

 

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