Outdoor Renovations

An expert’s guide to vertical gardens

The best advice for creating a wonderwall of your own
Anna Robinson

Beyond Sunflowers founder Gisele Zanier shares her best advice for creating a wonderwall of your own.


Vertical gardens are great for providing privacy, adding a touch of colour and masking unattractive walls. They’re also a great solution for growing plants often thought to be restricted to a vegetable patch in the backyard. The green-thumb genius behind plant emporium Beyond Sunflowers, Gisele Zanier shares her top tips for creating your own.

What are the different types of Vertical gardens?

“There are many different varieties of vertical gardens, from ready-made systems to homemade DIY versions. My preferred option for the home vertical garden is the easy option of a container vertical garden, which means potted plants (terracotta, plastic or metal) are attached to a wall or displayed in a clip or slot in system. Due to the popularity of vertical walls, there are now engineered options in the market which are self-watering and have the planting depth and functionality of a container garden. Another is a “pocket” garden, featuring plants tucked into pockets made from felt or canvas which are lined for moisture retention –  a simple option for the budget conscious gardener.”

How do you choose the plants?

“Choosing your plants is like choosing a pet – different plants require different amounts of care and it’s important to use plants that suit your lifestyle. Succulents are the most commonly used, as well as creepers, ferns, flowering annuals, herbs, natives and even trailing varieties like Devil’s Ivy. Until you’re a seasoned green thumb, it’s best to opt for low-maintenance species before trying your hand at the needier varieties.”

Vertical Gardens | Home Beautiful Magazine Australia
(Credit: Sue Stubbs)

Where should you install a vertical garden

“It could be fixed to just about any indoor or outdoor wall, but remember the location of your vertical garden will be crucial to its success. Even a small yard or garden has variances in air, light, soil, and water known as micro-climates. You will need to consider the temperature, patterns of light, humidity distribution and air circulation. These factors are not just for determining the location of your vertical garden, but will also assist you in working out what plants will do well. In general, you’ll want to group all-sun or all-shade plants, using ones that have the same rate of growth and characteristics.”

Vertical Gardens | Home Beautiful Magazine Australia
(Credit: Armelle Habib)

How much effort do they take to look after?

“At first, it might need more care than a regular in-the-ground garden or container plant. These living walls are more compact and therefore have less soil, so they may need to be watered more often. The correct potting soil mix can help retain the water and hold in the moisture, and I would suggest incorporating peat moss in the mix which helps water retention.  Another important factor is gravity, which pulls the water down. Plants that don’t need as much water are recommended for the top part of the vertical garden, since they’ll dry out first. Place the ones more suited for wetter conditions at the bottom of the vertical garden. On the upside, small-scale vertical gardens have the advantages of no weeds and reduced ground compaction, so you won’t need to work the soil as hard.”

For more garden inspiration, click here.

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