Monday, April 22, 2013


When we moved into our home, we knew we had a lot of gardening ahead of us. In a bid to save water, the previous owners had killed most of the plants and aggressive ivy had finished off the rest.  In a way, this was a blessing as we could start from scratch, planting California natives and other drought tolerant plants, like the fynbos of my native South Africa.  But our favorite gardening project to date has been a living wall.  For years we had stared at a large lattice structure, covered with a few scraggly vines, which separated our yard from the neighbours.  We finally hit on the idea of converting it to a living wall that, when planted with succulents, would not only provide us with more privacy but would also be drought tolerant.  Of course, buying enough succulents to cover 64 square feet would have cost a fortune.  Instead, we asked neighbors, trimmed hedges and cut some invasive succulents that had overgrown street signs.

23  2x1x8 pine beams
2 rolls of 3 x 50 ft weed blocker
½ gallon of outdoor paint
nail and staple gun
1½" nails
5/16" staples
5 cubic feet potting soil/compost mix
a variety of succulents

Step 1:
Remove the inner lattice. The inner dimensions of our frame measured 8x8 ft.

Step 2:
Insert two upright 1x2’s approximately 31” apart into the frame.  Use a nail gun to secure them to the frame. 

Step 3:
Insert horizontal 1x2 beams that will hold the plants.  The beams were set 2 ¾” apart and nailed into the frame and the uprights.
Step 4:
Paint the frame and beams.

Step 5:
We created pockets for our plants using Jamie Spooner’s method found here. Jamie has great diagrams of how this is done, so please visit his site for more details.
We altered our pockets to fit smaller plants.  Our edge folds were approximately 2¼” on either side and our pockets were approximately 10” deep.   

Step 6:
Mix compost and potting soil and fill the pockets.
Step 7:
Decide on a design (probably the hardest part) and plant succulents.

Step 8:
Use a hose to water your newly planted garden.  Our living wall is beneath an old oak tree therefore we only need to water it once a week.

 I hope this tutorial has inspired you to tackle a living wall yourselves.  Have fun! Nicole


  1. Beautiful! Silver, dark green, bright yellow-green... I love the variety of textures and colours in the succulents.

    1. Thanks Josse. The succulents also flower at different times, so it is always changing.

  2. This looks absolutely lovely! I want to see this in person!

    1. Are you waiting for an invitation Ms. Sarah?? You should know that you are most welcome to visit us in San Diego. You're hubby on the other hand, I'm not too sure of :)

  3. WOW! This is just amazing and gorgeous. Well done :)

    1. Thank you Amanda. It is a relatively easy project and extremely rewarding.

  4. Absolutely love it! You did a fantastic job!

  5. This completely blows me away - really - it's brilliant!!!
    Thanks so much for sharing
    ( visiting from Roadkill Rescue )
    ( all the way up in Montreal )

    1. Thank you Suzan,

      I really appreciate the positive feedback. I've been thinking of doing an indoor living wall soon, which might suit your temperatures better. On a different note, my husband and I recently visited Montreal and had a lot of fun in Old Montreal. As I'm a wildlife biologist, the highlight for me was of course the Biodome. Hopefully we will be back someday to see more of Canada.

  6. This is beautiful, but I am wondering what the other side of it looks like?

  7. Hi Tammy,

    The back looks like little black sandbags/pillows stacked atop each other. If you are thinking of putting one up in a place where both sides will be visible, you could always cover the back in a pretty UV resistant fabric.

  8. Hi Nicole, how are the plants doing now? Would be interesting to see an updated picture.

    1. Hi Allan,

      There hasn't been much change to the wall since posting. This living wall was built in the shade, so plants tend to grow slower. The only thing I would change is to replace the South African wild fig plants (iceplant). They get leggy and as they grow the basal leaves die. I'll replace them with succulents that fill in a bit more space. Thanks for your question. Nicole

    2. Thanks for the update. Could you confirm the Ice Plant as Delosperma, I know they need direct sunlight to flower. I'm interested as I have built a living wall with various sports of Delosperma and am testing to see which ones do well.

      Are they leggy due to the shade or because of the older leaves being lost?

      Are you planning on doing another wall? One with various coloured Sempervivum would look great.

      BTW after having built my own wall I can appreciate the effort you must have put in to build such a large structure and plant it up.

      Thanks again for the update.

    3. Hi again Allan,

      Yes it is Delosperma. I was recently informed by another gardener that I should not allow the succulents to flower, as then they tend to get leggy. The plants get leggy because older leaves die. They do the same thing growing in direct sunlight.

      I will look into planting Sempervivum. Thanks for the advice.


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