Growing up, Our guide to the perfect plants for your outdoor living wall

Our guide to the easy removal of houseplant flies

Utilising your vertical space, an outdoor living wall, green wall or vertical garden, can give you a significant amount of untapped growing area.  This additional growing space is useful since there are few plants that won’t suit a living wall, allowing you to be truly creative with your planting combinations.

As a starter, we suggest evergreen perennials that will give all-year round foliage and shape to your wall as well as providing winter cover for wildlife. To create interest, try combining a mixture of evergreen foliage, opting for plants with a variety of colour, texture, shape or form.

You could try adding bedding plants or annuals to your wall throughout the year to highlight seasonal changes or simply to refresh it.

Covering an unsightly or boring wall, vertical gardens make a great addition to a patio, balcony or courtyard, where it’s a good idea to opt for fragrant or edible plants, such as herbs and vegetables, given the proximity to seating areas.

Whatever you choose, we suggest opting for compact varieties, growing to a spread no greater than 70cm, or plants that can be regularly pruned into shape.  This will allow you to maintain the look and feel of your wall more easily and reduce any single plant species taking over.


Heuchera are a largely evergreen perennial plant from the Saxifragaceae family.  The array of species is extensive with a vast variety of shapes, sizes and colours of both foliage and flowers. They are particularly grown as foliage plants and produce leaves in shades of green, pink, burgundy and bronze, often varigated or textured, some leaves are broad and waxy others are more delicate and floaty.

The flowers, which bloom abundantly in Spring, are small and delicate and grow on long wands somewhat reminiscent of candyfloss.  Albeit playing second-fiddle to the foliage, the beautiful coral pink, white, lime green, or red flowers punctuate the dense greenness of a living wall adding great colour and texture.  Heucheras are very tolerant plants, coping with a light drought or a heavy downpour of rain, and growing well in shade or full sun.

Sciarid fly larvae feed on algae and fungi in damp compost, meaning they need moist conditions to survive.
Fungus gnats lay their eggs in the top few centimetres of compost

Some of our favourite varieties are:

Heuchera Marmalade which has foliage in a mix of autumnal shades from golden yellow to peach, through to copper and deep burnt orange.

Heuchera Cezanne which has deep green, small, waxy leaves that are punctuated with purple veins and coral pink flowers which are small but abundant.

Heuchera Villoma Autumn Bride with large, lime leaves which are more serrated than other varieties.

Heuchera Sugar Frosting which has long stems of candyfloss white flowers and burgundy leaves overlaid with a silvery sugar frosting.


We did a quick vote and, here at Calathology, ferns were rated our No.1 favourite plant.  There foliage come in a variety of textures and shapes from delicate and feathery to more structured and denser.  Some ferns stand upright whilst others gently fall in swathes or layers.  Ferns are available in a huge variety of shades too from bright-citrus lime to pale mint to rich-earthy green, to silver and burgundy, pink and bronze. They are forgiving plants; they enjoy shade and damp conditions but equally tolerate sunny sites or a light drought.

When it comes to care, ferns are pretty low maintenance, all they really need is dividing in the spring so that they don’t grow too large, which means you get to give some of your beauties to friends or extend the size of your living wall!  Our main tip is to make sure you opt for outdoor ferns and choose evergreen varieties otherwise your wall could look very sparse when winter arrives.

In short, whether we think of prehistoric parklands or British woodland walks, ferns naturalising quality helps vertical walls look instantly characteristic and habitual.

Fungus gnats hover a few centimetres from the top of compost.
Fungus gnats hover a few centimetres from the top of compost.

Some of our favourite varieties are:

Dryopteris erythrosora which has a traditional feathery fern leaf with the added benefit of pink or copper tones on new growth, turning warm green as the leaf matures.

Asplenium scolopendrium, also known as Hart’s tongue, is native to the UK and can often be found in the cracks of a tumbled down wall or forest floor.  As the name suggests, this leaf is long, and tongue shaped and offers a stunning architectural addition to a living wall.

Polypodium vulgare is another native evergreen fern.  It’s woodier, leathery leaves are truly Jurassic looking with long, finger-shaped fronds.  It’s a great addition to a vertical garden as it’s tolerant of sun or shade and, at 30cm-50cm high, doesn’t grow too unwieldy whilst providing a good spread.

Ornamental Grasses

Rosette shaped heuchera leaves and delicate feathery ferns are perfectly complimented by the spikey, slender leaves of ornamental grass.  Grasses come in an array of colours, shapes and sizes and have the added benefit of bringing some gentle movement to your wall when the weather is breezy.

Like ferns, it’s a good idea to divide grasses in spring to prevent them from getting too big.  Plus, any dried, dead leaves should be pulled away allowing room for new growth, alternatively the birds will save you a job by plucking dead leaves out for nest making.

The brilliance of nature is there are other organisms that love to eat fungus gnats, a process known as biological control.
Fungus gnats hover a few centimetres from the top of compost.

Some of our favourite varieties are:

Blue fescue, Festuca glauca, is an eye-catching compact silvery-blue grass that grows in small mounds and is happy growing in a container.

Pheasant’s tail grass, Anemanthele, provides brilliant year-round colour.  New growth is green but then matures to a pheasants tail of jewel -like colours in yellow, orange and red. Like blue fescue, this grass grows in low lying clumps making it perfect for a vertical garden.

Lilyturf, Ophiopogon planiscapus, isn’t a true grass but, with its wonderfully dramatic black, slender leaves and unusual purple-white flowers which mature to blue-black berries, who really cares about the plant’s heritage!

Ribbon grass, Phalaris arundinacea picta Feesey, is a beautiful green and white variegated grass.  With a change in temperature in spring and autumn, the plant develops a pleasing pink hue too.


If you’re considering a beautiful new exterior living wall, the team at Calathology can help with every aspect from design to installation and on-going after care. Contact us now to start your living wall journey.