“Think vertical, go green “; an inventive voice speaks up against the rigid concrete heat pads. As landscapes disappear, cities cut with sharp angles of glass appear to disconnect from the sky. Thus, urbanism gets separated from nature. Green walls are an anti-dote to this division as they soften city-scapes. These walls not only lower indoor temperatures but also insulate thermally. Supportive for both the human mind and the city resources, plants for building facades provide stress-busting effects. Photo-synthesis reduces pollution that is an even more important benefit for Indian cities. Both air and sound pollution get lowered by the proper design of green facades. Additionally, plants for vertical building facades utilize less water than horizontal ones.
Factors to consider for plants for vertical building facades:
A green facade design relies heavily on micro-climatic conditions, sunlight availability, location, and design intent. Additionally, the type of climber and growth patterns, and rate are critical of species selection. The light requirement and attachments play a crucial role for the plants for vertical building facades. A green wall should have easy access to irrigation facilities and planting media for growth regions. Moreover, plant inspection for disease and pests, pruning methods and training, fall under the purview of maintenance.
With this, let’s look at some of the plant species that can be grown on facades efficiently for a greener India.
1.Sword-Fern (Polystichum Munitum):
It is the most familiar vertical nursery plant. These plants for vertical building facades prefer light to partial shade and a temperature of 25°C. Therefore, it is most suited for the climate of India. It requires ordinary watering. This plant can grow up to 4-5 feet and thus, is suitable for screening. It requires neutral to acidic soils and hence, will grow slowly but steadily.
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These plants for vertical building facades prefer not only bright green foliage but also elegant and natural sword-shaped creases. They sprout in early spring, either from underground rhizomes or via spores along the backside. As the roots penetrate up to a depth of 1-inch, soils need to be at least 10-inches deep with 2-inches manure. With good drainage, it can survive in unfavorable soils and tolerate heat. Especially in the first years, these ferns require moisture for growth during winters. Subsequently, they can do in dryer conditions and dead foliage trimming sessions in summer. These are textured ferns that will attract a lot of birds to your building facade. Hence, they prove a great addition.
2.Spider-Plant ( Chlorophytum Comosum ):
This ever flowering plant is also known as the airplane plant, St. Bernard’s lily, Spider Ivy, etc. It grows up to 60cm, features fleshy tuberous roots, each 5-10 cm long, and is bulgy. Not only do its leaves soar to 45mm, but also do they cover substantial widths of about 25mm. They propagate through potting. Hence, they can directly grow in the growing bags for plants for vertical building facades.
These plants are not only easy to grow but prefer temperatures from 18°C to 32°C. Thus, they suit all parts of India. Almost 70 spider plants reduce air pollution for an area of 167 sq. cm by lowering formaldehyde. Although it is a low-humidity plant, it prefers to dry between watering. After planting, occasional pruning and cutting remain the only maintenance part from the human side.
3.Bromeliads ( Bromeliaceae ):
These are adaptable and tropical varieties conducive to sparse watering. Mature Bromeliads spawn foliage and flowers for up to 3 months. Bromeliads reproduce rapidly, and thus a fully green facade is just a matter of months. These plants for vertical building facades adapt to various climates but are the happiest in the Indian temperatures of 20-32°C. They benefit not only from high humidity but also winds. Bromeliads prefer acidic but well-drained soil or a soil-less potting mix. They have shallow roots that go about an inch in the ground. Hence, they can be grown on vertical facade pots. Bromeliads benefit from water immersion, and thus facades are watered by drenching once a week. Although they grow up to a foot tall, they are slow-growing. Bromeliads are winter-flowering and can club with cacti for patterns.
4.Pothos ( Epipremnum Aureum, MoneyPlant ):
Also known as the Ceylon creeper, Hunter’s Robe, Ivy arum, Silvervine, Devil vine, or Marble queen, these plants for vertical building facades are shyly flowering plants. It trails on its own for about 30-feet or can be twinned. It has aerial roots that hook up to window frames and joints. Pothos can survive even if neglected, is pest-free, and thus, suitable for commercial facades. It requires about 10-inches of ordinary, slightly acidic but well-drained soils and light for variegated leaves. Pothos prefers Indian temperatures of 25-32°C and high humidity but can sustain low humidity too. However, it is mildly toxic to pets and humans.
5. Plants for vertical building facades : Bougainvillea ( Bougainvillea glabra ):
Bougainvillea is a self-climbing creeper that grows about 36-inches in a year. It not only has green foliage but also displays shades of pink, purple, and orange. Once set, it goes inert, sheds leaves, and then blooms again in the winter months. Though trimming is necessary for its maintenance, too much pruning will reduce the bloom color of these plants for vertical building facades. This plant loves light and needs daily sun exposure to survive. The more the sunlight, the brighter the flowers.
Along with deep soils for its brittle roots, Bougainvillea needs moist and slightly acidic potting. Although it favors tropical temperatures, it can survive to extremes of 40°C. Though it blooms better with dry conditions, too much dryness causes it to droop.
6. Plants for vertical building facades : Snake Plant ( Dracaena Trifasciata ):
With stiff leaves of about 6-inches to 8-feet, it is also called the Mother-in-laws tongue, George’s sword, and Viper’s bowstring hemp. It is used in air purification to remove formaldehyde and benzene and thus eliminate the sick building syndrome. Thus a snake plant facade illustrates a happy building.
Though it requires warmer temperatures, it can survive in both well-lit facades and shaded facades. Mature leaves are dark green with a crossbanding of light green. Though they range from 70-90cm in length and 5-6cm in breadth, they can reach up to 2m. It has shallow, outward, rhizome roots that require an even supply of water.
7.Begonias ( Begonia Semperflorens-Cultorum ):
Begonias are asymmetrical, patterned, and variegated foliage plants that stuff color and interest. They grow from 6-12 inches to about 5 feet or more. For plants for vertical building facades, we use rhizomes and wax-type perennial begonias. Maintenance requires them to be pinched and pruned each year to encourage healthy and compact growth. Though they require only about an inch of soil, it needs to be moist and well-drained.
Begonias prefer east-west oriented facades for indirect sunlight. Trailing and mounding varieties adorn window boxes. Plants for vertical building facades could showcase mix-match plants with contrasting textures, colors, and shapes for combinations. Moreover, India can go for dark-leaved varieties with greater heat tolerance.
8.Plants for vertical building facades : Star Jasmine Vine ( Trachelospermum Jasminoides ):
It is an extremely fragrant, butterfly-attracting flowering vine for vertical trellis applications. Though it is woody and evergreen, it reaches a mature height of 3-6feet. Star-Jasmine has shiny dark-green leaves, about 3.5inches long, that flower in late spring. These creamy 1-inch flowers, pin-wheel in shape, bloom in summer occasionally. Although the vine requires full sun for flowering, it can handle different soil types and drought. Hence, Star-Jasmine is a good option for south-facing facades. It has shallow roots that require about 6-inches of soil. Though it is manageable and easy to prune, it will require a little support and twining during its initial growth.
9.Grape Ivy ( Cissus Rhombifolia ):
Members of the grape family, these ornamental rhombus-leaved ivies are tropical species that grow up to 10 feet, making them suitable for screening. Though these plants for vertical building facades favor the Indian temperatures of 27-32°C, they can tolerate bright sunlight from the south-facing facades. The roots of this plant need aeration, and hence, potting should combine bark, perlite, and calcined clay. These roots penetrate deep down and hold the soil. Thus, they don’t require any support.
Evenly spaced planters would help cover heights for building facades. Although they show reddish hues on the underside, they require fertilizers to boost their color and growth. The blooms, very similar to foliage, remain healthy in slightly acidic soils. However, post-planting, this plant requires insecticide to kill its fungal infections.
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10. Plants for vertical building facades : Alternanthera( Alternanthera Spp ):
Known as Joseph’s coat plants, they showcase single, bi, or multi-colored leaves in a single plant. Alternanthera portrays colorful foliage that includes burgundy, red, orange, yellow, and lime-green. They require well-drained average soils to grow 12-inch thick foliages. Though the plant adapts to east, west, and north-facing facades, the south sun intensifies their colors. While selecting a species, select Purple Knight for its burgundy foliage, Thread leaf red for its scarlet foliage, Wavy yellow for gold, and Broad leaf red for striped foliage. On a building facade, they not only add color to a wall but also creates boldness. The vertical garden needs to be watered from the middle and requires pruning as maintenance.
Ruchika is a sensitive writer who enjoys the minute details of architectural vocabulary. She works for better architectural communication with project writing, conservation, and landscapes as her forfeits.