Living walls offer touch of nature

TropicsNorth's living walls bring nature's lush foliage to interior spaces year-round.

For those of us who live in an area where there are four distinct seasons, the weather produces growing cycles and changes in our living environment that are dramatic.

There's a mesmerizing moment during the spring season when trees appear to magically burst with their new green leaves and the landscape is transformed from shades of blacks, browns and grays to glorious color. When I look out my living-room window, it's as if an army of gardeners moved all the neighboring trees right up to the house. Nature's abundant rebirth has taken root once again, and it is always thrilling to witness.

Being surrounded by growing plants has been proven to promote a feeling of well-being. Time spent in the garden enveloped by lush greenery and radiant blooms refreshes our senses. No matter where that garden is, what we see, smell, hear and touch is a relaxing tonic. Long ago, we learned to surround ourselves with indoor plants, or at least their vision, to cheer up the winter days. Patterns and colors borrowed from nature are woven into fabrics and applied to walls to create a harmonious mood year-round.

Living walls take the concept of natural health and beauty one step further. Ivy-covered walls have moved inside. Healthy living with the sight and smell of live foliage can be a year-round pleasure. There are a few options on the market today that offer stacking containers to dress your wall in green. TropicsNorth has an innovative system that comprises stainless steel BioPanels placed horizontally or vertically to create a BioGrid. It's a modular wall-mount system that can be adapted to almost any size wall, interior or exterior, with minimal structural changes to the building.

Each panel includes a stainless steel backing that provides structure and waterproofing. Three or four plants are inserted every square foot to cover the panel in solid growing material. The hydroponic growing system eliminates the need for soil. The design provides water and aeration to 100 percent of the roots.

A full living-wall system requires connection to a drain, water supply and electricity. But the single, freestanding BioPanel models do not require a drain or water hookup. The Marengo measures about 5 feet by 11 feet. It requires only an electrical outlet to power the pump and ultraviolet lights. The water reservoir is manually filled weekly.

Plants and living walls are natural biofilters, they help to clean the air, and TropicsNorth's living walls have been proven to reduce the presence of VOCs. The more expensive models are designed with more air flow, which enhances the biofilter properties.

What you choose to plant on your living wall depends on its location. Tropical plants are best for indoor panels, as they grow year-round. Plants native to cooler North American regions die down in the winter.

TropicsNorth, www.tropics, is a full-service company that custom designs and manufactures the BioPanel systems. They also install them if needed, and give maintenance guidance. Their designers will advise on the many options of plantings and living designs available according to your site specifications and preferences.

A living wall will enhance any home, from a tiny condo to a rambling Victorian. It's worth considering for when the leaves start to fall again and winter returns.

Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Email questions to You can follow Travis on Twitter at, and visit her website,