Anatomy of a plant wall

I’m close to tearing apart my plant wall.  I’m going to ask Mary to come over and video the deconstruction so we can document root growth, plant development and what was brilliant and what sucked.  I’ll take pictures with my camera as well and post them here.

This is the one that sending out tiny little roots to grip the wall. It loves the understory of the plant wall. Notice the dead philodendron leaf (big and yellowing).

I promised pics of the cuttings from the vining plants in the bathroom.  Both vines are, in my opinion, brilliant in any wall.  I will make sure to include them scattered through LouAnn’s wall as they are low growing and they spread fairly quickly.  One vine (the variegated) loves the understory and attaches firmly to the felt.  The other (the solid leafed one) is happy in or out.  I see it poking leaves out of the face of the wall.  Both of the plants like consistent moisture which is another reason they do so well in the wall.

In the above picture are both of the bathroom vines (variegated in the center of the picture and solid leafed vine in upper right corner – small leaf pointing left), begonia (just below the aforementioned leaf, in the upper right corner and again beneath my little finger), hoya (just below the begonia), nephthytis (right of my forefinger), spider plant (long skinny striped leaf), vining black eyed susan (the vine to the upper left of the begonia) and the dumb cane with the purple leaf backs (bottom of the pic, leaf is pointing right).  The dying philodendron leaf isn’t quite ready to be removed.

Beach Oleander

One more plant I wanted to mention is the Beach Oleander.   The picture is of the bottom right corner of the wall.  There is no backing behind the felt in this corner.  The parent leaf is pinned to the felt closest to the corner.   This plant has been struggling to get started.  If you know anything about Beach Oleander, you know this is probably a good thing.  I’m mentioning this as a point to subtleties in how the wall was set up.

The entire wall is not perfectly level.  Hey!  It’s a test wall! (“Yeah Wad, that’s good, put the screw in right there.”)   The top slants down just slightly to the left (less than ¼” over the 30″ length).  The dribble tube originally fed in from the downhill (left) side which meant the water had to be forced up through the length of the dribble tube.  In watching the Beach Oleander struggle I could see it wasn’t getting enough water delivered from the high end of the dribble tube.  On a hunch I pulled the dribble tube feed and switched it to the high side.  I think this was a smart move as now both sides of the wall are more evenly watered.  I’ll make sure I slant the dribble tube slightly in the new wall and feed from the high side.  I’m currently using 3/8″ tubing.  If I were to extrapolate, I’d say the drop over the width of the wall needs to be at or near the diameter of the dribble tube when using a marginal pump.

Okay, if that last bit didn’t make perfect sense, how about this.  My little statuary pump is tiny.  It doesn’t put out a lot of water.  By the time the water gets to the top of the wall (a real stretch for this little pump) it dribbles so the tube needs to be oriented correctly to make the most of the water that makes it that far.  If the pump has to pump the water to the top of the wall and up more along the dribble tube, less water gets pumped into the wall.  When the pump shuts off the water in the dribble tube runs backward through the pump and doesn’t run through the wall.  If the water is fed in from the high side, gravity is helping run the water into the dribble tube and the wall gets more evenly watered.  When the pump shuts off the water remaining in the dribble tube runs down through the wall.

Switching the side the dribble tube fed from also benefited the aquarium.  Without buying a longer feed tube I was able to move the pump to the back of the tank on the right end.  The returning water (left back corner) cascades over the heater (left end) which gives me more even heat across the width of the aquarium.

One of the reasons the pump stays so clean is the way it’s oriented in the tank.  The pump is fastened to the back of the aquarium via suction cups with the inlet pointing down and off the bottom about 3″.  Keeping the pump clean and away from any debris on the bottom of the tank keeps the dribble tube running freely.  No debris is sucked up to plug up the holes in the dribble tube.

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