Artificial Green Walls vs. Real Living Green Walls: Head-to-Head Comparison
Green walls have been a growing trend for many years not just in homes and gardens but also in business premises. Commercial properties such as hotels, hair salons, restaurants, spas, and retail premises, are all perfect locations for a green wall.
Green walls are a fantastic way to utilise lush green plants and transform any dull and tired-looking wall space. The result can be dramatic and many studies have shown that plants can help to create a more relaxing environment. They can even help to increase concentration and memory retention, promoting a calm and productive workplace. Green walls are a and relaxing beautiful addition to any home, but they also serve several purposes in any workplace.
What is a green wall?
Green walls are vertical walls covered in lush foliage. Live green walls require specialist panels with growing media and an irrigation system to keep the plants alive, while artificial green walls are simply lush, realistic panels of artificial plants.
When it comes to creating the ideal green wall, the choices and options available for the different types of plants and flower combinations are endless. These days, there’s something for all tastes, so you can be sure to find something that will suit your individual needs and tastes.
You now know that green walls are an extremely trendy way of transforming your wall space and you’ve decided that you’re going to get yourself a green wall. But you’re now faced with a very important decision to make. That decision is: do I choose an artificial green wall or a real green wall?
Well, if that’s the case, then you’ll be glad to know that you’ve come to the right place. Today, we will be looking at the pros and cons of each type of green wall and hopefully, by the end of this guide, you will know exactly which option will be best to suit your situation.
Today, we’re going to pitch real green walls against artificial green walls in a head-to-head battle and see which one comes out on top.
Artificial Green Walls vs. Real Green Walls: Which is Better?
If we’re going to compare real and artificial green walls, we’re going to need to look at several key categories.
We’re looking at what both types of green walls offer in terms of benefits, look, longevity, maintenance, and any downsides too. We’ll then decide on a winner for each category.
The nine different categories that we’ll be judging the green walls are listed below.
- Installation Time & Costs
- Maintenance Requirements
- Environmental Impact
- Design Possibilities
- Health & Wellbeing
Aesthetics: which looks better?
The first point we’ll need to explore is how a plant wall physically looks, because ultimately, that’s the whole reason we want plants around! The main purpose of any green wall, real or artificial, is to transform plain old walls into breath-taking showpieces for your home or business.
There was once a time where it was easy to spot whether an artificial plant [link] was real or fake, but this is no longer the case! In recent years, manufacturing techniques have greatly improved to a standard where it’s now difficult to tell the difference between real and fake green walls.
However, artificial green walls have the edge because that they’ll retain the same appearance as the day they were installed with little maintenance and you don’t need to hire someone with specialist skills to keep them looking their best.
Another drawback of real living walls is the fact that they are living organisms that, even with the best intentions and expertise, are still at the mercy of nature. This means that the plants in your living wall may not thrive in their environment or may simply die. This can leave dead space and means that your green artificial wall will, ultimately, die. There’s just not enough room for the roots of real plants, and so you’ll have to replace entire panels.
As we’ll discuss in greater depth later in this article, when installing an artificial green wall you can choose whichever plants and flowers you wish. You don’t need to worry about the microclimate of where your wall will be positioned, the lighting, your plants’ watering requirements, growth patterns, or how future growth will affect the appearance of your wall.
Given the fact that an artificial green wall will look at its best all year round and regardless of the local microclimate, the winner of this category is artificial green walls.
Installation time and costs
Now let's compare how long installation takes and the potential costs involved.
So, what is required to install a real living wall?
After carefully choosing suitable plants that will survive the local microclimate, you’ll first need to install the framework which will hold the plant containers. Once the framework is in position, the next stage is to install and test the inbuilt irrigation connected to a water source.
Then the individual planters can be field with multipurpose compost and watered to encourage the compost to settle.
Next, the individual plants can be placed into containers. After watering them, each plant can be carefully placed into the framework. The plants will need to be installed so that each plant receives adequate sunlight and is not competing with neighbouring plants for light or nutrients.
If you have sufficient free time, you can install your own living wall, but you need sufficient gardening knowledge. You will need to ensure that the plants you choose will survive the microclimate of your chosen location for your living wall. If you don’t have much time or are a business owner, you will need to hire specialist contractors to install and care for your living walls.
So, how does the installation process compare against artificial green wall panels?
Well, installing an artificial green is a much quicker and easier process because the imitation plants and flowers usually come pre-assembled on a metallic or plastic framework. Each framework has A/B connectors that can be used to connect multiple panels quickly and easily, creating as large a wall as required. The panels can also be cut to fit any size or shape before the framework is secured to a wall or fence using screws.
Installing an artificial wall panel does not require any special skills or experience. Installation can be carried out by anyone capable of using a drill and doesn’t necessarily require the help of a professional.
As we’ve seen, real green wall panels require far more time and expertise than artificial green walls, there can only be one winner of this category and that is artificial green walls.
Many people enjoy growing and maintaining flowers and plants. If that's the case for you, and you have the passion, time, and skills, a real living wall may suit you. As a gardener, you’ll have a very real understanding of how much work keeping a living wall alive will take, and so you can make an educated decision on whether that’s something you want to take on.
However, many of us tend to live busy lifestyles with limited spare time, and even some who like to care for a few houseplants will not want to dive in at the deep end with a live green wall. If you’re operating a business, caring for a green wall is certainly not something you want on your list.
So, we’ll speak for the majority of people here when we say that we simply don’t need something that high-maintenance in our lives! In the case of maintenance requirements, the ultra-low-maintenance artificial green wall wins the day here.
While real green walls can look incredible for the first few weeks after installation, they are living organisms and are often subjected to pests like flies. This can get particularly bad in the summertime – if your greenery is exposed to too much sunlight, the plants can begin to rot. This can attract flies and even mice and rats. Artificial green walls often look just as good as real ones without bringing the concern of unwanted guests in your garden.
When it comes to the durability of real green walls, the weather is another concern. It may sound a little pessimistic, but you’re likely to face issues no matter what kind of climate you live in. Whether you live in rainy Britain or drought-prone America, your plants may become overwatered or underwatered. It is for this reason that the ultra-durable artificial green wall wins this category, too. It looks the same all year-round whether you live in a cool, wet part of the world or a dry, humid area with no rain.
Another aspect you need to consider is: how high traffic is the area where the green wall will live? If you’ve ever put a houseplant by a bathroom or in a bedroom, you may have seen how quickly leaves can shrivel and die with constant changes in temperature, getting sprayed with deodorant or perfume, or rubbed against. Real plants just aren’t durable!
Unless you’re planning to put your green wall in a climate-controlled environment you don’t mind the extra humidity, opt for an artificial green wall. It’s the best way to ensure you don’t end up with a half-dead green wall instead of a living green wall.
Artificial green walls are a clear winner for durability.
We just touched on this in the above point, but we need to linger here on the positioning point for a moment longer as it’s got to be discussed for this comparison. Indoor green walls are becoming increasingly popular in restaurants and hotels as they bring a fresh and welcoming atmosphere to any lobby or reception.
But if this green wall is made of real foliage, you have to factor in assigning watering, pruning, and fertilising duties to a member of staff. You will also have to bear in mind the direction in which the lobby, bar, or restaurant is facing. If your real green wall is exposed to too much sunlight, you risk it burning and looking orange and dry.
If your green wall is going to be kept outside, then you need to consider that the plants are going to look lush and beautiful in the summer (provided you don’t forget to keep them watered!), but they’ll die back in the winter, especially when frost comes calling.
An artificial green wall can be placed inside or outside, bringing a pop of colour to any part of a building, regardless of conditions. Clearly, artificial green walls win here.
It wouldn't be a fair comparison unless we considered the environmental impact of both artificial and real green wall panels, particularly as climate change is such an important issue. It’s easy to assume that real green wall panels don’t have any impact on the environment and should be the winner of this category, but most types of living walls also involve the use of plastic.
When you take a close look at a real green living wall system, you'll notice that the main structure of the wall is often constructed from plastic. The same goes for the irrigation system. While artificial wall panels are made 100% from plastic, the vast majority can be recycled. Real living wall panels also need regular watering to ensure they stay healthy and may also require weed killers, pesticides, and insecticides which can be harmful to the environment.
However, the big upside of real plants is that they can contribute towards the reduction of carbon. Given the size of most living walls, the impact would be minor, but every small step in the right direction is still a step! Real plants also encourage biodiversity and attract wildlife like birds and insects. They can even help to balance the temperature and humidity of their surroundings.
Although the winner of this category is not as clear as it may appear on first thought, we are going to award the winner of this category to real living walls.
When we think of flowers and plants, we often group them into several categories. You’ve got your annuals, your biennials, and your perennials, all of which look best at different times of the year. If you have a little knowledge about flowers, you’ll know that planting something that blooms in February beside something that blooms in August likely won’t work. You’ll be left with two flowers, side by side, one looking bright and colourful, and the other will have withered away.
For a living green wall, your design possibilities are limited by the environment. If you are going to put it outside, you’re severely limited as to what plants you can use that won’t die the same year you plant them.
That is not a problem with artificial plants – two plants that wouldn’t naturally grow in harmony next to each other on a wall is no problem. Your design possibilities are unlimited. That’s why the winner of this category is the artificial green wall.
Health & wellbeing
It is a known fact that plants and trees emit oxygen and purify our air when planted in large quantities. They take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen, making our air healthier to breathe and reducing pollution. But did you know that they also offer a significant psychological benefit?
Here are some of the proven psychological benefits of plants:
- Reduced stress levels
- More creativity
- Increased worker productivity and speed of reaction to tasks
- An increase in pain tolerance (where plants were used in a medical setting)
So, not only can plants literally breathe life into an otherwise dull room, but they can also make us feel better!
Fortunately, artificial plants have been seen to have almost all of the same positive psychological benefits as real plants. While we have to give this category to real green walls, they’ve only piped artificial green walls to the post thanks to their air-purifying benefits.
As we have seen already, much of the reason people avoid real plants comes down to maintenance. You want something that doesn’t begin to droop when it hasn’t been watered. You want something that won’t fade if overexposed to sunlight, and won’t become infested with bugs if it isn’t repotted once a month! If you’ve decided to pay for a green wall installation, you want it to last as long as possible, looking as best as it can.
While living green walls can be maintained for years by a specialist company, they will, ultimately, last for about 20 years because the nutrients in the panel will be depleted and the roots will fill up all the space. Okay, so 20 years isn’t a short time, but you can take an artificial green wall off the wall after two decades and put it back on the wall in the future. That is why, when it comes to how long a green wall can last, the winner has to be the artificial green wall.
Which is the winner?
As you can see, there are many pros and cons for both options. In the past, it may have seemed like an obvious choice to opt for a real green wall for its aesthetic appeal, but this is no longer the case.
And it may also seem like real green walls are a better choice for the environment but we should consider that most types of real green walls also use plastic to contain the plants and build an irrigation system. There are regular watering and lighting requirements associated with real living walls, and the environmental impact of this must be taken into consideration.
Ultimately, choosing between an artificial and a real green wall is a personal choice and you will need to consider what is important to you. You’ll need to carefully weigh up initial installation fees, ongoing maintenance requirements, and any associated ongoing financial costs.
If you do decide to go down the route of an artificial green wall, you have certainly come to the right place. Artificial Eden can supply a wide range of artificial green walls to suit any taste, home set-up, or trend. To view our range of artificial green walls please click here.
Do you have any thoughts on choosing between real and artificial green walls? What do you think about the points made in this article? We would love to hear from you, so why not join the debate by leaving your comments below?