Flora Grubb Gardens
Monday - Saturday 9:00 - 6:00  •  Sunday 10:00 - 6:00 1634 Jerrold Ave, San Francisco, CA  •  415.626.7256  •  Contact Us

Natural Vertical Gardens

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

We’ve built  these  beautiful garden towers here at the store, using the most “natural” of all of the vertical gardening techniques. The plants on the towers are thriving and inspire a lot of curiosity among our customers.

It sure is the era of vertical gardens! Patrick Blanc wows the world with his masterpieces of green architecture. And we’ve delighted this past few years in helping our customers to create vertical gardens using Woolly Pockets, succulents, and tillandsia-adorned Thigmotropes. Let’s admit, though, that the effect of clothing structures in greenery has been popular at least since the first ivy was planted at Harvard. And plants have been scaling surfaces long before any gardener was here to cultivate or appreciate them.

All over the planet and in all kinds of climates there are plants that have evolved the aptitude for growing on vertical surfaces. The ones that root themselves on other plants (on trees and shrubs and often on rocks just as well) are called epiphytes. Best known of these naturally vertical-growing epiphytes are the many tropical orchids  that we see domesticated at the market in pots of bark but in the tropics attach their roots to the bark of living trees. Another big group is bromeliads, those pineapple relatives that hold moisture in their leaves, and their subset, tillandsias, the fuzzy air plants and Spanish moss. Plenty of ferns happily grow from even the smallest cracks on a rock face. There are even cactus that grow up on trunks and branches and twigs.

Over time, the folks here at the store have learned and created techniques for giving these naturally vertically growing plants a boost. Once you get the plants started, their natural tendency to cling takes over, and a “natural” vertical garden begins to grow.

Here’s the fun part: We can help you recreate the intricate beauty of natural vertical gardens!  We stock many of the supplies you’ll need to help get the plants going on a vertical surface, and dozens of plants that will happily grow on a wall. And we’re happy to share our know-how – how to select, attach, and arrange these plants, and how to water, prune, and fertilize them. Creating a “natural” vertical garden can be a great solution in a small space that needs to be beautified. You can build your vertical garden on any wall surface, or consider using a tree trunk as a host.


Come visit us to learn more. If you’ve got a spot in mind for one of these gardens, bring along some photos and measurements of the site, and spend a couple of days observing how many hours of sun the spot the gets. We’d be so glad to help you get started!


Succulent Wreaths

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Made of live succulents, these wreaths will grow and change over time and make a beautiful welcome on your door, fence or wall. They are available only here in the nursery and our Web Shop during special seasons. What a beautiful gift, too!

ABOVE: This stunner harmonizes blue-green, apple, and chartreuse.  


Photo by Caitlin Atkinson

ABOVE: We have succulent wreaths in several beautiful designs and they range in diameter from 10 inches to 16 inches.


Caring for the succulent wreath is easy.

Gently submerge the wreath when you take it home. Let the water drain from the wreath before mounting it on a vertical surface like a door or fence.

Wait until the mossy planting medium has dried out before watering again.

You can also spritz the plants with water to remove dust and keep them looking fresh. They will still need watering by the submersion method.

For a permanent location, choose a bright spot outdoors that doesn’t expose the wreath to direct sunlight for more than an hour.

For the holiday season it can temporarily tolerate shadier conditions. It can even decorate your interior for a few days at a time.

The dwarf-pagoda wreath is the best type to grow in a bright indoor spot.

Feed with a weak balanced fertilizer solution three times a year.

When displaying your succulent wreath indoors as a centerpiece on your table or mantle, use a plate underneath to protect surfaces.

The succulents will grow and even bloom over time. Feel free to prune them, tucking cuttings into the ring of planting medium or rooting them in pots and elsewhere in your garden.


Succulent Letters & Numbers

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Send your garden guests a message using these letter and number forms for your succulent cuttings. Lay out the letters on the horizontal, plant with your favorite species, let them grow in over a few months, and then mount an articulate vertical garden on the wall. Or, make a special order of pre-planted letters for an instant finished look. Available both at our store and on our Web Shop!

Come visit us to learn more. If you’ve got a spot in mind, bring along some photos and measurements of the site, and spend a couple of days observing how many hours of sun the spot the gets. We’d be glad to help you get started!


Refresh: Succulent Vertical Garden Here at the Store

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

You can create a garden just like this, with a little patience and hard work. Gardens like these can be created with the DIY Panel that can be purchased here at the store, or in our Web Shop.

ABOVE: This is the Vertical Succulent Garden that hangs here in our store.

Now see parts of the process of replanting and redesigning it…


After a few years’ growth, our succulent vertical garden was looking a little long in the tooth, with long-necked succulent rosettes revealing a bit too much planting medium and not enough squeezable succulent greenery. Take a look at the two “before” images, below. Our Clarke de Mornay designed the planting scheme and Jorge Montoya pulled everything out of the trays, sorted the plants, and cleaned them up. The new design is visible in progress in the second row down. Jorge put fresh mix in the trays and, working on successive Saturdays, tucked groomed cuttings into the cells according to his preferred pattern. It’s now complete and we think it looks beautiful. Come see it for yourself!


ABOVE: Almost there!



Staghorn Ferns

Friday, December 14th, 2012

We keep lots of different staghorn ferns (Platycerium bifurcatum) in stock because we love them so much. They grow in nature on tree trunks and branches and take very well to being mounted on other vertical materials. They make vertical gardening easy and stylish. We try to keep lots in stock because they love growing outside in mild Bay Area gardens and make quite an interior statement.

Photo By: Daniel Harper

ABOVE: Here’s an example of the mounted Staghorn Ferns we have here at the store.

ABOVE: Our friends Matti & Megan of Far Out Flora used to collect driftwood on Ocean Beach to create these one-of-a-kind plaques.


ABOVE: One of our generous customers brought us a spectacular specimen as a gift! Our staff designer Daniel Nolan is maneuvering it here. Our customer had been growing it in her greenhouse but it got too big. We’ve got designs on it as a new element in our shaded display areas.


Photo by Caitlin Atkinson

Staff designer Daniel Nolan has created an amazing vertical garden of staghorns and other epiphytic ferns and orchids at his home. It’s like a vegan trophy collection!

You’d be amazed how easy it is to care for this collection: just a weekly spray with the hose, occasional grooming, and the rare application of fertilizer (use a banana!), and you’re golden.

Come see the many incarnations of this beautiful plant here at the nursery.




Succulent Vertical Garden Here at the Store

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

You can create a garden just like this, with a little patience and hard work. Gardens like these can be created with the DIY Panel that can be purchased here at the store, or in our Web Shop.

ABOVE: This is the Vertical Succulent Garden that hangs here in our store.


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Everything You Need to Know About the DIY Panel for Vertical Succulent Gardens

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Our vertical succulent gardens bring visitors to the nursery a sense of wonder, and many people are inspired to build and grow their own at home.

We offer for sale here in the store and in our Web Shop the same type of panel we use to create our own vertical succulent gardens. It’s a gratifying project to do it yourself, but you might want instructions, which we offer below.


Hang the panels outdoors

While some succulents are capable of growing indoors, they do much better when they enjoy the sun and air circulation of the outdoors. The panels are built with slotted cells that allow the water to trickle from cell to cell and drain out the bottom, making them unsuitable for placing against sheetrock or other indoor wall surfaces. Drainage out the bottom poses a problem for indoor flooring as well.

How they are made

The DIY Vertical Panels are made of  a combination of all-natural coconut powder and coconut fiber, and food-safe HDPE, which is the same plastic used to make milk jugs. The combination makes the plastic flexible yet firm and reduces its impact on the environment. Each panel will weigh approximately 50-70 pounds when planted. The walls of the planting compartments are slanted to keep soil from falling out. Each compartment has slots that allow water to drain through from one cell to the next. The image below shows the structure of the panels but when you see them here in the nursery or buy them in our Web Shop they will be a toasted-coconut brown color.

How to plant the panels

The panels can be planted in two ways: plug-in planting and homegrown.

1) Plug-in planting

Each compartment will hold two succulents from 2-inch containers. One panel takes 90 plants to fill, and gives you speedy (but not instant) gratification. Allow the succulents to grow into the panel by maintaining it on a flat surface for a month (spring through fall) or longer (winter). In winter, take care to protect the garden panel from periods of freezing temperatures. Anytime the panel is being cultivated horizontally, protect from rain and hail.

After a month or so, you can mount the panel in its permanent, vertical position.

2) Homegrown

For a more economical and do-it-yourself approach, the panels can be filled with loose potting soil while they are lying flat. You can insert cuttings of succulents from your own collection in a pattern of your choosing. Be sure to keep the panels flat (and out of the rain!) for three to five months, in order to allow them to root in. You don’t want all your hard work to pour out when you hang it up! Most succulents grow more actively in the warmer part of the year.

Here at our nursery, we can offer pre-planted, established vertical succulent panels by special order only. Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate requests for custom designs, and we cannot ship. Orders for pre-planted panels require a wait of between one and three weeks if they are available; availability is limited to pre-planted panels on hand at our growers.

Hanging them up

The panels measure 20” x 20” and extend 2 ½” from the wall. They come with a metal mounting bracket that screws into the wall horizontally. The panel can be hung from this bracket and is easily removable for watering and maintenance. Alternately, each panel has a pair of slots allowing you to insert screws through the panel and directly onto the backing. This can be useful for a more permanent mounting. The panels can weigh anywhere from 50 to 70 pounds when fully planted and watered. It is important to mount the panels to structural beams capable of holding the considerable weight of water-saturated soil and plants.

Watering and maintaining the panels

The panels can be watered by hand or by a drip system. The top of each tray has a little channel that perfectly fits a 1/4″ drip irrigation line. The slotted cells allow the water to flow from cell to cell and drain out the bottom. At Flora Grubb Gardens we water by hand since we can so easily reach them. We use a low-pressure spray and slowly wet the garden for a few minutes. Then we wait five minutes and repeat. We’ll do it one more time if it’s been particularly warm for a couple of weeks. We don’t water it at all if there’s been rain within the previous week.

How to create an installation with the panels

Flora Grubb Gardens does not create custom installations using the DIY Vertical Panel. Our installation here at the nursery was done by a contractor who started with a panel of MDO (marine plywood) as backing. He then mounted it with French cleats (included with each vertical panel) – a common construction method to “float” the garden off the wall with an air space behind it for ventilation. The frame on our own vertical garden was created by mounting the wood frame (redwood, driftwood, etc.) directly to the back panel of plywood after the panels were mounted. Use your imagination!

Customizing & modifying

The panel can be cut with a proper saw blade, but should be cut before planting along the lines of the little compartments to make sure all the soil will stay contained. Panels can be configured to create displays of any size, though it is important to consider the feasibility of care and maintenance for such a non-traditional garden.

Gardens like these can be created with the DIY Panel that can be purchased here at the store, or in our Web Shop.


Patrick Blanc’s Visit

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Patrick Blanc dropped by our store! Patrick  might be the closest thing the gardening world has to an international superstar. His vertical gardens have inspired the masses and created an eager parade of imitators (such as me). Patrick was in town working on his first US project with Roma Design Group for the Drew School.



Patrick was leaning towards California natives for the garden. In the hands of a lesser plantsman, this might have been a disaster. I had heard that Patrick was a really knowledgeable horticulturalist, and I can confirm this firsthand. In fact, I am not sure if I have ever had anyone visit my store and be able to identify so much of what they saw. His horticultural knowledge was mind-boggling.  Patrick was a delight, and now his amazing project for the Drew School is completed! Learn More Here.


Vertical Garden at Sunset Magazine Cottage

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

Here are some pictures of the vertical garden that we did with Kevin for Sunset’s Celebration Weekend.


Vinewood Framed Vertical Garden

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

Here is a vinewood framed vertical succulent garden installation by my sweetie, Kevin Smith. Pretty, huh?