Concrete block walls provide sturdy and durable fencing, retaining walls and planters, but their appearance leaves something to be desired. The uniformity and dull color of many walls disappears, however, when you add plants, whose color and form add visual interest and drama to the wall. Whether your wall is close to your house or at a distance, plants growing on and around the wall unify your wall with the natural surroundings and with the rest of your garden.
Plants on and Around Walls
Plant tall plants in front of the wall. The wall forms a natural backdrop for ornamental grasses, small palms or plants with large, dramatic leaves. Try big blue stem (Andropogon gerardii), which grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 9; it reaches 4 to 6 feet high and has blue-green stems that turn reddish bronze in the fall.
Hang one or multiple baskets or pots filled with plants. You'll need an electric drill and either lead anchors or toggle bolts for heavy pots.
Buy a succulent frame and plant it with succulents in different colors and shapes to create an artistic vertical garden. Hang it on the wall in the same way you would pots.
Plant a clinging vine at the base of the wall and allow it to grow up the wall. If your wall is in good condition, without cracks, a clinging vine will not cause damage.
Grow a trailing vine in a pot or trough set on top of the wall. Woodbine (Clematis virginiana) provides feathery, scented flowers for USDA zones 3 through 8 for a wall in full sun to partial shade. Woodbine can be aggressive in some parts of the country.
Paint your wall with exterior latex paint, and plant colorful plants that contrast or match the wall. For example, choose a bright yellow wall and contrast it with bronze plants such as kalanchoe (Kalanchoe orgyalis for USDA zones 9b through 11).
Place hollow cinder blocks in front of your wall or incorporate hollow blocks in your wall's construction so you can plant inside the hollow spaces. If you use the same blocks for planting that you do for the wall itself, the wall will appear to have grown and extended outside its original space.
Chip out some small cracks in your wall with a hammer and chisel so you can plant in the cracks. Try "Tiny Green" (Artemisia "Tiny Green"), which grows only 3 inches tall, produces tiny yellow flowers in the summer and thrives with very little water in USDA zones 5 through 9.