New RHS Research Reveals Rich Invertebrate Abundance within Green Façades

New research by scientists at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) shows that ‘green façades’ support a wide range of invertebrates, and demonstrates their important role in enhancing the biodiversity of urban areas.

Examining three different self-supporting climbers, Hedera helix (common ivy), Parthenocissus tricuspidata (Virginia creeper) and Pileostegia viburnoides (climbing hydrangea), the research shows that plants grown against walls to create a green façade provided an important resource for invertebrates; the more vegetation there is, and the more varied, the more invertebrates are supported. Whilst green walls are generally considered to bring wildlife benefits to urban ‘grey’ areas, this research is the first of its kind to deliver evidence-based guidance on the subject which further encourages the creation of green façades in urban areas.

In towns and cities where garden space is at a premium, vertical greening is a positive solution for gardeners who want to improve their limited garden spaces and benefit wildlife.

Andrew Salisbury, Head of Plant Health at the RHS, said: “Greening walls with climbers and other plants creates places for a wide range of invertebrates, including beetles and a variety of predatory invertebrates, to live and to feed. In urban areas where many people have little space to garden they can bring huge benefits – not only supporting invertebrates, but providing shelter and food for birds and other wildlife too.”

The research used replicated miniature building plots designed to quantify and compare the potential biodiversity benefits associated with three plant species that are commonly used to create green façades - common ivy, Virginia creeper and climbing hydrangea. Some of the mini-buildings in the study were left bare, some planted with just one type of climber and some planted with more than one type of climber.

Over the course of two growing seasons the buildings were sampled for invertebrates and the findings reveal that the number and variety of invertebrates increased with wall vegetation depth and cover. Meanwhile bare walls supported almost no invertebrates. Considerably more invertebrates were collected from the wall covered by common ivy (the most vigorous and densely-leaved climber) compared to the other two climbers, while the combination of two different forms of common ivy showed a higher invertebrate abundance compared to common ivy alone.

In addition to improving biodiversity, green façades provide a range of other benefits including the regulation of temperatures, moisture retention, sound-dampening and trapping of gaseous and particulate pollution.

The research was published as a paper, entitled ‘Careful plant choice can deliver more biodiverse vertical greening (green façades)’ in the Urban Forestry and Urban Greening journal.  
For more information on the RHS research into green façades, visit:


Notes to editors

For further information, images or interviews, contact Gina Miller [email protected] or the RHS Press Office at [email protected] / 0207 821 3080.

About the RHS

Since our formation in 1804, the RHS has grown into the UK’s leading gardening charity, touching the lives of millions of people. Perhaps the secret to our longevity is that we’ve never stood still. In the last decade alone we’ve taken on the largest hands-on project the RHS has ever tackled by opening the new RHS Garden Bridgewater in Salford, Greater Manchester, and invested in the science that underpins all our work by building RHS Hilltop – The Home of Gardening Science.

We have committed to being net positive for nature and people by 2030. We are also committed to being truly inclusive and to reflect all the communities of the UK.

Across our five RHS gardens we welcome more than three million visitors each year to enjoy over 34,000 different cultivated plants. Events such as the world famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show, other national shows, our schools and community work, and partnerships such as Britain in Bloom, all spread the shared joy of gardening to wide-reaching audiences.

Throughout it all we’ve held true to our charitable core – to encourage and improve the science, art and practice of horticulture –to share the love of gardening and the positive benefits it brings.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.