Living Vine Curtains

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Introduction: Living Vine Curtains

About: Justin Tyler Tate is an artist, designer, animator, teacher, jeweler and maker/hacker who produces with thoughts of culture, science and interactivity.

How to block out some of the light but still use it? Want to give your living space that jungle feel? Want a natural way to purify your air? Here is the solution for you!

Ok, so really it is a bit experimental but it seems to be working well. I've had different types of vines growing in these simple containers for a few months now and there doesn't seem to be any problems. The materials, tools, techniques and plants are simple so really you have nothing to lose. Let's get started!

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Step 1: Tools & Materials

Ok, like I said...this is a simple project.

You will need the following:

  • A fat (at least 10cm/4in diameter) section of PVC tubing, of the approximate length of your window. Often you can find these kind of sections thrown away at construction/renovation sites as they are not worth saving...unless you have a specific project in mind ;)
  • A couple of caps to close off the ends of the PVC tubing. I lathed my own out of wood but you can get caps for the tubing cheaply at a hardware store or improvise something from around your living space.
  • A drill and 3 drill-bits: one small one for drilling pilot holes, one slightly larger in diameter than your vines and one to make holes large enough to pour water into.
  • A hand saw or miter saw.
  • A measuring tape.
  • An old newspaper.
  • A couple of brackets for mounting your curtain on the wall. You can make your own like I did, you can use typical L-brackets like you would use to mount a shelf or anything that is normally used for mounting a curtain rod will do...or a couple of eye hooks and some wire. Improvise what fits your aesthetic, your window and your budget.
  • 8-10 screws, at least 2.5cm/1in long.
  • A screwdriver for your screws.
  • Lastly, but possibly most importantly, you will need some vine clippings. I used the common houseplant Pothos or devil’s ivy (Scindapsus aureus) but other options are different kinds of Ivy (Hedera), the "wandering jew" plant (Tradescantia pallid), and Virginia Creepers (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)...all of which can be multiplied from cuttings which have been allowed to root in water for some time.

Step 2: Drill Some Vine-holes.

It was mentioned in the tools and materials list that your PVC pipe should be cut to the length of your window but if you haven't done that yet, please do so before we can proceed.

The first step (after cutting your pipe to length) is to mark a line straight down the length of the pipe using a pencil. Every 10-15cm, or so, on that line make a little circle mark with your pencil. These will be the places where your vines will go so if you have more vines, mark more spots and if you have less, then mark less. This will be the underside of your curtain.

At each place where you marked, drill a pilot hole using your smallest drill bit.

Drill each of those holes again with a drill bit which is just slightly larger than the diameter of your vines.

Move on to the next step.

Step 3: Watering Holes.

Flip your pipe over to the exact other side and draw another line down the length of your pipe. This time you will measure and mark places which are directly between the vine holes on the other side of the pipe. For example, if you measured and drilled every 10cm on the other side of the pipe, then you will mark your first, and last, watering hole at 15cm from the edge and every other one at 10cm intervals.

After you have marked each one, then drill them first with the pilot hole and then go to your largest drill bit...if you want to be really proper then you can step up to a medium sized drill bit before you go to the largest.

Step 4: Newspaper and Dirt.

Cap one end of your PVC pipe, screwing both the pipe and cap to fix them together if needed, and sit it upright on the capped end.

Now, line the inside of your tube with newspaper, making sure that some of it sticks out of the top. Fold that bit of excess over the sides.

Fill your newspaper-lined PVC pipe with dirt.

The newspaper is just there to act as a barrier to make sure that no dirt falls out of the holes (not that much will anyway).

Step 5: Using Your Vines.

Now that your PVC pipe is lined and filled with dirt, it's ready for some vines.

Use your screwdriver to punch through the newspaper and wiggle a cavity in the dirt then gently insert one vine cutting with roots.

Repeat this for all of your vine holes.

Step 6: Pre-capping

Now that all of your vines are in their respective holes, it is time to close off your PVC pipe.

First you will need to compress the soil into the pipe a bit which will hopefully lock the plants into their new homes...if you compress too much though you could cut them in two pieces like a soil and PVC guillotine.

Top the container off with more soil if you need to.

Fold the newspaper that was folded over the PVC pipe into the PVC pipe and move to the next step.

Step 7: Cap It.

Cap the remaining end with whatever you will be using to seal the dirt into your PVC pipe.

For all of these that I made, I used a wooden plug which I lathed but use whatever fits. My plugs fit in pretty well with friction but I also drilled some pilot holes and screwed them in place to the PVC.

Step 8: Mount It.

Now your Living Vine Curtains™ are ready to mount. This part really depends on you, what you have and what you want it to look like. I made these nifty wooden brackets and then ended up using some steel cable instead.

But probably, you will need to put a screw into the center of each cap which will sit on, hang from or screw to your mounting device.

Possible ways of mounting:

  • A wooden bracket where the screw goes through the bracket and into the cap.
  • An L-bracket where the screw sits on and is fixed to top of the bracket.
  • A really long eye-hook where the screw sits in the eye.
  • Any kind of store-bought mounting device for a store-bought curtain-rod.
  • ...and other things.

Step 9: Living Curtains

So that's it!

Now you have curtains which are alive, they will absorb sunlight while mellowing the light coming through the window, and (due to their phytoremediative properties) will purify your air while producing oxygen...also, they're just cool.

If you make this instructable or, dare I say improve on it, then I would be really happy to see and hear about your results so please post them in the comments below or send them to me in a message.

Some Notes:
*Underwater your vines rather than overwater. Because the housing is PVC, the water will not escape so easily which means that you should be able to forget about watering for at-lease a week at a time. To water, just gently spray or pour some water into the holes on the top of the PVC.

**If the vines get to long and start to drag on the floor, you can always drape them over the PVC so that they fall/drape several times and as they do they will block out more light

***One thought I had, after seeing another Instructable is that, if you're not into that PVC look, you could make it look like wood by following this other instructable (https://www.instructables.com/id/Make-PVC-Look-Like-Wood/) and then combine it with this one.

Happy planting!

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    11 Comments

    This is really "pretty". Have an awful wall in a sunny bathroom where I'm going to try this.

    3 replies

    Why is pretty in quotes? Please send a picture when/if you do :)

    Because it seemed such an inadequate word to use for something so simple but practical and potentially beautiful.

    Try morning glory, after a couple months your house will be blacked out, as well as your yard, your neighbors yard and everything for miles, and sadly it's almost impossible to kill. Looks kinda like the stuff in the pictures.

    2 replies

    True morning glories (usually colored flowers) aren't that invasive and have shorter roots, so they can be pulled out easily.. What many people mistakenly call morning glories (with white flowers) are bindweed, which is incredibly invasive with long tap roots. Pothos (in the pictures) are a houseplant other than in tropical areas. They don't have obvious flowers.

    If your adventurous enough to try, please post the results of a morning glory curtain here.

    Great 'inle. May I suggest that you check out the 'ible for turnimg PVC pipe into a very realistic woofen version. Can't remember the link, but it's easy to look up. I'm doing this version this spring using morning glories as suggested above (Thanks). I love them, but I realize tht they can get out ofhand very quickly. I'll take my chances though.

    1 reply

    I actually linked to that in the very end of this 'ible :)

    Please try with Morning Glory and post an update here on how it works out.

    Cool project, but all the suggested plants are toxic to dogs and cats (horses, too, if you keep your horse in the house) maybe something like Japanese Honeysuckle?

    My experience with cats and plants is that they pretty much ignore everything but the grass I plant for them and the ponytail palm, but be advised.

    1 reply

    Sure, please suggest away. I have read that the Pothos/ devil’s ivy/ scindapsus aureus was mildly poisonous but I wasn't aware that the others were. I doubt dogs would go around eating them even if they could reach them but I believe that cats would find a way.