It is probably the biggest challenge for people who enjoy indoor gardening to have enough light for all their houseplants. The majority of people need lamps or other forms of artificial light, even if there are many windows and natural light. It’s all part of the houseplant game. There is much more to managing artificial light for your plants than simply turning on the overhead light. Are you aware that there are different kinds of light, and that some plants respond better to it than others?
Types of Artificial Light That Optimize Plant Growth
For most people, this is the biggest surprise. Understanding that there are different types of light isn’t intuitive, but it’s important in order to make the most of your plant lights. Rather than fixtures or bulbs, we’re discussing the light itself.Artificial light appears white to the untrained eye. You can choose your light to focus on one color or another to achieve different results with your plants. It’s a combination of different color wavelengths.The wavelengths of blue and red light are the most important. Even if you don’t go into depth about light’s physical properties, you can recall a few basic facts. A red light will encourage plants to flower or produce fruit, whereas a blue light will boost leaves and foliage. Full-spectrum lights are generally a blend of both, and are known as typical lights. Whenever you are unsure, or trying to accommodate many different plants with one light, stick to this.
Getting an actual blue or red tinted bulb isn’t the same as talking about the color spectrum. It is still primarily white, just with some wavelength shifts in one direction or another.When choosing the right bulbs, you can look for labels indicating that blue-dominant and red-dominant light are cool and warm, respectively. Temperature has nothing to do with it at all; both terms refer to how a light feels and its color saturation.
Light Bulbs Types
We looked at the properties of light in the previous section. In addition to light fixtures, what other types are available?
Currently, there are a lot of different bulb formats available, and not all of them are the same.
The bulbs with a fine wire filament in the center that heats up to make light are the ones we all grew up with. Despite being cheap and short-lived, these bulbs are no longer the only option.
When shopping for plant lights, don’t be afraid to check out the more modern bulb types. Bulb types like these come in cool or warm tones, but they generate a lot of heat over your plants.
LED bulbs are the current darling of the lighting industry. Light is created using a very small amount of wattage, so they last for a very long time. Furthermore, LED lights are quite expensive, especially if you’re used to buying a pack of bulbs for a dollar or two.
If you are looking at fluorescent lights for plants, you have a few additional options. The old-fashioned straight bulbs that you use in a particular type of fixture (office lights) or the newer spiral bulbs that usually work fine in any lamp.
You’ll find that fluorescent bulbs have a wider spectrum of colors because of how they work.
Unlike incandescent bulbs, halogen bulbs occupy a niche of their own. The light they produce isn’t the best for indoor houseplants, even though they’re bright and will last a long time. This strain leans toward the red end of the spectrum, which will promote flowering but not overall growth.
Halogen light should be used as a supplement to other bulbs or daily exposure to sunlight.
You shouldn’t be fooled by creative labeling, or spend too much money on special grow lights. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a place or are worthless, just that they aren’t necessarily special.
It is also the case that a normal fluorescent bulb on the blue end of the spectrum will perform the same function as a “grow-light”.
What is the best type of light bulb? For houseplants, fluorescent lights are preferred over other types of lighting. They are relatively inexpensive, long-lasting, allow you to adjust for spectrum values, and they do not heat up.
With a large number of plants, you can also take advantage of the formats (long tubes vs compact bulbs).
A Guide to Using Artificial Light
Have you thought about artificially lighting your houseplants?
For indoor plants in a room that stays lit all day long, such as a living room or an office, you may not need any extra lights. Low-light plants may be able to survive on room light alone.
To get the extra intensity your plants need, you’ll want to set up your lamps closer to the plants. You can place your lights quite close to your plants if you are using a bulb that doesn’t generate heat (fluorescents or LEDs).
African violets, which need really bright light, are happy with lights only 10 inches away.
It is important to remember that using artificial light is not a one-way street. During the spring or summer months, you can take advantage of natural sunlight, and then supplement with additional light during the winter, when the sun isn’t as helpful.
If you want to complement window light with artificial light, do so in whatever way works best for your space.
What Is the Optimal Amount of Light?
With a timer (link to Amazon), you can keep your plants well lit without having to worry about it. You can use this feature when you are trying to maximize your lighting hours and want the lights on before you wake up in the morning.
However, even if you are not worried about being there to turn the lights on or off, you should plan for timing. With artificial light, relying on the day-length cycle won’t work.
Various plants require different amounts of light, so a little research can help here.
With 8 to 10 hours of light, geraniums, begonias, chrysanthemums, and coleus plants will thrive. Vegetable seedlings, on the other hand, need 12 hours or more.
Additionally, some plants need their light to be adjusted throughout the year to simulate the dormant period of winter. Many flowering plants cannot enter their bloom cycle without it. Then you can bring it back up in a few months.
Think twice if you’re planning to raise a batch of super-plants by leaving the lights on 24 hours a day. In addition to needing light to grow and thrive, plants also need darkness to rest and focus on respiration instead of photosynthesis.
It is detrimental to leave the lights on longer than they can handle.
Artificial Light-Loving plants
Under artificial lighting, plants that do well in low-light situations are more likely to thrive. Here are some suggestions:
- Peace lily
- Cast iron plant
- Peacock plant
- Snake plant
- Sword fern
- Spider plant
It may surprise you to know that these low-light plants are also quite well-known as indoor air cleaners, so they will be of even greater value to your space.
No matter which plant you choose, you’ll need to water it carefully. Indoor plants under artificial lights often require less water than you would expect without sunlight. Make sure you don’t overdo it.
Pros and Cons of Using Artificial Light
The main advantage of using artificial light with your houseplants is that you can grow plants that you would otherwise not be able to grow indoors due to insufficient light.
Lighting options can also help with the growth of your plants a bit. Rather than relying on plain old sunlight, you can tweak your spectrums and give your plants an advantage they wouldn’t otherwise have.
A red wavelength of light, in particular, can help you grow flowering plants that would ordinarily not thrive in ordinary indoor light.
One advantage of using older incandescent bulbs is the heat they emit. You can raise the temperature as well as the light level in your home with a few lights if your plants prefer warmer temperatures.
Lamps can be expensive, depending on how reliant you are on them. LED and CFL bulbs don’t use as much energy as they used to, so this isn’t a problem anymore.
Even so, a lot of electric lights can have an impact on your power bill, especially if you are still using incandescent bulbs. LED bulbs can also be costly up-front, sometimes more than $10 per bulb.
Electricity can also be a bit risky if you have a power outage. You can leave your plants without their lamps for a few hours without harming them, but if you leave them for too long, you can end up with stunted or dying plants.
When it comes to watering time, it is also risky to set up too many lamps. Installing GFCI outlets in your plant area would be a smart move for an indoor gardener who is serious about their hobby. A simple accident with a watering can around a rack of electric lights can pose a serious shock risk.
You can use these tips to add some artificial light to your growing space if you are struggling to manage your collection of indoor plants due to the lack of windows in your home.