By Nikki Phipps
(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden)
In order for plants to thrive properly, they require sufficient amounts of light. Artificial lighting options for indoor gardeners can sometimes be confusing. Oftentimes they are left to question what types of lighting are best, such as fluorescent or incandescent. They may also be unsure about how much light their plants should get. Read on to learn more.
Light Requirements Indoors
Plants with little or no light will become leggy and weak. Too much light, on the other hand, will cause their foliage to curl up. Additionally, if the light source is too hot, the plants may burn. It is important, regardless of the light source, to keep plants at a safe distance to ensure that their foliage or flowers are not prone to excessive heat.
The level of lighting required usually depends on the types of plants being grown. For instance, some plants, like exotics, enjoy brighter light while others, such as many foliage plants, may require less. You should always study the light requirements for all plants grown beforehand in order to choose the most appropriate lighting option for your needs. Although many plants can thrive with continuous light, they also require dark periods to grow well and, in some cases, to trigger flowering as with poinsettia plants. This, too, varies according to the types of plants that you have.
Lighting Options for Indoor Gardening
If you’re growing only foliage plants, then incandescent lighting may be sufficient. However, flowering plants benefit from the use of fluorescent lighting. One of the major differences between these two forms of lighting is the heat output. Fluorescent lighting burns cooler and is more energy efficient, whereas incandescent lighting produces a great deal of heat, is less energy efficient and can be costly. Standard fluorescent lighting is twice as efficient as incandescent lighting and burns longer, with an average life span of around 20,000 hours. Incandescent lighting typically lasts less than half of this time.
Incandescent lighting is generally better when used for highlighting a group of plants, a single one or as supplemental light. Anytime you use this type of lighting, however, be sure to keep the plants far enough away to prevent scorching the foliage.
Over the years, fluorescent lighting has changed. Due to the technological advances today, fluorescent lighting now provides indoor gardeners with more growing options. They have more energy efficient, less bulky and better lighting options for plants. With fluorescent lighting, the plants use more of the light. And since fluorescent lighting produces less heat than incandescent lighting, plants can actually be placed closer to the light source.
Using Fluorescent Lighting Indoors
Whether you’re growing seedlings, year-round crops, houseplants or just highlighting prized plantings, fluorescent lighting is the better alternative. Standard 20- and 40-watt fluorescent lighting tubes are great for starting seedlings. They are also good for growing low-light plants, like Philodendrons, which grow well with relatively little light.
There is also the High Output fluorescent lighting, which produces twice as much light as the standard. Surprisingly, this type of fluorescent lighting burns just as cool. High Output fluorescent lighting is suitable for growing larger plants or for propagating and has an average life span of around 10,000 hours.
Fluorescent lighting is an inexpensive alternative for those with little or no natural light. And with the numerous types and sizes that are now available, it is possible not only to grow nearly any type of plant, but fluorescent lighting also gives indoor gardeners the opportunity to grow them anywhere, even the basement.