Many people ask themselves: can plants grow with artificial light? The answer is yes. In fact, it’s possible to grow plants in the internal spaces of your home, where natural lighting isn’t the best. You can achieve this using different artificial light sources, such as LED lights and incandescent bulbs.
In this article, you’ll learn some useful tips for growing plants indoors with artificial light. You’ll also learn to choose the best light depending on the type of plant that you intend to grow.
What Kind of Lights Do Plants Need?
Plants need different types of lights in their different growth stages. Each type of artificial light can provide a unique combination of wavelengths. You can use this combination at your convenience to obtain different results.
So, before choosing the type of artificial lighting you’re going to use, you must know first the type of plants (i.e. medicinal plants, decorative plants, succulent plants, etc.) that you’re going to grow and the right dose of light they require. These are some important things you need to know before getting started:
Blue Wavelength Light
For foliage growth, plants need blue wavelength light. Usually, blue wavelength light is cold and is the most appropriate for low-light plants. Fluorescent tubes can provide the blue wavelength light your plants need to grow and look healthy.
Red Wavelength Light
To produce fruits and flowers, red wavelength light is better. Red wavelength light is hot and is ideal for tropical and desert plants. You can use incandescent bulbs to give the required dose of red wavelength light to your plants.
White light tubes and bulbs can provide a full spectrum of wavelengths; however, they don’t allow you to control well the required amount of blue, red and green wavelength light. So, it’s better to use a customized combination of luminaires to obtain the expected results.
How to Grow Houseplants with Artificial Light?
Growing plants indoors with artificial light is the easiest thing to do. You just have to control the light dose, the schedule and the proximity of the luminaires to obtain good results. Below you’ll find some practical tips for growing healthy plants inside your home with different types of luminaires.
Growing Plants in the Basement
The basement is by far one of the darkest places in your home. Some basements don’t have windows, so the only natural light is the one that passes through the door. In these cases, you’ll need to add more luminaires if you want to turn your basement into a greenhouse as the effects of light on plant growth is undeniable.
Basements are perfect places to grow low-light indoor plants, such as violets and begonias. Low-light plants need more blue than red wavelength light. So, for these cases, fluorescent lights are the best. Fluorescent lights are cold and can be placed near the plants without the risk of burning. In addition, they consume less energy.
You should also control the temperature, irrigation, humidity level and plant food supply. To do this, it’s better to use a growing tent. Increasing humidity levels in your basement could cause the proliferation of fungi, viruses, and bacteria.
It isn’t recommended to grow plants with high red-wavelength light requirements. High in red wavelength light luminaries, like incandescent bulbs, tend to generate too much heat. So, the more you use, the hotter the basement will be. In addition, incandescent bulbs consume a lot of energy, so the associated costs would rise to the sky.
Artificial Light for Plants in Propagation
For plants in propagation, you need a balanced mix of red and blue wavelength lights. So you need to combine the right amount of white light fluorescent tubes and incandescent light bulbs.
Blue wavelength improves flowers and foliage growth. On the other hand, red wavelength light helps roots to grow faster and stronger. Daylight light tubes provide both red and blue light for optimal root growth. So, these luminaires are the best for rooting cuttings.
To get the most out of artificial light and get the best results, it’s convenient to use growing tents. These are very useful for growing pot plants and bulbs.
Before the roots of the plants reach a 3-inch length, it is recommended to maintain a stable temperature of 48° C. Once the roots have grown enough, you can expose the pots to regular fluorescent lights. At this point, the temperature can be raised up to 55° C.
Some bulbs can survive with only fluorescent light. However, some plant species may need extra red wavelength light. For these cases, you can combine the action of two fluorescent tubes and one incandescent bulb to keep plants strong and healthy.
Replacement of Direct Sunlight
1. Compact Fluorescent Grow Lights
Also known as CFLs, these lights are great for growth and propagation purposes. They have a wider wavelength spectrum than HID lights, providing more beneficial effects to plants. To get the best results, these lights must be used in large numbers. Fluorescent lights of the 6500K spectrum are the best for plant growth.
On the other hand, for fruiting, flowering and root growth, 3000K fluorescent lights are better. So, you must use a different type of fluorescent light at each stage of plant growth.
2. LED Grow Lights Indoors Plants
LEDs use diodes to emit light. They’re very versatile and can be used as decorative lights. In addition, they consume less energy than other lighting options. They don’t generate heat and have a longer useful life.
However, LED lights are the most expensive in the market. So, you may need to invest some serious money on LED lights to start your own greenhouse at home. But, it’s possible that the price of these lights drops considerably with the discovery of new lighting technologies.
3. Metal Halide light
Metal Halide luminaires emit powerful light. A single luminaire is enough to provide the necessary lighting to a large area. Depending on the light color, they can be useful for growth, fruiting or flowering.
These luminaires use a mixture of mercury vapors and other metals to emit light. They have a long-lasting lifespan, which can vary between 6000-15000 hours.
4. High-pressure Sodium Grow Light
They emit a red wavelength light, ideal for flowering, fruiting and root growth. These luminaires use high-pressure sodium vapors to generate light. They emit a wider color spectrum in contrast with low-pressure sodium lights. Their light is also more intense.
Tips for Growing Plants Indoors with Artificial Light
As you can see, artificial lights can replace natural sunlight and provide so many beneficial effects to plants. They can help plants to grow faster and stronger. In addition, they can make them more resistant to survive in low-mineral soils.
However, using artificial lights on indoor gardening goes beyond just placing a light bulb near a pot plant. You must place the plants in the right place to make your home look aesthetic too. Follow certain guidelines to get the best results. Here are some of them:
- Red wavelength lights, such as incandescent bulbs, tend to emit so much heat. So, you must place them at a certain distance from the plants to not burn them. A safe distance of 3 feet is more than enough to provide optimum light and temperature.
- Blue wavelength lights, such as fluorescent tubes, are cold lights and can be placed at 10-12 inches without burning risks.
- To avoid considerable loss of light, it’s recommended to place mirrors under the plant. This way, the reflected light penetrates the plant’s foliage.
- Artificial lighting must be applied in controlled periods of 12-16 hours. The exposure time varies according to the type of plant.
- To obtain the perfect balance of blue and red wavelength light, it’s advisable to use one incandescent bulb per each two fluorescent tubes. Incandescent bulbs should be farther from the plant than fluorescent tubes.
- During the growth period, you must keep an optimum temperature of 48°-55° C.