Houseplants are popular indoor decorations. They are attractive and add joy to interiors, bringing with them a touch of nature.
Lack of adequate light is the most common factor which limits the growth of plants in many areas of the home. Also, the ideal location of a plant for decoration may not be the ideal spot for plant growth.
Here is good news for you- Artificial lighting allows plants to be grown indoors in nearly any setting (if adequately designed).
Supplementary electric lighting is usually the easiest and least expensive way to provide enough light for plants that do not receive adequate natural light. Grow lights have revolutionized the ability to grow abundant crops, fruits and even some vegetables indoors. What’s more, you can plant all year long.
In winters, the annual plants can thrive indoors under grow lights and it protects them from frosty temperatures outdoors.
How does artificial light help grow Indoor plants?
Honestly, there is not much difference between natural or artificial light to a plant. The lighting must successfully imitate the wavelength colors produced by the sun.
Just like plants growing outdoors in the sun, Indoor plants grow best under full-spectrum bulbs, which produce a balance of cool and warm lights that replicates the natural solar system.
The red and blue wavelength of the light spectrum is the most important energy sources for plants. The red light wavelength is needed for fruits and flowers whereas the blue light is needed for foliage.
The conventional lights lamp lights used in the home are not growing lights. They produce an abundance of visual light but none of the red and blue wavelengths of the sun.
The lack of spectra wavelengths makes the lamps used within the house for general purpose lighting useless as grow lights.
It is very important, therefore, to use a grow light to achieve the same plant growth results as the sun when increasing flora indoors.
Growth lights are full-spectrum lights having assorted color spectrums needed for greatest growth.
Apart from red and blue wavelengths, plants need multiple wavelengths to meet its photosynthesis goals. They even use tiny amounts of green and yellow wavelengths to achieve perfect growth.
Another benefit of full-spectrum grows lights is that they are cool so can be placed close to the plants.
Plants are the only organisms able to use the energy from light to produce sugars, starches and other substances needed by them as well as by other living organisms.
When light hits plant leaves, chlorophyll is energized. Chlorophyll, along with water and carbon dioxide produces glucose. In essence, plants feed themselves.
Types of an indoor lighting system
There are three main types of lights commonly used
They are very efficient in producing full-spectrum light. They are better for the environment and also for your wallet. They use half the electricity and last five times longer.
Being energy-efficient and producing low heat, they are the top choice for growing plants. They have a superior range of color spectrum and can be plugged directly into an outlet. Because LED technology is so customizable, every bulb is different.
Make sure your LED is specifically designed for plant growth and not the one for general use. The ones specifically designed will have all the necessary wavelengths required for plant growth.
LED grow lights rely on light-emitting diodes to create lighting. Most modern LEDs also have tiny reflectors that are engineered into the light to amplify the rays.
They are an easy and economical choice for growing plants. They produce full-spectrum light and come in tubes or compact bulbs (CFL) that get screwed into regular sockets.
They are cool enough to put close to the plants. Being inexpensive and having a long life, they are very popularly used to grow plants.
They emit enough light to cover a large area. They are about two and a half times more efficient in converting electrical energy into light energy than other incandescent sources.
They are available in many sizes and shapes. Straight tubes in 2,4,8 foot lengths are used most frequently. Compact fluorescent bulbs are a good option for small spaces.
They are a bit weak in light intensity and must be placed closer to the plant to have a good effect.
HID Grow Lights
Before the advent of LED lights, they were the main option for indoor planting. They are extremely powerful.
They are expensive to purchase. They also consume a lot of electricity and need special light fixtures. There are two types of HID bulbs. High-pressure sodium bulbs are best for flowering ( low spectrum) while metal halide (MH) bulbs are required to support vegetative growth ( high spectrum).
The two types are often used in conjugation. Each type requires its own fixture.
They give a high-intensity discharge that is favoured by many growers producing excellent lumens per watt.
The cons being that they are extremely hot and can easily burn the plant as they give out a lot of heat. They also increase the temperature of the room.
They require additional components like ballasts and reflectors.
Light intensity and distance of plant from the light source
The intensity of light a plant receives is determined by the brightness of the bulb and how close the plant is to the light source. Plants differ in their need for light intensity.
For plants that require lower light conditions, regular room lighting and natural light through windows may be sufficient.
Compact fluorescent and LED full spectrum plant light bulbs designed to fit standard fixtures can provide supplemental lights to plants needing a medium to high light conditions.
A fixture containing two fluorescent tubes is sufficient for plants in the low to the medium-light range. Fixture containing three to four fluorescent tubes is sufficient for those requiring high light intensities.
Calculating wattage per square foot of growing area is an easy way to estimate the number of bulbs required. You need is to multiply the square footage of your growing area by the number of watts you plan to provide ( between 30 and 50); then divide the number of watts as small bulbs.
The intensity of the light drops as the distance increases. The ideal location should be 8-12 inches from the plant tips. The higher the wattage, the further the distance can be between the plant and light source.
Certain flowering houseplants are happy being 10-12 inches away from a light source. Foliage houseplants can be placed as much as 36 inches away from a light source.
Some of the basic parameters are 3-12 inches for fluorescent grow lights, 12-24 inches for LED grow lights and 24-60 inches for HID grow lights.
No matter what types of plants you are growing indoors, you must give them some rest. When it is dark, the plants respirate, which is an important part of plant growth.
Plants are usually divided into three categories relating to their preferred day length: short day, long day or day-neutral.
Short day plants like begonias will thrive in less than 12 hours per day. Short day plants must usually go through a series of even shorter days before they set buds and flower.
Long day plants require 14-16 hours of light each day. When they don’t get enough light, they become leggy and pale.
Day-neutral plants like African violets are usually satisfied with 8-12 hours of light all year round.
Minimum of 6 hours of darkness is essential to the plants.
Tips for growing plants in artificial light
- Use a light rack which can be raised with the help of a pulley system or metal chain to increase and adjust the light rack as the plants grow.
- Use a timer or plug your lights into a built-in timer to ensure they get a proper amount of light and that they get it the same time each day. The light should be turned off regularly and consistently. Use a grounded adapted when connecting an electric cord with a timer. The use of water around the plants makes grounding electrical fixtures important. 24 hours timer available from electrical supply houses is adequate.
- If your chosen lights increase the temperature of the growing area, install a ventilation system to prevent heat stress.
- Reflectors and reflecting surfaces can maximize the available light. You can use bulbs with self-contained reflectors or place reflecting surfaces underneath the pot. A good reflecting surface can be aluminum foil or a mirror.
- Space plants far enough to allow light between them. Arrange plants so they do not shade each other
- For light to reach the bottom of tall plants, supplement with few spotlights around the base of the plant directed on the lower leaves. You can also use fluorescent tubes in a vertical position to provide side lighting from the top to the bottom of a plant.
- When the plant is not getting sufficient light, it will tell you. Show you, to be more precise. Some of the signs of insufficient light are the pale color of stems and leaves, leggy appearance, long internodes ( length of stem between two leaves), smaller than normal leaves, lower leaves that are yellow and dropping.
- Keep a thermometer to avoid overheating the room. The first sign of overheating is curling of leaves.
Grow lights have revolutionised plant cultivation. You can grow your favorite plants and even some fruits and vegetables within your home using artificial lights.
It has been found in many cases that plants grow far better in an indoor grow room with lighting than outdoors at the mercy of nature. Especially in winters. Growing plants under indoor lights can also be quite fun. An easy way to start is with African violets.
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