Choosing the Best Indoor Lighting for Plants
Due to seasonal changes or lack of window space, it can be hard to provide enough light for your seedlings and houseplants. Use these pointers to choose the best indoor lighting for your plants.
Although great for growing low-light houseplants like vines, ferns or dracaenas, incandescent lights have limited capabilities when it comes to growing plants with higher light requirements. Incandescents only put out about 10 percent of their energy as light, with the remaining 90 percent being heat. Because of this, light-loving plants like cacti, succulents and many tropicals would be cooked before they get enough light.
Ideal for plants with low to medium light requirements (African violets or starter vegetables, for example), fluorescent lights come in a range of sizes with the narrower bulbs (T5) being more efficient and brighter. They use 75 percent less energy than incandescent lights, so a 25-watt fluorescent bulb emits about as much light as a 100-watt incandescent bulb.
Kelvin is a measurement that determines color temperature, measuring the whiteness of a light’s output. The higher the degree of Kelvin, the bluer or “cooler” a lamp appears, while the lower the degree of Kelvin, the redder or “warmer” it appears.
Light bulbs between 4000 and 6000 Kelvin are best for growing most houseplants, as the bulb’s color temperature is considered full spectrum — containing both warms and cools. These lights will actually mimic the growth you would get outdoors or in a greenhouse. Culinary herbs, starter plants, and houseplants that require a lot of light (such as orchids and succulents) perform very well under full-spectrum lights.
Compact Fluorescent Lights
Great for lighting indoor houseplants without the hassle of a full T5 fluorescent system set-up, compact fluorescents do the job well, and for a fraction of the cost of incandescent lights. Be aware that wattage varies, so it’s important to ask a specialist about the best options for your specific lighting needs. Phalaenopsis orchids and carnivorous plants do especially well under compact fluorescents.
Because they cover more distance in terms of lighting, halides are typically used on larger plants or in larger spaces. For the most part, you will not need a 1000-watt light, so you can get by with a smaller halide or fluorescent system.
While light is very important for plant growth and health, remember they need darkness too. Provide them with 12 to 18 hours of light per day, and then give them a break with a dark period.