Are you looking to grow plants indoor? Every growth phase requires light, be it for sprouting, flowering, fruiting, etc. How to make sure if your plants get all the light throughout their growth cycle? Installing a solarium or having a greenhouse attached to your home can sure burn a hole in your pockets. Having south-facing windows can be of help. However, not every house is designed, keeping in mind indoor gardening requirements.
What if you just got up this morning with this new idea of growing plants indoors? Don’t worry about the lighting part; you just landed at the right “What kind of light bulb do I need to grow plants indoors” is an attempt to help light up your indoor gardening project not only for the beauty of it but also to help it grow better. Discover some of the energy-efficient ways to get artificial lighting to your indoor vegetation.
Time for a little trivia – Andrei Famintsyn, a Russian Botanist was the first person to use artificial lighting for growing plants.
Color Spectrum – An Important Consideration While Buying Grow Lights
Even before we explore in detail the different types of lighting options for indoor plants, it is worth understanding what the color spectrum is all about and why it is important.
Color spectrum refers to the light quality based on a wavelength which is measures in nanometers(nm). Plants can detect wavelengths anywhere from 380 to 720 nm. You can recreate the outdoors heat and light conditions by varying the intensity of the lights. While all of us know that light is required for the food-making process in plants called photosynthesis, botanists believe the process also involves a lot of other chemical reactions with light which is still being researched.
Light spectrum affects nutrition, root development, general health, flowering, fruiting, and the growth pace of plants. So, you will have to choose the ideal ones based on your gardening requirements.
The spectrum of light you need for each growth phase can be different. For instance, if you are beginning to grow seedlings or grow leafy vegetables, then you will need high spectrum bulbs. On the other hand, if you plan to have flowering plants, fruiting plants like tomatoes, lemon, pepper, etc. you will need the full spectrum bulbs.
Three Main Types of Grow Lights for Indoor Gardening
You can choose from a variety of grow lights available in the market, which mainly falls under three broad categories such as Fluorescent Grow lights, LED grow lights, and HID Grow lights.
Fluorescent Lamps for Indoor Plants
The usual fluorescent lamps we use for household lighting can be used to provide a decent amount of light for your plants indoor. These lights are if the moderate-intensity and should be used as a supplement to natural light. You should also remember to have the vegetation within a few inches from the lamps to ensure adequate light absorption.
Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) with a T5 denotation is ideal for small spaces as it provides for higher light intensity for all the sun-loving plants. It also manages to provide UV light that provides for healthier plants and higher yield. These lights can fit into a standard socket. CFL lights are just the thing your flowering plants will love.
Not so bright side of CFL
LED Grow lights
Want to give the other sun to your indoor plants? Then consider installing specialized LED grow lights. Ordinary LED (Light Emitting Diodes) lights that you get for your household lighting or decorating needs may not be ideal for plant growth. You will need ones that are specially made for indoor plant growth. You will find a variety of these lamps with advanced lighting technology from horticultural suppliers.
These lights can provide full-spectrum lighting of about 380 nm to 800 nm, which is required for all the phases of plant growth, starting from seeding, germination to flowering. While LED lamps are sure an expensive option when compared to CFL, they use lesser electricity and also last longer than the CFL ones.
LED lamps are ideal for indoor vegetation that requires higher light intensity per square foot. They also tend to produce comparatively less heat, which makes it a perfect choice for lighting.
These are not only energy-efficient and cost-saving but also eco-friendly in the way that they do not contain harmful elements such as Mercury.
I could only think of the initial cost of the LED as a drawback, which is compensated by reduced electricity consumption and longer life. So, the price is not a big drawback.
High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Grow lights
These lights were commonly used to light up large indoor plantings. Specialized HID grows lights come with highly reflective panes to provide for uniform and efficient distribution of light. HID bulbs are quite powerful and expensive. It also needs unique fixtures for set up and can produce a lot of heat. However, they are quite popular among indoor gardening enthusiasts when it comes to growing large plants such as tomatoes, lemons, etc. They are more effective than the previous two options because the light from these bulbs can penetrate across a larger area.
These high-intensity bulbs come in two different varieties; High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) bulbs and Metal Halide (MH) bulbs.
HPS is ideal for supporting the growth of flowering plants as it produces low spectrum light. The MH bulbs are best for growing large fruiting plants as it gives high spectrum light. More often than not, you will find these two types of lights are used in conjunction to provide indoor plants the ideal lighting.
It is no doubt an expensive option considering the cost and energy consumption. However, for large indoor vegetation, these lights can prove to be an effective way of lighting.
Now that we know of the different types of lighting options at our disposal, let us learn more about how to set up the lighting equipment, the right timing or duration of lighting, and other crucial details for having a successful indoor grow light system.
Installing Grow Lights
Installation specifics can vary based on the type of lighting system you choose, the total area, and the type of vegetation you are planning to grow indoors. However, below we have discussed a few common considerations you will need to think of before setting up the lighting.
Identify how much area of foliage requires lighting
This will decide how may blub you will need to ensure lighting is uniform. As mentioned earlier, each plant may have different lighting requirements. If you were to have edible plants such as salad greens, leafy veggies, etc. you will have to provide at least 30 watts light for every square foot. Fruiting plants will require a minimum of 40 to 50 watts of lights per square foot to ensure high yield. Today this might not be a worry as you get to pre-designed grow light systems that can be installed by following the simple instruction on the pack.
You will have to need a way to support the lights over the vegetation and at correct heights to ensure plants get adequate lighting. You can follow the efficient pulley system of hanging the lights to provide the easy adjustability of the bulbs as the vegetation grows taller.
You will need a timer to make sure the plants get light for an adequate amount of time and at the regular time of the day. Standard lamp timers are available in the market to help you with the timing. You might also want to ensure proper ventilation in the room as the lighting to manage the heat emitting from the bulbs.
What Is the Right Intensity of Light Plants Should Receive?
This depends on the type of plants, the brightness of the grow lights used, and the proximity of the plant to the light. Plants that are natives to tropical regions and dense forest areas may require light intensity. Whereas plants that are grown in areas if sunny climate and arid regions may require high-intensity lighting.
Most flowering plants love to be around 10 to 12 inches away from the light source. Foliage vegetation such as philodendron, ivy, etc. can be kept at a distance of 36 inches from the light.
Citrus plants, orchids, gardenias, and most vegetable and fruit-bearing plants need high-density lighting to give a bountiful yield.
Duration of lighting
Plants also need rest after a long day’s work of making food for themselves. So, allow time for them to rest like how mother nature does. They need lights off at the time when they are resting. When they are in the dark, plants respirate, which is crucial for their growth. This is especially important for its overall growth, budding, fruiting, etc. Identifying the category of plants will help them get adequate amounts of light and rest. Botanists have categorized plants into Short-day plants, Long-day plants, and Day-Neutral plants.
Short Day plants – that grow well even with less than 12 hours of light. Chrysanthemums, Begonias are some of the short-day plants that do not require more than 12 hours of light for their growth, budding, and flowering.
Long Day plants – These will need 14 to 18 hours of light every day. Most vegetables and flowering plants fall under this category.
Day-neutral plants – foliage plants, African violets, Coleus require 8 to 12 hours of light per day.
Remember that plants that grow indoors will need more light than the ones that grow outside. That being said, it is not advisable to leave the lights on throughout (24/7). A good rule of thumb is to leave the plants in the dark at least for 6 hours every day.
This video will give you more insight on how to use the grow lights effectively.
What Can You Grow with Grow Lights?
You can just about grow anything with grow lights provided you have space. Do not try planting trees. You can initially start with seed germination and growing some light-loving house plants. Slowly you could introduce flowering plants, salad vegetable plants, orchids, and fruiting plants. You could also try planting essential herbs that may be required to spice up your kitchen.
My Favorite Grow Lights
Out of all the three we discussed, I like the LED grow lights like most indoor garden enthusiasts owing to its cost efficiency and the many benefits it provides. You can find these in a multitude of designs and patterns suitable for any type of area. It can easily fit into the indoor spaces and come with all the required accessories for set up. Highly energy efficient and runs for a long time. They provide full-spectrum light, which is ideal for most vegetation. LED lights also produce very little heat, and hence it is suitable for the smallest spaces. I can also save up costs relating to ventilation if I have LED grow lights to feed my plants indoor.
Now that we have learnt the many ways we can feed our plants with the essential component it requires for survival, it is worth we brush up on the essential points.
These are pieces of advice we have put together from experienced and avid gardeners. Hope this article helps your start your indoor kitchen garden. Let us know your indoor garden experiences by commenting below.