As humans, we are able to generate energy from the food we consume, plants, on the other hand, need light to do so. Through the process of photosynthesis, plants are able to create energy from light sources. Without light, plants will not be able to produce the energy it needs to develop and grow.
Yes, ordinary lamps with regular bulbs are enough for a small beginner stage home garden. They do not emit a full spectrum of light but they are still able to get the job done. These light sources are more affordable than special growth lamps and are a great way of starting out with a few plants
How Much Light Does Your Plant Need?
As mentioned, light is essential for the plants to create energy. The amount of light produced by a specific bulb varies which is why experts have developed special grow lights to aid in your plant’s growth, but because these lights are a bit more expensive, new hobbyists would prefer to dabble with normal lamps.
Ideally, the amount of light your plant would need is highly dependent on its type. Most indoor plants would not need direct sunlight but, would need a bit of exposure just to be able to produce food for their growth. Common indoor plants would need at least 4 to 8 hours of light, to be healthy, which is why it is ideal to keep your plants by the window sill or in a place where light is easily accessible. If not, here is where you can opt to use artificial light sources.
- Low Light Plants
Most indoor plants are within this category and they should have at least 10 to 15 watts of artificial light per square foot of growing space. Low lit plants would do just fine with the daylight they receive from windows. Snake plant is an example of a low light plant
- Medium Light Plants
The plants under this category would need at least 15 to 20 watts of artificial light per square foot of growing space to thrive. If your plants are within this category, it would be best to expose them to direct sunlight for a couple of hours a day. Bird of Paradise is an attractive medium light plant.
- High Light Plants
These plants are definitely not recommended for indoor gardens. They are not as receptive to artificial lighting and would require the use of high-intensity lamps in order to survive indoors. Approximately 20 watts and above is the idea wattage for these kinds of plants. Aloe Vera plants like these, are examples of plants that like high light.
Important Color Wavelengths for Plants
Sunlight holds all the entire color spectrum, which is why some plants truly thrive outdoors. For indoor plants, however, it would just need the bare essentials to vegetate and bloom. There are particular wavelengths of light that are essential to the plant’s development and some that are not.
Outdoor plants do not have an issue with this because the sun’s light contains all the colors of the spectrum. However, for artificial lighting, experts tend to use blue and red lights that help the growth of foliage, fruits, and flowers. Using ordinary bulbs will not be able to bring out the potential of your plant since the spectrum of light isn’t as specific.
- Blue Wavelength
Best for foliage and vegetation growth.
- Red Wavelength
Best for flowering and fruit-bearing plants.
Non-essential colors are greens and yellows. Plants have little or absolutely no use for them, and reflects them back due to the chlorophyll in the leaves.
Type of Artificial Lights
For regular houseplants, using any kind of lamp or light fixture will be enough to help it grow. If you don’t want to spend more on horticulture grow lamps here are some of the most commonly used bulb types you may want to look into:
These bulbs are commonly found in homes and are used in reading or desk lamps. They are quite affordable upfront, however, they are expensive to use. Incandescent bulbs convert more electricity to heat than light, which in turn increases your consumption of electricity. This type of bulb is also not advisable to use close range because of the heat it emits, but if you do end up using it make sure it’s not too close to burn your plant.
These bulbs are the most economical, experts have deemed them as the best choice for the job. They can stay cool enough to be placed at close range. A generic fluorescent bulb in “cool white” has a higher blue wavelength which makes it perfect for herbs and leafy plants, while the “warm white” bulb would be great for cacti or flowering plants.
Based on electrical consumption LED lights are the most efficient. However, they may not be as efficient in terms of growth. Ordinary LED lights do not produce the exact amount of red and blue wavelengths your plant may need. If you really want to use LED lights, you would need to get horticulture LED grow lights.
How Can I Maximize the Use of Artificial Light?
If you do have more than three plants, you would probably think of purchasing more lamps to compensate for the lighting needs of your entire garden. To maximize the use of the existing lamp, you can simply add reflectors or reflective surfaces around the area to bounce off the light and distribute it among the rest of your garden’s population.
Reflectors can be placed around the area your plants are in, they can increase the effectiveness of the bulb in place reducing the need to add more lights. They come in a variety of materials such as:
A polyester fiber that is lined with a foil laminate that is easy to maintain and resistant to wear and tear. It may be quite expensive, but definitely more cost-effective in the long run.
It is a reflective polyester film that is not as tough as the Foylon but is quite durable for its price range.
- Elastomer Paint
This coating is great for grow boxes. It is rubberized roofing paint capable of 90 percent reflection and mildew resistant making it low maintenance.
- White/Black Poly
This material is highly portable and is great for temporary setups. It is easy to clean but not resistant to heat, so if you are using incandescent or halogen lamps it would be best not to use this material.
One thing you shouldn’t use is mirrors. Mirrors absorb the light rather than reflect it, the light that is somehow reflected by the mirror is already devoid of essential wavelengths your plant would need. Remember, our goal is to maximize the red and blue wavelengths in order for your plant to grow and flourish.
How To Know if a Plant is Getting Enough Light?
Light helps the plant grow and develop, when your plant does not grow or develop well, the cause will definitely be environmental. By checking the growth pattern of your plant you will be able to identify the problem at hand. When the plant is not getting enough light here are some of the issues you may notice:
- Long Internodes
- Small Leaves
- Pale Foliage
- Dropping Leaves
- Curling Leaves
If you have noticed these problems in your plant, chances are that there is insufficient light.
How to Position The Lamps
The ideal position of the lamps are overhead this ensures that most of the plants within a specific area are covered by the light source. They should be placed at least 6 to 12 inches away from the light source to be sure that heat stress will not affect their development.
Small Garden with Few Plants
If you have a few plants in a certain space, astanding lamp with a moveable goose-neck design would do great. You can also opt to use a desk lamp of the same design.
For plants that are taller, it would be more efficient to light from the base going up. However, this would mean getting more light fixtures if you have quite a few plants. Using a vertically installed fluorescent light fixture can definitely work better in this scenario.
For specific groups of grow boxes, an overhead hanging fixture would be more beneficial, and by using reflective techniques, you can maximize the usage of the light emitted by one unit to benefit the entire lot of plants that you have.
You can make the lighting system more efficient by installing a timer to run the light according to your plant’s needs, this eliminates the daunting task of having to switch the lights on and off every time. It can easily be purchased at any electrical supply store and are quite easy to install.
At the end of the day, you would just want to do what is best for your home garden. By choosing the right plant for your lifestyle and environment is definitely the deciding factor in the success of this hobby. Thanks to innovations in horticulture lighting, you would be able to improve your plant’s environment and ensure its healthy growth.