Indoor plants require artificial light during those dreary days and months when there isn’t enough sunlight coming in through the windows to sustain the plants. Grow lights are the best alternative to the natural light the sun provides. Let’s quickly explore what indoor gardening is.
A Brief Guide to Indoor Gardens
Houseplants used to be one or two baskets resting on a windowsill. In recent years, the practice of indoor gardens has become immensely popular. Planting and maintaining a garden indoors is the perfect solution if you live in a climate with cold winters where the ground freezes and plants can’t survive outside.
You don’t need a huge house for an indoor garden. They can fit in the smallest apartments, as long as you have the proper equipment to care for the garden. One vital tool for ensuring your indoor plants thrive is the grow light. As the name suggests, it is a light placed directly over the plants for a certain number of hours every day to provide the plant with the nutrients it would typically get from sunlight.
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How is Artificial Light Different from Sunlight?
The light emitted by the sun includes all ends of the color spectrum, but the blue light of daylight is the optimal light for photosynthesis to occur. Photosynthesis is, of course, the method of plants absorbing the carbon dioxide produced by light and turning it into plant food, which in turn produces the oxygen we need to survive.
Light is necessary for photosynthesis to occur and there isn’t enough of it in the short winter days to keep plants healthy and growing. That’s where artificial light comes in. While artificial light isn’t an exact replica of the natural light of the sun, it is close enough to give a plant the nutrients it needs to grow and blossom indoors.
Types of Grow Lights
There are four main types of artificial light for indoor gardening – incandescent bulbs, fluorescent lights, halides, and light emitting diode (LED) lights. Here is a small breakdown of each type and how they work with indoor plants:
Incandescent lights give off more heat than light. They are typically used for vines and ferns. These lights work best when paired with the natural light in a sunny room, and the plants should be kept two-feet away from the incandescent light source to avoid cooking the plants.
Fluorescent lights are most often used with vegetables and houseplants, such as African Violets. It is the most popular type of grow light with indoor gardeners because of its versatility and low price. Fluorescent lights provide heat and light but don’t get as hot as the incandescent bulbs.
Halides are generally used to light large indoor gardens or larger plants. This is because their light is more efficient (and expensive) than the other types of grow lights. Halide lights come the closest to manufacturing all the colors on the light spectrum as the sun does. However, they still lack a significant amount of red light and are therefore used as a supplement to natural sunlight.
LED lights are a relatively new option when it comes to grow lights for indoor gardening. This type of light is a great option because it doesn’t require much power to operate and can closely simulate the light given off by the sun. LED lights are the most expensive for now because the technology is still being developed.
Features to Look for in Grow Lights
There are two features that are important to look for when choosing a grow light. The first feature is wattage. The type of grow light dictates how many watts you need in a bulb. Some grow lights, such as incandescent, come in high watts. Whereas halide bulbs are lower in wattage but have a higher distance, the light can reach.
Some of the newer models of grow lights have built-in timers that automatically shut the grow light off after a pre-set amount of time has passed. This is a great feature to have because while plants can grow in continuous light, they are shown to grow better when they have a few hours of darkness. The timers are also more efficient for your energy bill and your time. If you work outside of the home, it might not be feasible for you to be available to turn the light on and off at a certain time every day.
Plants typically need between 12 and 16 hours of light – daylight or artificial light – every day. This ensures that they have the nutrients needed to grow and bloom.