Plants are phototropic in nature. Their growth is solely determined by the presence of light, whether natural or artificial. In today’s world, a modern and well designed housing apartment necessarily provides some sort of accommodation for keeping indoor plants. And in all such cases, lighting is the most important set-up that one has to take care of.
For, it depends upon the quality and quantity of light you provide that how much your indoor plants would grow and add to the aesthetics of your house.
Lights for Indoor Plants
Undoubtedly, there can be no better or cheaper alternative than sunlight for any growing plant; however indoor plants may not always have access to that perpetual source of light. Hence, you should be well equipped with a light source that is an adequate supplement of sunlight, both qualitatively and quantitatively.
Choosing the Right Bulb Color
Factually, plants absorb only the red and blue wavelength from a given spectrum of light and reflect the green part. So, before selecting a lamp for any indoor plant, you need to ensure that it offers the blue and red wavelengths adequately. To go about this, you may safely choose from the lamps that are labeled as “full spectrum”, “natural”, or “balanced”. It is the actual wavelengths a lamp provides to the plant, that determines its quality.
The lights that we are accustomed to using at our homes, like the incandescent lamp or the cool white tubes, do not serve this purpose. This is because, the incandescent lamps provide only red wavelength, while the cool white tubes provide only the blue wavelength to the plant. One may, however, choose to light both of them together so as to achieve a healthy and balanced lighting condition for the indoor plants. In order to procure the best results as far as the longevity of the incandescent and fluorescent lamps are concerned, they should be lit at a ratio of 3:1, so that 30 watts from the incandescent lamps may be complemented with 100 watts from the fluorescent.
Quantity of the Light
Take note of the quantity of light that your indoor plant needs. Generally, the fluorescent lights give off less heat, while the incandescent one may be so hot as to burn the leaf-edges! Thus, while on one hand, the fluorescent light may be placed within five to six inches of the plant, on the other; there should be a minimum distance of one foot between the plant and an incandescent lamp to ensure its healthy growth. And herein comes the necessity of fixtures. The market is filled with indoor plant fixtures that are aesthetically inclined.
But, if you have the resources to create your own, go ahead, for this will allow you to have a better control over the distance between your indoor plant and the light. Most convenient way is to attach it with adjustable chains, so that you may move the light source up or down as per the requirements. For, plants needing more light or for seedlings, fluorescent fixtures with four-tubes, or two two-tube fixtures may be opted for.
Moreover, while buying fluorescent lights, you may come across something called the “T” numbers on the pack. These numbers refer to the diameter of the tubes, which is basically eighths of an inch, of a tube. Thus, a T8 tube is eight eighths, or one inch in diameter. These numbers come handy in determining the quantity of light that you wish to provide to your indoor plants.
Knowing Your Plant’s Light Needs
Another essential factor in determining the quantity of light is to measure the amount of light you are providing and the amount your plants actually need. In order to measure the amount of light a lamp is emitting, it’s best to have a light meter. From the online garden stores or from a camera shop, you can lay hands on an inexpensive light meter to know how much light your lamps are providing. It should be noted here, that in case of growing plants, light is measured in foot-candles, which is “the amount of light given off by a candle one foot away.” And going by this, two T8 tubes will efficiently give off 700 foot-candles of light, as compared to 50 foot-candles provided by the reading lights.
According to this calculation, low light plants like Chinese Lily grow well in 50-250 foot candles, while medium light plants like African violets and flame violets need 250 to 1000. Plants which need more than 1000 foot-candles of light to grow are called high light plants, as for instance, Orchids.
Other Notable Aspects of Indoor Plant Lights That Need Attention
There are certain other things that one should take care of while initiating an indoor garden in his/her household, as for example, the use of reflectors. Reflectors may be used to make the most of your lights. At times, the light does not fall directly on the plants, even though they are adequate and well adjusted. In these cases you may add a reflector to direct the light rays to fall over your indoor plants in the desired angle, instead of readjusting your fixtures.
In order to grow your indoor plants successfully, you should also know about the recommended number of hours during which they need light. Normally, seedlings grow well if provided with 16 to 18 hours of light a day. For medium light plants, this may be reduced to 12-14 hours if the light source is a brighter one. Further, the temperature of your light should be ideally within 55 to 75 F, whether it’s a high light or a low light plant. Remember that all plant need hours of darkness too, so you need not keep your lamps burning for all the 24 hours.
However, it’s recommended that you should try to go for medium or low light plants, if you wish to grow a neat indoor garden with a few plants just to add to the beauty of your household. For, high light plants grow best in Sunlight; and require high intensity fixtures if grown indoors. Such lights may be seen in sports arenas and are highly expensive, well suited for serious hobbyists and commercial growers.
Maintenance of the Indoor Plant Lights
Maintenance is an aspect that most people tend to overlook or neglect while planting indoors. Remember that the amount of care and love for your indoor garden should not lessen after the initial set-up. Your indoor plants need to be provided with effective maintenance throughout. Apart from the replacement of the plant pots at regular intervals, and clearing away of dead leaves, cob-webs and so on, the lighting set-up also needs special attention from time to time.
Reportedly, the fluorescent lights tend to emit far lesser light toward the ends, even the new ones. Hence, you should always be on a careful watch so as to check immediately if its ends are growing darker. For, this would be a high time to go for a replacement. Alternatively, the incandescent lamps last only for around 1000 hours, while fluorescent ones may well last for 10,000 hours with ease. Keep a count of the number of hours your lamps are burning so as to be able to speculate the time for their replacement precisely.
Planting Indoors is Not a Big Deal!
So, now go ahead and paint your house green and that too, naturally! For, lighting up your indoor garden is no more a tough task to undertake. Interestingly, no matter how much care and attention they need, nothing feels like observing your seedlings grow into healthy plants. And for all you know, our environment needs more and more plants to survive and to enable us to survive.