Fluorescent Lights for Houseplants - Knowledgebase Question

Bruce, WI
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Question by block6
September 21, 1999
Is fluorescent lighting as good for plants as sunlight, and how much would average houseplants need?

Answer from NGA
September 21, 1999
Nothing beats sunlight! However, during the dark days of winter, or if you aren't lucky enough to have a sunny room, artificial lights will help your houseplants thrive. The important things when choosing a light source are that the bulb doesn't give off excessive heat, and that the quality of the light is as close as possible to sunlight -- that is, it covers the full spectrum.

Regular fluorescent lights are reasonably close to full spectrum, and are a good choice, especially if you are growing only foliage plants. Full spectrum grow lights provide a better quality light, and might be a better choice if you are growing flowering plants such as African violets. Avoid incandescent light bulbs -- they give off too much heat.

Because indoor lights aren't nearly as bright as sunlight, you need to be able to keep the lights 4-6 inches from the top of the plants, so you'll need to be able to raise and lower the lights as needed. Lights should be on 16 hours a day and turned off at night; putting them on a timer is helpful.

There's really no such thing as an "average" houseplant -- just like with outdoor plants, different houseplants have different needs. Some will tolerate very low light levels, while others need at least some direct sun.

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