Cactus and Succulents forum→Artificial light for cacti and other succulents

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Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator
Sep 23, 2020 5:26 PM CST


The purpose of this thread is to share strategies for keeping succulents well-lit indoors using artificial light. I would like to ask everyone to please stay on topic so this can be the most useful resource.

It would be ideal if long-time growers spoke up, because you have the years and experience to know what really works. I would like to make this thread a sticky so that it can be consulted by other folks who may be new to the forum.

Please tell us what specific lights work for you, and what about them makes them useful. Also please share any particular details about timing or setup that you feel are important.

I have no personal experience with artificial light, but I know there are a few regulars on this forum who have had good results with it. Hopefully this thread will provide newcomers with a few different perspectives, and maybe it will mean we don't have to answer the same question several times in different threads.

Thank You!
Name: Bill
Wildwood, Georgia (Zone 7b)
Cactus and Succulents Houseplants Region: Georgia
Sep 23, 2020 5:47 PM CST
Reposting my earlier post on a different thread

What I have been using since May is the Agrobrite 4 bulb system

I also have a 85watt CLF on each end

It seems to be doing a great job - I have 2 of these set up (1 in an east facing window and the other in a south facing window) the succulents are responding better than the cactus, but the cacti are still doing good. I found one of the shelves I am using at Walmart (5 tier metal shelf). I angle the light so that it shines more inward towards the window because I still utilize the windowsill. These lights are very bright so close to the end of the day especially in the winter your house will look like a spaceship has just landed and keep in mind if you use them in a bedroom, well it may be hard to sleep if you plan on taking a nap during the day.

Thumb of 2020-09-23/bwbillh/40cae2
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The light from the sun is stronger from the east during the spring/summer and stronger from the south durning fall/winter so my plan also is to move the cacti to the window during the strongest sunlight along with having theses lights to supplement.

I keep an oscillating fan on the plants during the times the light is on because the temps can raise a few degrees higher than my house temps. I keep my house at 78 degrees in the summer and the temps under the lights are around 80 to 85 depending on how much sunlight is coming in.

I also use timers on the lights. The timers slowly lose time on when to start and stop but the length of time stays the same - I currently keep mine on for 10 hours.

And i use these thermometers -

I am still a beginner myself on collecting cacti and succulents so my set-up is what I am learning from and may change with time - but its working right now.


[Links fixed by moderator]
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Sep 24, 2020 10:15 AM (+)]
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Name: Steve
SE PA (Zone 7a)
Cat Lover Garden Photography Cactus and Succulents Bromeliad
Sep 25, 2020 7:13 PM CST
In the mid to late 1990's I started to get into growing Carnivorous plants.
I build a small table in front of a south facing sliding glass door to grow my plants on.
With the wife's permission, I also placed hooks into the ceiling to hang hanging baskets in front of the sliding glass door. The plants in this location only receive natural sunlight. I have no artificial lighting on these plants.

Thumb of 2020-09-26/elgecko/fa30e2

In the early 2000's when my collection of carnivorous plants really expanded and I needed more room to grow plants. I built stands to hold 10 gallon fish tanks to place plants in.

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I used 2 bulb T-8 fixtures with 1 warm & 1 cool florescent bulb for lighting on each tank.
Most plants grew good under this lighting.
After one or 2 years growing plants with artificial lighting in the tanks, I really took notice to the growing cycles of my plants.
Plants growing at the south facing sliding glass door, receiving natural sunlight, had different growth cycles compared to plants in the tanks with no change in duration of the photoperiod.
This is when I started to experiment with the photoperiod of my artificial lighting.
I came up with a schedule and followed it for years;

January - 12hrs (program 5) 7-7
February - 12 1/2hrs (4) 7-7:30
March - 13hrs (3) 7-8
April - 13 1/2hrs (2) 7-8:30
May - August - 14 hrs (1) 7-9
September - 13 1/2hrs (2) 7-8:30
October - 13hrs (3) 7-8
November - 12 1/2hrs (4) 7-7:30
December - 12hrs (5) 7-7

I do admit the last 5 or so years I have not changed my photoperiod. I'm starting again now, reducing my photoperiod for my plants.

Now back to lighting.
As better bulbs came, I started to use T-8 Flora Sun bulbs in the fixtures.
Plants responded better to these bulbs over the standard cool & warm tubes.

As technology changed, I tried other lighting systems as well. I had a tank or 2 with T5 fixtures, using the Flora Sun Bulbs and some Current USA fixtures using compact fluorescent Sunpaq Dual Daylight; 10,000k & 6,700k bulbs.
I had very good growth with these lights.

Now it has only been 3 years since I changed most of my collection from CP's to cactus and succulents, mainly Haworthias. Going into my 3rd winter, so I'm pretty new with these plants.
A few years ago I stopped breeding Leopard Geckos and converted my 40 gallon breeder fish tank to you guessed it, keeping more plants. LOL

Again technology advances and what I have on all my tanks now, are Current USA Freshwater LED Plus Light fixtures. I have 1 fixture on each 10 gallon tank, and 2 fixtures on my 40 gallon breeder tank.

Since Haworthias do not grow tall, something a year or 2 ago I did was to raise my plants up closer to the lights with ceramic tile.

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I have noticed some plants show better coloration from natural sunlight verses the artificial lighting.
Here's a good example. I was growing this plant in the south facing window. The 40 gallon tank is my main Haworthia collection, so I moved the plant into this tank.

Thumb of 2020-09-26/elgecko/dde0bd

As you can see the plant getting natural sunlight has some beautiful color to it.

Now these Current USA Freshwater LED Plus Light fixtures do have the ability to adjust the color spectrum. I've never experimented with changing them other then what I believe is the natural sunlight color setting.
This may be something I play with in the future experimenting in a more blue or red spectrum to see if plants will color up more.

Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
Sep 25, 2020 10:43 PM CST
If plants only lived in the shade, there wouldn't be so much sunshine in the world and there's nothing that needs more sunshine than a cactus. Whatever lights you eventually choose, make sure they're full spectrum (no funny colors - the plants will sort it out) and rated to 6000k to 6500k or 2000 lumens per square foot or .... Brighter the better. After you choose, buy twice as many lights as you think you need.

Only the plants directly below the lights will get the full benefit of all those Lumens and Kelvins. The plants on the edges of the light are in the shade. So if you have a spotlight, you may have enough sun for one plant. If you have a 4 ft tube light, you have enough sun for a 4 ft long, single wide row of plants. You can use that to your advantage if you are growing plants with different light needs: full sun plants directly under the lights and succulents or other lower light plants on the edges. You will have to raise or lower the lights (or plants) to get the most benefit. You can judge the effectiveness of your lights by holding your hand under the lights. Watch how sharp a shadow your hand casts as you move it closer to and farther from the lights. Full sun casts a sharp shadow.

So about those funny colors.... If plants only needed red and blue, the sun would be purple. The sun is white, its shining in all the colors of the specturm. Earth plants have evolved under our Sun - they use ALL the colors of the spectrum.

Sunlight is just another needed nutrient, like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. But instead of minerals, these nutrients are colors. Plants do use more red and blue than other colors just as they use more N, K and P than other minerals. But that doesn't mean plants can live without the other colors anymore than they can live without calcium or magnesium or iron. Plants even use some green, although we have all heard forever about plants reflecting green so don't use any.

Cactus need an amazing amount of light to be happy, succulents are easier under lights. But with enough lights you can grow anything.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
[Last edited by DaisyI - Sep 25, 2020 10:46 PM (+)]
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Name: Thijs van Soest
Tempe, AZ (Zone 9b)
Region: Arizona Enjoys or suffers hot summers Cactus and Succulents Xeriscape Adeniums Hybridizer
Plant Identifier Plant and/or Seed Trader Cat Lover Dog Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Sep 25, 2020 11:58 PM CST
I think there are a lot cannabis growers who would disagree with you, Daisy, about the grow lights that have more emitters in the red and blue spectrum than compared to the full spectrum or other wavelengths, not being useful/better for plants.

You make the point yourself to some extent: it is a fact that wavelengths in the 425-450 nm (blue) and in the 600-700 nm (orange-red) are most efficiently used for the major aspects of photosynthesis by plants, that does not mean that the remaining wavelengths are useless and therefore not necessary, but what you see with a lot of the LED grow lights is that they have a larger number of red and blue emitters than full spectrum emitters. I have a couple of LED grow light bars where for every full spectrum emitter it has 2 blue emitters and 3 red emitters giving the overall light coming from them a blue-ish-red glow which, if I would have it on it the daily living spaces of the house, would be irritating and tiring for the eyes, though the plants certainly would not mind.

I think how you should express the warning about red/blue wavelength grow lights is that you should never get a light that is just red or blue emitters, but getting a light bulb/bar that favors red and blue over full spectrum to some extent certainly is not bad for the plants, especially if that is to some extent supplemented by natural light. In the same way that some fertilizers come with more of a specific nutrient over another because it is known to be slightly more important or needed in higher concentration.
It is what it is!
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
Sep 26, 2020 12:07 AM CST
Isn't that what I did say? Confused Ok, I see what you are saying....

Let me qualify: For those who might like sitting around in the purple sun, just make sure you have some full spectrum white light (natural or otherwise) in there too.

The reason strictly red/blue works for pot farmers is they only expect their crop to survive a few months, not years. The red/blue-only does encourage optimum growth but, eventually the lesser light colors are needed to sustain the life of the plant. But it takes a lot of light. Indoor growers were busted in the past because the phenomenal growth of the plants was only equaled by the phenomenal electric bill. The electric company turned them in. Rolling on the floor laughing
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
[Last edited by DaisyI - Sep 26, 2020 1:07 AM (+)]
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Name: Alice
Fort Worth (Zone 8a)
Sep 26, 2020 7:34 AM CST
Since I live in Texas, my problem this summer was too MUCH light and I had to bring succulents and semps in to keep them from cooking, since I had people telling me not to water them and they were dying for lack of water and too much heat. I lost a few more indoors, the one that fell off the shelf is touch and go. I stuck them in front of a south window with a dual T5 full spectrum (48 inch) aquarium bulb, and they a got a bit leggy but most made it thru the summer and are back outdoors now. I will eventually learn to balance water and sun, my soil mix is grainier, i have little baby echeverias from the dropped leaves, and whoever lives is fine. Since my life cannot revolve around succulents I'm going to be sensible and not buy more.
Zone 5
Sep 26, 2020 9:24 AM CST
I always added additional full spectrum lights for my succulents along south windows in winter. This year, I am thinking about adding aluminium baking sheets on the bottom of the shelve. Just an experiment I am thinking about. My location is Toronto, Canada.
[Last edited by Charlinex - Sep 26, 2020 9:25 AM (+)]
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Name: Alice
Fort Worth (Zone 8a)
Sep 26, 2020 10:05 AM CST
My location is North Texas, and I do have a greenhouse with some artificial light available in it. so I think I will put a rat cage around the succulents (why last winter's came in the house to die), and hang a light fairly low over the succulents on the south facing greenhouse shelf. If we have a real bad winter I'll have to pull them away from the windows to keep from freezing, but usually it does ok. I had to go to a solid roof after 2 hail storms, so there is no vertical sunlight.

That or I can bring them in like I did this summer and maybe lower the light. once I finish the bathroom redecorate and put my tropicals back in the bathroom, the light can go down and the succulents will be happier.
Name: Steve
Stoke-on-Trent, UK
Region: United Kingdom Deer Birds Sedums Irises Lilies
Vegetable Grower Frogs and Toads Greenhouse Region: Europe Bromeliad Garden Procrastinator
Oct 25, 2020 4:00 PM CST
Ok i want to set up a led light rack for the winter.

I recently read a article in the BCSS journal whereby a guy seemed to have some success growing echeveria under 6500K white bulbs. I found the LEDS he was using and the price wasn't too bad. I was all set to go...and then i read this article

It seemed to suggest that the warm white LED 's 4000k might in fact have more of the red light needed for growth? I plan on fitting two bulbs per shelf..shall i get one 6500K and one 4000K (cool and warm white) to give a mixed spectrum? I don't want to go down the blue/ purple light route as this will be in the house so has to be tolerable to me and the boss (i mean wife of course Smiling )
The spectrum differences are shown the the diagram below ,,anyone any thoughts or advice
Thumb of 2020-10-25/ketsui73/9cd179

Zone 5
Oct 27, 2020 9:26 AM CST
Toronto has many overcast days in autumn and winter. My outdoor succulents do not seem to get enough light.

I measured the lighting in my growing area where the plants are under three full spectrum plant lights. Each light bulb only uses 8 watts and emits 800 lumens.

In an overcast day, my plants can get 200-500 lumens under plant lights for 10 hours. When the sun shines, the light lumens can be 1000-2000 lumens.

In comparison, the outdoor light is only 100-200 lumens when there is no sun.
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In order to use the plant lights efficiently, I had to pot some in a group and repot them in the spring. Of course, I will only water sparsely during the winter.
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I may try to buy some stronger light bulbs.
[Last edited by Charlinex - Oct 27, 2020 6:04 PM (+)]
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Zone 5
Oct 29, 2020 9:43 PM CST
Just got some new Philips plant lights, stronger lighting and more pleasant colors.
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I forgot to mention they do cost more.
[Last edited by Charlinex - Oct 29, 2020 9:45 PM (+)]
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Zone 5
Nov 2, 2020 4:38 PM CST
After trying different lights for a few days, I prefer Philips LED Plant Grow Light(5000K). It provides 1200 lumens and only uses 16w. It can last 25,000 hours. It is expensive, but it's worth it.

I also bought a couple 75w Philips Agro-Lite (Plant Light). It burned the leaves easily. It is only supposed to be used for 3 hours each time. Each bulb only lasts 2000 hours.

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The image above is the cropped image of my Aeonium Kiwi before it was moved inside.

The image below is the same plant under the LED light after three days.

Thumb of 2020-11-02/Charlinex/e798a0

[Last edited by Charlinex - Nov 2, 2020 4:46 PM (+)]
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Zone 5
Nov 10, 2020 10:21 AM CST
Another update - under 16w Philips plant light, 10 hours each day, this photo is from today.

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Zone 5
Nov 15, 2020 10:09 PM CST
More before and after:

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About a week later

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I must say I am quite pleased with this Philips 16w Plant Light.

Name: Alice
Fort Worth (Zone 8a)
Nov 19, 2020 10:06 PM CST
What height above the plants?

Charlinex said:More before and after:

Thumb of 2020-11-16/Charlinex/790b53

About a week later

Thumb of 2020-11-16/Charlinex/7e9b7b

I must say I am quite pleased with this Philips 16w Plant Light.

Zone 5
Nov 19, 2020 10:26 PM CST
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8-inches for cactus and most succulents.
[Last edited by Charlinex - Nov 20, 2020 11:15 AM (+)]
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Name: Alice
Fort Worth (Zone 8a)
Nov 23, 2020 10:03 PM CST
I just ordered all full spectrum LED's. Hope I did the right thing.
Name: Steve
Stoke-on-Trent, UK
Region: United Kingdom Deer Birds Sedums Irises Lilies
Vegetable Grower Frogs and Toads Greenhouse Region: Europe Bromeliad Garden Procrastinator
Nov 26, 2020 5:46 PM CST
OK some of you may remember me creating a problem by putting plants outside for the summer, but them immediately filling that space with new plants. Grin
Now the winter is coming in (zero last night) i needed to come up with a plan for an indoor lighting solution, because i was flat out of window sill space and i needed to get these plants out the cold

So here in my first LED light build Thumbs up

I copied a lot of this from an article i read in the BCSS whereby a guy was growing echeveria in a similar setup. I am not trying to grow through the winter, only provide enough light to prevent eloitation . What i settled on doing was having less lights than the build i saw (to try keep costs down a bit). I funded some of the build by selling duplicate plants and clothes i had not worn on ebay Smiling

Cabinet is ikea - good choice because its all metal and can take the weight of my clay pots

Lights are 40W LED two per shelf. I decided to go for one 4000K and one 6500K bulb on each shelf to try to provide more of a spectrum. Not sure if that was such a smart move Thinking

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i mounted the bulbs direct to the shelfs
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i also decided to wire inline switches into each shelf so they are switchable

The build i was copying had 10 plugs going into a massive extension. I didn't want that, so i created a junction boxes to wire all lights into one out plug
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finished build
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and loaded up
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I am happy with the look and neatness of the build. I would like to experiment with reflectors to try and bounce the light around and maybe mix the two spectrum's better. I might also look at fitting reflective back and sides to keep the light from splaying out so much. I might also need to lift the plants closer to the lights
Overall pretty happy , lets see how the plants react though Smiling
Name: Ursula
Fair Lawn NJ, zone 6b
Plumerias Orchids Cactus and Succulents Region: New Jersey Region: Pennsylvania Native Plants and Wildflowers
Greenhouse Ponds Keeper of Koi Forum moderator Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Adeniums
Nov 26, 2020 6:13 PM CST
I use additional light in the form of these light bulbs bought at Amazon
Agrobrite FLC26D 26-Watt Spiral Compact Fluorescent Grow Light Bulb (130W equivalent CFL), 6400K
in a
Woods Clamp Lamp Light with Aluminum Reflector, 150W, UL Listed, 6- Foot Cord
I have to check, I think some other, similar bulbs I use are 32 Watt.
Thumb of 2020-11-27/Ursula/d9da7c Thumb of 2020-11-27/Ursula/d7a649

They work quite well for me, just placed over the racks.

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