Plants need light to grow. In countries where sunlight is scarce in the long winter months or where there is no outdoor space for a garden you can reproduce good growing conditions with an artificial light source such as a grow light inside a grow tent or grow cabinet.
Grow lights are a good alternative to sunlight when you want to grow plants indoors. Here’s a summary of the most economical types of lights available and the ways they are most commonly used.
Before buying a grow light you should work out the optimal light intensity and the type of light you need for the variety of plants you intend to grow. Vegetables, for example, grow well under standard fluorescent lights and these are also great for getting seedlings to germinate quickly. Vegetables like lots of sunlight, so the artificial light source should be able to mimic the outdoor intensity. On the other hand shade-loving plants will grow with less sunlight so a normal incandescent light will usually work well.
Why you need a reflective surface
Grow tents come with reflective material on the inside. This shiny surface intensifies the light to give your plants maximum light exposure. White paint can also be used where there is a wider area and stronger light.
To get the maximum benefit from your setup you should move the plants close to the light source. Grow tents come in different sizes but they are generally tall enough to accommodate plants and wide enough to allow comfortable access for the gardener. You will need to adjust the height of the plant table or lower the light to make sure the plants are at the exact right distance from the light. Distance can vary between 60cm and 100cm so you will need to experiment with your plants and the type of lights you are using.
Plants need a good night’s sleep
Just as you need to sleep at night plants also like to have ‘lights out’ for set periods. You will need to time your lights to switch on and off at set intervals. But as with humans, plants vary according to the amount of ‘sleep’ they need. Some plants like long days and short nights while others grow happily with longer periods of darkness.
Types of grow lights now available
Economical lights suitable for home growing systems include:
LED Grow Lights
LED grow lights are most suitable for indoor growing as they are energy-efficient, produce less heat than other grow lights and emit only the wavelengths of light that your plant actually needs to stimulate the photochemical process. LEDs can be placed closer to the plant without soaking up plant moisture and this means that you will need to spend less time watering.
Fluorescent grow lights come in a range of temperatures for growing. Standard fluorescent lights are economical to run and have a long life. As well as standard fluorescents you also have the option of cool white fluorescents or high output lights to choose from. As the name suggests, the high output fluorescent lights are stronger than the standard and cool varieties.
Yet another option is the high output/high intensity discharge fluorescent light that blends high intensity with broad coverage but is actually cheaper to run than the simple high output alternative.
Incandescent grow lights (basically electric lamps) are mainly used for decorative purposes where a group of plants is to be featured indoors. These lights are sometimes used as grow lights but they are expensive to run and less energy-efficient than the alternatives.
There’s a great variety of grow lights for indoor plants available on the market today so make sure to do the research to get the best value for money and the most suitable type of light source for your indoor plants.