Grow Light Types, Importance in Indoor Gardening

Grow Light Types, Importance in plant growth

Today, we discuss the topic of grow light types and role in indoor gardening. As you know grow lights are a boon for indoor gardening. A huge spaceship landed on the surface creating a crater deep in the earth, a group of weird looking less like an animal but more like humans step down from the ship but unfortunately, one of them got separated from its group and is left behind. When the weird thing encounters with a good human, this man protects him from danger and offers him fresh juicy fruits and good smelling food but it doesn’t accept anything anyhow it spends night constantly looking out of the window. In the morning with the first ray of light the little creature gets excited, looks out of the window and some apparatus kind of thing glows on his head. The man looks astonished as the creature an alien with excitement screams out “dhoop” means sunlight. Well, friends, this was a fictional Bollywood movie which was based on the fact that every living, be it a plant, an animal or human requires sunlight for its metabolic functions or for preparing its food hence sunlight or works like magic. We all livings are consumers and we depend on our producers a.k.a PLANTS for our food and for our survival.

But how does a plant prepare their food? Why plants are called producers?

The answer is they prepare their own food. Have you ever seen a factory producing your favorite fruit or vegetable? Obviously NO

The reason we call nature “a mother’’ is because it provides everything that keeps us alive. All plant’s leaf appears green because of the presence of a pigment called chlorophyll also known as the kitchen of plant cell this where the plant prepares food but not at its own plant requires light, oxygen, and water for preparing its food and ultimately for its survival. So this was all about how plants grow and what they need. Light plays a key role in the plant’s existence and it is necessary for the plant to survive and thrive as it serves as a primary energy source. No plant will continue to exist for long without light.

As we all know because of advances in the field of science we no longer only rely on soil for raising our plants or gardens. Thanks to the techniques like hydroponics for indoor gardening we can cultivate a range of vegetables, fruits, and herbs at own home even at our balcony or living areas. There are different types of hydroponic system available to choose from in accordance with the system’s feasibility or grower’s choice of plants and availability of space. A hydroponic system basically raises plant by providing all required nutrients and minerals in liquid form with a good amount of dissolved oxygen but wait!!! What about sunlight?? Just as our earth revolves around our sun, so too does your indoor garden. The amount of light you have will determine what size of garden you can grow and what type of plants you can put into it. One of the most important things to understand when growing plants indoors is the rule of limiting factors. The success of your garden is determined by limiting factors; If your plants do not receive enough of one variable then your plants will not attain their maximum growth rate in spite of how much of any other variable your plants are given.

Definitely, you cannot invite the sun in your living area. So how your plants growing in soilless culture or inside your home will survive without sunlight??

The solution is to grow lights or artificial lights specially designed for indoor gardening technique. This article will help you understand how lighting works and how much is required. So keep reading about what types of lights you can use and what you can use them for. So let’s discuss the importance of grow lights, and grow light types of grow lights for available indoor gardening and how to set up grow lights in indoor gardens?

Grow Light Types for indoor gardening

Incandescent Bulb

Incandescent lamps are typical household light bulbs. Incandescent has come under increased scrutiny over the last few years as they are extremely inefficient. Incandescent has an efficiency rate of about 5% and the spectrum of light produced is not ideal for the growing plants. Incandescent also produce a large amount of heat which will raise your cooling costs. Hence skilled indoor growers do not recommend using incandescent lamps for growing plants.

Fluorescent Grow Lights

The standard fluorescent bulb, commonly denoted T12, makes a decent grow light for indoor houseplants especially when starting with seeds, best results have been observed when it is used along with the supplementary natural light by gardening at the place where lighting needs are modest. Fluorescent Grow Lights are fairly weak in light intensity, however, and must be placed within a few inches of the plant to have much of an effect.

Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs)

An excellent option for small spaces Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) is another popular form of fluorescent bulbs and was designed as an efficient alternative to incandescent bulbs. CFL’s use comparatively less power and have a longer life than the usual incandescent bulbs.

CFL’s are a good choice for the small-sized indoor gardens or beginners because they don’t require ballast or fancy wiring; they can be simply screwed into a standard socket. It is important to mention if you opt for CFL as indoor lightening tool you should try and use a  reflector because CFL’s generate light in all directions, so you could be wasting light if you don’t use a reflector.

Fluorescent Lamps

Fluorescent lamps are a great alternative for indoor plant growth, particularly high-output fluorescent T-5 Fluorescent Fixture bulbs. They are found 3-7 times more efficient than incandescent, which mean it will consume less electricity while emitting more light. Fluorescent lamps are accessible in a wide range of spectrums.

But Fluorescent bulbs are not perfect for large plants, as they do not go through as deeply as High-Intensity Discharge lamps. Fluorescent lamps may be a feasible option for growing large plants if you have lights above and to the side of the plant.

LED Grow Lights

While they are noticeably more expensive than fluorescent bulbs, LEDs exploit half the electricity and last five times longer, more than paying for themselves in the long run. Though the average LED bulb from the hardware store is not designed for plant growth.LED grow bulbs are competent of producing much greater light intensity than fluorescent bulbs and are available in the full-spectrum form. A simple thumb rule: Fluorescent bulbs are often used when growing just a handful of plants; LEDs are preferable for larger plantations since for them you can accomplish higher light intensity per square foot. Another advantage of LEDs? They generate very little heat compared to other bulbs, an issue that can become challenging when you have a lot of lights in a small space and less heat would further bring down your electricity bill by reducing your cooling load.

Read: Benefits of Indoor Moss Gardening.

LED Light Indoor Gardening.
LED Light Indoor Gardening.
HID Grow Lights

HID or High-Intensity Discharge Lamps are the top picks among experienced indoor growers. It is the chief option for large indoor plantings. Like two sides of the coin, High-Intensity Discharge Lamps are extremely powerful, they have a very high light output and are 4 to 8 times more efficient than incandescent lamps but are high-priced to purchase, and they consume electricity inefficiently and require particular light fixtures, and give off a lot of heat.  Still, they are very effective today; they are a top choice among growers and are extensively used. If you wish to grow large plants like tomatoes or lemon, HIDs are good to put money on because the beam of light penetrates farther into the foliage than with other bulbs.

There are two kinds of HID bulbs. High-pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs which are best for flowering (low spectrum), while MH (metal halide) bulbs are required to prop up vegetative growth (high spectrum); the two grow light types are often used in combination. Unfortunately, each type requires its exclusive fixture.

Since HID lamps produce a large amount of heat, so when using them extra ventilation and proper reflector height should be taken into consideration especially when planning a grow enclosure and hanging your lights. Preferably, you should hang your lights about 2 feet from the top of your plants. A better manner to check the favorable height of your lights is to keep your hand just above the plant – If the heat from the light is too hot for your hand, then it’s too hot for your plant as well.

Metal Halide (MH) Bulbs

Another class of grow lights, MH bulbs emit blue spectrum lights which are ideal for the vegetative stage of the plant.  The UV rays of MH lights have analogous effects on plant life. These grow lights are great for greenhouses and for hydroponics gardening. MH bulbs are used on young plants which help out the plant to grow faster and most commonly 400-watt metal halide light is recommended for indoor gardening.

These bulbs approach with a spectrum of colors which is suitable for the growth of the plants. Specific indoor plants grow well in green light but most of them have a preference for red light which accelerates the speed of the plant growth. You can also use MH bulbs in a combination with HPS lights to get more desired lighting effects.

Read: Garden Permaculture.

Factor affecting the cultivation of indoor plants under grow lights:

  1. The correct Colour

As we know natural light or Sunlight consists of the complete spectrum of light which includes all even colors of the rainbow:  main colors being red through yellow to blue and violet. similar to plants growing outdoors in the sunlight, indoor plants grow up best under full-spectrum bulbs, which produce a balance of cool and warm light that imitates the natural solar spectrum. They’re brilliant for seedlings as well as houseplants, culinary herbs, and other small plants.

By learning how plants use light and about the fixture options, you can select an indoor grow lights system that is right for the plants you want to grow.

Most Common grow light Types used for indoor gardening

  • LED lights
  • Fluorescent lights

Both of the grow light produces full-spectrum light. However, LEDs are said to be better for the environment and your budget both. They deliver the bright; full-spectrum light that plants desire, with a supplementary spike of blue light to stimulate stronger root growth, enhanced photosynthesis, and ensure good growth.  One must purchase lights which energy-efficient, economical and which purposely meet the demanding needs of plants, not the multi-purpose LEDs. They’re great for your plants. High-tech LEDs are calibrated specifically for indoor growing.

It is known that LEDs use half the electricity and lasts longer than fluorescent bulbs.

They’re environment-friendly, mercury-free LED tubes don’t shatter like glass, so smaller quantity end up in the landfill.

  1. The correct Intensity

The intensity of light that a plant receives is determined by the brightness of the bulb and by how close the plant is to the light source. Plants differ in their requirement for light intensity. Usually, those plants that are native to tropical jungles or shady forests do not need as much light as plants that evolved in dry, sunny climates.

Some flowering houseplants, such as African violets and begonias, are happy being 10 to 12 inches away from the source of light. Foliage plants, such as ivy or philodendron, can be placed as much as 36 inches away from a light source. But many flowering plants, such as orchids, and citrus, as well as most of the vegetable plants, require a much higher light intensity to flower and produce fruiting.

  1. The Right Duration

No matter what kind of plants you are growing, you must give them a break. When it’s dark, plants respirate, which is also an important part of their growth process. The equilibrium of rest time to active growth time affects many biological processes, including the growth rate, and the setting of buds and fruit. Hence right lightening duration i.e. light and dark hours must be maintained in accordance with the plant’s requirement,

Most of the Vegetable seedlings need 14-18 hours of light a day.

Plants are usually divided into three categories with respect to their preferred day length:

  • Short-day plants
  • Long-day plants
  • Day-neutral plants.

Category of Short-day plants includes plant such as chrysanthemums, kalanchoe, azaleas, and begonias, which thrive on less than 12 hours of light per day. In fact, these plants must typically go through a series of even shorter days before they set buds and flower.

While Long-day plants require 14 to 18 hours of light every day. Most seedlings of vegetables and garden flowers are long-day plants. When they don’t receive enough light they get pale and stressed.

Day-neutral plants, includes foliage plants, geraniums, coleus and African violets which are usually satisfied with 8 to 12 hours of light all year-round.

Warm vs. Cool: Understanding the Colour Spectrum in Grow Lights

When you are hunting for grow lights, you’ll notice they are labeled with figures like 2700K or 4000K. This refers to their relative warmth or coolness on the color spectrum – the higher the number, the cooler the light. Vegetative growth of a plant is generally best around 6500K, though many plants call for a period of warmer light, around 3000K, in order to produce flowers, and consequently fruit. In other words, if your objective is to simply produce seedlings, leafy green vegetables, or root crops, then you only need higher spectrum bulbs. If you want to grow flowers, or any fruiting plant such as cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, lemon, etc then you will require low spectrum bulbs.

How to Install Grow Lights

Installation requirements vary significantly depending on the scope of your indoor garden and the grow light types being used. But we have slated down a few basic steps to get you started.

After selecting the desired kind of grow bulb for your indoor garden first you will have to find a way to support the bulbs over the plants at the appropriate height. And unless you’re growing something that will stay at more or less the same height all through its lifespan, you’ll also need a way to raise the light rack as the plants grow. This is generally accomplished through some sort of pulley system or by simply hanging the light fixtures with metal chain in that way you can simply adjust the height by changing the link the light fixture.

It is generally wise to install a timer with your grow lights to make sure they get the proper amount of light as required by your plants, and also that they get it at the same time each day. If your lights bring a high level of heating in your growing area then you must install a ventilation system to avoid heat stress. You can also make use of light reflectors and all sorts of other grow light accessories to accomplish optimum results. Grow lights are easily available in online sites and stores specially dedicated to gardeners along with product’s specifications and installation practices.

Choosing the Right Light

There are many factors to think about when purchasing a grow light. The most important factors that you will need to consider are your budget, enclosure type & size, plant type, and available ventilation facilities at your place. Your budget is a primary factor when choosing the right kind of light. Low-budget growers are comfortable with fluorescent tubes, usually a size T5. It is suggested to small-scale growers to start indoor gardening with the compact fluorescent bulbs.

That’s all gardeners about grow light types for your indoor gardening


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