Grow lights: How to use them for your indoor plants

Once you embark on the journey of nurturing indoor plants, it will be sooner than very long that you find yourself hoarding these pieces of dynamic natural beauty. 

Apart from being a home decor element, these plants bring along an array of complementary health and salubrity benefits. You may not know, but toxins like formaldehyde, ammonia and xylene haunt houses and alleviate several allergies, including asthma.

Indoor plants can relieve you from these daunting chemicals, and a stress-free environment comes like a cherry on the cake. Australia, mainly, is home to many such beneficial plants.

Some valuable indoor plants native to Australia 

Australia is one such country that is rich in the number of plant species that can thrive very well indoors. Here’s why—rainforests in Queensland host several understorey varieties, which survive beautifully in a home setup.

With low water and light requirements, the following plants are the best Australian natives you can choose from. 

  • Native ‘radiator plant’ (Peperomia leptostachya): a pretty succulent
  • Ant plants (Hydnophytum and Myrmecodia): great for grotesque aesthetics
  • Tongue Orchid (Dendrobium linguiforme): can live through rough conditions
  • Native Violet (Viola hederacea /V. banksii): looks gorgeous hanging from small pots
  • Umbrella tree (Schefflera actinophylla): tall and dwarf varieties readily available
  • Kentia palm (Howea forsteriana): inexpensive to maintain but gives major tropical vibes

Meeting your plants’ light requirements – 

Now, it’s a no-brainer that all plants need light. While it’s true that some may tolerate lesser light levels than others, it’s safe to say that providing adequate amounts of light to indoor plants should be the owner’s biggest concern.

Rhizomatous begonias and Philodendrons will look the best when they get generous amounts of sunlight, but plants like Peace Lily won’t give you a hard time even if the light levels of your room are under-moderate.

However, occasional visits out in the sun will prove worth the efforts.

Artificial light setups

Natural light, without any doubt, is the best choice. But situations often arise that you have to depend upon artificial lighting systems for your indoor beauties’ well-being. Let me break this down for you.

Light is nothing but the photons emitted by a source. Now, the source can be the sun, another star, or any other object like a torch. Plants do not differentiate based on the nature of the source, which means they can very well thrive in artificial setups inside rooms.

Researchers all around the globe have been experimenting with ratios of various color spectrums to imitate the sun best. They have been successful to quite an extent by creating grow lights. They are a simple light-emitting device that stimulates plant growth and facilitates photosynthesis.

Grow lights

Nobody can deny the upsides of growing a plant in a natural environment, but uncontrolled sunlight can prove harmful to many species. Moreover, you have little to no control over the surrounding temperature.

This leaves indoor gardening as a lucrative option, and grow lights take away the biggest headache.

How is a grow light different from the sunlight?

The sun emits a whole spectrum of colors, each having a specific significance for a plant. For instance, red light stimulates flowering and fruiting in a plant whereas, the blue wavelengths help grow leaves.

So, as the sun radiates the complete package, single color grow lights fall far behind it. However, full-spectrum grow lights can solve the problem, as they cover everything a plant needs. Besides, you can control the timing, intensity, and distance of the light from the plant to reap the best results.

The only significant blow that grow lights cause is to your pockets. However, as sunlight comes free of cost, buying artificial lights may feel like an additional expense.

Types of grow lights

The market has been evolving ever since grow lights were invented. Some cater to provide an extra boost for light, while others pose as a complete alternative for sunlight. That being so, the basic structure of a grow light can be classified into three. Let’s know more about each, one at a time.

  • Fluorescent lights – They can grow specific varieties of herbs and indoor plants exceptionally well. Available as tubes and compact lamps, they are one of the best options if you are tight on space.

They have a thin body and can fit into the smallest corners, but you need to buy a ballast and stand along with it. Overall, it is an inexpensive light source, and most models emit blue and red spectrums with manageable efficiency levels.

The most significant plus-point here is that CFLs do not heat up; hence you need not worry about temperature control around plants.

  • High-pressure sodium (HPS) – Recents trends show that High-pressure sodium lights have been gaining momentum compared to the CFLs. Still, their use is primarily limited to the commercial setups owing to the high installation costs.

In addition, they can heat up rapidly and emit undesirable amounts of yellow light, which makes them unsuitable for domestic use.

  • Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) – If one talks about an energy-efficient green light source for indoor plants, then LEDs are the answer. These, by far, make for the best grow lights, so let’s talk about them in detail.

LED Grow Lights

As I mentioned above, LED Grow lights can be the most eco-friendly addition to your indoor gardening. But, it would be better if you understood the basic construction and working of an LED.

It is a simple device made of semiconductors, which works on an ‘energy gap.’ It consists of a chip of positively charged holes, and negatively charged electrons, which maintain a difference in potential, hence the energy.

Now, when we supply electricity to the chip, the electrons start moving. Whenever one of them falls into a hole, it leads to recombination, which in turn releases a photon (basic units of light energy.)

How do LED Grow lights nurture plants?

You must have already understood the importance of grow lights for plants, but now the question is, how is an LED grow light better than the other variants.

Almost everyone has witnessed a rainbow across the sky. You know how the sun’s light gets scattered into seven different colors, which means it has a complete spectrum in it. This fact makes sunlight the best source for plants. 

So, to help nourish indoor plants, LED Grow lights closely imitate this spectrum to provide the complete array. These lights come in a range of types depending upon which color wavelength you wish to focus on. But, before that, we need to look at the color spectrum that is the best suitable for indoor plants.

Simply put, the colors present at the extreme ends of the visible spectrum (or a rainbow, you can say) are beneficial for plant growth the most. Now, the effects of each wavelength of light vary a lot.

Plants have different responses to different kinds of lights, and their requirements depend on their growth stage. But, the light that stimulates photosynthesis stays within the range of 400 and 700 nanometers. So, this is the wavelength most LED Grow lights focus on.

The chlorophyll production in any green plant gets stimulated by red light (640 to 680 nanometers.) This color also promotes the flowering and fruiting of plants, which makes it essential for all indoor plants. Therefore, you should switch to this color when the time for flowering comes close.

The most critical wavelength for indoor plants in the visible spectrum is the blue light (430 to 450 nanometers.) It stimulates the proper development and growth of roots. Hence, it is widely used by people in the early stages when seedlings are developing.

Time of usage and place of installation

It is a common myth that the longer you use Grow Lights for indoor plants, the better it is for them. But, unfortunately, that’s not true at all.

A light period is vital for plants, no doubt. But, dark intervals are equally necessary, so you should aim for a 3:1 ratio as a basic rule. A maximum of 14 – 18 hours of lights would do the trick for most indoor plants. Never leave them on 24/7.

Regarding the distance that should be maintained between your plants and lights, a 15 – 30 inches gap would be ideal. However, don’t be tempted to move them closer, as doing so may cause adverse effects.

How to install Grow Lights 

  • Firstly, you should calculate the number of blubs you need in the setup. For this, multiply the area (sq footage) of your indoor garden by the watt requirement of your plants. Then divide the product with the wattage indicated on the type of bulbs you’re using, and there you have the final number.
  •  To maintain a proper height above the plants, you need to arrange a rack to install the lights on. A pulley system or some frame with adjustable height will work best as plants grow in size.
  • Use a plugging system with a timer to ensure that your plants get both light and dark periods. You should also install some ventilation device if the heat being produced by the lights exceed a certain extent.

The bottom line

You should trust our words on this; nothing is better than having a living plant beside your favorite couch and having a salad made from your indoor garden’s produce. Moreover, gardening, scientifically, has an immensely positive impact on adult minds.

As you’re all prepared to climb aboard this green venture now, we would say – happy indoor gardening!

Munazza Umar
Munazza Umar
Munazza is a freelance content writer who loves penning about energy efficiency, gardening hacks, and environmental sustainability. She currently works with E-Green Electrical, which is based in Australia.
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