Advanced Plant Care: Why You May Need A Grow Light
Image by @mother.life.official
If you've ever looked at your windowless bathroom and thought that a plant would love the humidity from your shower. Or maybe your basement apartment could use a little a bit of greenery. Grow lights allow you to supplement natural sunlight and open the door to allow plants to thrive in places where light is lacking.They are also great for getting your sun-loving plants through a dark winter, and starting veggie seeds in the spring.
3 signs your plants need a grow light:
1. Etoliation: a plant is leggy because it is reaching for the light. It's often associated with succulents.
2. Variegated plants start to lose their variegation: If you think of leaves as solar panels collecting energy for the plant, white variegation are the parts of the panel that do not collect energy because they lack chlorophyll. This means that the rest of the leaf has to work extra hard to collect sufficient energy. If the leaf does not collect enough, it's possible for the plant to lose variegation so that more of the leaf will have chlorophyll.
3. Faded leaf colour: Plants that have bright colours often need sufficient light to maintain them. Pink Aglaonemas, Cryptanthus, and Dracaena bicolor will grow pinker in brighter light and be less pink when not receiving enough light.
There are a huge range of grow lights available on the market to suit everyone's budget. They can be used in existing lighting fixtures as a spot light or as tube or strip lights to be mounted under cabinets or shelves. For use in our homes, they come in two different options: compact fluorescent (CFL) and LED.
These tend to be less expensive, but don't last as long as LED. They tend to have a higher heat output than LED which can be either beneficial or detrimental depending on the type of plant you have. You can get them either as light bulbs that screw into any regular socket fixture or as tube lighting to fit into a specific grow light fixture. CFLs tend to be full-spectrum which means they give off a cool white light.
LEDs cost a little bit more money upfront but typically last 4 times as long as CFLs. They use less energy and are therefore kinder on the hydro bill. They do not have a high heat output. In addition to coming in both light bulb and tube formats, they are also available in full-spectrum white, and a combo of red and/or blue.
It's a spectrum!
Maybe you've seen the pink glow from a window at night? Chances are that's a grow light.
Studies have shown that red and blue light are most efficiently used by plants. Red light promotes flowering and blue light promotes foliage growth. It is important to note that most of these studies have been done primarily for cannabis and industrial crop growing. You can buy LED grow lights that have a blend of red and blue lights. Your plants will do well under them, but your room will glow purple or pink.
Alternatively, you can get full spectrum lights. As the name suggests, full-spectrum contains all of the colours of the spectrum, including red and blue, and looks white to our eyes. From my experience, many people who start with pink lights quickly switch over to full spectrum white lights because they don't enjoy the pink glow. So we suggest choosing full spectrum white from the beginning.
How long to leave them on?
Well that depends on a few things: Every plant has a specific photoperiod. This is the amount of light and darkness a plant needs to thrive and flower. There are three types of plants:
1. Long Day Plants: 14 to 16hrs of light
This typically includes cacti and succulents, and plants that flower in the summertime.
2. Short Day Plants: 8 to 10hrs of light
Plants that flower in winter, like Christmas cacti.
3. Day Neutral Plants: 12hrs light, 12hrs darkness
These plants do not flower based on day length, but rather maturity.
If you are using your grow light to supplement natural sunlight from a window you may just have the light on for 2 to 4 hours after the sun goes down. But if you are growing plants under grow lights exclusively, you will want them on daily for 12 to 14 hours.
How close to put the grow lights to the plants
Each plant will have its own specific preference, but a general rule is 12 to 20 inches away for CFLs and 8 to 10 inches away for LEDs.
Remember that CFLs put off heat, so they can damage some plants. You can use a light meter app on your phone to see how the volume of light changes further from the grow light. As your plant grows towards the light, the light will be stronger so you may need to adjust the light to give the plant more space.
Put your grow lights on a timer. That way you won't have to remember to turn them on and off each day. Smart plugs, and smart bulbs can even be pre-set on phone apps. Remember that plants do need a period of darkness to thrive, so don't leave your grow lights on permanently.
Your plants can radically benefit from placing grow lights in your space. We have a number of options available at the shop, so feel free to reach out to us with any of your questions!