Tips on Using Grow Lights for Indoor Plants

Indoor garden lighting

Plant grow lights can be used for indoor gardening as well as for greenhouse applications. Indoor grow lights are also growing in popularity with the advent of hydroponic indoor gardening. If you have a small bed of seedlings, a batch of lettuce or even a bed of tomato plants, you can use indoor lighting to cater to all their needs for light.

Power and output of grow lights for plants will vary according to your planting needs - for example you can grow lettuce under standard lights while you will need a high intensity fluorescent tube for growing full crops of tomatoes and peppers.

The different types of indoor lighting available for gardeners are

  1. Spot grow bulbs
  2. Standard horticultural fluorescent tubes
  3. Compact fluorescent bulbs
  4. High output T5 fluorescent bulbs
  5. High intensity Discharge (HID) plant grow lights

Accessories include

  1. Fluorescent fixtures
  2. Reflective mylar fixtures (for better focus)
  3. Fluorescent plant stands

How do you choose the right grow lights for plants?

You will need to look at the natural inclinations of the plants

  • How many hours of sun does the plant need outside?
  • Does it grow well in partial shade?

Some vegetables do well only when full sunlight is available. These plants will require as much as light as you can provide indoors, example include tomatoes, peppers & eggplant.

Certain foliage like lettuce and celery do well in partial shade and can be grown indoors with relative ease while providing a little artificial lighting.

Orchids do will with moderate indoor grow lighting but there are certain species of exotic plants that require the benefit of high intensity lights. Most flowering plants do well under T5 fluorescent lights.

You will need to understand the natural sunlight requirement of each plant to decide the power and duration of artificial lights you need to use.

Plants also need darkness along with light. The period of darkness is just as important as "light time" for the growth and maturity of the plant. Flowering and seeding times of the plants are affected by the dark periods. Most plants do well under 8 hours of dark period, very few plants can thrive on continuous light.

Listing of different types of lights you can consider is given below.

Spot grow bulbs


Fluorescent lighting on plant stand

You can use these incandescent bulbs to focus lights upon individual plants or plant groupings. These indoor grow lights are also useful for small herb gardens. If you are starting seeds in a small container you can use spot grow bulbs as the light source.

You don't need to buy any special fixtures as these bulbs work quite well in any standard or clamp-on fixture. There is also a powerful mercury vapor variety available in these bulbs. You can buy fixtures that help focus the light in a particular direction.

Compact fluorescent plant grow lights

The concentrated fluorescent light generated by these sources is great for growing herb gardens, lettuce and other leafy vegetables, flower plants, cacti, orchids etc. It can light up plants up to 24 inches in height. They produce high output for low heat.

T5 fluorescent tubes

These are high output fluorescent lighting sources and they produce twice as much light as a standard tube. With proper fluorescent fixtures these t5 grow lights can support wide planting beds of leafy vegetables, herbs, cacti and other plants growing as tall as 36 inches.

There are several formats available in T5 tubes - Single tube, 2 tube, 4 tube, 6 tube and 8 tube. These variations are available in 2 foot model as well as the 4 foot model.

Standard horticultural fluorescent tubes

These are standard output tubes that are suited for most growing needs. You can buy the fluorescent fixtures and plant stands as well to provide the right setup for your plants. Fluorescent grow lights provide lighting that is closer to daylight than incandescent lights and they are much cooler allowing you to place them a few inches above the plants.

HID indoor grow lights

These lights produce a good 500 percent more lights than your regular grow bulbs while using the same input of electricity. Now that's performance! These lights are perfect for growing full size plants of any type in wide beds. These lights are bright enough to support any type of bedding with ease - for example a full size bedding of tomatoes and peppers.

You can buy HID fixtures to enhance the concentration of grow lights for plants. These lights are available as metal halide as well as HP sodium discharge.

Continue reading - Indoor Garden Lighting - Part 2