Artificial Light & Plants

Written by danielle hill
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Artificial Light & Plants
Artificial light will allow many plants to perform photosynthesis. (PLANT image by brelsbil from

While plants typically rely on sunlight to carry out the process of photosynthesis, it is possible to cultivate many plant species indoors, relying completely on artificial lighting. If you plan to grow plants with artificial light, take into consideration the particular needs of the plant species in question, with regard to the light's intensity, colour and type as well as the length of day and night, a variable you can control artificially.

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Types of Light

Plants tend to fare best under a combination of types of lighting. For example, combining incandescent light and a fluorescent light offers ideal lighting, with the incandescent bulb accounting for around 30 per cent of the total wattage and the fluorescent bulb accounting for the remaining 70 per cent. These proportions aid photosynthesis by making the overall light more blue. Incandescent lights will create more heat than fluorescent lights, making them a better option for plants that can tolerate higher temperatures. In addition, incandescent lights' higher energy consumption can become expensive for large growing operations.

Light Levels

Depending on the type of plant you wish to grow, you'll need to ensure that your lighting set-up provides the right level of light. For example, if you have plants requiring a highlight level, emulate the amount of light they would receive sitting within four feet of large south-facing windows. For medium-level light, provide the same amount of light that plants would receive approximately eight feet from sunny windows. For low-level light, recreate the effect of indirect light, such as light from a northern window. Among plants suited to low light levels, watch for symptoms of excessive light exposure, such as yellowing throughout the plant's leaves.

Colours of Light

In general, fluorescent lights offer bluer tones than incandescent light, helpful to many plants. However, even among fluorescent lights, different types of bulbs may offer different spectra of colour. As no single bulb reproduces the entire spectrum of the sun's light wavelengths, combining various bulbs can be helpful to plants. To simplify lighting, provide plants with light taken from the extreme wavelengths of the visible spectrum: blue and red. Blue helps leaf growth while red helps flowering and fruiting.

Lighting Intervals

Using artificial light provides you with one significant advantage over traditional outdoor planting. While you cannot change the hours of available sunlight, you can set your own schedule for the artificial lights to turn on and off each day, effectively deciding the day length for your plants. In some cases, this can simulate a certain season of the year, triggering plants to undergo particular changes or behaviours. For example, poinsettia and Christmas cactus produce flowers when the days are eleven hours long or shorter.

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