Most plants need at least some hours of light to thrive. However, growing plants to maturity with artificial light can also be possible. Technology has taken a big step in this direction, and now you can grow plants successfully with artificial lightings. Most gardeners and growers highly prefer them.
Given that it is hard to control the perfect sunlight quality, with artificial lights, you can accurately match the growth of your plants. When the spring is cloudy or rainy, for instance, outdoor plants may suffer consequently. But with artificial lights, you can make sure that your plants always have the correct light quantity and quality.
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Can Plants Use Artificial Light for Photosynthesis?
Photosynthesis can occur in artificial light, so long as the plant gets the right wavelength of the light spectrum. Generally, photosynthesis is the process by which plants assimilate carbon from the atmosphere to produce food in the presence of light with the help of chlorophyll.
If the right artificial light is provided to indoor plants, then the plants will do photosynthesis. Artificial lights enhance plants’ growth by ensuring the plant’s requirements are met. LEDs are beneficial for stimulating artificial light to improve proper plant growth without burning them.
Difference Between a Grow Light and Regular Light
A grow light and a regular light are two different things. Ordinary light is less powerful and dimmer compared to a grow light. Many plants will experience some growth from light produced by normal light, though it can sometimes be insufficient for them to thrive.
Since a grow light is more powerful than a regular light, it produces a more intense light level. That helps in stimulating the photosynthesis process in plants that you cultivate indoors.
The light spectrum is broken down into various colors, which affects the plants’ growth. Regular lights tend to produce only one primary color. Plants will become more productive under blue light, while flowers are likely to bloom under red light.
A grow light is designed to integrate the whole spectrum of colors, enhancing plant and flowers growth. There are different kinds available on the market, in different power intensities.
If you don’t have any natural light and need to grow plants indoors without sunlight, you will require a more powerful grow light. Most pantry stores and nurseries will have a variety for you to choose from, and they should be able to advise you. You might want to read – Can LED Lights Grow Aquarium Plants?
Gardening Under Grow Light: 4 Things to Consider
Plants need light for photosynthesis. However, other factors influence how well your plant will thrive. These factors include:
- Light quantity
- Light quality
- Light, heat & temperature
Plants require a given quantity of light within a particular range. Some will need more light, while others will need less. Although most plants tolerate variation, they might suffer or even die when the light is too much or little.
You can measure light quantity in lux or lumens. A lumen measures the total light flux from a given source, while the lux measures the light quantity received on a given surface.
Light quality means the colors and wavelengths that plants need. Plants are pretty demanding when it comes to light quality, as different plants need different lights. For instance, when a plant produces foliage, it will require a blue wavelength of about 500-600 nanometers.
However, this does not mean that a spectrum that contains other colors can harm the plant. Instead, you need to provide a spectrum that contains the colors your plant requires.
Plants will absorb any light color, though not every color produces the same amount of energy to them, the least effective one being green. That is because leaves tend to be green and reflect color instead of absorbing it.
Plants need both light and darkness to grow. In nature, their metabolism changes at night when they are without light. But this is a natural process, and it is necessary for the plants’ health.
Plants respond well to this cycle of light and darkness, and some plants usually flower according to the ratio of light to darkness. That is known as photoperiodic flowering. Some gardeners use photoperiodism to force growth and even flowering, which is quite familiar with bulbs and hemp.
Light, Heat, and Temperature
Light, heat, and temperature are crucial factors indoors, especially when you want to use grow lights. Not all kinds of light produce the same heat. LED lights, for instance, have very little heat compared to HID lights which produce a lot of heat. That will affect the amount of moisture your plants will need and how far you need to place the light from the plants.
Artificial Light Sources And Types
There are four main sources of artificial light available for optimal plant growth. They include: –
1. Incandescent Lights
These are contemporary bulbs with a fine wire filament at the center that heats up to produce light. They are a rich red-light source but a poor source of blue light. They generate too much heat for most plants, and therefore you need to place some distance from the plant to reduce the light intensity received by the plant.
In economic consideration, incandescent sources are inefficient in converting electrical energy into light energy. Besides, the life of a standard incandescent bulb is only about 1,000 hours.
2. Fluorescent Tubes
When it comes to fluorescent lights, there are few options to choose from. There are long, straight bulbs that use a specific fixture and a new spiral kind that often works well in any lamp.
Fluorescent lights are considered to be the best artificial light sources for indoor plants. Compared to incandescent sources, they are two times energy efficient when converting electrical energy to light energy. Furthermore, fluorescent tubes generate relatively little heat and are available in types that emit red and blue light. Their life is often 10,000 hours or more.
We have published an article about purple vs white grow light last week. You can check that out.
3. High-Intensity (HID) Lights
High-intensity lights, such as metal halide and sodium vapor, are often used in greenhouses when substitute light is needed. Compared to fluorescent sources, they are about five times efficient in converting electrical energy into light energy. Furthermore, these lumps have a long life. However, they generate a lot of heat, and the units needed to operate them are huge, bulky, and costly.
4. Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
LEDs represent the latest source of enhancement light for plants. They are highly energy-efficient and long-lived. LED lights can be designed to emit the desired light wavelength. For instance, you can customize it to produce only red and blue light required by the plant. They generate very little heat and need no reflectors or ballasts. However, the price of an LED setup is higher compared to other sources.
Plant Light Duration
Plants, like humans, need rest. Respiration is an essential part of plant growth, and it happens when it’s dark. Regardless of the types of plants you are growing; it’s important to balance rest time and active growth time.
Plant’s biological processes like the growth rate, buds and fruit production, among others, depending on the amount of light-time exposure.
Botanists advise using a power strip with a timer to get proper plant light-time duration. Artificial light plant experts categorize these plants into three categories; short, long, and neutral.
Short-day plants: These include kalanchoe, azaleas, and begonias. Short-day plants need less than 12 hours of light to thrive. These plants must go through shorter light-time days when setting buds and flowers.
Long-day plants: To thrive, long-day plants require 14 to 18 hours of exposure to light each day. Vegetables and most garden plants are usually long-day plants. If a plant turns pale and leggy, it’s an indication it’s not getting enough light-time.
Day-neutral plants: a day-neutral plant will be satisfied with enough light once exposed to artificial light for 8 to 12 hours throughout the year. They include geraniums, coleus, and African violets.
Signs Your Indoor Plant Needs More Light
Your indoor plants may be yearning for more light if they are displaying some of these symptoms:
Leggy or Sparse Growth
One key sign that your plants are fighting with a lack of light is stringy growth. That appears like new leaves growing far apart, increased stem length between leaves, and sparse, leggy, thin plants.
If your plants are not getting sufficient light indoors, their stems and branches will lengthen for them to reach for sunlight. That can make leaves grow further apart, making your plants look unhealthy and become unproductive.
Production of Small Leave
If your indoor plants require light, their new growth can be underwhelming or small. Light is an essential factor in a plant’s growth, but you can easily underlook it.
A plant producing small leaves is likely to be lacking enough energy to produce full-sized and large leaves. Since light enhances energy production in plants, low light can cause small leaves or foliage.
No New Growth
Your plant can be surviving indoors, but it is not growing. If your plant has not shown any new growth for months, your indoor garden is likely in need of more light to produce energy for growth.
However, during the winter seasons, it is normal for plants to go dormant. But if you are not in winter and months have passed without your plants showing any sign of growth, it is sure that your plants need light.
Browning Tips and Leaves
Specific plants such as Fiddle Leaf Figs may be affected by insufficient light with browning tips and leaves. However, there are other reasons why plants’ leaves turn brown, such as inadequate water. Therefore, make sure you rule out any other cause of browning.
Similar to stingy growth, you might notice your plants leaning towards doors, windows, or areas with brighter light. Sometimes this means the leaves will begin facing the same direction. As a result, the side facing away from the light may appear bare while the outer side is full.
One way to avoid this is by rotating your plants every time you water them. Turn the pot around a quarter of the circumference and allow each side of the plant to get light.
It’s a Wrap!
Cultivating plants indoors with artificial light can be lots of fun. You can get started with a simple system of 2-3 40-watt fluorescent tubes hanged over a table 15 inches above the plant. Try stating with Greenaholics Succulent Plant Pot.