Spectral range effects on plant physiology:
ARTIFICIAL LIGHT FOR INDOOR PLANTS: HOW TO CHOOSE THEM AND HOW TO USE THEM
Using artificial light for indoor plants is a great solution, especially if we don’t have those wonderful, wide windows that we often see in decorating magazines. They also allow us to make early seedlings or grow exotic plants, even in a basement.
But the point is that many times we can feel quite confused when it comes to knowing which are the correct lamps to use in each case or in general.
In this article, we will talk about the light requirements of plants and the wavelength and color spectrum of the different artificial light bulbs in order to decide which are the most suitable bulbs for our indoor plants.
THE RIGHT COLOR
Natural sunlight contains the full spectrum of light including all the colors of the rainbow. Plants use this entire spectrum of colors present in sunlight (except green and hence its color), the most important being red and blue.
There are many options on the market for choosing an artificial light for indoor plants, including special lights for growing plants called “grow lights” or “broad spectrum lights”.
Without a doubt, the latter is the best, since they will give our plants all the colors they need and it is the closest thing to sunlight that we can find. However, if they are not available for any reason, we can put together our own set of lights so that our plants grow healthy indoors.
An alternative would be to use a combination of a cool white LED and a warm white LED, in this way we can provide a broader spectrum, low temperature, and really low and economical consumption.
THE RIGHT INTENSITY
The intensity of artificial light that a plant receives is determined by the power of the bulb and by the proximity between the plant and the light source.
Each plant has its own requirements of colors and light intensity. Generally, those plants from tropical climates or shady forests do not require as much light as those that grow in dry, sunny climates.
The vast majority of flowering interior plants, like African begonias and violets, will be pleased to be about 10 to 12 inches apart from the light source.
Plants grown for their foliage, such as ivy or philodendron, can be placed up to 90 cm. away from an artificial light source for indoor plants.
However, many flowering plants, such as orchids and gardenias, as well as most garden plants and citrus fruits, require a higher intensity of light to blossom and produce fruit.
The distance between our plants and the light source will depend on the type of lamp we are using. Incandescent lamps, for instance, produce a lot of heat and could burn the foliage, but fluorescent lights emit almost no heat, so they can be closer to plants.
THE JUST DURATION
Regardless of the type of plant we are taking care of, they all need a break.
In nature plants breathe at night. Breathing is essential for their growing process.
Many biological processes in plants are affected by the resting time, namely their growth rate and the yield of new shoots, fruits, and flowers.
Based on the number of daily hours of light the plants need they are commonly divided into three groups:
Short-day plants: Like chrysanthemums, Kalanchoe, azaleas, and begonias. These types of plants thrive in less than 12 hours of light per day. In fact, these plants necessarily require an even shorter period of days to be able to start their flowering process.
Long-day plants: require between 14 and 18 hours of light a day. Most seasonal flower and vegetable seedlings are long-day plants. When they don’t get enough light, they turn pale and grow “lanky.”
Neutral day plants: geraniums, coleus, African violets, and generally foliage plants are usually satisfied with 8 to 12 hours of light a day throughout the year.
WHAT AND HOW MUCH ARTIFICIAL LIGHT FOR INDOOR PLANTS DO I NEED
The broad spectrum fluorescent lights produce a balance between warm and cold light (red and blue) which allows reproducing the natural solar spectrum quite faithfully.
Anyway, as I mentioned before, we can make a combination between cold and warm LEDs (or fluorescent and incandescent lights) to imitate this type of lamp and thus, provide artificial light for indoor plants more efficiently.
As a general rule you can use a ratio of 3 to 10; that is, for every 30 watts of warm light (redder spectrum), 100 watts of fluorescent or cool light (bluest spectrum) must be supplied.
Each plant has its unique ideal grow light requirements but as a final orientation to choose the type of light and its intensity, you can start using lamps that provide from 200 to 400 Watts, placing them at a distance of no more than 40 centimeters.
THE JUST POINT
Let us also remember that both the lack of lighting and the excess of it can be harmful to our plants. So the following table can help you identify if you are providing artificial light for indoor plants incorrectly:
Leaves wrinkle and edges turn brown or brown spots appear from burn
Small leaves, lose their green color to become too whitish.
The plant becomes “sad” (loses vigor) in the hottest hours of the day
The plant orients its leaves in the opposite direction of the light
Lack of light:
The leaves turn yellow and fall
Plants hardly bloom and when they do, the flowers are often incompletely developed or too small and often fall before blooming
The plants develop almost colorless stems, too long and thin with little vitality and with a great distance between the internodes and that extend in search of the light source
Its development is slower and weaker
By using artificial light for indoor plants, and even better if they are broad-spectrum lights or high-intensity lights, you can grow a lot of plants indoors, including from orchids to vegetables, regardless of the natural lighting you have at home.
Correct lighting guarantees healthy and robust seedlings. Therefore, even if you have a dark house, don’t lose faith, you can have splendid indoor plants even in the basement.
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