By Justin Hancock, Costa Farms Horticulturist
Photographs courtesy of Costa Farms
Light is the most important factor that determines your houseplants’ success. Select plants with needs that match your space’s lighting conditions and you’ll find growing and maintaining them is much easier. It’s easy to fall in love with plants that need more natural light than your space offers. But never fear—you can augment with artificial light (or use entirely artificial light, for spaces that aren’t blessed with a window).
Natural vs. Artificial Light
As a general rule, plants are more concerned with the amount and intensity of light, rather than its source. So you don’t need a window to enjoy beautiful, healthy plants. Nor do you need expensive grow lights—many LED and fluorescent bulbs work just as well.
I typically avoid recommending incandescent lights, the standard light bulbs you use in your home (unless you’ve switched them all out for energy-saving LED lights). Most incandescent bulbs generate a fair amount of heat and not a lot of intensity, so they’re not very efficient. And you can risk physically burning your plants if they get too close to the bulb.
Fluorescent bulbs used to be long and somewhat fragile, making them more of a challenge to use at home. Happily, newer versions are more compact and efficient than their predecessors. This means you can situate your plants closer to them to maximize the amount of light your plants receive. They’re a good light source, relatively inexpensive, and widely available at home improvement centers and hardware stores.
Light-emitting diode (LED) lights are energy-efficient lights now used by many greenhouses because they offer full-spectrum lighting, which is most useful to fuel plant growth. They also range in size from tabletop versions perfect for a single plant to larger units that can allow a collection of plants to bask in their rays.
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