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Lighting for plants

As we have moved our gardening indoors, it may be necessary to provide some better or more lighting for some of our plants. Due to space, most of my house plants are sitting near windows in the basement of my home and they seem to do just fine with some exceptions. The first is that the basement is probably little bit cooler than the plants appreciate and the second is that there are a couple of houseplants that need more light than what they will get from the windows.

This brings up the idea of whether or not LED lighting will work for houseplants and what bulbs you would need to purchase in order to keep them happy. Fluorescent bulbs are still the number one go to bulb for raising houseplants but since many of us are becoming more environmentally conscious, the LED bulb that lasts longer will also work. The decision needs to be made to make sure that you are purchasing the LED lights are that are specifically meant for houseplants. This is because of the different types of wavelengths of light that they produce. Plants use red and blue light wavelengths for the best growing conditions.

The same can be said for fluorescent bulbs too. If you have bulbs that need to be replaced or are not sure which bulbs you should be choosing since there seems to be an endless list of different kinds of fluorescent bulbs, then deciding which has the best wavelength for plants is the best place to start. The cool white fluorescent bulbs or the bulbs marked warm light have the best wavelengths for growing houseplants. They provide both blue, red, orange and yellow wavelength light. The fluorescent bulbs marked as white or daylight are not the best choices. Other lights such as spotlights, regular light bulbs and HID bulbs can work, they are not the best choice for the use on houseplants.

The lights should be no more than 12 inches above the plants which can be a bit tricky if you have that one tall plant such as a Norfolk pine or a hibiscus plant. In this case you might have to provide two lights in order to make sure that it will work for you this winter. Plants that have no access to any window time, should have the lights on them for at least an average of 15 hours. If they are getting window time, the average drops down to about 12 hours a day. This can be done by turning the light on in the morning and turning the light off in the evening at some point. If you want to really get into it, you can even set a timer to do the work for you. If you have a really tall plant, it might be worth the effort to set the light on its side so the light fixture is vertical instead of horizontal. This way the leaves towards the bottom of the plant will also receive adequate light.

The true test of whether or not you have things set up in the proper fashion for your plants is to keep a watchful eye on the plants and make changes as necessary. If you see plants that the leaves are turning yellow, smaller than normal leaves or leaves that are dropping, then you need more light. South windows are the best windows to place your plants in. However, we sometimes don’t have that option and east or west windows will also do quite nicely. North windows will work best for low light plants such as African violets. For more information, you can visit https://extension2.missouri.edu/g6515.

You will find that most houseplants that are sold in our area will work nicely in any of our homes with little problems. They can also be moved outdoors about June, in a shaded place in your gardens and do quite well there. I often move my Christmas cactus plants outdoors and it seems that they do much better because of it. Remember to water your houseplants sparingly in the winter since they are not using as much water. If you remember to check the soil to see how wet it is before watering will save you from overwatering them during our colder months of the year. For more information on gardening, you can reach me at s.dejaeghere@me.com

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