Gardening is an enjoyable pursuit, especially on sunny days, but in the winter months growing plants using artificial light is often necessary. However, using artificial light is something of an exact science, so novice gardeners need to understand that it is not simply a matter of buying a lamp and treating indoor plants in the same way as those that grow outdoors. As it is a complex process, gardeners should learn more about using artificial light before buying any exotic plants that are difficult to maintain.
Types of artificial lights
Sunlight provides plants with the perfect balance of wavelengths that are required for growth. This means that any artificial lights must provide a powerful, full spectrum of light that plants need.
Halogen, incandescent, and standard lights
A halogen lamp is not usually sufficient for growing plants because leaves derive little energy from the yellow and green rays of the visible spectrum of light. Incandescent bulbs provide some red rays, but few of the blue rays that plants require for sustenance. Standard bulbs are high in blue rays but lack red, so gardeners should buy products labelled as "full spectrum".
Fluorescent and LED lights
Fluorescent lights are a good choice because they are economical and remain cool enough to place close to plants. LED lights are efficient but every bulb is different, so avid indoor gardeners should look for LED bulbs labelled as "horticultural". Any form of light marked specifically as a horticultural grow light generally provides the full spectrum of the required wavelengths, so it is an excellent default option.
It is important to consider the amount of artificial light that a plant requires. Gardeners can use luminance, proximity, and consistency to gauge the light that a plant receives.
Luminance, or light output, is measured in lux, or luminance flux per unit area. Two standard 40-watt lighting tubes placed 15 cm from plants emit around 5381 lux. The measurement almost halves to 2798 lux if gardeners move the lights to a distance of 30 cm and it drops further to 1184 lux at a distance of 60 cm. At distances greater than 90 cm the number drops significantly, which is why only professional growers tackle large numbers of plants that require a significant amount of artificial light.
The ideal distance between the tip of a plant and the bulbs is between 15 cm and 30 cm. Fluorescent tubes do not produce quite as much light at the tips as they do at the centre, so gardeners should not place too many plants under a tube or allow one plant to block the light of another.
The light should be as consistent as possible, which is easier to achieve with tubes rather than directional lamps, especially for large plants where the top half blocks the light from the bottom half. Gardeners should always ensure that they direct light to all parts of the plant that may otherwise not receive the vital rays, using tools such as reflectors and reflective surfaces that help to disperse light. However, this light is less powerful because of the increase in distance from the bulb.
Correct amount of light
In general, plants suitable for indoor growing come three light categories: low, medium, and high. Low light, or low intensity, plants grow best when they receive between 538 and 2,690 lux. Medium light plants prefer between 2,690 and 10,763 lux. High light plants often require around 10,763 lux, which makes them difficult to grow under artificial light conditions. High light plants are best left to veteran indoor growers rather than novices.
Plants that grow naturally outdoors have to deal with the dark period during the night; however, indoor plants do not react well to particularly long spells of darkness. Gardeners should provide artificial lighting for between 16 and 18 hours each day.
How to buy artificial lighting products on eBay
If you wish to start growing plants indoors, you can find a range of suitable artificial lighting products on eBay, including bulbs and lamps, as well as seeds and plants. Simply locate the search box on any page and type in the name of the item that you want to buy. A simple entry, such as "fluorescent lights", displays a long list of options. You can narrow your search using the handy filters to find exactly what you need. Always read the item descriptions before choosing artificial lighting products.