Houseplants do best when they are situated in a spot that reflects their natural environment; some plants need full sun all day in order to thrive, others need only a few hours of shaded light to do well. Always research a plants natural habitat to discover its needs in terms of sunlight etc. For example, a cacti that comes from the desert will be used to full sun for most of the day. If you place this plant in the corner of a shaded room, or even on a windowsill of a room that receives little sunlight, it will not do well. Instead, you would be better to opt for a plant that comes from a shaded environment, perhaps a fern type plant or similar, that comes from the undergrowth the forest, where it has been shaded by the canopy of trees and bigger plants.
So if the room in your home where you would like to place a plant doesn’t receive much daylight, you should choose a plant that thrives in little light (you can check out my post ‘Best houseplants for low light rooms‘ for ideas).
However, maybe you already own a plant that is needing more light, or maybe you have your heart set on a particular plant for a particular spot and know it will need a boost of artificial light. Maybe you have converted your dark basement into an office and want to place some plants there or perhaps you live in a North-facing building that receives barely any sunlight.
Well thankfully you have a few options. You can purchase a bulb specifically made for plants and pop it into any lamp; you may already have a lamp that would be suitable. Or you can purchase LED strips and fit them onto any existing shelving (this option looks great and makes a real feature out of your plants). You can even get a strip of full spectrum plant lights that you pop into your USB on your computer; perfect for dark office spaces. If you are looking for a more professional set-up and are wanting to grow lots of indoor plants or perhaps grow your own vegetables, you can buy massive, suspend from the ceiling type grow lamps.
So lets look at each of the options….
Firstly, lets consider types of light…
Sunlight provides a full spectrum of light; a perfect balance of warm and cool light waves that a plant needs in order to grow and thrive. Standard artificial lighting generally doesn’t provide a full spectrum of these wavelengths; they are usually either warm (red wavelengths, which aids flowering in plants) or cool (blue wavelengths, which aids growth for plants). However, it is now possible to buy bulbs with either the full spectrum or you can buy a mix of warm and cool.
Here is a brief overview of the pros and cons of the different artificial light bulbs available:
LED lights –
- low heat
- standard ones may not have warm and cool wavelengths, look for horticultural ones
- come as tubes or compact bulbs (CLF)
- they don’t become too hot
- check they are full spectrum
Halogen lights –
- full spectrum of warm and cool wavelengths
- can become very hot
- not very energy-efficient
Incandescent lights –
- contain more warm wavelengths (red) which are good for encouraging flowering plants to bloom
- can become very hot
- could burn plant leaves
- can dry out the soil
- if you use these lights, make sure you don’t place them too close to your plants
Horticultural grow lights –
- these are full spectrum bulbs
- usually higher intensity than general bulbs
- usually come as fluorescent tubes
Now lets look at the options…
An ordinary lamp with a plant bulb:
Yes, any lamp with a plant bulb will do the job, as long as it is just for a few plants placed together; it won’t provide enough coverage for more than two or three average sized plants, or a handful of smaller plants.
There are so many bulbs on the market, it can be difficult to know which one to choose. My guide above about lighting should help you decide. In this photo, I have just used a compact fluorescent bulb to provide full spectrum light for a group of small plants.
LED lights for shelving:
LED lights are perfect for bookcases or shelving. You can simply attach them to any existing furniture. These are great if you would like plants but don’t have an area near a window to place them. You can buy them as individual ones as in this photo, or you can buy as a strip which you can attach on to any shelving or nearby fixture.
Standard LED lights will keep your plants alive for a while, but they do not havee the correct ratio of warm and cool waves for your plants to thrive. Make sure you buy ones that are specifically for plants to ensure you get the full spectrum of light that your plants need.
LED are very energy-efficient and won’t overheat your plants or dry out the soil.
USB strip lights for a desk or shelves:
These are also LED bulbs so again, very energy-efficient, and don’t get too hot. These can be bought as a strip-light or as a lamp and can be clipped on to a desk or other fixture. Some come with built-in timer so you can set how many hours the light is on. These are perfect for a dark office space or even a dull corner.
Some come with both a plug and the option of connecting to power via a USB connector.
These have an advantage over fixed light fittings as they can be easily moved and adjusted as needed.
They provide the full spectrum of wavelengths needed for plants.
Some people don’t like the brightness of these lights, however if you purchase the ones that come with a timer; you have the light come on at a time that you choose.
Full spectrum horticulture grow lights
If you have a lot of plants or are perhaps wanting to grow vegetables indoors, you can purchase specialist grow lights. Again, there is so much choice. But basically you are looking for a system that allows you to select the type lighting suitable to the stage your plants are needing, i.e. warm, cool, or both (for growth or flowering). These modern systems are fantastic and are very economical too.
I have heard of great reviews of this particular one; it has all the functions you might need, plus it comes with a grow tent which helps to reflect the light plus maintains the temperature. This one is great for growing your own fruit and vegetables.
Some final tips….
There really is so much choice these days that it can be overwhelming. But don’t panic, you can’t go far wrong if you make sure you purchase ‘full spectrum’ bulbs or systems. One thing to be aware of though, are ‘gro bulbs’…. these are light bulbs marketed for plants but they only make plants look nice; they don’t provide the full spectrum that plants need to grow and thrive (I don’t know, crazy, right?). Check the packaging; if it doesn’t state full spectrum of warm and cool, then avoid them.
Whichever set-up you have, don’t forget to rotate your plants so every side of the plant receives full light.
Timers are a fantastic way to ensure your plants get enough light and you don’t need to worry if you are out or go on holiday.
Make sure you dust the plants leaves from time to time. If the leaves are covered in dust, they can’t absorb light efficiently.
Place a mirror under your plants (or even beside them or behind them); this will reflect more light around the plant.
Good luck, I hope this helps you find the right type of lights to boost your houseplants 🙂
Disclaimer: None of the information shared on this website should be used as a replacement for seeking medical attention. Always seek advice from an expert.
Amazon Associates Program greenlotusden.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.