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light shelf   Let’s talk light…page 3

This series will help you have happy, healthy plants to enjoy all year round in your home.  Series #1 began with providing the proper growing medium and Series #2 will focus on the most important thing you can provide for your plants indoors – light.  This, page 3, will explore the different options you are likely to find to supplement the light your plant needs indoors.

by Mary Sue



          Time to know what to look for

Artificial lighting options

There are numerous plant lighting systems on the market today, each with their own good and bad aspects. Choosing the right light for your situation is the most important part to growing indoors effectively. Plants benefit from all wavelengths of light but the reds and blues are the most important. This can make it tricky to accomplish the ideal light conditions for your plants.

Types of bulbs

Incandescent bulbs supply a good amount of red light (2700K) but virtually no blue so don’t have the proper wavelengths to grow plants, they also run quite hot and have a much shorter lifespan than other options.  They are not recommended.


CFLs or Compact Fluorescent and linear fluorescent lights are a good option on the cheaper side and your local hardware store, grow store, and online will have a variety of spectrum choices. They use 1/3 to 1/5 the energy of incandescent, last 8-15 times longer, and are 3-4 times brighter. A bulb labeled as warm white will be 2700K, neutral white 3000-3500K, cool white 4100-4500K, and daylight 5000-6500K.  You will need to mix or alternate color for both vegetative and flower growth.  A perfect low-budget alternative.


LEDs can have a higher initial investment but use the least energy, have the longest lifespan, and the widest variety of spectrum options including ones specifically designed for horticulture. These are what we recommend if you have the budget.  There are many bulbs on the market now that are specific for photosynthesis and use PAR measurement so you can get the right spectrum at the right growing stage.  These state that they will fit a T8 fluorescent fixture and range from 3000K to 5000K.


HPS or high pressure sodium has been the standard in horticulture lighting during the flowering/fruiting cycle for quite a while.  They run very hot and will need fans to cool both the fixture and the room.  They also lack sufficient blue light for use without natural light or another light source.  They are quickly being replaced by LED’s because of LED’s low heat output and energy efficiency.


MH or Metal Halide is the counterpart for the high pressure sodium. They will emit more blue and violet light and promote compact greener growth.  A good plan would by to begin with these for full, healthy vegetation and switch to HPS for the flowering period.



Florescent fixtures are easy to find and inexpensive. Your local hardware stores usually carry a 2’ linear fixture for $20 or less.  Your local grow store will have a great selection.  You can find a huge variety online to order. For an nice inexpensive system, I use. For a great quality, also recommended.


Standard incandescent fixtures will accept many LED grow bulbs and compact florescent light bulbs.  These can be used directly over a plant and gives spot coverage.


Specially designed LED fixtures and HPS/metal halide fixtures are quite a bit more expensive but will give you the most options and best area coverage. Special air-cooled bulb reflectors or enclosures will be needed for HPS and can be found where other horticulture/hydroponic supplies are sold.  For example: You can begin with MH for vegetative growth then switch to HPS for the flowering cycle.


If you are on a budget you can get away with a few standing lamps with multiple independently adjustable fixtures. With this plan you will need a few different bulbs, some warm light and some cool white, somewhere between an even split and a ratio of 3cool/2warm.


Below are some comparisons links.

LED vs CFL vs incandescent

LED to HPS comparison

On to page 4 for some specific plant lighting needs.



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