Artificial Plant Lighting/artifical plant lighting
Where is the best place in my house to set up an indoor garden?
What kind of light bulbs should I use?
Once I start growing my plants in artificial light is it possible to expose them to the elements without harming them?
I am sorry it has taken so long to answer your question. I had to go out of town unexpectedly and was unable to answer my questions until today.
The best place to set up an indoor garden and/or artificial plant lighting system is in a place that you can easily create an ideal micro environment for the plants you plan to grow. For example, if you plan to grow mostly plants whose native environment is the floor of the rainforest, then you will want to have your indoor garden and/or artificial plant light system set up in a place that you can create the lower light, warm, high humidity environment these plants thrive in. Because the ideal environment for most plants is often not the most comfortable environment for humans, a lot of people set up artificial plant light systems in places that humans do not 'live in'. Places such as a heated garage or spare bedroom.
Fortunately most plants have become very well adapted to the environment anywhere inside our homes. As long as their basic needs are met, like water, proper light, humidity, temperature and fertilizer, they will thrive.
If you do not have a place like a heated garage or spare bedroom then you can set up an artificial plant light system just about anywhere. When deciding where to put the system keep a few things in mind;
~ Set up the system in a place that is free from hot or cold drafts. A lot of plants are sensitive to drafts. Do not set up a system near a heating/cooling vent or a radiator, near a drafty window or near a door.
~ Avoid setting up a system in a high traffic area. Plant leaves can get damaged from getting brushed up against. Damaged leaves will never heal.
~ Most importantly set up the system in a place that is out of reach of children and pets. A lot of plants are poisonous and even plants that are formally listed as nonpoisonous can cause harm to children and animals if chewed or ingested.
The best kind of lights to use are special fluorescent plant grow lights. You can find them at most stores (I usually get them at Walmart). You can get ones that come with both the fixture and fluorescent tube together for about $10-$12 (When the tube burns out the fixture can be reused with a replacement tube).
To help cut down on cost, you can combine regular cool white fluorescent tubes with the special plant-growing fluorescent tubes. The ratio for combining them is 1 cool white fluorescent tube for every 2 special plant-growing fluorescent tubes.
Another type of light I like to use is a special incandescent plant-grow light bulb. They are harder to find than fluorescent tubes (I get them in the floral/plant section at Meijer).
If you decide to use an incandescent plant-grow light, be careful that you get a plant 'grow' light and not a plant 'display' light. Plant 'display' lights are designed to make plants look good and healthy but it does not produce sufficient light in the spectrum that plants require to grow.
Incandescent plant-grow lights are not quite as good to use as fluorescent lights. The main drawback with incandescent plant lights is they produce too much heat. Plants can not be placed closer than 12 inches to the bulbs because of the large amount of heat the bulbs produce. Although I still like to use them for several purposes. They work well to supplement fluorescent lighting. Also because they are incandescent bulbs they can be put into any kind of lamp. I usually put them in small inexpensive desk lamps. That way I can use them anywhere. I set them up to not only supplement fluorescent plant lighting but I can also set them up to supplement lighting for plants anywhere in the house. Incandescent plant-grow bulbs are especially helpful for very large plants, like Majesty palms, that are too big to fit into most artificial plant light systems.
Fluorescent plant-grow lights do not produce hardly any heat at all. You can set plants very close to the fluorescent bulb. I would recommend setting plants about 4-6 inches away from the bulb.
For flowering plants I would recommend using just regular incandescent bulbs to supplement fluorescent plant lighting. Almost all fluorescent lights, including special fluorescent plant-grow lights produces light almost exclusively on the blue/green end of the light spectrum. This is ideal for foliage plants, that only use light from the blue/green end of the spectrum but flowering plants also need light from the red end of the light spectrum to produce flowers. Incandescent bulbs produce light mostly from the red end of the light spectrum. 2 incandescent bulbs for every 3 fluorescent plant-grow lights should be sufficient.
The incandescent bulbs will need to be placed about 12 inches away from the plants. The heat produced by the incandescent bulbs can seriously damage plants if placed too close to the bulb. At 12 inches away the light the plant receives from an incandescent bulb wont be very strong but flowering plants will still get enough of the red spectrum light to produce flowers.
Don't supplement foliage plants with incandescent bulbs or use full spectrum plant lights. Foliage plants only absorb/use light from the blue/green end of the light spectrum. Using full spectrum plant lights or supplementing incandescent light is just a waste.
When dealing with artificial plant lighting, efficiency is important. When growing plants under artificial plant lighting, you are dealing with limited use of resources. Using things that are not needed or used by the plants just waste money and take up space that could be better used by something that will benefit the plants.
The general rule for light duration for plants under artificial plant lighting is about 14-16 hours of artificial plant light a day.
I would recommend getting an inexpensive timer. That way plants get the exact same amount of light every day and at the exact same time every day.
Plants grown under artificial plant light can be switched to sunlight if done slowly in stages. Taking a plant straight from artificial plant light to full sunlight will severely damage the plant and/or kill it.
I usually put a lot of my plants outside for the summer, most of them spent the fall and winter under artificial plant light. I start out by placing the plant about 4-5 feet from a east or west facing window. Do not set the plants in a south facing window. The sunlight (and heat) in a south-facing window can be too strong, even for some plants that have been in sunlight all along. After about a week or so move the plant so that it is directly in the window. After a week or two directly in the window, then you can set the plant outside in a shady spot. Do not set the plant in direct sunlight. In a week or two you can then set the plant in full sunlight. Make sure that the type of plant you are moving is able to handle direct sunlight. Unfortunately most of the plants that will do well under artificial plant light are plants that can not tolerate direct sunlight.
Here are a few plants that I have found grow very well under artificial lighting;
~ Prayer plants
~ Aglaonema (Chinese Evergreen)
I hope this helps. If you have any questions or need additional information please don't hesitate to ask.