Lack of adequate light, says the University of Missouri Extension, is the most common factor limiting the growth of indoor house plants. Fluorescent tubes are the most effective bulbs available for price, shape and adaptability. A plant will require as much light from bulbs as they would require when growing in regular sunlight, says Home Harvest of Superior Growers Supply, so it is vital to know whether the plant you are growing requires full sun, or no sun at all.
Use standard fluorescent bulbs to start seedlings and cultivate cool season vegetables, says the Home Harvest website. Standard fluorescent bulbs kept 4 inches away from the tops of plants forces growth without burning, as the bulbs run cool to the touch.
Select high-output fluorescents for plants that require the full sunlight of tropical conditions, says Home Harvest. High-output fluorescents produce twice as much light as standard fluorescents while staying cool.
Choose compact fluorescents if you have several plants with different light requirements. Compact fluorescent bulbs contain reflectors that direct the light of the bulb towards the plant, focusing it so that the light does not spread. This prevents light pollution.
Use cool-white fluorescent bulbs for the color spectrum these bulbs provide. Cool-white bulbs produce a small amount of red light along with orange, yellow green and blue rays, providing all the colors a plant needs, says the University of Missouri Extension. The balance of cool-white bulbs is good for most plants, but for fruiting plants, cool-white bulbs can be paired with special grow light bulbs that have a higher red output. Pairing these bulbs can save you money.