How to Use a Plant Light

Overview

Although plants by nature grow outside, any plant can become a houseplant if the conditions for growing it are met. Plants require the right temperatures, food from the soil, water and sunlight. Most houseplants are subcanopy tropical plants because they have lower light requirements and adapt well to the lower lighting conditions in a home. Homeowners growing plants with higher lighting conditions can supplement the natural light in their homes with the use of plant lights.

Step 1

Screw in a specially-made plant light or a cool-white fluorescent light to a fixture above a plant. If you use fluorescent bulbs, you should use them in tandem with an incandescent bulb for your plants. According to Missouri State University, cool-white fluorescent bulbs and incandescent bulbs are just as effective as plant lights for growing plants. The fluorescent bulb will provide all spectrums of light that a plant needs except for red light. Incandescent bulbs will supplement red light that cool-white fluorescent bulbs do not provide. Use 30 watts of incandescent bulb per every 100 watts of fluorescent bulb.

Step 2

Use a photography ambient light meter to determine how may foot candles of light are being produced from the light source. Position the light source so that the correct number of foot candles of lighting are striking the plant. For more intense light, add more light bulbs over the plant. Plants with low light requirements can get by with as little as 10 foot candles. Medium-light-requiring plants need between 250 and 1,000 foot candles of light. Plants with a high light requirement need at least 1,000 foot candles.

Step 3

Position the plant approximately 6 inches below the plant lights. This height provides the strongest light for the foliage of the plant to absorb. As the plant grows in size, raise the light fixture so that it remains 6 inches above the plant. A desk light with an adjustable swinging arm, or a hanging light on an adjustable chain with an S hook are both ideal fixtures for container plants.

Step 4

Plug the light source into a timer. Set the timer to provide your plants with sufficient light. A plant that requires at least six hours of direct sunlight daily should receive 16 hours of light from a plant light. Plug the timer into the wall.

Step 5

Position additional lights around tall plants to illuminate the underside of the plant more fully and help it to receive light uniformly.

Things You'll Need

  • Cool-white fluorescent light
  • Grow light bulb
  • Incandescent light bulbs
  • Photography light meter
  • Desk lamp
  • Hanging light fixture
  • Chain
  • S hook
  • Light timer

References

  • University of Missouri Extension: Lighting Indoor Houseplants
  • University of Florida IFAS Extension: How to Build a Plant Lighting System
  • Univeristy of Alaska Fairbanks: Flourescent Lights for Plant Growth

Who Can Help

  • NC State University Extension: Indoor Plant Selection and Care
Keywords: using plant lights, growing plants indoors, lighting plants

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."