Fluorescent Vs. Natural Light


Many plants can be grown indoors using fluorescent lighting systems. Plants are the only organisms that are capable of producing food using light, a process known as photosynthesis. However, there are key differences between fluorescent and natural sunlight.

Sunlight vs. Fluorescent Light Wavelengths

Sunlight provides the complete spectrum of light wavelengths, which is visible through rainbow color -- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Cool white fluorescent lights provide a high proportion of blue light.

Fluorescent Grow Lights vs. Sunlight

Fluorescent lights used specifically for growing plants are available and attempt to reproduce growth-encouraging aspects of natural sunlight by providing both red and blue wavelengths. Blue light encourages vegetative growth, while red light encourages flowering. However, Oregon State University Extension advises they are more expensive but not much better than cool white fluorescents.


Plants are adapted to having a regularly scheduled day and a night. Sunlight dissipates at the end of the day, sending plants into important night cycles. Indoor gardeners, however, must remember to turn off fluorescent lights on a regular schedule. The University of Missouri Extension suggests using an automatic timer for this, as it's easy to get off schedule.


  • Oregon State University Extension: Environmental Factors Affecting Growth--Light, Temperature, Water, Nutrition
  • University of Missouri Extension: Lighting Indoor Houseplants
Keywords: fluorescent vs sunlight, fluorescent grow lights, artificial plant lights, grow lights, natural grow light

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Heather King began publishing creative works in 1988 and has been a professional editor and writer since 2002. Clients include Harry N. Abrams, Prenctice-Hall, WisdomTools, SmartFinds Marketing, American Community Mutual Insurance Company, as well as prominent businesspersons and artists. She has an Honors B.A. in anthropology and philosophy.

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