Depending on what you are growing and what light sources you already have available to you, the best plant lights for your needs will vary. Some houseplants require low light and even do poorly if they receive too much light. Other houseplants require so much light that you may not be able to easily meet their needs. If you are growing vegetables inside in the winter months, you will need to supplement the light you have and may even consider investing in specialized lights. Combine different light sources to create the best plant lights for your garden needs.
Natural sunlight is the best of all plant lights. Green houses and cold frames (small portable glass enclosures for your outdoor garden) will extend your outdoor garden season using natural light. For indoor gardening and houseplants, if you have access to southern exposure, place your plants near these windows. Southern light is the best natural light you can give your indoor plants. However, some plants will need supplemental lighting if they have high light needs or the daylight is too short. Some plants will suffice with less light as well as eastern or western light.
Fluorescent bulbs are the best of the least expensive lights available for your indoor plants and may already be in your home. Fluorescent bulbs copy the blue rays created by the sun without using too much energy or creating too much heat. Cool-white fluorescent bulbs are the better than warm-white florescent bulbs. Though fluorescent bulbs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, the four foot tubes work the best due to having the longest life span and the best light output. The light from fluorescent bulbs scatters easily, therefore, these lights should be hung just a few inches above your plants. Additionally, fluorescent bulbs should be changed about every six months for optimal lighting.
Specialized Fluoescent Lights
Though a bit more expensive and a little more difficult to find, specialized fluorescent tubes are even better than cool-light fluorescent for their ability to copy sunlight. Daylight fluorescent tubes, plant growth fluorescent bulbs and full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs are available for indoor gardening and houseplants. These lights are better than the average fluorescent light because they have a better balance of blue and red rays. However, they are specialized as grow lights and may not offer enough light to be used for illuminating a room. Plant growth fluorescent lights usually have a pink or purplish tint to them. Use specialized fluorescent bulbs along side regular fluorescent bulbs for a more complete light.
High Intensity Discharge Lights
High intensity discharge lights, also called HID lights, are the best but also the most expensive of lights available for indoor gardening. The initial cost is more expensive, replacement bulbs are expensive and they use a lot of electricity. However, HID lights create an extremely high light output. Unlike fluorescent bulbs, HID bulbs do get hot and may require a fan to keep your plants from over-heating.