How to Use Fluorescent Lightbulbs for Growing


Fluorescent lights are the least expensive and most practical bulbs you can use for growing plants in your home. Fluorescent lightbulbs are an efficient and cool-burning source of light. Houseplants that need extra light due to shorter days or inadequate sun exposure will benefit from fluorescent lightbulbs. You can also use fluorescent lightbulbs to grow lettuce, spinach and herbs year-round in your indoor garden. Growing sprouts is another form of indoor gardening for which fluorescent lights are excellent, and to get a head start on your spring planting season, use your fluorescent lightbulbs to start seeds in late winter.

Step 1

Use a cool-white fluorescent bulb with each warm-white fluorescent bulb. This will give you an adequate mix of red and blue rays for a low price.

Step 2

Place your plants so that the tops of the plants are just 4 inches below your fluorescent lights. The light from fluorescent bulbs scatters easily, so the plants need to be close to the bulbs.

Step 3

Allow a period of darkness for healthy growth. Plants usually do best with 14 to 18 hours of light, depending on the plant you are growing. Use a timer to turn the lights on and off for consistent light and dark periods.

Step 4

Experiment with light exposure to find the best situation for your plants. Your plants will grow tall, pale and spindly if they are not receiving enough light. This means they need more exposure or the lights are too far away. If your plants are getting too much light, their leaves and flowers may appear bleached before turning brown and shriveling. In addition, their leaves may be too small and may curl under at the edges. If this happens, give your plants a longer period of darkness.

Step 5

Change your fluorescent bulbs frequently to keep them as efficient as possible. Fluorescent bulbs become less efficient the longer they are used.

Things You'll Need

  • Cool-white fluorescent bulbs
  • Warm-white fluorescent bulbs
  • Timer


  • University of Missouri: Lighting Indoor Houseplants
  • Government of Alberta: Artificial Light
  • University of Hawaii: Growing Plants Indoors Under Supplemental Lighting

Who Can Help

  • Home Harvest: Buying the Right Indoor Plant Grow Light
Keywords: indoor gardening, artificial lighting, growing with fluorescent lights, using fluorescent lightbulbs

About this Author

Em Connell McCarty has been writing for 27 years. She studied writing at the University of Iowa and at Hollins University in Virginia. She writes fiction, creative non-fiction and essays. McCarty's work has been published in Hip Mama magazine.