Defy Winter – Grow Plants.

Winter in the northeast means closing up doors and windows and spending most of our time inside. I miss fresh flowers and my garden. There are lots of ‘Grow Lights’ which produce light with the same wavelength as the sun and give indoor plants the ‘sunlight’ they need to thrive.

Plants need 10 to 16 hours of sunlight – remember photosynthesis? This is why gardens are happiest in the long, lazy days of summer. There are fewer hours of daylight in winter and even plants in warm windows do not get enough energy to grow healthy leaves, flowers and fruit. If your indoor plant is tall and spindly with small leaves and thin stems, it is not getting enough light. The leaves may be lighter than they are in the summer.

Mid-winter, I am especially interested in creating the right environment to encourage orchids which have flowered, to thrive and flower again. Most orchid plants should be placed 6 to 8 inches below the grow light and be in the light for 14 to 16 hours each day. Saving one or two special orchids will more than pay for the grow lights listed below.

There are four types of grow lights.

  • Incandescent lights are the least expensive, but they are not very effective at reproducing the wavelengths of sunlight. The bulb gets hot, so they must be placed a distance from the plant.
  • LED lights have been said to produce little useable light for plants, but they are cool. There is a new generation of LED lights which get great reviews.
  • Fluorescent Lights are adequate for your indoor herb garden, but they do not give enough light for flowering plants.
  • Compact Fluorescent Indoor Plant Lights are newer, brighter, smaller, cooler and more energy efficient than regular fluorescent lights. Plants can be placed close to them to maximize the light they receive.
  • High Intensity Discharge Bulbs (HID) are both bright and high efficiency. They are relatively expensive.

All light is not created equal for plants.

  • Blue-white light is good for leaves and keeps plants from getting spindly. Metal Halide Bulbs (MH) produce blue-white color.
  • Red-orange light is best for flowering plants, but is not the best for leaves.

If you are intrigued with growing plants indoors, this Dual-Lamp LED Grow Light is a good place to start. It is reasonable and claims to provide the light wavelengths needed by plants. You can program the time and intensity of the light. The two lamps have a single base, which clamps onto a desk or shelf. Dual-lamp Grow Light Autien 36LEDs 4 Levels 3 Modes Timing(3H/6H/12H) Plant Lights Bulbs Growing Lamps with 360 Degree Flexible Gooseneck for Indoor Plants Garden Greenhouse Tent Herbs Potted. $29.99

This Philips 120 Watt Plant Light Bulb fits into a fixture with a medium base. $8.99

The Wirecutter recommends the Agrobrite Fluorescent Grow Light System. It has a purely functional look. The two foot light with four bulbs producing 8,000 lumens is $94.66

This Dimmable Grow (HID) Light System includes both an HPS light bulb (for healthy leaves) and an MH Light bulb (for flowering plants). It has an entirely utilitarian look with a black ballast, a textured aluminum reflector and a plug in programable timer. It is designed to provide optimal light for indoor plants. The timer allows you to adjust the number of hours of light for herbs and flowering plants.  iPower 600 Watt HPS MH Digital Dimmable Grow Light System Kits Wing Reflector Set with Timer. $139.99

This Advanced Platinum is designed for growing both vegetables and flowers indoors. It has 12 bands with full spectrum of light. You can switch from flower to vegetable modes to produce the right light for your plants. It has a two speed, quiet fan. It is expensive and you should wear eye protection around its bright light. Advanced Platinum Series P150 150w 12-band LED Grow Light – DUAL VEG/FLOWER FULL SPECTRUM. $229.00