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How Exactly do Grow Lights Work?

Posted on May 27, 2010
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There are basically four types of artificial lighting sources that are used to stimulate plant growth. All work by simulating what would be ideal conditions for any plant to thrive. They promote growth, fruiting, and flowering, depending upon the type of lighting you choose and what you’re trying to grow. These grow lights are designed to be used indoors. They work by emitting the appropriate shades of light from the electromagnetic spectrum to induce the natural process of photosynthesis.

The newest addition to the grow lighting family is the LED grow light. Using light emitting diode technology, multiple bulbs are installed together to provide optimal lighting conditions. Other than the dramatic reduction in electricity use, their other main benefit is the ability to specifically target the desired wavelengths of light.

Fluorescent lighting is perhaps the most well-known type and also relatively inexpensive. These bulbs and systems can be found at hardware and gardening stores and are easy to install. They can be placed very near the plants and are best suited for growing houseplants, herbs, and all varieties of cacti. Most often, fluorescent lighting is used to start seedlings for later placement outdoors or around the house.

Metal Halide lighting is arguably the most similar to natural light, making it very popular because of its even distribution of light and long bulb life. This can be a cost-effective option. This type is best used to accelerate the growth of vegetation and leaves so it’s commonly used for houseplants and leafy vegetables such as cabbage, spinach, and lettuce.

Often used in greenhouses are High Pressure Sodium Lights, or “HPS” lights. While very energy efficient, they do produce extreme heat and must be used with adequate ventilation. They’re a wise choice for those who are conscientious about the care of our environment. Because highly concentrated light is emitted with HPS lighting systems they are useful for promoting fruiting and flowering of plants. They do, however, have a few downsides to their use. The ventilation requirements, which are very important for safety reasons can make them quite expensive to install and use. Also, while fruiting and flowering are plentiful, the overall even and healthy growth of the plant can be compromised.

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