Fluorescent Grow Lights and the Basement Garden

It is a fact that many plants will bloom with no other light except that from ordinary fluorescent lights – fluorescent grow lights may even produce better results.
I tried the experiment last winter in spite of much advice against it. Everyone that I asked said that plants would not thrive and bloom without some daylight.

But I had a variety of plants that bloom in partial or full shade which responded beautifully to the fluorescent light in a basement.

I am sure the even temperature and humid air of the basement had much to do with my success. Anyone who has grown house plants knows that the hot dry air of the average living room is a great drawback.

Very few plants can be made to bloom in Winter without adding extra moisture to the air. No extra heat was used, just the heat from the hot air furnace in the basement. It was located some 25 feet from the flowers. The temperature was usually about 60 degrees.

 one type of fluorescent grow lights

African violets were a great success. They did not have as many blossoms as daylight produces, but the blooms were much larger. The foliage was nicer looking than I have had in any other location.

The African violets were quite small plants when they were put under the grow lights. They grew into blooming plants in a few months.

Those that I carried upstairs to the living room windows did not stop blooming. Sick looking plants perked up in a short time when I put them in the basement under the fluorescent lights.

A few that had crown rot were cut off at the soil line and set in soup plates of water to re-root. In 10 days or two weeks, tiny white roots started. More than one bloomed in the water when I was slow about putting them back in soil.

Amaryllis bulb blooms were spectacular under the fluorescent lights. It is true that blossoms that come from amaryllis depend largely on the size and health of the bulb, but even the best of bulbs must have plenty of light to bring them into flower.

Begonia semperflorens and shrimp plant, Beloperone guttata, both were covered with flowers for many weeks with no other light than that from two 40-watt white fluorescent bulbs.

I had a primrose form buds that dried up without opening, upstairs. In February, I put the plant in the basement under the fluorescent light, new buds came and it bloomed until late Spring.

The fluorescent lights kept ferns and various foliage plants fresh and green all Winter, with no dropping or brown leaves like those kept in the living room.

My ordinary utility fluorescent fixture, with two 40-watt white bulbs, was hung by chains, which came with the fixture, three feet above the table for the flowers. Naturally, the plants were less than three feet from the lights, depending on the size of the plants. Most of the low growers, I set on a tall milk or soda bottle. I kept the lights on 14 hours a day.

The use of fluorescent lights is a very inexpensive way to have more room for Winter plants.

The fixtures are comparatively cheap, and the cost of the electricity to operate them is small. I have found very little difference in our electric bill since using mine.

You are likely thinking, “I do not want to run up and down stairs to see my flowers.” I will admit that is a drawback, but that is the only place I had the extra room, and it did enable me to have blooming plants for my living room all Winter that I had never had before. It certainly will be a lovely decorative project for my basement recreation room – if I ever get it finished!

by P Arthur

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