Orchid lighting with CFLs

daniel13March 28, 2008

I am having a problem with my orchids getting to bloom. I have a 9 foot wide east facing windowsill that tapers to a 6 foot large window with angled windows on the side. I had 3 60w grower's lightbulbs placed about 18-24" above the leaves. I live in Northern MIchigan and with the east orientation, winter,etc the temp gets to about 55-58 low in the wintertime to about 65-68 max. Obviously warmer in the summer but the light is actually less then with the surrounding trees leafing out. With this setup I haven't had any blooming in over a year, but some leaves are growing,as well as epiphytes.

I surmised this is not enough light, too cold or not enough of a temperature difference (I've read orchids need 20 degrees diff). My wife keeps telling me to be patient and wait. I've recently replaced the bulbs with 3 23W CFL bulbs and it is definitely brighter. A higher wattage light would painful to look at I think. Should the plants be closer to the lights? Also , the humidity runs about 30%, I've read about putting the pots in a clay saucer with gravel and H20 to increase the humidity. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I'm getting frustrated and thinking of moving the orchids to my basement with a fluorescent bulb set up and a flower shelf unit- or with cfl and/or incandescent bulbs hanging overhead. However, then I wouldn't be looking at the orchids daily. A tradeoff I guess. Thanks very much Daniel13

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xmpraedicta(3b Saskatoon)

Hi Daniel

Unfortunately, 23W bulbs at 18-24" is really far and essentially the lights are probably not helping at all (I have a 65W 3" away from my plants). Can you lower the lights? How large is the area? If it is 9 feet by 2ft, you would probably need 20 23W CFLs which is ALOT of them!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 11:22PM
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highjack(z6 KY)

Hi Daniel - I am including a link from a previous post measuring the light of a 42 watt CFL that actually pertains to a bulb that sticks out below a reflector as opposed to keeping the bulb inside a reflector. It gives you the fc measurement which would be double of what your 23 watt would give you.

Your humidity will be raised slightly in the immediate area if you add saucers/gravel. If you go with a basement set-up, you can use your window for a display area when they do bloom :>) The diurnal range of orchids is dependent upon what genus you grow.

I hope this helps.

Brooke

Here is a link that might be useful: CFL fc measurement

    Bookmark   March 29, 2008 at 7:28AM
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aerides(z6 Manhattan)

Hi Daniel. The night temps you posted are ok for intermediate growers - too cool for warm growers if you have any. Your day temps are too cool for intermediate and warm growers. Days need to be at least 75 degrees if you want them to keep growing. Humidity should be addressed *after* you correct for light and temperature.

John

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 12:14PM
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howard_a(z6 NYC)

The combination of natural and artificial light is superior to any setup you can economically put together in your basement. Three 42W on 3' centers @ ~24" is very natural looking. Closer with CFL looks a little strange and you will need lots more bulbs. No, the brighter bulbs will not be painful to look at, in fact during the day it will be hard to tell if they are even on. At night, yes, it gets bright but the bulbs should have shades that cover them completely and glare will not be an issue. If you bag the window and go to an all artificial setup you have to triple the size of the lamps. Humidity "may" be better in the basement but that is not guaranteed. There are established strategies for increasing humidity in rooms. Humidity trays start to become effective when their surface area exceeds 4sq/ft. Then there is the issue of filling them, draining them, keeping them clean. Some kind of purpose built humidifier seems a better path to me.

H

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 3:57PM
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daniel13

Howard, I think I can get 42watt cfls-assuming they are ok for a standard 60w incandescent socket. So you think a 18-24" distance with that setup would be ok? I plan to get some terracotta saucers with gravel to get the humidity up as well. I have 9 orchids in the window mainly cool to intermediate temp species-mostly phals and cattleya. What about the temp range? (winter as low as 55 degrees-recently I've been getting them to about 64-68max during the day) Is it too cold?. I've read 55 degree is ok for some cool growing varieties but what temp does it need to get up into during the day? Thanks very much-this is very helpful. Daniel

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 5:54PM
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highjack(z6 KY)

Howard are you saying the 42watt CFL's should be 24" from the plants? At that distance with a reflector, you are only generating 120 fc's.

Brooke

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 6:29PM
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altair

I'm not sure about the different distances correlating with the amount of watts, but last December I purchased two 85 watt CFL's from Light Bulbs Direct (http://www.lightbulbsdirect.com/page/001/CTGY/CompactFluorescent) , following advice from Clara and other great people here on the forum. Since getting them, the difference has been like night and day. All the plants seem healthier and happier. It's a bit blinding walking into the room, but you get used to it after a while. In my opinion, it's definitely been worth the investment.

Also, here's a link to an old forum thread that might be useful: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/orchids/msg1019402630769.html?20

~altair

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 7:49PM
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xmpraedicta(3b Saskatoon)

Altair - how are they setup? I'd love to see how you have them (I get inspiration from other people's setups) and I'm sure it would help anyone wishing to setup a light system too.

My CLFs are 3" away from my plants...possibly too close because I do see some purple...at 2 feet though, I don't think they'd be doing anything at all but perhaps I (and my light meter) am completely mistaken.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 8:07PM
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altair

Well, to be honest, I haven't a clue whether or not I have the lights proper distance away from my plants or not...I've just been going little at a time experimenting and adjusting if I see any plant leaves looking like they're getting too much light. The room that I have all my plants setup in has become "that room" in the house where anything that has no place to go ends up, so I apologize in advance for the disorganization of everything. There are two windows in the room, one facing east, the other facing south.

In the first photo you can see the two grow areas (one against the east window, and the other in the corner by the brick wall), each having one 85 watt CFL...

In the area by the east window, I have a mini terrarium and plant trays (*cough* walmart throwaway tin cake pans) on either side.

In the corner by the brick wall, I have quite a few plants on the floor, so you probably can't see them that well. But yeah, I have an oncidium, paraphalaenopsis, vanilla planifolia, and potinara seedling growing right below the light.

The lights are set up on a timer system so they're going from about 8am until 10pm, which is really nice and saves alot of time. Also, I have a humidifier going most of the day.

Hope this helps & good luck to anyone setting up a CFL setup - it's definitely worth it! :)

~altair

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 11:18PM
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jane__ny(9-10)

I'm embarrassed to show these pics of what happens to my house over winter, but it works. Not perfect, but the best I can do until the days lengthen and the sun grows stronger. West windows with some Southern sun. Quite cold as the windows are old and not insulated. I move Phals and other warm growers to a small office under lights when the night temps get too low. I've registered 50 degrees near the windows at night.

I use octopus floor lamps. This photo was taken in Oct. By Dec. I have added 4 more octopus units. I use a combo of 23W and 30W. Each lamp holds 4-6 lights. I put the lights so close to the plants, some leaves get burnt.

This is the small, warm room I put plants which can't get too cold in there until the nights warm up. I do move many back and forth depending on the weather. It is not a good set-up, but I get the Phals to bloom and other plants to continue spiking. The photo does not show all the plants and lights. As soon as possible they get moved back to the living room.

I don't worry about humidity. I do run a few humidifiers in each room, but the large room rarely gets above 20%. I also close the shades at night to prevent too much of a draft on the plants. Cool growers love the set-up. Many of the Cattleyas and hybrids can take temps quite low. The Phals will rot if kept too cold.

It can be done and the octopus lamps can be positioned so the lights are not shining in your eyes.

Jane

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 11:47PM
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howard_a(z6 NYC)

If there were not the west window providing a healthy amount of light intensity and the opportunity to use three bulbs I probably wouldn't recommend 42W bulbs but the distance of 24" is what looks about 'right' when setting up these lights. In a north window or windowless situation keeping the bulb from the plants distance the same 24" and upping at least one bulbs size to 85W gives you decent intensity and lets each bulb cover a 2ft wide area with good intensity and the third foot gets overlap from the neighboring bulb.

H

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 12:05AM
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aerides(z6 Manhattan)

Yay Jane! I've been dying to see pics of your livingroom (or at least the important part of it!)

John

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 11:07AM
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daniel13

Thanks for the great comments and pictures. Howard, I think I'll try 3 42W cfls in my east facing window and see what happens over the next several months with the warmer weather and such. I Think I'' make a small stand to bring the plants a little closer to the lights. Maybe I'll have to create a setup elsewhere with more light intensity if this setup doesn't work. Then hopefully if I get some flowers, I could move them back to the window while they are flowering. Jane where did you get your cool silver octopus light? Great forum! Thanks Daniel

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 12:22PM
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jane__ny(9-10)

John can you believe what my family has to live with? That photo only shows a third of the room. Further down is my 'cool area' which has no baseboard heat and gets quite cold. All my cool guys grow there under lights.

Daniel, I bought all the lamps from either Home Depot, Target, K-Mart and Bed Bath & Beyond. I watch for sales. The silver ones were from Bed & Bath. I cannot put anything bigger than 23 Watts in those or they blow out. The white plastic can take the 30's without a problem. Everything is plugged into strips with on/off switches. Some are on timers, others I hit the switch before bed. None of the lamps were more than $20.00.

You better hope your family appreciates your hobby...

Jane

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 11:46PM
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