Growing Under Lights

bikerdoc5968 Z6 SE MIAugust 22, 2014

I'm fairly certain this topic has been covered multiple times, so humor me! In past years, I've been able to squeeze everything back into the greenhouse. I don't think I will be so fortunate this fall... and fall is rapidly approaching )-: This is the contents of the greenhouse as we speak today.

This is how things looked last fall.

These are the plants that have to go back in somewhere warm.

My only solution is to set up some benches with lights in my basement. I've never grown anything under lights. I would like to get some feedback from those who do this all the time and seem to be successful. I have 8' fixtures that have T5 or T8 or T something bulbs; my son salvaged several fixtures from his work as "almost new" lights, because they didn't want them anymore. I want to know distance above plants that you have found to be most optimal and length of time you have your plants illuminated. Also, any other helpful advice for doing this project... mistakes you've made and your learning curve.

Thanks in advance for your assistance...


This post was edited by bikerdoc5968 on Fri, Aug 22, 14 at 10:55

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Stush2049(Pitts., Pa. 6)

T-8 bulbs are great. The T-5 are for growing them and are expensive. I use the T-8 shop lights sold about $20 plus bulbs. I made a stand for two 75 gal. fish tanks. Now I just have plants. I bought door mirrors for $4 ea. to line the back and hing on front. 4 tube lights are lite 12 hrs. a day. They are hung 20 inches above the plants. Lower is better but my Sans are tall. For small plants, 12 in. is good.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 12:40PM
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Lordy , Howard
You certainly have acquired a lot of new plants this summer. They look great.
Maybe a bigger greenhouse in your future?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 1:04PM
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You might also want to consider utilizing more horizontal surfaces in your greenhouse. I am always amazed at how much light gets to the underside of benches like you have, for instance. So, you might consider putting plants on the floor under the big bench. You might also consider putting in a second line of shelving next to the one you have above your benches now. I use similar shelving in the greenhouse, and find it is quite sturdy, and not too bad to support. You have a beautiful set of plants.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 1:15PM
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I use (empty pots) shimes to lift trays to hold plants closer to lights for smaller height plants on a shelf in oreder to hold a short in height plant next to a taller in height tray of plants under the same row of lights.

The inside winter suxs to me in few words It's all about the brightness and then simply move the air

Ohh and don't forget to water but that's all about the drainage.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 6:34PM
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BikerDoc, your collection is making me drool!!! They are ABSOLUTELY BEATIFUL!!! ðÂÂÂ

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 7:04PM
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paul_(z5 MI)

Renais, believe me, Howard's empty floor space is generally minimal once all the plants are moved in. Also there exists the following issues with placing cacti/succs there:

1) Our winters tend to be quite lacking with regard to sunlight and the location of his greenhouse reduces it even further -- especially with regards to light entering from the sides.

2) Water drippage from above could pose issues for cacti/succ on the floor particularly as it can be significantly cooler there. (Also a possible hazard should he consider putting lights on the underside of the benches.)

My suggestion, should you not have yet considered it, sir, would be to plan on adjustable shelving -- whether you design and build such shelving yourself or buy them.

Suspending the light fixtures from chains would give you added control with regards to their proximity to the plants. I also use overturned pots to raise some of my smaller charges closer to the lights when the bigger boys won't allow distances to be reduced further.

For plants in active growth, you will -- in many cases -- need to have plants in very close proximity to the lightbulbs/lamps. IME (with my Cattleyas and other higher light plants) this often translates to having the plant within an inch (sometimes less) of the bulbs.

Cool deal that your son was able to snag some fixtures for you. If they had lots, I would have asked you to snag a couple for me. too.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 7:07PM
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deva33 Z5 SE Iowa

ok... bottom pic, near center but just to the left... bonsai looking guy. What is that and where do I get one?!?!? My bf's family lives in MI and we are supposed to go visit soon. If you have any multiples you want to unload I'm your girl!!!! Your plants are beautiful!!!!! Seriously... I'm jealous!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 7:17PM
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bikerdoc5968 Z6 SE MI

Thanks, Paul. I was going to address Renias' comments but you've said it all. I'm back so a visit is order. With the construction of my GH, additional shelving is near impossible. I have thought long and hard how I could reconfigure things but what I currently have is as good as it gets. My plan was to suspend on chains two or three 8' fixtures over the benches you see in the covered outside portable GH and use a timer set for a 14 hour "day". Watering isn't an issue as the floor is cement and there is a drain to the sump pump. Air movement is only a fan away! I would place as many plants of similar height together so I would have the additional need for pots. My thought was to place all of the Echeveria under lights as they suffered the most in the GH this past winter.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 7:25PM
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bikerdoc5968 Z6 SE MI

Deva, if your reference is the circled plant, that is Adenium obesum and I only have that one and some very small seedlings. Hopefully my insect friends will help out again this season and pollinate the plant and next spring I should have tons of seed. Hope you have a safe trip.


    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 7:32PM
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bikerdoc5968 Z6 SE MI

OK, here's another question: What temperature range works best.... 6500K, 5000K or 4100K?

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 11:50AM
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If you break down your trays you'll be able to manage ideal lighting temapture colors for each 4 foot row

Example E. Milli will do well with 4100K for a shorter time at a longer distance from lights as E. polygonas would need 6500 K for longer lighting time and be alot closer to the brighter bulb row than a milli.

the biggest problem I have is the late spring to summer growers that start beaking rest /dormant times in the middle of winter, early breaking is like opening a can of worms.
Two eaches of there own as they say, here the early breakers gets it's rightfull placement for mis behaving wich is slightly dimmer and cooler to hold them back for a little longer.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 5:42PM
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bikerdoc5968 Z6 SE MI

My problem in the greenhouse is that it isn't located in the best place of Michigan winter low light gray skies from November to April. This past year the Echeveria became etiolated and it's taken me this entire summer to get them back to looking half way decent. My thoughts are to place them in a cool basement (55F) with lights 10" to 12" away for 12 to 14 hours. This will give me the room I need for the Haws, Euphorbia, Dorstenia and other miscellaneous stuff.

More thoughts anyone????

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 6:43PM
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Stush2049(Pitts., Pa. 6)

That's what I would do. Maybe increase the time lengh if they seem to be getting leggy. Should work out better than what you had last year.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 10:42AM
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Amazing collection, colours and gh. If you dont mind, what do you use to heat your gh? And it seems you only have thin plastic sheets.

This past winter was my first with c&s indoors and it was a mixed result for me. I had a t8 maybe 4" above my plants. My aloe did great, grew alot and were a little reddish. Some of the tips of the leaves dried out, I was not sure if it was due to low humidity, less watering or all of that combined with high light. Alot of my plants had dried out leaves here and there. This winter Im thinking of watering them more often since the soil dries out in no time and perhaps misting from time to time. I have a West facing window and during winter direct sun light does not come in through the window much, so I had them in a cool place. Late winter to early spring (still too cold to move outside) I place a table on my window ledge and place all my plants there. They get a few hours of direct light and alot of indirect light. Although this makes it hard for me to go close to my bedroom window and close the blinds, this is the best method. When the overnight temps are warm enough, I can throw all my plants outside without the worry of acclimating.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 2:01PM
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bikerdoc5968 Z6 SE MI

I've had this greenhouse for several years. If I had to do over, I wouldn't purchase this brand knowing what I know now, so much for hindsight. It is a twin wall construction but not a sealed twin wall. So water collects between the panels as well as on the inner surface. I had to install a third layer to stop the constant water dripping everywhere. The greenhouse came with a 15T Btu electric heater running on 220 v. Electricity is significantly more costly in Michigan than NG. For about $250 I purchased a vent-free 20T Btu NG heater with fan at a big box store and have been using the same heater since the GH was erected in 2007. You can see the heater in the 2nd pic.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 2:27PM
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Its a learning experience. Im up north in Toronto, Canada and hope to have a gh one day. Ive seen many people post their gh but most dont seem to be heated. So I thought to ask. Im happy its been going fine for you, whatever the annoyances you have experienced on the way.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 2:54PM
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deva33 Z5 SE Iowa

Thanks Howard. Yes, that is the one I was talking about. I will be on the hunt for one now. I need some variety in my collection!

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 2:33PM
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bikerdoc5968 Z6 SE MI

I know Walmart and the other big box stores frequently sell them at very reasonable prices. I got mine while visiting family in Florida.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 3:04PM
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deva33 Z5 SE Iowa

Sweet. Thank Howard. I just (literally a few minutes ago) received a prickly pear cactus from a coworker who didn't want it. My variety is increasing! lol... I will absolutely look for one of the Adenium obesum too. I already found a seller on Amazon. I will likely buy one soon. My partner is getting annoyed with all the plants I keep bringing home so I have to go a while without any additions to keep him calm! lol. He did say he is starting to understand though. Caring for my plants is like meditation to me!

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 3:21PM
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I tried grow lights last winter with great results. I grow mostly orchids and succulents and wintered them under a 4 tube t5 high output flourescent. 20,000 lumens over about 6 sq. ft. it came with cool white tubes.
My cacti got a little pale on top, but I think that was due to failure to hibernate (my roommates kept the thermostat above 70). Aloes and haworthias thrived and several bloomed for the first time in mid/late winter. My oncidiums and cattleyas got a reddish 'suntan'. The lower light plants; sansevierias, phalaenopsis, hoya and african violets were under cheap shoplights with one warm and one cool white t8 bulb (2700k and 6100k) that covered about 4 sq. ft. each. Violets had been struggling for years but quickly started blooming and haven't stopped!

This winter I will have the same setup in a half-heated basement so the cacti can rest and the warmth of the lights should give the orchids the day/night temperature drop they like. If I have the same results this winter the haworthias may not go outside next spring, I've already decided the violets will never see real sunlight again!

My suggestions would be to select plants based on light needs, more hours can compensate for less intensity 12-14 hours is good but it can mess with photoperiodic bloomers. I keep the plants 4-6 in. from the tubes, check temperature at top of plants and adjust as needed, clip fans are great for ventilation and cooling, an outlet timer.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2014 at 11:28PM
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