Flourescent lighting.. does it work?

WPalm033(Chicago Z6)October 23, 2004

I have some plants I would like to grow indoors but the areas by my windows have run out of room, so I was wondering if regular flourscent lighting will work. My basement has some of that and I could put the plants a top shelf near the lights.. what do you think?

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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

As long as the plants are not too tall and not the type that needs really bright light, it will work fine. What are you planning to grow?

    Bookmark   October 23, 2004 at 8:17PM
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gawdly

Nope, won't work. It has to be a $500 "grow light" fixture from a name brand to get your plants to grow. :-]

I'm just kidding, of course it will, you just need to make sure the light stays on long enough to benefit the plant, and all of it's other cultural requirements are met.

Sam

    Bookmark   October 24, 2004 at 4:05AM
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WPalm033(Chicago Z6)

Im planning to grow some small palms and a bannana possibly.

Should I keep the lights on all the time or in 12 hour cycles or something like that?

Thanks
Pat

    Bookmark   October 24, 2004 at 3:52PM
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rickey16(S. Ontario z6)

We start hot peppers in March, then plant them in our garden (My father is Italian). We usually keep our grow light fixture on a timer from 7:00am until 6:00pm. 12 Hours would be good. I would say anything from 9 to 14 hours is nenessary, depending on the type of palms/bananas.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2004 at 10:26PM
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gawdly

Try 16 hours or less. I stick with 16.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2004 at 2:08AM
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Bigsun(5)

Go with compact fluorescent lights and get yourself a good reflector. They've come way down in cost. And use at least a 60 watt bulb. (I grow vegetables indoors all winter with a 95 watt "envirolite" bulb. The better bulbs (designed especially for horticulture...though basicly any full spectrum fluorescent bulb will do) are available online or at companies carrying hydroponic supplies. You can get cheaper ones at Home Depot too (though they wont have the reflectors there.)

    Bookmark   November 4, 2004 at 8:30AM
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platybat(z6? Boston, MA)

Bigsun (or anyone else) --
What are your recommended sources for the compact fluorescent set-ups? (reflectors, whatever else...)

There are sooo many posts in this forum that I suspect I missed the ones with source links.

Are the compact fluorescents better than plain old nasty ugly long tube fluorescents?

I've been trying to come up with a more presentable light set-up for seeds and/or orchids in my living room, but I have yet to come up with an idea that's cheap enough to merit the time.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2004 at 2:43PM
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kdjoergensen

compact fluorescents is regular lightbulbs but bend so that they produce twice as much (or more) light per sq foot compared to regular fluorescents. Therefore if you can afford the CF, then go for it. Otherwise regular 4' shoplights with 40w cool white bulbs is adequate for most plants as long as you keep them within inches of the plants. The price for a full set up (4') is often less than $25 compared to several hundred for the CF's (including light bulbs).

While the article below deals with seed growing, the setup is the same if you just want to grow plants under lights:
http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/18505/105363

    Bookmark   November 12, 2004 at 4:31PM
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gawdly

platy, most compacts have standard screw bases, so they will fit just about any reflector you can find that has a standard incandescent screw base. I purchased an HID reflector and used a hole saw to cut holes in the sides to pass the bulbs through to the sockets. Its' hard to explain, so I should probably get some pics up so I can show people.

My compacts are 85W, so they are very sizeable...about a foot long. go to www.abcbulbs.com and click on the compact fluorescent catalog. About $30 apiece, and quite a bit brighter than the equivalent in T12 tubes(regular ugly old fluorescent tubes). I had 2 2 tube fixtures over my tank, and now my plants have really gotten into growing since that time.

Sam

    Bookmark   November 13, 2004 at 3:26AM
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nygardener(z6 New York)

WPalm033, how tall are those plants? Fluorescent tubes work best with plants under about 8" tall, and even compact fluorescents cover at most about a foot of foliage depth.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2004 at 12:08AM
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pixeu

fluorescents work great!
my university did a research growing with no mylar or other reflectants under incandescents, cool whites, combination cool/warm, combination fluoros plus incandescents, grow lights, shade, and greenhouse. grow lights were second best to greenhouse grow. "perfect" was used to describe results in fact.
i use a series of two 48", 40 watt grow lights growing in shoplights in tiers of dormitory closets for germination, cuttings, and fruition. of course this is combined with proper circulation and heating/humidity conditions. lights are kept at proper heights, very close to tops to avoid stretching. fluoros are great because they don't get hot, so heat is easy to control. give it a try!

    Bookmark   December 10, 2004 at 10:50PM
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DgreenR

Hi All,

At home improvement stores I have seen flourescent bulbs that are supposedly made just for plants. I think they are made by Grow-Lux. Does anyone know if these actually work better than say a warm/cool 40w or 20w combo of florescents in a shop light? I heard the grow lux are kind of a gimmick. I also have some 50w and 60w regular bulbs that are suppose to help plants grow. I'm pretty sure the light rays are good because they are energenic enough to trigger photosynthesis but is the amount of light they produce even significant enough to do anything? They seem to help but I'm not sure if theyre really helping that much. Anyone have any experience or knowlegde involving these bulbs?

Thanks!
-DB

    Bookmark   December 12, 2004 at 10:49PM
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DgreenR

Hi All,

At home improvement stores I have seen flourescent bulbs that are supposedly made just for plants. I think they are made by Grow-Lux. Does anyone know if these actually work better than say a warm/cool 40w or 20w combo of florescents in a shop light? I heard the grow lux are kind of a gimmick. I also have some 50w and 60w regular bulbs that are suppose to help plants grow. I'm pretty sure the light rays are good because they are energenic enough to trigger photosynthesis but is the amount of light they produce even significant enough to do anything? They seem to help but I'm not sure if theyre really helping that much. Anyone have any experience or knowlegde involving these bulbs?

Thanks!
-DB

    Bookmark   December 13, 2004 at 1:12AM
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sonnypippo

just use some 6500K fluorescent tubes.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2004 at 8:37AM
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gawdly

pixeu-

That is a very vague posting. Care to elaborate? What are "grow lights"? Do you have a brand name/models?

Sam

    Bookmark   December 13, 2004 at 1:23PM
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klavier(Z7 Baltimore)

Thanks for the info,
I have a whole bunch of GE 13W (60W equivallent) flourescent bulbs that I am going to try with my plants. After looking at $250 growing fixtures I had about given up on the idea of growing plants under lights. I have a couple friends that go for the big expensive lights. I know a guy that has his whole basement lined with foil and has about fifteen of such light fixtures. I have gotten to the point where I am taking up window space in other peoples homes and my school. Sad, yes I know.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2004 at 10:00PM
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gawdly

13W lights won't do much. Try closer to 42W minimum, up to 105W.

Sam

    Bookmark   December 20, 2004 at 12:37PM
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klavier(Z7 Baltimore)

I have never seen a 100W flourescent swirl bulb before. Kind of a lot of wattage to be running 16 hours a day. I didn't mention I am using a bunch of bulbs in a little area very close to the plants. About two bulbs per square foot right above the plants (these are the swirl blubs that can be screwed into a socket). If I were to do this with 100W bulbs my electric meter would be spinning like crazy.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2004 at 11:25PM
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gawdly

Depends on how many you're running. I run 2 80W CFLs. THat is comparable in current draw to the previous 4 40W T12 lamps and much, much brighter.

Whether or not you've seen them before, they exist and IMO, they are just leaps and bounds better than the commercialley available 13-42W bulbs at HD. THese bulbs also screw into a socket, or can bepurchased with a mogul base if you don't want the conventional incandescent base.

Sam

    Bookmark   December 26, 2004 at 12:58AM
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klavier(Z7 Baltimore)

This has probably been answered multiple times over, but to your own anxiety-where can I get such bulbs at affordable prices. I just got two "full spectrum compact bulbs" 6500k that are supposed to be equivalent to 100W incandescent bulbs. I also got a small flourescent fixture with a "grow tube" I don't see how the "grow tube" is any different than a regular tube but it was the same price so I bought it. I did notice that the "full spectrum" bulbs appear to have a much more blue color light than the other bulbs I have. I am looking for anything that will grow my plants efficiently without running up the energy bill or costing an arm and a leg.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2004 at 9:31PM
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gawdly

You need to read past the marketing many times. "Full-spectrum" bulbs do not exist. It's a marketing tool. Many companies call 6500K/Daylight full-spectrum.

The equivalent wattages are also a marketing tool. A 100W equivalent bulb is about 25W. Pretty dim. I personally find anything less than 42W useless unless used in numbers.

I have bought bulbs in 80W strength from www.abcbulbs.com Another Gweb member posted the specs on a 6500K bulb in 105W(85W was also available), from topbulb.com Bulbs in this strength typically cost around $30 or less, but are so astronomically brighter that it is well worth it.

Money is always tight for most of us, but throwing your money away on $10-15 bulbs and fixtures that put out so little light adds up in time, too.

Oh, and a 6500K bulb is much more blue than other bulbs, so I suspect your "grow" light is just a 6500K bulb with a catchy name.

Food for thought.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2004 at 3:23AM
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klavier(Z7 Baltimore)

Thanks GaWd,
The info is very appreciated. I will note not to get bilbs from Home Depot unless they are for the house, not the plants.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2004 at 9:27AM
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gawdly

It's not that they are for the house and not for plants, exactly. It's more the fact that commercially available lights just don't live up to the needs of our purposes.

I buy bulbs from HD when I absolutely have to, but I always buy the strongest bulb on the shelf-usually 42W.

Good luck.

Sam

    Bookmark   December 27, 2004 at 9:43AM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

I would think if HD/Menards would carry these, the prices would be cheaper. I'm going to ask next time i'm there. I can't justify spending that kind of dough. Some t8's seem to have worked fine up to this point. And with the ability to use a cool/warm combo, you get a nice spread of color.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2004 at 10:38AM
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gawdly

You would think the prices on stronger CFLs would be lower if carried in HD? No. They probably won't even order them. Why? Because very few people want/need them. They are a very niche market, and there are only a handful of manufacturers.

T8s and T12s work, no question about it. They're cheaper, too, no question about that, either. What is definitely in question, however, is how bright they are, and whether or not there is a lightsource which is better, albeit a bit more expensive.

In my experience, the answer is yes, there is. These bulbs are brighter, night and day, than T12 bulbs and most T8 bulbs are only marginally brighter than T12 bulbs.

JMHO.

Sam

    Bookmark   December 29, 2004 at 12:48PM
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kansasgardengirl(Z5 KS)

My question is below the following description.

From Charley's Greenhouse 5016A High Output Grow Tubes 48":

Regular fluorescent tubes give off barely enough energy for plant growth. These new fluorescent tubes for standard fixtures are much brighter(3400 lumens) and produce the most effective growing results. "Full spectrum" output is very close to real daylight that brings out the true vibrant colors of your plants and flowers. Extra long life, 48,000 hrs. Fits standard 40 watt, 4-ft fixture, but do not use in "Shop Lights." (All lamps burn out prematurely in "Shop Lights.") Specs: 40 watts, K = 6700, CRI 93.

Why would they burn out quicker in "Shop Lights?" How do you determine if this is true or just a ploy to get you to buy their fixture?

    Bookmark   December 29, 2004 at 7:33PM
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gawdly

Sounds like they want to sell fixtures to me!

I'll temper that comment by saying that shop light fixtures do use cheap materials and ballasts. I'd say buy a cheaper fixture with the proper ballast and be done with it. If it's a T8 bulb, put it in a fixture specifically meant for T8s.

I think many over the counter T8 bulbs are around 3400 lumens, however, so it doesn't sound too much brighter than OTC bulbs-YMMV.

Sam

    Bookmark   December 29, 2004 at 9:16PM
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zink(6a)

KansasGardenGirl,

You can definitely do better than those "5016A" bulbs.

Those lamps at Charley's Garden are "T10" lamps.
The 'T' number describes the diameter of the lamp in eighths of an inch. Thus, a T10 lamp is 10/8", or 1¼" in diameter.

There never seemed to be many oultlets carrying T10 lamps, T10's were rare and expensive next to what else was available.
That trend will probably continue since you can easily find T8 and T12 lamps which now are:
- Easy to find
- Put out as much light
- Cost a lot less

Currently, most new lamps being designed/sold are T8 and T5. They are slowly replacing all of the old, common, and often ugly, inefficient T12 lamps.

The T10 lamps have been around for a while. They were designed to meet the need for a high output, long-lasting lamp which could be used in a standard T12 ballast. The ad made sure to tout the long life of the lamp, but failed to make any mention of the "lumen maintenance", a term which describes the longevity of the lamps output. The lamp may still burn after 48,000 hrs, but can you read by it anymore?

The only reason that Charley's Garden gave a warning about using T10 lamps in Shop Lights is this: There are many 4-foot, 2-tube "Shop Light" fixtures being sold which use 25 watt fluorescent lamps, NOT 40,34,or32 watt. It just won't work well.

In the major ballast catalogs, the T10 is listed as using the same ballast(s) as the T12 uses. At 40 watts, there are no specialty ballasts made for T10 lamps that I could find.

One other thing that Charley's Garden mentioned was the high CRI of 93, which the T10 has. That is of absolutely NO interest to the plant. The plant only wants the wavelengths it uses to make food for itself. The well-balanced coloring is only to attract humans to the plant, which give it water and nutrients.

Zink

    Bookmark   December 30, 2004 at 2:24AM
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kansasgardengirl(Z5 KS)

Just the info I wanted - THANKS!

    Bookmark   December 30, 2004 at 7:23PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

I think a lot of this depends on what you want your plants to do..and what your growing...i just need mine to get my plants through the winter without losing all the leaves...and also to get seeds going...I've got may-oct to do the growing for me, free of charge!...this is why i go the cheap route...if your trying to fruit Bananas in WI, then you better have something that kicks out some light, a warm room($$$) and some bug spray...

It all depends on your needs/desires..and cash flow :)

    Bookmark   January 4, 2005 at 1:44PM
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Kristined(z3mb,ca)

I would use grow lights or a cool and a warm light bulb.Small plants and low light plants work the best.Watering should be held back as much as possible.The light level is low.and the growing will be slow.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2005 at 10:05AM
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klavier(Z7 Baltimore)

What would you recomend for Amaryllis? I have them in front of a south facing window and the lights are just to get them throught the winter. I posted before with the cheap crudy set up I have with two 20W compact 6500K bulbs. The plants are growing well except for my geranium which seemed to be growing best in the lower light!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2005 at 8:55PM
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shebob

This seems to me to be an important question that klavier asks. Does anybody know where to find information re the best lights for different types of plants? I also am getting into Amaryllis and have decided to try pairing one cool white flouresent tube (4100 K, 40 watt) with one 'deluxe daylight' bulb (6500 K, 40 watt)but have no idea if this is a good choice.

Any suggestions?

Thanks

Bob

    Bookmark   January 8, 2006 at 2:33PM
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johnva(Z7 TN)

For starting Amaryllis cool white shop lights work great, I've done hundreds that way. For growing them to bloom you'll have to ask someone else since mine went to the greenhouse when moved to individual pots.

For growth in a greenhouse min temps have to be kept at 55 or above or they tend to go dormant.

I can tell you they love to be outside in direct sun and watered daily in summer.

John

    Bookmark   January 24, 2006 at 2:01PM
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Monique Verrier

I was looking at a particular flourescent tube -- a 48" 116 watt T12 flourescent but I can't find the fixtures to it. Do you have to buy the ballast and whatever else and assemble your own lamp? I figured that two of those bad boys would make my plants pretty happy.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bulb Link

    Bookmark   February 5, 2006 at 10:21PM
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shrubs_n_bulbs(z8/9 UK)

I just looked in the kitchen and my fluorescents lights are working. I can see stuff and everything ;)

Monique, VHO tubes are quite inefficient. They produce a lot of light but use a huge amount of electricity. If you absolutely need 4,900 lumens from a four foot tube, think about getting a 54W T5. Same light (slightly more actually) from less than half the electricity. T5s are expensive but you'll make the money back on your utility bill in a few weeks. A T5 tube is also less than half the thickness of a T12 tube and so you can fit more into the same space if that's what you want. You can also get 54W T8s that produce 5,000 lumens but these are very hard to locate.

For these straight fluorescent tubes you will need to supply a ballast, a starter, and a physical structure to hold it all together, and ideally a reflector system so the light ends up on or near your plants. Generally this is all packaged together into something like a shoplight, but you are free the buy the components separately and wire it all together if you want.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2006 at 8:46AM
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oldscpmedic(8)

Flourescents work well for starting plants and maintaining those that require low light levels. The biggest drawback with your standard flouro tubes is lack of light penetration. At 1 inch away...sure it may kick out near 3000 lumens but it exponentially decreases to less than 500lumens at just under 6 inches.

The ol "mixed spectrum" marketeering sounds good but remember this.....the lower end of the spectrum- 2200 to 3000k (Kelvin)- is good for flowering and fruiting....the upper end (5500 to 6500kelvin) is good for vegetative growth. Blue light equals higher kelvin and red is lower kelvin. Tis why many corals require that "pretty blue" light. Beward of those bulbs that fall into the middle categories of "mixed spectrum"....their output curves do not benefit but a few plant species.

If you want to grow banannas or other fruit bearing plants....a flourscent is not gonna cut it. For a palm it may be the same depending on the species as the sago requires very little light. You will need at least a 150watt high pressure sodium bulb which kicks out 8000 lumens at 2700 kelvin to produce in fruit worth your time. These can be bought for less than 100 bucks..for that matter you can get a 400watt HPS for about 125.00 and for the money these cover it all IMHO. These(400watters) cost about 33 dollars a month to operate 24/7. The bulbs last a full season but depending on your area.....the heat may be an issue. During the winter....it helps me heat the greenhouse without any other devices at all!

I use both 400 watt high pressure sodium and a 400 watt metal halides. I also have the flourescents which work great for seed germination and those first few weeks afterward.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2006 at 9:37PM
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mwagt(z5 NE)

I've been experimenting a little with 2 4-ft shoplights using 1 Cool White and 1 Sylvania Gro-Lux in each. And I have 3 42-watt CFL's hitting my plants on the sides from 3 of the corners. I have the CFL's (about $10 each) in the aluminum cylinder shaped fixtures purchased from HD for about $12 each. So far that set-up has produced very good vegetative growth and now that the plants are flowering I already have 1 tomato on the vine. I wont call this a success though until I get several tomatoes from each of my plants.

I have a 120-watt Phillips Agro-lite (purchased at HD) that I'm going to try again. Last spring I tried using it in one of those aluminum cylinder fixtures but had it to close to the plants. It's probably better to use it on a plant that's close to being ready to flower. A smaller plant might either get too hot and die from it or grow tall and spindly. I'll probably try this one on a couple of hot pepper plants again except from a greater distance.

It's all a big experiment for me.

Jeff

    Bookmark   February 19, 2006 at 2:00PM
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irina_co(z5 CO)

Looks like it is more efficient to put 2 shoplights with cool/warm cheap bulbs, than 1 fixture with gro-lux and grolux wide spectrum - which makes them look better.

Amaryllis loves full sun - which means 5000 footcandles. One fixture with 2 lights will give you 500 footcandles at 10 inches from the bulbs in a center, less on the edges.
African Violets, ferns will be Ok, Phalenopsis Orchid - if closer to the bulbs, 4 bulbs plus couple incadescent on the edges will cover a lot of plants including most of the orchids, seedlings etc. Banana tree - greenhouse. One type of the draceana is called banana tree - and it is a medium light requirement house plant - does just right in a sunny room not necessary near the window.

Cheers

Irina

    Bookmark   February 20, 2006 at 4:16PM
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gw:simba-nj

After reading all of this info, I'm thinking of returning the "Illuminated Plant Stand" that I bought from Loews last night.It is a small stand with an overhead domed light for one plant. I'm hoping to improve the foliage of my passionflower. This fixture only takes up to a 25 watt bulb, so I bought a halogen, and a fluorescent bulb since I did not know which would be best. What do you suggest?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2006 at 12:30PM
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shrubs_n_bulbs(z8/9 UK)

The 25W halogen is useless for plants. Also, halogens usually only work in lamps specially designed for halogen bulbs. A 25W fluorescent (compact fluorescent? spiral?) would work for one small or medium-sized plant, if it fits in the lamp. But isn't your Passion flower quite a large vine? Also, a 25W compact fluorescent would work just as well in any table lamp, the only different with your plant stand is appearance.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2006 at 5:57AM
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dan112(S Ontario z6)

Hey WPalm033. What type of palms are you trying to grow under lights? THis may be difficult. I have found that palms really need some amount of natural light to do well unless you are willing to pay alot of money for the lighthing. As for the bananas I have 3 SDC's that grow primarily under CFL bulbs during th winter months and they don't seem to mind at all.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2006 at 10:22PM
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dianas_gardener

Hi:

I am definetly a newbie. I want to grow herbs indoors. I have purchased a 15 watt flourescent fixter from HD (it's about 18" in width), which I installed under my top kitchen cabinets about 6 inches above my wicker basket filled with 6 traditional herbs.

I am a little confused with the postngs. Do you think my setup will work?

The plants also get some filtered sunlight from a southern facing window.

Any advice helpful.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 7:38PM
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indorbonsai(6-7-8)

If your light bulb has a plastic cover over it take that off to help get as much light as you can ,, 15W is not much but if you keep your herbs as close to the light as possable and your using a full spectrum bulb it might work, with the added filtered light from the window. For my indoor Bonsai I use a 48" 2 bulb shop light with standard cool white bulbs 40W each about 4 inches above the highest branches and my trees love it and are growing fine for 2 years now. Hope this helps :)

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 11:44PM
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californian

You people in southern California obviously aren't paying attention. I have posted several times on this forum where to get fluorescent light fixtures and CFLs cheap but apparently no one is reading the posts. Right now Southern California Edison is subsidizing the costs of fluorescent light fixtures so you can get a 4 foot long single tube fixture that can use either a T12 or T8 tube for the ridiculously low price of $1.99. They are also subsidizing the cost of CFLs so you can buy them for an equally ridiculously low price of only 20 cents each, that's cheaper than an incandescent bulb. I bought two cases of them, so I now have a lifetime supply. Someone on Craigslist is selling used T8 and T12 fluorescent tubes in good condition that they got when the redid the lighting system in a large building for only 50 cents each. You have to look at the total cost of your lighting. Why use an expensive light fixture and bulb when two cheap fixtures and cheap bulbs will cost a fraction of the price and emit more light. Think!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 12:09PM
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indorbonsai(6-7-8)

I wouldent recomend Used bulbs , you dont know how old they are. I change my bulbs with new ones every 6 months maby as long as a year if its the light fixture thats over my Bonsai sitting in the window. The older the bulb is the less light it produces. Its best to change your growing bulbs at least every year to get/keep the best lighting for your plants.
As far as cost my 2 bulb 48" shop lights cost me $9 bucks and the bulbs are $3 bucks for 2 bulbs(standard cool white) brand new. $12 bucks total, cheep. Why order it online and pay about the same with shipping and have to wait about a week to get them when almost any store sells these lights for a decent price?

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 1:51AM
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granny61

I have a 6 ft corn plant that is in an east window but doesn't get a lot of light. I bought a desk CFL (50 wt) but the only place I can put it is on a table next to it pointing upwards. Does it matter if the light is not directed at the top of the plant but underneath?

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 3:05PM
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