Grow Lights can be an intimidating piece of equipment to add to your indoor jungle. They can be bulky, or perhaps just don't suit the aesthetics you've created in your home. Many produce a glow resemblant to a night club and have the potential to completely change the feel of your space. But don't let this put you off them! When used correctly and fully understood they offer the potential to junglfy your home even further!
So why use them?
The number one reason (essentially, this is the only reason) is lack of or insufficient light. Perhaps you live in an apartment with south facing windows, or have one dark room that you really want to add a few plants too. Sometimes a bright room might change completely over winter and suddenly all that summer light disappears. Or maybe, you just can't be bothered opening your curtains and your plants are worse off for it.
Another common reason to invest in grow lights is to increase growth. Perhaps your plants look ok but they're not pumping out any new foliage. The room might have natural light but just not enough for that particular plant. Adding a grow light will supplement any light deficiencies and help keep your plant looking its full-foliage best.
Finally, grow lights are often used in 'urban farming'. Basically, small scale indoor production for the home. Growing herbs and veggies for example. Sometimes this might be a large set up in a garage or basement but there are many options for smaller more subtle setups.
LED grow lights offer a number of benefits that regular halogen and incandescent lights don't. They don't give off any heat, they are far more energy efficient and have a longer lifespan than fluorescents. But most importantly, LED grow lights use specific wavelengths of the light spectrum that are beneficial to plant growth, so you know your plants are only getting the good stuff!
Some LED grow lights are full spectrum (often a purple light) where they offer the complete range of lightwaves plants require, while others can be more specific and target root growth (blue) or fruiting and flowering (red). Some grow lightswill give you the option of changing lightwaves depending on what you're using them for.
Tips and Tricks
Whenever possible, place your grow light above the plants, If this isn't doable, consider rotating the plant on a regular basis so it doesn't lean out to one side as it grows towards the light.
Don't leave your grow light on 24/7. Plants, like humans, need a break too. They photosynthesise during the day then respire overnight. Try to provide your plants with a break of about 6-8hrs over a 24hr period.
Whenever possible, try to get a grow light with a timer or consider adding one. This saves you the trouble of having to remember when to turn you light on and off. They're also great if you don't like the light spectrum colours so you can time it for when you're not home or in bed asleep!
You might come across these terms as you start to learn more about grow lights:
PAR - Photosynthetically Active Radiation: Measurement on the quality of Light. The range of light used by plants.
PPF - Photosynthetic Photon Flux: Amount of PAR being used by Lighting system each second. How much PAR produced by the light.
PPFD - Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density: How much PAR is hitting the plant
Words by Duncan Hilder, Photo from Urban Plant Growers