How to Grow Plants With CFL Lights

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Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) are a good choice for growing plants because they produce less heat--almost none--and provide the correct color spectrum for plant growth. They are inexpensive and fit in regular light sockets for grow lamps. Since they give off little heat, you can have many lights together in a small area. A major disadvantage to using CFLs to grow your indoor garden, however, is they give off little light, but there are ways to get the most out of them. Anyone can grow their plants with CFLs--it just takes a little effort.

Things You'll Need

  • Compact flourescent light bulb
  • Growing lamp
  • Light deflector
  • Figure out how much light your plants need and if you are growing from seeds, read the directions. This will determine the wattage of the light bulb that you choose. Use a higher-wattage bulb if plants need a lot of light and lower wattage for those that need less. Do not use a bulb less than 20 watts because it will not emit enough light.

  • Screw the CFL into the light lamp. Set the light lamp one to four inches above the plant--no farther away or not enough light will get to it. Do not let the light bulb touch the plant or it will burn the leaves.

  • Place a light deflector around each lamp to direct the light toward the plant. This will maximize the light output, since CFLs are not as powerful as high-intensity discharge (HID) lights or typical growing lights.

  • Use the daylight type of CFL when the plants are in the vegetative or early stages of growing, because at this point they do not need as much light as they will later.

  • Switch the light bulb to soft white for the flowering stage of the plant if it flowers. Soft white is similar to a high-pressure sodium or HPS light, which gives off more light and is better suited for the flowering stage.

Tips & Warnings

  • CFLs vary from nine to 52 watts and 450 to 2,600 lumens, which measures the output of light. If you're not sure how much light the plant needs, it's best to stay in the low to middle end of the wattage range until you figure it out.
  • Make sure your plants do not grow into the lights. If you're going to be away for a time, it's best to move the light farther away in case the plants grow.
  • Consider wattage and size of the bulb when placing the light near the plants. It may take some time finding the right bulb and distance.
  • Use a piece of cardboard wrapped in foil for an inexpensive alternative to purchasing a light deflector.

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