Will Regular Fluorescent Bulbs Work for Grow Lights?

Fluorescent lighting can be used to grow a variety of plants indoors when the weather outside is not ideal for growing. They can provide the same quality light as natural light for photosynthesis to occur properly. There are a variety of fluorescent lighting options available. Long, tube-shaped fluorescent bulbs are ideal for indoor growing because multiple plants can easily fit under one fixture. Certain types of fluorescent tubes work better than others when it comes to growing plants under them.

  1. Type of Fluorescent Bulbs

    • Select fluorescent lights that are the best for plant growing. The website Gardeners.com recommends a combination of cool white bulbs and warm white bulbs, each offering certain spectrum colors that can benefit plant growth. Cool white bulbs give off more blues, yellows and greens, while warm white bulbs produce more orange and white light. This balance is achieved by using a two-bulb work shop tube fixture and installing one cool white bulb and one warm white bulb.

      GE makes bulbs known as "GE Plant and Aquarium tubes" specifically for indoor growing. SunLite also makes bulbs designed for plant growing application. Purchase at hardware and lighting stores.

    Size and Setup

    • Select a standard 48-inch long workshop-style fluorescent light fixture that comes with chains and hooks for hanging the lights above the plants. The chain system allows you to adjust the height of the lighting, crucial for adjusting the distance between the plants and the lights as the plants grow taller.

      Install the hooks to a sturdy overhead crossbeam or shelf above the table or shelf where the plants will be. Depending on the type of plants, the distance between light and plant will vary.

      Connect the light to a light timer and set it for the number of hours that the plant requires light. This can vary from plant to plant and is usually indicated on the seed packaging. For example, tomato plants require 12 to 16 hours of light daily.

      According to Gardeners.com, begonias should be 10 to 12 inches from light while they grow, while non-flowering plants can be as far as 36 inches away from the light source. Tomato plants need close light within 2 to 3 inches, but the light source for any plant should never be closer than 2 inches to the top of the plant, as this can cause a fire hazard and damage to the plant.

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