All plants get their energy through a process called photosynthesis. Plant cells can absorb light and convert it into energy used for growth and repair. Of course the best source of light is the sun.
But, can regular light bulbs provide the same effect?
Yes, bulbs that you have in your house can be used to grow plants. However, regular incandescent bulbs do not provide the range of color spectrum light that plants thrive on. A better choice for indoor growing would be LED lights designed for that purpose.
LED lights made for indoor plant growing are designed to give off a full range of color in the light which your plant will need in order to grow. Incandescent bulbs give off a warmer, more orange light, which is not ideal for growing plants.
Let’s look at the question in more detail, as well as the different types of bulbs that will suit your needs.
What Types Of Bulbs Can Be Used To Grow Plants Indoors?
Growing plants indoors has been done for thousands of years. People enjoy having plants in their homes for decorative purposes as well as for health and well being.
It is possible to grow plants in the house if you can replicate the conditions that plant lives in outside.
First you will need to research the type of plant you have and how much light they need. A lot of plants need indirect sunlight all day, as well as a period of darkness to replicate the day and night cycle. Most indoor plants are chosen because they need less direct light anyway.
Light levels are measured by a metric known as lumens. The higher the lumens, the more light is being produced. Around 500 lumens is ideal for growing plants.
These types of bulbs are the first light bulb to be invented. They are simply a glass sphere around a small strand of metal that lights up as electricity is passed through it. These bulbs can be used to grow plants indoors but there are two main problems.
The first is that incandescent bulbs get quite hot when they have been on for a while. Most plants do not like getting blasted with heat and so you will need to place the incandescent bulb further away. Further away means less light will inevitably reach your plant.
In order to generate enough light for your plants, you would need a lot of incandescent bulbs, all generating a decent amount of heat. This will overheat the room and cost you a lot of money on your electricity bill.
Secondly, incandescent bulbs are not efficient. To light a square foot of plants, you will need around 40 watts. As well as being more power-thirsty, incandescent bulbs only last around a year before fizzling out.
A better option all around would be…
LED lights work in a similar way to incandescent but on a smaller, and much more efficient level. The same amount of light can be generated for 10% of the energy costs. For this reason, LED lights are slowly replacing incandescent ones all over the world.
Another benefit of using LED bulbs is that the actual light coming out of them can be customized. Whereas light from an incandescent bulb always contains more of the red end of the light spectrum, LED lights can be made to contain more of the blue end.
UV light is the best form of light that plants can receive. It is invisible to the human eye but it is the type of light that makes your skin tan or burn. UV light is found past the blue end of the light spectrum.
There are even LED lights designed specifically for growing plants indoors. You can even buy a spotlight LED light in order to grow small succulents or herbs on you desk.
Like LED lights, fluorescent bulbs are very efficient. They work by electricity being passed through mercury particles that is then filtered by a coating on the outside of the bulb. These lights are great for growing plants indoors as they provide a steady white light with little heat.
To best replicate the outdoors, having a few long-shaped fluorescent bulbs above the plant will work. As plants are evolved to absorb light from the sun, their leaves all face up in order to catch the most rays. If the light is not directly above, the plant may grow in an odd shape.
Placing fluorescent light bulbs high above the plant will mean that it grows just as it would outdoors. The last thing you want is for your lant to have to point all its leaves over to one side to get the light.
Halogen lambs are similar to incandescent bulbs, except that electric current passes through a tungsten filament. The filament is surrounded by a halogen such as iodine or bromine. The result is a bulb that gives off more heat for less energy.
This can be useful for growing plants as heat is needed for a lot of different plants from warmer climates. Halogen bulbs are actually being phased out around the world as they are believed to be inefficient.
To produce enough light for a square foot of plants, a halogen bulb needs around 29 watts, 11 less than an incandescent bulb.
These types of bulbs are nowadays made with LEDs in them. They are the kind of bulbs used in industrial growing that replicates the sun very effectively. Hydroponic bulbs are far stronger than normal household bulbs and provide a larger spectrum of light for the plants.
Although they are not normally part of your household lighting, hydroponic bulbs can be easily found and purchased at hardware stores or online. They work on the same power source as normal lights but require more electricity.
Many hydroponic bulbs claim to be as powerful as the daytime sun, giving plants enough light to turn into energy. Just remember to turn them off at night time, as plants also benefit from periods of darkness.
Can Plants Survive Without Any Natural Light?
The answer is a tricky one, as plants will always benefit from natural light over artificial. For most hobbyist growers, indoor lighting will not be enough to keep your plant as healthy as it would be outside. However, with the best equipment, it is possible.
The main problem with growing plants indoors is the cost involved. Buying the right lamps and bulbs that replicate the sun can get very costly.
Likewise, the amount of electricity needed to replicate the sun will be very high. Your electricity bill will also be astronomical.
The best use of indoor lighting is with plants that need a little bit of extra light. For example, countries in the extreme north or south of the planet can have very long winters in which the sun is hardly ever out. During this time extra light might be needed for a temperate house plant.
Turning on a Full Spectrum LED bulb for a few hours before, and after, the sun is up will replicate a longer day cycle that the plant will prefer. Remember that all you are trying to do with indoor plants is to replicate the conditions they would live in outside.
Some Things To Remember
Plants need more than just enough light in order to grow. If you are growing your plants entirely indoors, with no natural sunlight, then you will also need to ensure that air is circulating properly, that there is enough humidity in the air, and that the temperature is right.
These other factors can be just as important in keeping your plants healthy when growing indoors. Be sure to read up on all the different things you need to grow plants indoors.
You will be able to tell if your plant is not getting enough light by looking at it. Plants that are not getting enough light will grow tall and spindly, with lighter colored leaves than normal. This is because in the wild, plants that do not receive enough light try and grow upwards to find it.
If your plant is exhibiting signs of not getting enough light then make sure to add more light to the room. Either get another light and bulb or try and get some natural light to come in. Your plants will thank you.
So, to answer the question, yes you can use a regular light bulb to help plants grow. Your best bet would be to place a few LED lights designed for plants near your plants that need a little extra light. Be sure not to overheat the plant or to give it too much sun.
Most indoor plants are chosen for their ability to survive in less light. You may find that you do not even need an extra light bulb to help them along. Be sure to do some research about your plant’s light needs.