Artificial light for plants

The sun, a torch, and a light bulb all emit energy in the form of particles called photons. The photons from the sun are a product of thermonuclear fusion. A torch uses a chemical reaction to burn. A light bulb converts electricity to photons. But a photon is a photon – and light is light – whether it comes from the sun or a flashlight.

Vastly more energy comes from the sun than from any artificial light. But the light from the sun is different from a street lamp another way: most artificial light doesn’t emit as much energy in the red and blue region of the light spectrum as sunlight does. In other words, different ratios of reds, yellows and blues all combine together to make up white sunlight.

Researchers can successfully grow plants using only artificial light in growth chambers. But sunlight is best for most plants. It’s generally more intense than artificial light, and it’s pretty equally distributed among the different wavelengths that earthly plants have evolved to like best.

And there’s another difference between lamps – even “grow lamps” – and sunlight. Grow lamps need energy to light up. Sunlight is unlimited and free.

Our thanks to:
John Frederick
Department of Geophysical Science
University of Chicago
Chicago, IL

Cheryl Mackowiak
USU Research Greenhouse Facility
Logan, UT

The EarthSky team has a blast bringing you daily updates on your cosmos and world. We love your photos and welcome your news tips. Earth, Space, Human World, Tonight.

Grow lights are expensive. Regular light bulbs are not.

This could be a great way to save money…if regular bulbs work for growing plants.

People often assume you need expensive grow lights to make up for the lack of natural light, but they’re wrong.

You can actually use regular light bulbs to grow plants indoors.

But should you use regular bulbs?

In some cases, yes; in some, no.

And when it comes to LEDs, you want to be careful. Some regular LED lights can work just fine as grow lights, but many are not suitable—see the LED section below for more.

Before we get into that, you might be asking yourself how you would know if your plants aren’t getting enough regular light and whether they need artificial light to help them out.

Believe it or not, your plants will tell you. Not literally, of course, but they will show you.

If your plants aren’t getting enough regular sunlight, they will grow tall with weak stems and the leaves will be lighter in color. New leaves will often be larger in size and the leaves on the inner part of the plant may start to turn yellow.

If your plants show these symptoms, you are going to want to get them some additional light.

The most successful light bulbs contain both blue and red wavelengths of light. The blue is especially useful for foliage growth and the red is for flowering and fruiting.

Contents

Types Of Light Bulbs Available

This table shows the efficiencies of different types of light bulbs.

If you just need light for your regular houseplants, any lamp or light fixture will do.

Which one is best for you, depends on your needs (see the next section).

You do want to make sure the light you choose has the correct color temperature (explanation below in the fluorescent light section), as this drastically improves performance.

The most popular types of light bulbs to use as grow lights are incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, but you can also use LED lights, halogen lights and traditional horticultural grow lights, like high-pressure sodium bulbs (HPS) and metal-halide bulbs (MH). The first two are fine for small gardens; if you’re got a larger grow, LED or HPS/MH make the most sense.

If you are thinking of growing plants from seeds, you’d be best off with hanging tube fixtures that you can place directly over your plants. There are special kits available that include the fixture and reflectors.

Do Incandescent Grow Lights Work (i.e. Regular Bulbs)?

Incandescent lights are the standard light bulbs we all already have in our homes (here are a bunch of examples on Amazon).

They are the cheapest option, but they are inefficient.

They use more power to get the same output and they give off a substantial amount of heat. For these reasons, we generally do not recommend using them for your plants.

Take a look at the following graphic.

A comparison of incandescent, fluorescent and LED bulbs when used as grow lights for plants. Incandescent bulbs use the most power, last the shortest amount of time and provide the least amount of usable output for plants.

If you do use incandescent bulbs, make sure you don’t place them too close to the plants.

Use the hand test. Place the back of your hand where the plant is and wait a minute. If the light becomes too hot for your hand, it is also too hot for the plant and you need to move it further away.

Incandescent bulbs are usually the first option people consider, because they are cheap and we all already have some lying around the house.

But we always recommend fluorescent bulbs for small first-time growers.

They don’t cost all that much more and they are a lot more efficient: they last longer and use less power, so you actually end up saving money.

Can Regular Fluorescent Bulbs Be Used As Grow Lights?

Fluorescent lights are the best choice because they are the most economical.

They are sold in tubes (like these, which are good for larger indoor gardens) or compact bulbs that go into a regular lamp socket.

These are called CFLs and are best for a few plants or as supplemental lighting. They are the bulbs we will discuss from here on (everything we say goes for tubes as well, though).

Fluorescent lamps stay cool enough that they can be placed close to your plants and they use much less power per lumen (the amount of light they give off) than incandescent bulbs, which saves you on your power bill.

Many of us also have some at home already. That said, you want to pay attention to the color temperature of the bulb to ensure the best possible performance.

If you don’t mind spending a bit more, you can get a specialized fluorescent bulb (like these) made specifically for growing plants.

These have an optimized color spectrum for plants (see the next few paragraphs to help with choosing the right color temperature) and they are also more powerful than regular fluorescent bulbs.

Regular bulbs work just fine, though, especially if your plants are already getting some natural daylight. They key is to make sure they have the correct color temperature, measured in Kelvins.

How Many Kelvins Should A Bulb Have In The Vegetative Period?

Generic fluorescent bulbs and tubes are higher in blue wavelength light. This is great if you are growing plants that don’t bloom, like a cactus or herbs. It is also great for the vegetative period of blooming plants.

For vegging and for plants that do not bloom, use bulbs labeled as ‘daylight’ or ‘cool white’. The color temperature on these bulbs will be between 6000 K and 7000 K.

How Many Kelvins For Flowering?

If you are growing plants that flower or fruit, you will want a bulb with more reddish light. You can still just use regular bulbs, but you want to make sure they are labeled as ‘warm white’ or ‘soft white’ like these. In terms of color temperature, they will be between 2000 K and 3500 K.

Another option is to get a bulb with a color temperature right in the middle, between 4500 and 5500 K (confusingly, these are also sometimes labeled as ‘daylight’).

These work for all plants, but are not quite as efficient as cooler bulbs for growth or warmer bulbs for flowering. We find a mix of cold and warm bulbs to work best.

The main problem with both incandescent and fluorescent bulbs is that they aren’t generally powerful enough to flower more than a couple of plants, unless you get a ton of them. Once you get a lot of them, they are no longer cost effective, because there are much more efficient lighting options available. This article explains how many CFLs you need per plant.

If you have more than a couple of plants, you would be much better off with high-intensity discharge lights (HID) or LED lights.

Can Any LED Light Be Used As A Grow Light?

LED lights are more energy efficient and emit much lower levels of heat than other types of lighting. But can you use any led lights to grow plants?

Generally, yes.

But because LED technology is so customizable, every bulb is different and you want bulbs that produce the exact mix of red, blue and other wavelengths preferred by your plants.

White light contains a great mix for plants, so white LED bulbs will work to grow. The main issue is one of power. You need lights that give you sufficient output to flower plants and many regular bulbs will not do that.

Due to the lack of power and the potential for a less-than-ideal spectrum, many general LED lights are not as effective for plants as specialized ones.

On the other hand, if they provide sufficient output and a good color spectrum (like white light), they will work just as well as a specialized grow light, since they are basically the same thing.

If you are unsure and want to be certain you get a light that can both grow and flower plants, your best bet is to get a horticultural LED grow light that uses COBs. They are designed to produce the wavelengths used by plants in the ideal ratios, making them the best bloom LEDs available.

In general, you are better off purchasing these, as opposed to just general-use LED lights. They are not cheap, however. That said, there are a few quality, inexpensive LED plant lights on the market.

Can Plants Grow Under Halogen Lights?

Halogen lights also provide full spectrum light and are quite powerful, but they are similar to incandescent bulbs in that they emit a lot of heat and are not as energy efficient as fluorescent lights, HID lights or LED lights.

HID Plant Lights

Finally, we come to traditional horticultural grow lights (if you already know you want to go with HID lighting, head here for help in choosing the best bulbs). These are often referred to as HID lights and are further broken down into HPS and MH lights.

HPS bulbs emit more of a red spectrum light, making them superior for flowering and fruiting, while MH bulbs emit more blue light, making them ideal for plant growth.

HID bulbs are very energy efficient, but because they are so powerful, they still use a lot of power and emit a lot of heat. They also require additional components like a ballast.

Since they give off a large amount of light that is powerful enough to flower any plant, HID lights are still the light of choice for most commercial indoor growers, although LED lights are slowly taking that crown (read more about HPS versus LED lights).

For most of us, HID and LED lights are far too powerful and expensive for our needs. But if you have a larger garden, you’ll definitely want to go with one of these options. If you decide on HID lights, we have a post helping you choose the best HID system for your needs.

That post covers MH and HPS lights.

These days many people are opting for ceramic metal halide instead, since these lights combine MH and HPS in one bulb. We agree that CMH bulbs are far superior.

You can read more about CMH systems here, including our recommendations for the best ones.

How To Set Up The Lighting

For a small garden of a few plants in a room with very little natural light, a standing lamp with three bulbs and a movable or goose-neck feature works well. Use fluorescent bulbs with the highest wattage allowable by the fixture for the best results.

You want to aim the light towards the table with the plants. If your light fixture does have a movable arm, place the fluorescent bulbs closer to the plants than an incandescent bulb. This is to avoid heat damage, if using incandescent light.

To make more efficient use of the bulbs, place a reflective surface, such as a mirror or just some reflective foil, underneath the plants, so that the light can reflect back up towards the foliage.

And finally, attach and set a timer to run the lights for 14 to 16 hours a day. You can do this manually, but it is easier with a timer and even a quality one like this one doesn’t have to cost a lot.

Resources

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Just like SAD lamps get rid of the blues for those with seasonal affective disorder, indoor grow lights have an even better effect on house plants.

Plants are alive and to keep them that way, they need light (not necessarily sunlight). While we need Vitamin D from natural sunlight, plants don’t.

That means you can grow any type of plant indoors with the right light systems or just bulbs, because light energizes plants through photosynthesis (it’s not as complicated as it sounds).

Only a handful of things are needed for that to happen:

  • Air
  • Water
  • Light
  • Temperature
  • Humidity

The lighting systems used by indoor gardeners help to control much of those elements. In particular, the temperature and humidity (obviously the light as well).

A Deeper Dive into Encouraging Photosynthesis

For those who weren’t quite awake in biology class, the green on plant leaves contain a chemical called Chlorophyll. On each green leaf, there’s teeny little holes (Chloroplasts) that let light penetrate through them reaching into the plant stems.

(You can try this now)

Look at any plant leaf, you’ll notice there’s little veins (a venation pattern) on them. Those work just like our own veins.

Instead of transporting blood around our bodies, the veins on plant leaves transport (and store) water and sugar molecules – glucose is produced when light hits it – around the plant.

Now, about those sugary parts…

When light hits plant leaves, the chlorophyll is energized. At that point, the plant can produce glucose. Well, not quite (let’s rewind a bit). You see, water and air is needed too.

Think of it as a three-pronged feeding system for plants.

  1. You water the plants – the roots soak up the nutrients
  2. The carbon dioxide from the air is absorbed into the plant leaves (travels through the veins), reaching into the stems
  3. Light hits the leaves, activating the Chlorophyll

With all three combined, Glucose is produced.

For those who do remember that biology lesson, the formula looked like this:

6CO2 + +H2O + Light = C6H12O6 + 6O2 (See the simplified image here)

Don’t stress too much about this; You don’t need a biology degree to grow healthy indoor plants. It just helps to know how things work.

All you need to remember is the combination of carbon dioxide (from air), water, and light is what causes the Chlorophyll to energize, by which point it’ll produce glucose.

And that, dear indoor gardener – is photosynthesis in a nutshell!

Combine the glucose with oxygen and plants have all the nourishment they need to grow (not just survive indoors). In essence, plants feed themselves. Pretty cool!

So, with air, water and light, photosynthesis can happen. So (in theory), any plant can grow indoors.

But, there’s these other two pesky problems:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity

Both of those are related. The higher the temperature, the more water the plant will need. And the more water there is, the less humid it is, depending on the heat.

Remember this bit…

The type of indoor lighting system used affects temperature, in turn, affecting humidity levels.

If you’ve ever tried growing plants under artificial lights, you may have learned the hard way – plants burn.

It’s the same for outdoor plants under direct sunlight. Hold a magnifying glass over it for long enough, you’ll singe it, eventually burning a hole right through it, and could even set it ablaze.

Who remembers playing with magnifying glasses as a kid?

Here’s the thing, it’s not the light that burns indoor plants, nor is it the light intensity. It’s the heat coming from the light bulb that can wind up frying your plant.

The worst offenders are High-Intensity-Discharge lamps (HID lamps) – High-Pressure-Sodium (HPS) lights and Metal-Halide lamps. Put those too close and you’ll cook every plant under it, not to mention, run up a huge electric bill!

With that in mind, here are…

6 Types of Indoor Grow Lights

1 – High-Intensity-Discharge (HID) Lighting

These are extremely powerful lighting systems. They’re super expensive to run and can be fitted in garages or rooms with zero sunlight to grow plants requiring low to medium light intensity.

The way they work is using tubes filled with gases in the same way fluorescent tubes work (coming up).

The types of HID lights are:

High-Pressure-Sodium (HPS) Lighting

HPS bulbs are on the warmer side of the color spectrum (red and oranges) They’re best used for flowering plants.

Metal-Halide (MH) Lighting

MH bulbs are on the cooler side of the color spectrum (cool white with a blue hue). They’re best used to promote plant growth.

The intensity of the light from each type of HID light is the most intense you’ll find. Installing them is a different matter as they need ballasts.

For HPS systems, an igniter is used. MH systems don’t have an igniter, so if you decide that HPS is the way to go, you won’t be able to alternate by switching to a MH bulb.

In other words, you can either use them for flowering plants or for foliage growth. Not both. Unless you install both types of ballasts to run a combination of HPS and MH lamps. Pretty pricey!

More importantly, they produce heaps of heat. Having plants too close to the bulbs will burn them.

An even bigger problem for compact spaces (don’t overlook this), the heat may be too much for comfortable living conditions. That could drive your energy costs up further if you have to continuously run your HVAC system to get rid of all that heat.

The only real use these would have in a larger home, would be for growing lots of tropical plants.

In terms of the growing area under each bulb, you’d be looking at a 250-watt HID bulb for a growing area of just 3 x 3 feet. Using a 100-watt HID bulb could give you a growing area of 8 x 8 feet.

Keep in mind the heat from these. As your plant grows, you’ll need to adjust the height so the bulb never gets too close to the plant, causing it to burn.

The test to do is put your hand at the top of your plant. If it’s too hot for you, it is too hot for your plant as well, especially when you remember your plant is under that heat for hours every day.

2 – Fluorescent Lighting

Fluorescent lights can be decent for growing indoor plants for a few reasons…

The main one being the running costs. It’s, well, much more energy efficient than incandescent light bulbs. Not just in terms of running costs, but also for the life-span as these will last up to 10x longer.

Additionally, there’s less heat output. So not so much of a worry about the bulbs heat burning your plants.

And provided it’s not fixed in place but instead suspended from the ceiling using adjustable chains, you can adjust the height to suit the size of your plant – as it grows.

You can have these lights as close as 6-inches to the top of your plant because of the low heat.

3 – Induction Lighting

These are a step-up from fluorescent lights. They produce the same type of light but require no warm-up time. The intensity of the light is instantaneous.

The main difference here is there’s no electricals inside the tube. It’s gases that are activated by an electromagnetic field. Because of that, for home-use, they’re fairly inconvenient as they’ll drop your Wi-Fi signal and affect your cell service.

They’re also noisy. Besides, they’re not designed for home-use. They’re industrial strength, lasting thousands of hours and most suited to commercial growing operations.

4 – LED Lighting

LED (Light-Emitting-Diode) is the least expensive indoor grow light to run, but not necessarily to buy and setup, depending how many you need. Operating costs are reduced (according to most suppliers) by as much as 60%. Some claim higher.

A note on suppliers…

LED grow lights are a growing breed. As such, there’s knock-offs galore. When that happens, stick with brands. It will be more expensive, however, LED brands that’s been around for a while, have invested in research and testing. There’ll be a higher degree of trust with a brand name LED supplier with a reputation, compared to, hmm, you know, eBay.

The things that takes a couple of months to arrive from overseas? Those aren’t the kits to go with.

Onto the types of LED grow lights/bulbs…

The wavelengths required for plant growth range between 300nm (nanometers) to 700nm. The lower end of the scale is the blue and it warms up to red. Blue’s good for growth, red for flowering plants.

The sweet spot for LED lights are 630nm to 660nm (think peak time sunlight on a summer’s afternoon) and 460nm for the blue wavelength.

Another thing to pay attention to is cooling fans. LED bulbs don’t give off much heat so they can sit close to the plants, but as it’s constantly on, the counterparts of the bulb can intensify.

So, your best bet – use a kit that has cooling fans integrated. It’ll last longer.

5 – Halogen lighting

Halogen lights only emit red light, so on its own, it’s useless for plant growth. If using these, you’ll also need a source of blue light. Probably fluorescent or LED.

However, the running costs of these are close to your standard incandescent bulbs, so not the most efficient. In fact, not at all compared to the other types of grow lights.

When you factor in you’ll be running these for at least 12-hours daily, it’s just too expensive.

6 – Incandescent Lights

Just your typical house bulb can be used as a grow light but it’s going to be producing a lot of heat and like the halogen, it’s high on the red light, low on blue, and far from cost efficient for indoor growing.

They’ll rocket your electric bill running them constantly every day of the week. Besides, they give off heaps of heat making them inefficient at controlling the temperature plants are kept at.

With the light directed on them, so too is the heat they get. It’s no longer room temperature and it can cause leaf burn.

Which lighting is best and why?

Fluorescent lighting is the most cost-effective method to get up and running growing indoor plants.

With that being said, you’ll get far better growth and flowering using LED or HID type grow lights. Those are the most popular and for good reason.

Here’s a comparison video explaining the two (it’s biased toward LED, but it does explain the differences well):

Wavelengths Explained

You’ll notice a lot about indoor grow lighting is centered on full spectrum. All that means is there’s a balance of blue wavelengths and red wavelengths. Sometimes, UV light as well. That can be beneficial but not as much as blue and red light.

  • Red wavelengths are ideal for flowering plants
  • Blue wavelengths are best for foliage growth

Full spectrum bulbs hit a sweet spot that mimics sunlight, but only for peak times like sunlight at noon when it’s at its highest. To control lighting indoors, timers can be used and with one, you can really imitate natural seasonal lighting.

In summer months, there’s more light. In winter months, there’s less. Using a timer on your indoor grow lights will let you automate the number of light hours your plants get.

Take for example, growing succulents indoors. Those are dormant in the winter months. So, to grow those indoors, you’d need to allow for a dormant period. In other words, pretend it’s winter.

Do that by controlling the light hours. 20 hours per day for summer growing, and when you want to let the plant go into its dormant phase, gradually lower the light hours until it’s down to 16 hours per day of light, then gradually ramp it back up.

Now, by far, the most pressing questions about indoor lights for plants are…

How Far and For How Long?

These are tricky to answer and all too common. The reason?

Put the light source too close and you’ll burn the plant. Then again, put it too far away and you’ll find your plant uses up the energy to grow upwards toward the light… instead of flowering.

You’ll wind up with leggy plants, frail and not very healthy looking at all!

So, for distance the tricky part is the heat. Not so much the light. Do a hand test and if you feel it’s too hot hitting your hand, it’s too hot for your plant.

But, that depends on the plant. Some thrive in high temperatures, while others collapse. Also note that the more heat the plants are getting from a light source, the more they’ll need watering as the heat will cause the moisture to evaporate.

The distance to have your lights away (or close) to plants depends on the type of light you’re using.

  • Incandescent and halogen light bulbs – 24 inches above the plant
  • Fluorescent lights and HID lights – 6 to 12 inches above the plant
  • LED lights – 6 inches above the plant.

For timing, all plants should have at least 12-hours of daily full light coverage. That can be extended to as long as 18-hours and even 24/7 for succulents.

Any flowering plant will need about 16 hours of light per day. Remember too, every plant needs its downtime.

When they’re under light, photosynthesis can happen. The downtime is when they use that energy for respiration. All that water, air and light needs put to good use.

That happens when the plant gets to rest as it puts the energy into releasing oxygen back into the environment, and it’ll help it flower too.

The One Tool You Can Use to Know if Your Plants are Getting Enough Light Exposure

Using artificial lighting to grow plants indoors has a specific advantage to any other, provided you use the right type of light, with the appropriate steps taken to get rid of unwanted heat. It has to do with the light spectra plants get.

The term used to measure this is Photosynethically Active Radiation time. It’s highest is in the summer months around noon.

For photosynthesis to happen, the UV rays have no impact. The only useable light for plants are nanometers between 300nm and 700nm. Knowing that is one thing; using it is another.

That’s where PAR meters come into the equation. It’s the one tool indoor growers can use to find out if the light equivalent of an entire grow area of their plants is getting the right amount of light. With it, light readings are reported as measures of micromoles per square meter.

Here’s the thing though, light measuring instruments can be one of many. Lux, Lumens, or even foot-candles. None of them tell you if your plant’s getting the right amount of light because it’s the photons from the light that needs to be measured.

So, forget Lux meters, and other instruments. It’s a PAR meter that tells you exactly what useable light your plants are getting.

There are guidelines for different types of plants and crops. Those use a Daily Light Integral (DLI), which only means the amount of PAR (useable light) a plant gets daily.

Take for example, growing your own lettuce at home. The ideal DLI is 14 to 16 moles per m2 per day. The only way to know if your lettuce was getting that is to use a PAR meter.

One distinct advantage indoor growers have using artificial light is the light is a fixed amount every second of every minute, every day. It’s not like greenhouse growers whose crops and plants are affected by seasonal changes and cloudy days.

The bulbs produce the same light intensity constantly and consistently. That gives you more PAR for longer, which also means, you can harvest crops year-round, and faster. Just imagine – fresh produce year-round, of any type.

Just adjust the light intensity to suit your growing stages. From flowering, to vegetation to harvesting your crops indoors…artificial lights can let you grow more and cost-efficiently too.

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83shares Growing Plants Indoors with Artificial Lights: All You Need to Know was last modified: February 13th, 2019 by The Practical Planter

Windowless Houseplants: Learn About Using Plants For A Windowless Room

If you work in an office space or lack a window in your room at home, chances are your only light is the overhead fluorescent bulbs or incandescent lighting. Lack of windows and exposure to sunlight can be bad for humans as well as plants but finding plants to brighten your cubicle or windowless room may be just the touch of outdoors needed to perk you up. There are many plants for windowless rooms that will thrive in artificial light. Let’s take a look at a few good options.

Choosing Plants for a Windowless Room

Plants need sunlight to photosynthesize, produce flowers and fruit and for overall health. That being said, plants are also uniquely adaptable and many vigorous specimens are perfect windowless houseplants. Choose a tried and true indoor specimen that will green up your space, clean your air and lend an aura of nature to any sterile indoor setting.

You don’t have to work in a warehouse or deep inside a skyscraper to experience low light indoor conditions. And many homes have lighting issues due to the placement of the rooms or shading from trees outside.

Windowless houseplants are suitable for fully shaded or semi-shady areas. When choosing plants, consider the size before purchasing. For instance, a dracaena can get quite tall as can parlor palms.

Growth rate is another factor to consider. If you want a good sized plant, pick one with a rapid growth rate that will fill your area with greenery. Vining plants usually work well. If you want a hanging or trailing plant, try a heart-leaved philodendron or golden pothos. If you just want a little guy to gaze at thoughtfully, try a container of hens and chicks.

Plants for Windowless Rooms

There are several foolproof, classic plants for offices and darker homes. Among these include:

  • Snake plant, or mother-in-law’s tongue, with sword-like, stiff leaves bearing attractive green and often gold markings.
  • Cast iron plant is a quirky plant that can get up to 24 inches tall. Its name says it all, as it is not only tolerant of low light but also dampness, dust and general neglect.
  • Peace lily is another plant with sword-like leaves but it produces a creamy white spathe resembling a big cupped flower. It prefers moist soil and average interior temperatures.
  • Dracaena and philodendrons come in many forms and sizes, often with variegated leaves or splashes of alternate color and are great options as indoor plants for artificial light areas.

Some other choices might be Chinese evergreen, spider plant or ZZ plant.

Growing Indoor Plants for Artificial Light Spaces

Once you’ve chosen plants for a windowless room, there are some considerations on care. Interior plants that are not exposed to direct light do not tend to dry out as quickly as their counterparts. You may need to resort to a water meter to tell when it is time to water the container. Overwatering is a real danger if you are adhering to a schedule made for plants with sun exposure.

Interior plants, especially those with big leaves, need to be dusted or rinsed under water to remove debris which can clog the plant’s respiration system.

Repotting every few years is a good idea, to refresh soil and go up a size on plants that are growing quickly.

Fertilizer is crucial to interior plant health since they are confined to soil with limited nutrient value and cannot rely upon sunlight to create plant carbohydrates. Use a good houseplant fertilizer at least every month for healthy low light plants.

There are 26 plants that grow without sunlight, they need indirect exposure, some even thrive in artificial light and grow best indoors.

The obvious thing that everyone knows is the fact that plants need sunlight to grow. They can’t grow or develop properly without the proper amount of sunlight.

So what would you do if you have windows in your home or office that are small or directed north or if you want to grow plants in your living room, dining room or bathroom? Luckily there are plants that grow without sunlight (requires bright indirect light) and you can grow them indoors.

When you are looking for such plants choose ones that are known for their ability to grow in indirect sunlight. They are ideal shade-loving plants, naturally growing in the indirect sun. These plants adapt well to the smaller amount of light and thrive normally. To make your searching easier we’ve listed 25 best plants to grow indoors.

Also read: How to Save a Dying Houseplant

1. Dracaena

Dracaena is a beautiful houseplant that you can grow at home. There are about 50 species of it. It’s really easy to grow plant.

Occasional pruning and regular watering are important for dracaena. Keep the plant away from direct sun and avoid overwatering.

2. Bromeliads

Bromeliad is a perfect plant to grow indoors, most of the varieties of this plant thrive easily in a container in shade. Indeed, it is a tropical plant but you can grow it anywhere, indoors. It can even grow in luminescent light.

Also Read: 15 Houseplant Problems That Are Killing Your Houseplants

3. Maidenhair Fern

When it comes to ferns that are popular, maidenhair fern is one you should consider. The dark and glossy leafstalk resembles human hair and it looks great.

Be sure to water frequently (avoid overwatering) and keep this houseplant in indirect sun.

Also read: Plants for Restful Sleep

4. Parlor Palm

Most popular indoor palm variety, it’s an excellent houseplant for almost any situation, it grows even in those dim corners where nothing else will grow. It requires only minimal care and moderate light. It produces clusters of tiny yellow flowers in spring, however, they don’t appear in low light conditions.

Water only when soil is dry otherwise you’ll kill your plant.

5. Umbrella Papyrus (Palm)

Umbrella palm is an evergreen ornamental plant, best grown indoors or in shady and a boggy spot in the garden. Many houseplant enthusiasts find this plant easy enough to grow and maintain.

It requires constantly moist substrate. You can place the umbrella palm pot over the tray filled with water.

Also read: DIY Indoor Garden Decoration Ideas

6. Mother-in-law’s Tongue (Snake Plant)

Mother-in-law’s tongue is a low maintenance plant also known as snake plant. It’s a very durable and popular houseplant. Its ability to tolerate darkness is amazing. One more interesting fact about this houseplant is–It’s a succulent!

Also Read: How to Propagate Succulents

7. Creeping Fig

It’s a slow-growing creeper with small, leathery dark green foliage. Vigorous-growing, clinging, dense branches adhere to any surface and look enchanting.

Be careful not to overwater creeping fig. Let the soil dry out before watering spells.

Also read: Best Low Maintenance Houseplants

8. Philodendron

Philodendron easily adapts to low-light conditions and growing them is similar to pothos. They come in both vine and shrub form.

The soil must be constantly moist but not wet. It’s best if the soil dries out slightly between watering spells.

Also Read: 10 Romantic Heart-Shaped Leaf Plants To Grow Indoors

9. Calathea (Peacock Plant)

One of the most beautiful foliage plants you should grow in your home. It grows well in light shade but the plant is demanding, it has a specific minimum temperature of 55 F (13 C) requirement that should be maintained.

It prefers frequent watering (watering should be done according to the light condition and temperature) and slightly moist soil.

Also Read: Best Plants That Reduce Humidity Indoors

10. Maranta leuconeura (Prayer Plant)

Calatheas are tropical plants and a bit difficult to grow in cooler climates and so the prayer plant but it is one alternative you can go for, it is comparatively easy to grow plant than calathea. It grows well in moderate light without direct access to the sun. If the plant is kept in too much light the leaves begin to curl and wither.

Watch out for pests especially spider mites.

Also read: Best Flowering Houseplants

11. Sword fern

Sword fern can become a beautiful evergreen houseplant. Like other houseplants don’t place this in direct sunlight but provide it all day long bright indirect sunlight. Growing it is similar to Boston fern.

It grows well in acidic soil. Keep the soil lightly moist but well draining. It loves humid surroundings, so do regular misting to maintain the humidity levels.

12. Peperomia

Peperomia is a small striking adorable houseplant that grows up to only 6 inches tall. Due to its thick foliage, it is often considered as succulent, which is not true.

Peperomia likes slightly moist soil and humidity but watering should be reduced in winter. Spraying the plant’s leaves is helpful in maintaining the humidity level.

13. Devil’s Ivy (Golden Pothos/Money Plant)

Commonly known as the money plant in South East Asia, it’s widely grown as a houseplant in Asian countries. This extremely low maintenance vine grows easily without direct sunlight.

Excellent climber, you can grow it even in the bathroom, kitchen or living room. It is known for its ability to clean the Carbon Monoxide from the air.

14. Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)

Chinese Evergreen plants are one of the best plants to grow indoors that don’t require constant, direct sunlight. If you are someone who’s new to growing houseplants, this is the plant you should start with.

15. Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra Elatior)

The cast iron plant is very forgiving by nature, great plant if you are always busy and forget about the maintenance. It is very much happy staying indoors without the sun. Just wipe its leaves clean with a damp cloth once a week or so, and provide it bright indirect light.

16. Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)

If you’re looking for large houseplants, go for the parlor plant, it has the ability to bring life to the spot where you are going to place it. The plant grows really well in indirect sunlight and loves shaded areas.

17. Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana)

According to Feng Shui, it attracts positive vibes and good fortune. It’s one of the best office desk and tabletop plants. Compact in nature, you can also grow it in water in corners of your home that receive some bright light in the day. We also added it to our list of best Office Desk Plants.

18. Staghorn Fern (Platycerium)

If you want a low maintenance houseplant that saves you from the hassles of placing it near a sunlight source every few days, then Staghorn Fern is the right choice for you!

19. ZZ Plant (Zamioculcasi)

Not only this plant looks really good with its attractive, glossy foliage–It is a plant that you can forget about when it comes to sunlight. ZZ grows well indirect light and absolutely love the shaded areas of the house. The only requirement is the warmer surroundings.

20. Pepperomia (Pepperomia)

What makes these plants perfect for your table is the fact they one of the best plants that grow without sunlight. Place them near a window that allows them to absorb indirect light throughout the day.

21. Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia)

If you can keep this plant away from your pets and children, it can be a welcoming addition to your home. It’s a toxic houseplant so be careful about the placement. It does really well in filtered light, making it a perfect houseplant for low light areas!

22. Japanese Sedge (Carex morrowii)

Japanese sedge is a shade-loving ornamental grass, it grows well indoors. It requires a spot that receives bright indirect sunlight.

23. Spider Plant

Imagine the graceful variegated foliage of a spider plant dangling down with unique spiderettes in hanging baskets. Isn’t it enough to entice you to grow it? Also, it likes indirect light and one of the best air purifying plants.

Direct sunlight often causes burning of leaves.

Also Read: Spider Plant Care Indoors

24. Peace Lily

If you’re looking for a houseplant with health benefits, acquire a peace lily. Also, it is forgiving and requires low care. Incredibly easy to grow, peace lily flourishes in shady locations.

Also Read: Amazing Peace Lily Benefits

25. Silver Queen (Aglaonema)

Silver queen is a very beautiful plant. It’s one of the most durable houseplants that thrive in low light, it’s an ideal plant for beginners too. However, the plant is extremely cold sensitive.

Also read: 15 Houseplants for Beginners

26. Aloe Vera

The most popular and number one houseplant of the United States these days and rightly so. This medicinal plant can grow in direct sunlight but it tolerates full shade too. Learn everything about growing aloe vera here.

Also Read: Aloe Vera Benefits You Should Know About

Additional Tips

  • Don’t overwater your houseplants. Even if the indoor plant requires moist soil, be careful with watering. Always check out the soil moisture level before watering again.
  • Avoid keeping the plant waterlogged all the time and reduce watering in winter. When growing plants indoors, it’s always better to keep the soil on a drier side.
  • Fertilize your houseplants with all-purpose liquid fertilizer once a month during the growing season.
  • Prune your plants regularly to maintain their desired shape and size.
  • Clean the dust and particles adhere on the surface of plant leaves regularly.
  • Look out for pests. Spider mites can be a major problem.

Also Read: 15 Problems That Are Killing Your Indoor Plants

Plants need sunlight for a process that we call photosynthesis. Plants are what we call autotrophs, meaning they’re self-feeding or self-nourishing. They basically create their own food or energy to grow.

Plants using photosynthesis will take in carbon dioxide from the air, bring up water from the roots, and use sunlight as the energetic source to create sugar from water and carbon dioxide.

Plants contain a molecule called chlorophyll, and the chlorophyll is what absorbs the sunlight. The chlorophyll absorbs red and blue light, and they reflect green light. That’s why if you look at plants, they appear green to our eyes.

That chlorophyll absorbs the sunlight and excites electrons, and the electron is what is used to create the sugars or food for the plant.

Some plants don’t contain chlorophyll. There’s one plant called the ghost plant, and it appears white in appearance. It doesn’t have any chlorophyll. Instead it’s a parasite that leeches off of other plants for nutrition and energy.

Some plants can survive in very low-light conditions. If you think about dark, rainforest canopies, there are plants that grow in that environment. They have evolutionary adaptations to handle these low-light environments, which include making broad, thin leaves to capture as much sunlight as they can.

But basically if a plant is green, it needs sunlight at some point to grow. Otherwise, it can’t survive.

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