If you’re going to grow a garden indoors and you need to supplement with light, what is the best light source you could use? The answer to this question is white fluorescent light. Fluorescent bulbs are nice because they use less electricity than incandescent bulbs and they don’t get nearly as hot while they’re on. But what makes white fluorescents the best has more to do with the type of light they radiate.
A white fluorescent bulb radiates a wide range of light frequencies in the visible range, thus giving a plant all different types of light it needs to grow. Contrast that with incandescent bulbs which are often more yellow in color, which plants don’t use as much.
There are so-called ‘special’ indoor garden lights that advertise being able to put out ‘better light’ for your plants, but truthfully, any white fluorescent bulb will be fine, and a whole lot less expensive than the specially made garden lights. The key is to get a white light so it carries all the visible light frequencies.
The other thing you’ll need to do if you’re starting plants indoors is to make sure your plants are just below the what fluorescent bulb at all times. As they grow you can either raise the bulbs or lower the plants, but the leaves of the plants should be no more than an inch below the bulbs. If your plants are nearly touching the bulbs above them, they’re going to grow well.
Fluorescent bulbs give off great light, but the bright lights we create are still nothing compared to sunlight. If your plants are too far away from the source of the light, they’ll grow tall and spindly, in an effort to reach up and get closer to that light. If you’ve ever had that problem… well, now you know what happened. You’ve got to keep the plants right up next to the bulb. In the picture above, the plants in the middle are just about right. They’ll get plenty of light bombarding those leaves. The plants on the left and the right, however, are way too far away. In fact you can see the in the left tray, the seedling in the front on the right is starting to grow taller than it should be at its stage of life. You don’t want tall, spindly plants. If the stem isn’t thick enough to support the height of the plant, it makes for a weak plant. So keep the light right up against the leaves of your seedlings, nearly touching them, and then just move the light up as the seedlings grow.