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Is It Possible to Use A Regular Table Lamp to Grow Plants?

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If you are living in an apartment that has little or not access to natural light does that mean you should just forget about trying to grow houseplants?

Restricted access to natural light is a conundrum that has troubled plant growers for as long as ornamental plants have been brought indoors. There are however practical steps you can take to bring mother nature onside and keep the dream of an indoor jungle alive. 

Today we’re going to explore the question of whether it is possible to grow plants using a regular table lamp as a light source. 

To cut a long story short: the answer is yes, it is possible to use a regular lamp to grow houseplants however the limited range of wavelengths emitted by a standard light bulb will likely cause the plant to become either overly tall and leggy, or unnaturally compact and bushy. 

Why exactly these morphological changes occur to your leafy companion, and how you can improve the light emitted by your table lamp are summarised in double quick time below.

Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash
Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash

How Can You Help Your Plants Thrive With Only A Table Lamp?

As we know it is possible to grow plants under artificial light provided by a table lamp, but as you might expect this is going to be more challenging than if they were left to develop outdoors in their natural habitat.

Straight to the point, you’ll struggle to help your plants thrive in the absence of natural light unless you are able to provide light from a full spectrum grow lamp (our picks of those that can double up as a table lamp are reviewed here).

There are however one or two things you can do to provide the best possible artificial light using the table lamp you already own, and that starts with replacing the bulb. 

 

What Kind Of Light Bulb Is Best For Growing Plants With A Table Lamp?

While you can get away with using a standard desk lamp to just about sustain a leafy friend, your run-of-the-mill incandescent or energy-saving light bulb probably won’t be sufficient to help your plant thrive. 

By far, the best quality artificial light that can be provided to plants are by horticultural light bulbs, as these emit proportions of red light to blue light (and in the case of full spectrum bulbs green light too) that is reminiscent of natural sunlight and much needed to support plant growth. 

Horticultural light bulbs come in a variety of forms including fluorescent and halogen, but the one style that is suited for use within a table lamp are screw socket LED bulbs.  These are able to produce a suite of different wavelengths of light from each of the individual diodes. 

While horticultural LED bulbs are relatively expensive (starting at around $24 on Amazon) when compared to CLF, or even regular LED bulbs. The costs is offset slightly by not having to pick up an entire new table lamp unit.

In Low Natural Light, Do I Need To Leave My Plant Under A Lamp All Day?

Because you are attempting to substitute natural light – which is perfect for plant growth – with artificial light, you may be tempted to over compensate your plants with increased exposure to light. Unfortunately, this can do a lot more harm than good.

In general, between 14 and 18 hours of light per day is more than sufficient for optimum plant health. If you are moving your plant to a windowsill during the day to catch the natural rays, this means you shouldn’t have to worry about also keeping it under a grow lamp for an extended period of time. 

Plants make use of dark period they experience during the night to feed and repair. If your plant does not experience darkness for at least six hours every night, you may inadvertently be hurting it.

Warning Signs Of Poor Light For Plants

Of course, there is only one way to tell if you have made all the right choices –  and this is by keeping a close eye on it to see how your plant responds! 

Here are some common symptoms to watch out for that are usually indicative that your plant isn’t getting enough light indoors:

  • Stunted new growth (for instance, small, under-developed leaves)
  • Older leaves dying off
  • Pale colouration or a lack of variegation
  • Leggy stems

If your plant is still not thriving even after you’ve invested in a horticultural light bulb, its less than healthy appearance may not even be a symptom of light deficiency – so check that they are not overwatered or suffering from another common houseplant ailment like pests or disease.

Conclusion

It’s hard to overstate the benefits of filling your home with a couple of beautiful, leafy houseplants to brighten the place up. Not only are they a lot of fun to care for, but they also have proven medical and mental benefits.

If you are hesitant of taking up the hobby because you don’t feel you have enough natural sunlight in your home to sustain them, don’t worry. It is possible to retrofit a regular table lamp to grow plants.

Choose the right bulb with an appropriate spectrum of light (red and blue wavelengths spur different types of plant growth) and be sure to allow it to experience a good few hours of darkness at night too (students who stay up all night I’m looking at you!

Good luck and happy growing!

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