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Posted:  02 Feb 2012 02:06  
I'm looking for a grow light that will last a while. It's just for growing houseplants in a small apartment. Thanks!
Posted:  02 Feb 2012 05:39  
Depends on what kinds of plants you're growing, how large they are, where they are located, etc.  There are no good incandescent grow lamps, I don't care what kind of fancy color spectrum they may boast...a very high percentage of the electricity that goes into the bulb is wasted as heat (which can also damage the plant), so forget those.  So you're down to three main choices: fluorescents, metal halides and LEDs.  That last is a relative newcomer to plant growth applications and will be very expensive to purchase.  Metal halides are a favorite of marijuana growers and are very useful for plant growth, if a bit more industrial-looking than you might like for a residential setting.  So fluorescents remain the best compromise in terms of cost vs. benefits.  Shop-lite fixtures of two, four or even six tubes (4-foot or 8-foot lengths) are commonly used by hobbyist growers of everything from African Violets and other gesneriads to many types of orchids and foliage.  They are also very industrial-looking but can be incorporated into furniture-quality light stands for better looks in the home.  Nowadays, there is also the option of screw-in fluorescent plant bulbs (they look just like the regular CFL bulbs, but are treated to produce light wavelengths that plants prefer) that can be used in traditional clip-on and "can" fixtures around plants, as well as in ceiling fixtures.  It's important that the fluorescent lamps be within about 18-24" of the plants' foliage to get the maximum benefit, as the intensity of fluorescent lamps falls off exponentially with distance from the leaf surface.

A good primer (if a bit outdated now) is "The Indoor Light Gardening Book" by George and Virginie Elbert.  It goes into great detail about lamps, fixtures, plants and the science of grow-lighting.


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