Lighting Equipment For Indoor Plants

Lighting can transform a group of house plants into a dramatic focal point, or further enhance the delicate beauty of the leaves or flowers. Special fluorescent tubes also benefit the plants by supplementing or even replacing natural daylight. Artificial lighting can be both functional and decorative. It not only supplements sunlight but also enhances plant leaf and flower colour.

Unlike artificial greenhouse lighting, which is purely practical, lighting fixtures in a home should be attractive in their own right, or at least unobtrusive.

Incandescent lightincandescent-lights

Ordinary incandescent (tungsten filament) light gives out most of its energy as heat, so plants close enough to benefit from the light will scorch. Place incandescent light at least 30-45cm (12-18 inches) from a plant, depending on wattage and the plant’s delicacy.

Coloured incandescent bulbs can be eye-catching, but they distort natural colour in a harsh way. Try white bulbs and coloured lamp shades for a subtle effect.

Using incandescent light

Ordinary table, free-standing, wall and ceiling lamps will bathe nearby plants in a general soft light. More dramatic options include fixed ‘down’ lights, built into the ceiling; fixed ‘up’ lights, built into the floor; and ‘spot’ lights, mounted high on the walls or ceilings or free-standing and hinged for flexibility.

House plants with bold leaf shapes cast attractive wall shadows when spot lit from the front or sides. Front or side ‘spot’ lighting also enhances plants with glossy leaves. Spot lighting a group of plants in a corner makes a dramatic focal point.

Lighting from behind generally gives a softer, more atmospheric effect, especially with thin-leaved plants. Strong back lighting can throw thick-leaved plants into silhouette, darkening their colour when seen against the light.

Ceiling ‘down’ lights do not cast shadows, but can transform a large specimen plant, such as a cactus, into a dramatic sculpture. A pendant ‘down’ light can enhance a low-growing plant, such as Mind-Your-Own-Business, ,J] placed directly beneath it in the centre of the table. ‘Up’ lights are best used under glass tables, to show off the delicate beauty of ferns and plants, such as the attractively coloured leaf undersides of Philodendron ‘Burgundy’. Because they are permanent, built-in ‘down’ and ‘up’ lights make it hard to re-arrange plants and furniture.

Fluorescent lightfluorescent-lights

For closer lighting, use fluorescent strips. These give more light than heat, and can boost the amount of useful light reaching a house plant in a poorly lit or windowless room. They are also useful in winter, when natural light levels are low.

Fluorescent lights consist of tubes mounted under a reflector, suspended or fixed above the plant. They can also be built into attractive cabinets. Fluorescenttubes are often used in pairs or banks, placed 15-60cm (6-24 inches) above the plant, closer for flowering than foliage plants. ‘Gro-Lux’ fluorescent tubes give most of their light in the blue and red wave lengths, especially beneficial to plants. You can also use ‘natural white’ or a combination of ‘natural white’ and ‘daylight’; ‘daylight’ alone is unsuitable.

Using fluorescent light

  • When you first start, check regularly, and adjust as necessary. Long, spindly plant growth means the light is too far away or too weak; scorched leaves and loss of foliage colour mean too much light.
  • Replace fluorescent lights once a year, but don’t change all the tubes at the same time, or the sudden increase in intensity may harm the plants. If a bulb or tube turns dark at the edges, replace it at once.
  • For sound safety reasons, always have any lighting alterations carried out by a qualified electrician.

DIY ideas


  • fluorescent light under the top shelf of a plant trolley or tea trolley, for a portable plant display.
  • Mount fluorescent light under each shelf in a multi-tiered wall shelf or bookcase to display your plants.
  • Mount a fluorescent light in an alcove backed by a mirror, hiding the rube with a wooden facia.

Plants to grow in fluorescent light

For shelves and enclosed cabinets, choose small, compact, broad-leaved plants, perhaps with colourful leaves and flowers. Larger planters with fixed fluorescent lighting above can hold specimen plants, such as Fatsia. By varying the humidity as well as the light intensity, you can grow almost anything!

Plants for low artificial light

Plants for medium artificial light

Plants for high artificial light

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