African Violets Under Lights: The Easiest Plant To Grow

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After talking to many people, I have little doubt that the easiest plant to grow is African violets under fluorescent lights.

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Simplest Light Set-Up

The simplest light set-up is one using a reflector type of fixture having two 40-watt fluorescent bulbs which can be bought as a complete unit for less than $15. Such light is adequate for about twenty plants. 

Besides the lighting unit, a base tray 1” to 2” inches deep is needed for sand, blue stone, granite chips, or chicken grits which can be kept moist to create the necessary humidity of 50% or more.

Where you place the light unit in your home is a matter of preference. Most of the people I have visited had it in the basement, but folks living in apartments have used all manner of schemes to make their units an attractive part of their living quarters.

Distance Between Lights and Plants

Distance between lights and plants seems to be a matter of diverse opinion. A majority find that their plants have more flowers when the lights are 6” to 8” inches above the nearest plants.

Direct Bearing of Light to the Flowers

Scientific studies confirm the fact that the amount of light has a direct bearing on the number of flowers. 

Although some people grow African violets quite successfully with lights as much as 18” inches from the flowers. For well-shaped plants, avoid crowding.

There seem to be some differences of opinion as to which kind of light tube should be used. Some prefer “cool white” and others “daylight.” 

Opinions on Good Results in Growing Plants Under Fluorescent Light 

Based on what I have observed, the proponents of both schools of thought have equally good results. I am inclined to go along with the compromise of using one “cool white” tube and one “daylight” tube.

Some varieties seem to require less light than others, and by trial and error, you can determine which will do well on the outside edges of the lighted area. 

There seems to be general agreement that pink, white and pastel varieties require less light than the darker blues and purples. 

“Girl” Type of Plants Does Not Grow Under Fluorescent Lights

I have heard complaints that the “girl” type of plants do not do well under fluorescent lights as they tend to make a tight cabbage-like plant that is not very attractive. 

Some of this poor growth effect can be overcome by having these plants as far from the light as possible.

Number of Hours Where the Lights Remain On

Lights should remain on from 14 to 18 hours daily. A shorter time than 14 hours is sufficient to promote good plant growth but is insufficient for flower production. 

The plants need some rest (dark period) each day, and 6 to 10 hours is adequate. The lights can be controlled manually, but such a plan has obvious limitations. Timers of various kinds are available.

Usually, watering will not be required daily, and there may be times when intervals as long as four days will be satisfactory. When the surface soil feels dry, it should be watered. 

Leaves Can Be Watered

Under fluorescent lights, leaves can be wet without fear of damage. This makes watering a simple matter. Plants may be sprayed with lukewarm (room temperature) water.

Those who have tried using peat moss in the base tray find that it sours relatively quickly.

Sand can be used, but some African-violet enthusiasts prefer chicken grits because they are pure white and provide the most attractive base. 

These are kept moist by adding water as required, although sufficient water is usually maintained by the excess coming through the pots from periodic watering.

Other Plants To Grow Under Lights

Other plants can be grown under fluorescent light, and it is interesting to experiment. 

Most members of the gesneriad family, which includes the showy gloxinia, do well. African violets also belong to this family.

46663 by John J. Simpkins