Fluorescent Gardening

The recent advent of the seemingly-intense indoor lighting with fluorescent bulbs has naturally caused many indoor gardeners to wonder if plants could be grown under this light. 

According to extensive experiments conducted in such widely separated places as Holland and Harvard University, scientists have also been interested in this possibility. 

Fluorescent GardeningPin

In general, the findings of the tests seem to be that at a distance of perhaps 1’ foot from the light source, results comparable to daylight can be achieved, especially in growing seeds and cuttings and forcing bulbs.

Inhibited Bud Production In Growing Plants

On the other hand, there seems to be agreement that bud production in growing plants is inhibited.

Based on this information, I determined to see what could be done under sub-ideal and non-experimental conditions. 

Using Greenhouse Bench

I did not want to grow African violets, nor did I want to grow plants in a box. Instead, I wanted a greenhouse bench that would look well and reproduce with limitations. 

So I started with the bench, which was built into a gabled, unlighted bedroom that had been a room of gloom. 

The bench was built at 36″ height for ease of working and was 6′ feet long by 2′ feet wide.

Over it, I suspended a factory type 2-bulb, 40. watt fluorescent lighting unit plugged into the nearest base outlet. 

The distance from the bulb to the bench was 3′ feet, and the light thus illuminated the room as well as the bench.

Copper Pan: Prevent Water Damage

A copper pan on the bench prevented water damage to the rug, and the pan was filled with vermiculite to hold moisture around the pots. 

A little corner of fine vermiculite is a “cutting bed,” where I find most plants root easily and quickly. 

All of this, including a few extra plants, cost about $100.00.

After that, no further expense is involved except the cost of a kilowatt of electricity per day and now and then a new plant.

Simple Greenhouse Operation

The operation of the “greenhouse” is very simple. I turn on the light when I get up: 

  • Water the plants before I go to work
  • Enjoy them at night when I return and turn the light off at 10 P.M

Heavy Watering

With a little “heavy watering,” the bench can go unattended for several days with the light on 24 hours if need be.

The season of 1950-51 was an experimental one, and I soon learned one thing: the light was too low intensity at bench level to produce buds or flowers, and even budded plants tended to drop their buds. 

“Green” Garden 

But my shade-loving, subtropical plants were happy. With this knowledge, I planned my 1951-52 garden to be a “green” garden, and every visitor to my greenhouse is surprised at the luxuriant growth which has been attained.

Another fact I have learned from this experiment is that once vines start growing and reach the area of intense light (100-foot candles), they progress rapidly and happily. 

African Grape Ivy

I have had particularly good results with 2”- 4” inches pots of the African grape ivy, Cissus adenopoda, which has produced a lush background for the greenhouse in only four months.

Old Household Favorites In Flourescent Garden

Other plants flourish under this lighting, which is less intense than sunshine.

Some of the old household favorites include:

  • Umbrella Plant
  • Wandering Jew
  • Ferns
  • Philodendrons

In addition to begonias, these plants appear to do really well. From my experience, African violets will root, grow and bloom with this light. 

If I were to name all the kinds of plants from which one might select when starting such a garden, I would include all these favorites: 

  • Begonias
  • Bromeliads 
  • Dieffenbachias 
  • Dracaenas
  • Ferns
    • Asplenium
    • Nephrolepis And 
    • Cyrtomiurn 
  • Fiats 
  • Fittonia
  • Hedera
  • Fatshedera
  • Kentia And Other Palms
  • Maranta
  • Marica
  • Philodendron
  • Piper
  • Saintpaulia
  • Cissus

Growing Under Fluorescent Light

When one recalls that most of the plant groups mentioned above include many forms and varieties, it can be seen that the selection of plants for growing under fluorescent light is wide. 

One or more varieties of most of these I have grown myself on the bench at a temperature of 70° degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity of 15% to 20% percent.

Certainly, this experiment has proven to my satisfaction that, with certain limitations, one can enjoy a magnificent garden in a city apartment at a moderate expense and with little care except watering.

44659 by Nelson Coon