The Right Plant Grow Lights for Seed Germination

Starting plants indoors is a great way to get a jump on the planting season. Plants started long before the end of cold weather can extended your harvest and bring beauty to your yard quickly.

The controlled conditions of indoor gardening are perfect for successful seed germination. But what if your conditions are less than perfect? A crucial element of indoor gardening is light. The lack of window space (or any windows in a basement) could cancel your indoor growing plans.

If you find yourself "sunlight challenged," you may need plant grow lights for seed germination.

A Full Spectrum Of Light
The color of light is measured in degrees Kelvin (K). Lower K values indicate warmer (more red) light and higher K values indicate cooler (more blue) light. In nature, sunlight promotes seed germination. The sun provides timing cues and energy for seeds to grow.

In terms of color temperature, sunlight is around 6000 K. By contrast, a standard incandescent bulb has a color temperature of 2700 K. A light that provides a color temperature close to that of the sun will best promote seed germination.

Types Of Bulbs
Modern technology has produced a wide variety of light bulbs and each have different properties that make them more or less appropriate for indoor gardening.

  • Incandescent lights. With a low color temperature, incandescent bulbs are inappropriate for plant grow lights. These bulbs should only be used for display or work lighting.
  • Fluorescent lights. Full spectrum fluorescent lights provide an efficient source of light with very little heat. To be most effective, fluorescent lights should be placed close to plants. The cool, even lighting provided by fluorescent lights is perfect for seed germination.
  • Compact fluorescent lights. An upgrade to older technology, CFL bulbs concentrate fluorescent light into a smaller form. CFL bulbs are available in warm and cool color temperatures and make great plant grow lights.
  • Metal halide lights. With a color temperature of 5500 K, metal halide lights are as close to indoor sunlight as you can get. The hot operating temperature of metal halide lights requires that they be placed at a safe distance from plants.
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