Living in an apartment you have limited types of plants you can grow. Unless you’re blessed with an outdoor garden or a nice sunny balcony.
Lucky for us succulents are lovely plants that can live indoors.
If you’re a botany enthusiast like myself, you probably own one or two succulents. Or a whole bunch if you’re growing an indoor garden.
Either way, you’ll need grow lights. You may wonder: how to use grow lights on succulents? and how long to keep grow lights on succulents?
These are just some of the questions I’ll be answering in this guide.
What Are Grow Lights?
Simply put, grow lights are artificial light systems. They help plants that are not regularly exposed to sunlight get their light needs.
Meaning, if your grow light is of the correct color and intensity, it’ll mimic the sunlight. This will suffice for your succulents to grow and thrive.
Do My Succulents Need Grow Lights?
The short answer is yes, if you keep your succulents indoor or in a relatively dark place then they do. These plants need light all year round.
What if I keep them by a window, you may ask. Even then, the amount of sunlight that ultimately gets to your plant isn’t enough. This is bad for your plants as they may get etiolated or sunburnt.
Etiolation is a state of stretching of the plants, they literally reach out to get more light. This causes them to lose their color by turning green or faded.
On the other hand, if your succulents are overexposed to light it gets a sunburn. They get blotchy brown spots, their color becomes washed out and the leaves turn dry and crinkly.
Knowing the right way to use your grow light is essential to successfully care for your succulents. But, don’t fret, as after reading this guide you’ll have the know-how to do just so.
How to Use Grow Lights for Succulents
Now let’s get down to business; how to set up and use the grow lights. I’ve broken down this into 6 steps to make it easier for you.
Step 1: Pick a Spot
The first thing you need to do is find a space where you can keep your succulents and that allows for installing the grow lights as well.
Make sure that the space can accommodate the type of grow light you will get.
Step 2: Understand Your Grow Light
Before picking grow lights for your plants, you need to consider 4 specifications and their implications.
I’m going to cut to the chase here and not give you a whole physics lesson. Here’s what you need to know; plants need blue light to grow and red light to bloom, that’s full spectrum.
Buying a grow light that only gives off one or the other may be more energy-efficient. However, your succulents still need both to grow and flower.
Light temperature indicates warm and cool light colors, where lower is warmer and higher is cooler. Succulents are quite low-maintenance in that respect as they respond to a relatively wide light temperature range. 3000K to 6000K can easily allow your plant to grow and flourish.
How bright should your grow light be? The light intensity of your bulb is measured by lumens. For succulents, I would recommend a grow light with 300-800 lumens.
On its own wattage will only indicate how much electricity the light will consume. However, if you put it with the light output factor then you’ll be able to tell the quality and amount of light it will produce by calculating the lumens per watt. The higher the number the more efficient the light is.
Step 3: How to Pick a Grow Light
Grow lights come in 4 types, LED grow lights, Fluorescent grow lights, Incandescent grow lights and high-intensity discharge or HID grow lights. For the purpose of this guide, I’ll focus on LED and Fluorescent grow lights as I believe these are better options for succulents.
LED Grow Light
There are two types of LED grow lights: blue/red LED and white LED. Both basically operate the same way except for a couple of differences.
The White LED gives off a softer white light than its counterpart, while the red/blue LED allows for a better growing environment as it identifies the ideal growing color spectrum for your succulents.
LED grow lights have a very specific and narrow wavelength of light, focusing on just one color instead of a full spectrum. This makes them energy-efficient, and give off less heat.
You can use this to your advantage by getting one color temperature to trigger your succulent to behave in a certain way; for example, using only red light to make it bloom.
Another benefit of LED grow light is its versatility and small size. These features make it easy to set up and use in small or hard to reach home gardening spaces.
The flipside of using this type of grow light is that it may cause your succulents to behave abnormally. Since they produce just one color temperature this may trigger etiolation in your succulents.
Last but not least, the LED light color can be uneasy on your eyes in comparison to Fluorescent light.
- Energy Saving
- Low-cost in the long term
- Emit low heat
- Doesn’t provide full-spectrum color
Fluorescent Grow Lights
Fluorescent lights are another great option for home growers. They are a fairly uncomplicated option that you can easily pick from.
Fluorescent lights are available in a number of sizes, T5, T8, and T12. But let me tell you if you decide to go with the Fluorescent option then I recommend buying the T5. These are great for in-home installation thanks to their small size.
But don’t worry if you have restrictions installing the T5 tube bulbs, getting the CFL will also do the trick just as well.
The main attraction of this option is the fact that it provides full-spectrum light, allowing your succulents to grow and bloom during both the summer and winter months.
- Small initial investment
- Short life-span bulbs compared to LED
Step 4: Positioning Your Grow Light
One of the most important considerations, if not the most, in my opinion, is how and where you place your grow light relative to your plant. Place it too close and it may cause a sunburn effect to your succulent. Place it too far, it can be totally ineffective.
The common range for light to plant spacing is 6-40 inches depending on plant size, light temperature, and light intensity.
Your grow light should be placed not less than 6-12 inches away from the top of your succulent. And if you have low heat emitting LED lights you can go even closer, but never less than 6 inches.
You want your plant to benefit fully from the grow light. To do that, they should be within the light arc of your grow light, which varies. This variation is a result of the difference in size and light needs of each succulent.
Ideally, I’d advise starting at 10 inches and monitor your succulents to adjust accordingly.
Also, make sure that all sides of the plant get equal amounts of light. So, for best results, rotate your plants regularly. Once a week is often sufficient for even growth
Step 5: Know How Long to Keep Grow Lights on the Succulents
Succulent plants need at least 6 hours of sunlight daily. They also need a period of darkness daily to ensure proper growth.
With that in mind, your indoor succulent plant should preferably be exposed to 12-14 hours of grow light daily. So a good scenario to start with is a 12/12 light cycle. Meaning,12 hours of light followed by 12 hours of dark and adjust accordingly when needed.
But note, the amount, intensity and duration of light needed differs according to season.
This is important so that they can sense when to go into their dormant period in cooler months. On the other hand, they also need to sense when it’s warmer so they can grow and flourish.
That being said, to mimic the changing of seasons make sure to change the intensity and duration of light from summer to winter seasons keeping it as similar to nature as possible.
For example, you can go with 16 hours of light daily in winter versus 20 hours in summer. You can also use bulbs with lower intensity in winter.
Step 6: Monitor Your Succulents
Monitoring your succulents’ behavior is the final step in this guide. This is where you’ll know if you need to go back and adjust any of the previous steps.
When your succulents are growing outside their natural habitat, you’ll need to guide their behavior. Trigger some responses even. You might be wondering why?
Well, as they aren’t exposed to the elements, they have no way of knowing when the seasons change. So, you need to manipulate the environment to prompt their natural responses.
But please take care as any adjustment should be done gradually and not changed drastically overnight.
Using grow lights is a great aid for keeping your indoor succulents thriving and healthy. And once you get the hang of using them, nothing can stop you. You can even grow a succulent garden, as caring for them will be a breeze!