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Seed Starting Under Fluorescent Lights

Updated on February 24, 2013

It's never too early

Here in the Northeast it is that time of the year again when seed catalogues begin finding place in our mail boxes.  Some may think that this is way too early to be thinking about gardening, but as for the true gardener it’s never too early, let the season begin!

Lights, Camera, Grow!

A time to be creative

This is the creative season when we actually put our brains to work giving our bodies a rest, diving into every gardening book we can possibly find on our bookshelves. We strategically browse through seed catalogues in search for outstanding deals, new varieties, and great ideas. If you’re gardening for the first time or a master gardener it’s not only never too early to plan, but to plant as well. There are many things you can plant during these next couple of months that will not only give you a head start but save you money.

Let's get growing!

I usually start my seeds early to mid February, especially my herbs, and perennials. These tend to have a much longer germination period than most of the vegetables I plant later on. Growing your own plants from seed will not only save you money, but is so gratifying and rewarding. I am so inspired when I see those first few seedlings pop up. I have learned over the year’s ways to enjoy my love for gardening during the winter months, like growing herbs all year long. Simple steps like planting herbs and spices in pots and containers to bring inside the house during the cold winter months, is a very practical way to keep the thumb green all year long, but growing plants during the winter is a whole other experience in itself.

So Inspiring

Tips for growing under Fluorescent's

There are many wonderful techniques for successfully growing plants from seed in the home during the winter months. All you need is good soil, preferable a growing medium designed for seed starting, plenty of light, heat and water. The biggest challenge for growing during the winter is light. Once your seeds have germinated it is critical that they get the right amount of light to continue to grow strong. This can be a challenge during the winter months as our days of sun light are much shorter. Plants require between 10- 16 hours of sun light to grow well. The best window location in your house would be a southern exposed window, however if your home lacks great window space on the southern side, you can grow them under fluorescent lights. Don’t fall for marketing gimmick’s that will try to sell you very expensive bulbs that are special for growing plants, any white fluorescent will do. I know because I have used them all.

When you are using fluorescent lights be sure that your lights are no more than three inches from the actual plant. If the distance is too far from the plants to the light the plants will grow too fast stretching for the light. This will result in the plant growing skinny and lengthy. Also be sure to have the lights evenly dispersed over plants, or constantly rotate the position of the plants so that they are not leaning and stretching for the light. I typically leave my lights on for about 10 hours a day. If the seed shelf that I built received any natural light from a window, I would probably have them on for less time. This year I am using a power strip that has a built in timer in case I am to get home late they will automatically shut off.

My Seed Shelf

Seed sowing shelves with attached lights can be quit costly; I have found it is much more practical to use whatever you have around the house. Like I said any white fluorescent will do. As you can see in these photos that I built my own seed shelf by using scrap lumber I had lying around the house. Your seed shelve does not have to look exactly like mine, you may find a spot on top of your fridge or in the basement where you can easily install a light, and have easy access and plenty of heat to nurture you little seedling to beautiful plants. Happy growing!

Some of my favorite books


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    • rpalulis profile image

      rpalulis 5 years ago from NY

      There could be several reasons, not knowing the plant doesn't help. It could be too much light or not enough, or too much water or not enough, or you could have some sort of fungus disease, maybe it's the soil or lacking nutrients, needing a little fertilizing. Sorry I can not be of any help. I wouldn't give up- sounds like a beautiful plant.

      I would start by properly identifying the plant name and researching its properties.

    • profile image

      Anne 5 years ago

      I need help with a plant that I received from England. I don't know the name of the plant, but the plant is very unusual. The plant is completely pink. The stems are pink and the leaves are pink. My plant is slowly dying. The leaves are turning brown and falling off the stem. Any idea what I can do to save this beautiful plant?

    • rpalulis profile image

      rpalulis 7 years ago from NY

      Thanks prasetio30. Growing under fluorescent lights is a great way to get an early start for the growing season, thanks for sharing this hub with your father I hope he finds this information useful as well. Take care my friend.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      My friend. This is great information from you. I'll show this to my father. Because he love gardening very much. I thought this could be practiced on anthurium plants. He has a lot of anthurium. This is a new technology for me, especially to growing plants. Vote up. Have a good day!


    • rpalulis profile image

      rpalulis 7 years ago from NY

      Darlene, growing plants under fluorescent lights would be perfect for where you live. I'm sure your winters are probably a bit more harsh than what we experience here.

    • rpalulis profile image

      rpalulis 7 years ago from NY

      Martie thanks for voting this one up, so glad you found this interesting, and yes any white fluorescent will work for growing plants under fluorescent lights. I tried using regular white bulbs this past winter and everything grew fine. I think it turned out to be a little over a dollar a bulb when I bought a case @ Lowes compared to spending over $10.00 a bulb for the plant aquarium bulbs.

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 7 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Fantastic hub on Growing Plants Under Fluorescent Lights, I have such small space but this could be a gift to be able to grow in the kind of harsh wheather I live in. Rate way up up and thank you for this excellent advise and & peace darski

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 7 years ago from South Africa

      Any white fluorescent light will do? Wow! This should encourage many to plant their own vegetables and herbs indoors. Weird: down here we need northern exposed windows for enjoying the sun in our homes. rpalulis, I’ve bookmarked this interesting, most inspiring hub about Growing Plants Under Fluorescent Lights. Also voted it up in all ways! A must read for all keen gardeners. Take care.

    • rpalulis profile image

      rpalulis 7 years ago from NY

      Katie, growing plants under fluorescent lights is like having a green house inside your home. The oxygen level in my house is amazing come March. I too have always wanted my own greenhouse, and when I got laid off from work 3 years ago, that is exactly what I did. I built my own green house, and garden all year long, as well as sell what I grow a local markets. Am I getting rich doing it, absolutely not, but love every minute of it.

    • rpalulis profile image

      rpalulis 7 years ago from NY

      Pamela99 this will be my third season getting an early start by growing my plants under fluorescent lights. It is so awesome walking into your home in Feb- March have seedlings popping up everywhere. Really gets you excited for spring. Thanks for the comment

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 7 years ago from I'm outta here

      Oh MY, I'm insanely jealous, I want a green house more than anything. I love plants and getting my hands dirty. I was just bathing and cleaning out my house plants today and all the while longing for that green house off my kitchen. Your planting shelf has me completely turned on to this process.

      Thanks for teaching me the principles of growing plants under fluorescent lights. I'm going to build something, plant something and watch it grow. Again, I'm so jealous but I can live through your awesome words!

      :) Katie

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      Excellent hub with good information. I didn't know you could use florescent lights for growing. Your setup is really neat as it is compact yet plenty of room and light for those seeds to grow.

    • rpalulis profile image

      rpalulis 7 years ago from NY

      RedElf, Thanks, I agree this is much less expensive, and a ton of fun as well.

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

      You have quite a set-up! I always wished I had the space to start my own seedlings - so much less expensive than buying pot-fillers from the greenhouse! Nice hub!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Great hub! I just started getting my seed catalogs, maybe a week ago. I just love seeds, but never jumped in to the whole fluorescent light thing. I think its a great option for growing, and my neighbor has done this with flower seeds a lot he said, to get a head start on the season. Thanks for sharing.