Learn how to light Interior Landscapes
Light is the most critical requirement for any interior plantscape installation. Proper lighting will assure healthy and attractive indoor greenery or house plants. We have put together lighting guidelines to follow when adding indoor plants.
Light is food
Beginning with basics, we must note that light is a true plant food. Without light, a plant cannot photosensitize. Photosynthesis is the process where light, provides the energy to process carbon dioxide and water into simplified sugars and starches which plants use for nutrition. Plants are the only organisms able to do this. Lighting for interior landscapes needs to be able to provide sufficient energy for plants.
Acclimate foliage for sustainability
Plants grown for the interior plantscape market must be pre-acclimated to thrive in those conditions. These plants are grown under shade structures, where they are weaned to sustain their foliage with less light. Failure to pre-acclimate plants usually has negative results. Plants will decline after being moved indoors, which includes defoliation and susceptibility to diseases and pests. Acclimation time varies, based on the size and type of plant. To include trees taller than 12 feet, expect to reserve plants a year in advance to allow for the necessary 12 months of acclimation.
Add artificial lighting
If natural lighting sources are insufficient, artificial light will be required to sustain your plant life.
Common plants with higher light requirements such as the Ficus, generally need a minimum of 250 foot-candles of light measured at the canopy level - and for a duration of 8 hours per day. While up lights can contribute to the atmosphere, up lights do not contribute to a plant’s energy needs. For the plant to absorb the energy, the light source must come from above, just like the sun. Therefore, when considering light fixtures and bulbs, the light output in foot-candles, fixture placement and wavelengths are critical. Again, red and blue waves in the light spectrum are the most important energy sources for plants.
Let’s examine the various types of indoor lighting and the pros and cons of each:
• LED lighting: Specific lamps can offer the healthy red and blue wavelengths that plants thrive on. They’re extremely energy-efficient, emit very little heat, and have a very long-life cycle (15-20 years). If lamps installed as “grow lights” clash with the architectural lighting, we recommend the grow lights are set to timers for an 8-hour duration after-hours.
• Metal halide, halogen: These types of lights are a traditionally proven workhorse for architectural spaces with plants, such as atriums and building lobbies. The light output and spectrum perform very well for plant life but the lights produce a great deal of heat and are less efficient than LED alternatives.
• Fluorescent tubes: These provide decent artificial light sources for plants in commercial settings, the key to success is selecting “full spectrum” tubes or those that emit primarily both red and blue light waves. They produce relatively little heat and have a long service life – expect 10,000 hours or more. The biggest drawback is the light output in relation to the location of the plant’s canopy. It can be difficult to achieve the foot candles needed in a typical commercial space with high ceilings.
• Incandescent lighting: As a single lighting source for plants, incandescent bulbs are not particularly beneficial. They offer a rich source of red light waves but are a poor source of blue light. If a plant is placed too close to an incandescent light, the heat can dry or burn the foliage. However, when used as a ceiling spot directly above a plant requiring low or medium light, an incandescent bulb may be helpful.
Getting it bright, getting it right
Once the proper sources of light are determined for your indoor space, be sure to make the most of your space.
Here are some additional tips to consider for optimizing the lighting environment for indoor plants:
• “Timing” is important: Lighting timers are valuable because, in the case of plants, lights should be turned on regularly and consistently. Timers may be set to operate lights after hours if the lighting is too bright and poses a distraction. If plant lighting is on a timer, the recommended duration of light is 8-10 hours per day.
• Footcandles an important measurement: Any artificial light used to support indoor plants needs to produce foot candles of light energy to be usable by plants. This is a standard measurement equal to one lumen per square foot. For example, indoor trees taller than 8 feet need at least 200-foot candles of energy at the canopy of the plant. If in doubt about the amount of footcandle energy being emitted, there are electronic measuring devices as well as charts available to calculate the optimum light energy needed for indoor plants.
• Can plants in the plant thrive? Considering a Schefflera in the break room, or adding a ficus on the shop floor? It’s possible! Current OSHA standards for lighting in manufacturing facilities typically provide enough illumination to support healthy indoor plants. And plants provide valuable and welcome green space for employees and visitors alike.
Look to indoor plant pros for solutions
Beyond the best lighting, look at the big picture, as well. Not everyone has the deep knowledge or time to plan an indoor plant strategy, choose the right types of plants, and maintain them.
For the healthiest, most attractive indoor plant displays, consult an indoor plant professional, offering you the training, expertise, and ability to maintain the highest-quality interior landscape. Contact our highly-trained experts at Planterra with your questions.