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Growing Orchids Under Lights

This is a discussion on Growing Orchids Under Lights within the Semi Hydro / Lights / Greenhouses / Accessories forums, part of the Orchid Culture category; I have been reading about different people using lights to grow their orchids and wanted ...

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  1. #1
    OrchisAmor's Avatar
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    Question Growing Orchids Under Lights

    I have been reading about different people using lights to grow their orchids and wanted to obtain more information on the process. I obtained a grow bulb a little while ago, but am a little unsure as to the proper or most advantageous way to grow my orchids under this light. Do the light requirements of different orchids apply with a bulb the same as with sunlight, i.e. put low light orchids like Phaph or Phals further away from the bulb and if so how far away? I've heard of using the shadow technique with the sun (hold your hand in the sun and look at the shadow to determine how bright the light is based on the sharpness of the shadow's edges), but how do you determine the brightness or intensity of light with a bulb? How long should the light be left on the plants? Do you have to simulate sunrise/sunset or just turn the light on/off? I've even heard that you can leave the light on 24/7, is that true? So . . . any ideas on the use and application of growing orchids under lights would be greatly appreciated!!

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    Ron-NY is offline rothaholic
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    Anette what type of light did you obtain? There are many different types of grow lamps. Are you planning on growing only under light or plan on using it as a supplement for natural light?
    One does not have to stimulate sunrise and but varying the length of day at different times of the year helps with some orchids. Typically on for 16 hours is the norm. Distance away from bulbs vary with types of bulbs. I grew under a bank of 4 fluorescent bulbs for a period of time. Here are a few articles worth reading.
    Growing Under Lights

    https://www.aos.org/Default.aspx?id=138

    https://www.aos.org/Default.aspx?id=324

    Growing Orchids Under Lights

    Comprehensive Culture Guide—Light levels for growing orchids

    Orchids Need Light to Bloom | River Valley Orchidworks

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    Greatly appreciated Ron!! I'll definitely checkout those resource links you posted for me and add them to my orchid journal for reference.

    I just started with using a light and would like to eventually get a better system of lights going. Right now I only have 8 orchids in a small portable greenhouse I keep indoors, so I got a single Sylvania Spot Grow 65W 120V bulb that I am using to supplement natural light. I'll probably graduate to larger fluorescent tubes as I learn more about growing under light and add to my orchid collection. I have a max/min thermometer with my orchids to make sure they aren't getting too hot with the light and have just used that to judge how close to put the bulb - do you think that is a good way to tell how close to put the bulb?

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    I'll have to agree, yet disagree - to some extent - with Ron. A plant has certain light needs, and that is the same, independent of the source. However, that need is really in terms of the number of photons, within a certain wavelength range, hitting it in a "day". Time of exposure and light intensity can be manipulated to provide that, but it's not an "infinitely variable" range.

    A plant can only handle "so much" light intensity - with phalaenopsis, it's pretty low, and with terete vandas, they can handle full sun, with others falling in-between - and there is a limit to the "day length" manipulation with artificial lighting, as all plants need a certain amount of "nighttime", as well, as there are different metabolic reactions that happen then, that are necessary for good health.

    All that said, we should shoot for the correct light intensity for the particular plant, and try to keep the day length something close to "natural". Some folks adjust that seasonally, but I have found that 14 hours of artificial daylight seems to work well.

    To answer your last question, while there certainly are temperature limits that plants enjoy, that is not a good way to judge light intensity, as incandescent spotlight-, fluorescent-, and LED light sources providing the exact same light intensity will register entirely different temperatures. A light meter is the way to go, even if it's just the one on a camera.

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    Thanks Ray. I didn't think of getting a light meter - that'd really help. I understand that plants have light reactions (photochemical) that occur only with light energy and Calvin Cycle reactions (so called 'dark' or biochemical reactions) that can occur either during the day or night, so I was surprised to read in a book that some people leave their lights on 24/7 - that seemed a little excessive. 10-12 hours is what I've been doing as I was unsure how close I should simulate natural conditions. I'll try leaving the light on a few more hours with them. I'm grateful for the feedback!!


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    I started my light cycles, at the end on Nov. when I first got the lights set up, at 10 hours long. I have adjusted it to be longer once already. I think I am now up to about 11-12 hours of light a day at the present. I will peak at 15 hours later in the spring and leave it at that length until the end of summer and then start reducing the length of light back down to 10 hours a day once fall hits (increment it 2 or 3 times, up or down) and then start the cycle again.

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    Harvey,
    What type of bulbs are you using?? Fluorescent, LED, spot grow bulbs???

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    I have 4 ft, 8 tube fluorescent (actually 2 of them now). A single 2' T5 one tube fixture and then my fish tank (orchidarium) is a 18" 6000K Full spectrum tube. The grow area gets some natural light as well.

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    I've been growing under fluorescent shop lights for about 4 years. I have 8 shop lights that hold two 48" t8 bulbs a piece, they are 32 watt bulbs. I don't use grow builds because I've heard there a waste of money. I use one cool and one warm white bulb in each fixture and most of my plant are between 4-6 inches from the bulbs. The lights are on a timer set for 14 hours a day and I never adjust it. My paphs are growing beyond amazing and my phals are not far behind. I've also got oncidiums, encyclias, and dendrobiums growing this way, they bloom but would probably like a bit more light. One thing I've noticed is cattleyas are a no no for fluorescents. I should also point out that this is the only source of light fo my plants.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 78Terp View Post
    I have 4 ft, 8 tube fluorescent (actually 2 of them now). A single 2' T5 one tube fixture and then my fish tank (orchidarium) is a 18" 6000K Full spectrum tube. The grow area gets some natural light as well.
    Ohh . . . I'd like to go to fluorescent as well - but I'll make do right now and upgrade when I can (and as I learn more about growing under lights - this thread is a great help!).

    ---------- Post Merged at 08:37 PM ----------

    Jeromy,
    Sounds like you got a great set-up. Thank you for sharing with me! I'm definitely learning a lot as I trek into growing orchids further! I like the idea of a timer - you can be more consistent with your light time that way, and that's one less thing to think about with orchid care. I heard that fluorescent light is better also because it is so cool - having your plants 4-6 inches to the bulb is pretty good. My current 'trial-run' bulb gets really hot up close (hence one reason I've put my thermometer to make sure I don't get the plants too hot and damage the leaf tissue). I wonder why Cattleya aren't good with fluorescents.?. Paphs are one of my favorite orchids - I've got two: P. sukhakulii and a alba Maudiae (and for sure will be adding more ). I also have two Phals, one Psychopsis, two Oncidium Twinkle and one Cattleya.

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