Good light is an essential part of your vertical garden project. To shed some light on the subject we’ve put together this vertical garden lighting guide to insure your plants will be as happy as possible.
Plants Need Light
Natural light outdoors is the ideal source for growing plants.
Daylight produces 10,000 foot candles of light. This is perfect for herbs, vegetables, grasses, succulents and many other plants that thrive in full sun or even part shade.
For indoors we select low light tropical plants that are native to the forest floor beneath the tree canopy receiving 250 foot candles and temperatures around 70 degrees. These conditions are typical to our interior spaces. What we consider ‘house plants’ are suitable to our optimal living conditions as well.
Low light tropical plants typically like bright indirect light however too much light or direct sun will burn their foliage. In places where there is not quite enough light supplemental lighting will be required.
Choosing the right plants for your location is very important. See: Choosing Plants
The best light you can get is from a skylight above or window across from the vertical garden. It costs nothing and is the most ecological solution. Diffused light near a large window becomes ideal conditions for low light tropical plants.
It may be that a beam of light passes over the vertical garden for a couple of hours each day.
Consider adding a skylight to the building for long term energy savings.
LED Full Spectrum
As technology advances LED is now the optimal way to provide efficient grow lighting for your vertical garden.
New full-spectrum LED lights specified for growing plants provide the necessary ‘blue’ ‘red’ and UV components plants require while also offering mid range spectrums that also look like natural sunlight.
Note that the purple colored lights typically used for horticulture is not ideal for display gardens. Even though they are the most efficient, they will make your plants look black. Purple LEDs are best suited for food growing where maximum efficiency is required. Full spectrum lights provide other colors that bring out the the beautiful greens we love to see in plants.
One of the best suppliers for LED vertical garden lighting is a company called Sunlite Systems Technology. If you offer them your design layout with dimensions they will give you a light distribution diagram. Their fixtures are minimal and efficient.
For more information see: LED Full Spectrum Living Wall Lighting
Light from a metal halide mimic sunlight more accurately than any other source. They are slightly less efficient than LED and much less attractive. Metal Halide requires a large ballast located near the bulb.
Because they are largely being phased out of production you can get a really good deal on fixtures. See: Low Cost Metal Halide Lighting Solution below.
Halogen spot and flood bulbs project light to the plants. Track lighting systems are low cost and easy to install.
Halogen creates a very broad spectrum of light and delivers the most attractive full balanced color making plants look their best. Also they create some warmth that is beneficial for most low light tropical plants. The downside of halogen lighting that they are not as efficient at producing light as other sources.
The difficulty in using fluorescent with vertical gardens is that the source is so dispersed that the light can not be projected at great distances. Typically fixtures need to be very close to the plants. Therefore this is not a workable solution for vertical gardens.
Things To Know About Lighting
Get a light meter to determine light levels for your situation. Light levels are measured in Foot Candles. Low light tropical plants will survive with 150 – 250 foot candles of lighting and will need 8-10 hours each day.
Hydrofarm Digital Light Meter – About $40
The Energy from Light
Note fixtures list lumens. This is the measurement of light output from the fixture. The further you move away from the light level will drop. Spot fixtures will concentrate the light energy at greater distances. The goal is to focus all the lumen light energy onto the growing surface.
The Color of Light
Choosing the color mostly affects how we will view the plants. Warmer colors recreate summer light that encourages blooming. Bluer light will help plants develop their foliage. Vertical gardens are typically for enjoying their beauty therefore 4000K is a balanced warm daylight that looks best with plants.
Light Plants Use
Plants have evolved in nature to optimize their photosynthesis at the ends of the spectrum.
In plants, Ultraviolet (UV) blue light are required for green vegetative growth while red wavelengths aid in their flowering and fruiting phases. Natural sunlight delivers a full spectrum for chlorophyll function at 450 nm and 500 nm areas and in the 640 nm and 650 nm wavelengths.
For more detailed information see: Light Absorption for Photosynthesis
Compared Efficiency in Lumens per Watt
- Halogen – 25 Lumens per Watt
- Metal Halide – 100 Lumens per Watt
- LED Lighting – 100 Lumens per Watt
Share your Discoveries
Let us know what works for you. We are always learning.