Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
If you don’t have any sunny windows for growing cacti and succulents, create an indoor light garden. This is a perfect way to grow tender species of sun-loving cacti and succulents.
Do-it-yourself types will find it very easy to create a light garden. Often, this consists of a series of shelves with fluorescent light fixtures attached to the undersides of the shelves.
Simple table top light garden can easily be created using metal or wooden supports for the light fixtures. Plans and instructions for building these are available from various sources. I recall seeing several models in a USDA pamphlet on indoor gardens.
Ready made light carts and light gardens are available from various sources. These usually require some assembly.
For starters, look at the ones listed in the Charley’s Greenhouse and Garden catalog. Available in a two-tier and a four-tier version, this is pre-wired. It comes with complete instructions for easy assembly. The wheels on these models mean you can easily move them to wherever you have an electric outlet in the room. These complete kits include wide spectrum tubes for each shelf. The light fixtures can be raised or lowered on vertical tracks, depending on the height of your cacti and succulents. Each shelf has a waterproof tray on which you can set the pots. This last feature serves to remind those making their own light gardens to install some sort of waterproof tray in their garden.
Generally, some sort of fluorescent tubes are used in light gardens. These don’t raise the room temperature, and don’t burn hot like ordinary incandescent light bulbs. In addition, the latter can actually be so hot they can burn the plants.
Special fluorescent grow-lights are available though they aren’t absolutely essential. They do cost more than ordinary fluorescent tubes. If cost is an important issue for you, try using one ordinary white fluorescent and one grow-light in a two-tube fixture.
For the most part, the tubes need to be about six inches or less away from the cacti and succulents.
The room temperature is a factor for light gardens. For tropical cacti and succulents, it will need to be a minimum of 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. For most other species, it can be around 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
In general, most cacti and succulents will need to have the lights on around 14 to 16 hours per day when they are actively growing. This can be reduced somewhat to ten or twelve hours when the plants are in their rest periods.
Light gardens need not be totally utilitarian. By using attractive wood and other materials, these can be as nice as any piece of furniture. For aesthetic purposes, you may want to design the light stand so that the light fixture is concealed.