Light for plants and winter light therapy?
February 6, 2020 3:47 PM   Subscribe

Can the same light that would help plants grow also help me?

I don't know my light spectrums, but I'm thinking of adding some houseplants to my bedroom. Specifically, I'm thinking about putting a shelf above and behind my bed. I'm concerned there isn't enough natural light in that room for some of my favorite plants to thrive, so I thought I might plan to get a simple ceiling spotlight or two for my plants. Then I thought I could put it on a timer, starting in the morning around when I would be waking up. Then I thought... hey, maybe this same light will help me in the dark Pacific Northwest winters.

I wasn't going to get a fancy, grow light set up for my plants. I have a plant that's been thriving all winter in my dark-ish living room, and I finally realized it's doing so well because it's sitting under a regular table lamp with a standard LED bulb. I'm not trying to raise seedlings or plants that need bright light, so I think a few ceiling spotlights or hanging lights should be enough to give plants an extra boost (there are two windows in the room, but it's the northeast corner of the house, and the plants wouldn't be right next to the window). I don't think I want to get bulbs with only certain spectrums because I'm trying to keep it simple.

I think I have mild seasonal depression or something. I take Vitamin D and get outside, but I live in Portland, Oregon and winters can be a bit dreary (she says in February, ugh; it's been a particularly rainy few weeks of late).

My understanding is that light therapy lights are generally big and flat and are supposed to be pretty close to your face to actually help. But is there anything I can do to make my plant lights (which would be directed at a shelf over my headboard) something that could also help me? Or would those lights be too far away and/or too weak to do any good?
posted by bluedaisy to Home & Garden (3 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The standard recommendation is that therapeutic lights for seasonal affective disorder should be 10,000 lux and directed at the face from a distance of 16 to 24 inches. In my experience, plant lights come nowhere near this, and if they're pointed at something other than your face they'd be basically useless.

I have a therapeutic light box. It's BRIGHT. It's bright enough that it would be inconvenient to have it on when I'm not using it for therapy. I can't imagine a plant grow light coming anywhere close.
posted by Lexica at 5:08 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]

Plant lights are actually a lot more than 10,000 lux. I use plant lights during the Winter for my house plants. I have them on at night and they're BRIGHT. Too bright to share a room with so I'm not sure you'd want to hang out around one. I also use the painter light reflector things. I'm not sure if they're appropriate as a therapy light but they are definitely bright enough.
posted by emotionalmotionsickness at 6:37 AM on February 7

I think any sort of inside light is helpful to some degree for winter yuck, even if it's not necessarily therapeutic levels. However I don't think some basic ceiling lights or hanging lights will do much for your plants. A low light plant needs 50-150 footcandles (538-1614 lux). If your ceiling light is about 8 feet up that means a bare light bulb of 600 lumens and a 30 degree spread will get you the very minimum for the lowest light plants right under that light (calculator). You can increase the lux by moving it closer to the plants, so table lamps can be more effective. At any rate, you can search for the light requirement for your particular house plants, and figure out using calculators what it would take to provide that.

I worked in a lighted greenhouse for several years, and it really did help with SAD. So if you want to increase your lighting to the point where it will really be effective for plant growth there's definitely the potential to help your own mood. Plants and lights are good for that!
posted by oneirodynia at 11:50 AM on February 7

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