We all need light in our lives and house plants are no exception.
Whether it is specialist technology to help them grow, or simple illuminations to accentuate their best features, it’s well worth spending a bit of time thinking about the right lighting to get the most out of our leafy friends.
Before splashing out on specialist equipment, however, it’s well worth remembering the time-honoured gardening advice of ‘right plant, right place’ and doing a bit of research to discover the perfect environments for individual species.
Yuccas, Aloe vera and succulents all love a sunny windowsill, for example, while plants like Kentia palms, Aglaonema and Philodendrons originate from the under-storeys of tropical rainforests and can cope with dappled shade – which basically means enough natural light to comfortably read a book.
Nevertheless it’s true that some homes have less light than others, including some older properties and windowless rooms, which can cause bright colours to fade or turn dark green, variegations to revert, leaves to drop and poor growth. In such cases it may be necessary to bring in specialist lighting to keep plants healthy, especially during the darker winter months.
The wavelengths produced by special Light Emitting Diodes (or LEDs) are similar to sunshine and this low-energy form of artificial lighting is increasingly popular in homes.
An alternative is specialist horticultural lighting, such as TS High Output Fluorescent Tubes, which produces the blue and red lights that plants need for growth and flower production. Some people attach these lights to the underside of shelves so that they benefit plants without being overly visible, while fixing one to the lid of a fish tank can turn a glass box of plants into a decorative terrarium.
As well as helping houseplants to grow, the right lighting can really bring out their best features, although be careful about the amount of heat produced by bulbs and tubes to avoid leaves becoming scorched.
Strategically-placed spotlights, or ground lights pointing upwards, can make beautiful leaves the focus of a room, either by illuminating them directly to show off their special features or producing attractive shadows. These work especially well in alcoves.
Alternatively turn a plant into something magical by threading fairy lights through its foliage, or fixing the tiny bulbs to a wall to illuminate the area behind it to draw the eye.
In addition, consider the decorative effect of mirrors placed behind a plant, especially when combined with lights.
The use of lighting in garden settings has transformed our enjoyment of our outside spaces at night and with a little bit of imagination it’s possible to use similar ideas to great effect indoors too.