Throughout our articles we have discussed several success factors of an indoor production. Here is a short summary: Growing indoor will provide you with the opportunity to influence all environmental factors. This way you can optimize soil, air, water and grow light to create the perfect conditions for your plants. The more you take care of them, the better your yield. And with light it is easy. Always remember: More light = bigger yields!
Lights are essential because they largely determine your plants' grow cycles, their photosynthesis and therefore their health and their buds. Lighting is the food of your marijuana plants. When first creating your grow room make a blue print to decide what system for water management, light and air flow you want to use. In this piece we will discuss the details about lighting.
Which Lighting is Right for Your Plants?
There are 4 main types of lamps that you can use for growing cannabis:
LED grow lights
Fluorescent grow lights (T5 and CFL)
Metal Halide grow lights
High Pressure Sodium grow lights
While each of these options has pros and cons, as well as different stages of growing cycle and different sizes of operation they work best for, in this article we'll focus more on the types that will be your bread-and-butter for a commercial-scale grow operation.
Pro Tip 1
Normal light bulbs won't work for your plants :)
LED Grow Lights
LEDs are super easy to set up. Small ones are literally plug and play. Once you have plugged them into a wall you may just hang them above your plants. They are the way to go for an easy setup that still grows great yield.
They don’t run very hot but for a professional production you still will have to set up exhaust fans and organize airflow and temperature throughout your growing facility.
Make sure to keep enough distance to your plants with LEDs to avoid light burn. Also, be sure to get a light that includes green and white light for full spectrum. Only red or blue light will not be enough for your plants.
LEDs are the way to go for small production up to 1 ounce of cannabis per month, but produce slightly lower yield per watt than HPS and Metal Halide lamps, and are generally less optimal for professional grows.
Fluorescent Grow Lights for Cloning Young Plants
Fluorescent lights will be your go-to for the very first stages of your plants' lives. They don't use much electricity, they're cheap, and they're also very popular with many hobby gardeners and so are very easy to find.
Compact bulbs (CFL) that you can find in any hardware store can great for small or narrow areas, or grow tent set ups for beginner grows. For your professional production, however, you are going to want to look for T5 Grow Lights (the long tube-like ones) which can be found in a home and garden center.
Those lamps are best used for cloning, seeding and young plants. Without burning the plants you are able to place them close to the plants and save electricity. Also, they do not produce a lot of heat, and the purple-white spectrum is ideal for seedling plants.
However in the vegetative and flowering stages, keep in mind that fluorescents will lead to smaller yields. While T5 lights are great for small plants, in the later stages you will want to use a higher powered light like HPS or Metal Halide.
Pro Tip 2
Use T5 flourescent grow lights for cloning, propagation, and seedling stages
Metal Halide Grow Lights for Vegetative Stage
These lights are one of two types of High Intensity Discharge (HID) grow lights, and are incredibly efficient. Metal Halide (MH) lights typically come in an integrated fixture with an external ballast and reflector hood, and will need proper ventilation due to high heat output.
These bulbs, along with High Pressure Sodium (HPS), the other type of HID grow light, produce the highest yields per watt of electricity out of any grow lights available. For this reason, they are the go-to for professional growers in the later stages of plant development.
Metal Halide produces a bluish spectrum which is ideal for the vegetative stage.
Pro Tip 3
In the vegetive stage switch from T5 fluorescents to HIDs. Use a ratio of 2 Metal Halide lights to 1 HPS light for maximum yield.
HPS Grow Lights for Flowering Stage
Simlar to Metal Halide, HPS grow lights must be used with reflector hoods and ventilation. The fixtures used for Metal Halide bulbs and HPS are typically the same, so you can use the same fixture for both vegetative and flowering stages, and simply swap out the bulbs.
HPS produces a more yellowish/full spectrum that promotes budding and is ideal for the flowing stage. These bulbs are an absolute must-have for a professional grow.
Pro Tip 4
In the flowering stage, switch to using only HPS bulbs to promote budding and maximize yield.
Pro Tip 5
HPS and Metal Halide lights will get very hot and you want to use them with an exhaust fan to not burn your plants.
To understand the climate and temperature that your plants need, check our article on air flow and ventilation which will teach you how to keep the right temperature in your sealed room.
The lamps are well suited for growing marijuana and if you are looking for the highest yield HPS/Metal Halide is the way to go. Just consider the extra amount of work and cost for setting them up including cables, exhaust fan and fixture. Make sure to get a digital ballast. They use less electricity and bulbs will live longer.
Pro Tip 6
High quality HPS and Metal Halide grow lights will typically create 2 to 4 times more yield than fluorescents.
Why Your Plants Love Light
Your plants ability to perform photosynthesis is the key to your commercial success. Make sure to put some thought into your lighting before getting started. Shining just about any light on your plants is not going to do the trick.
Light waves come in a colour spectrum. The sun is a full spectrum light. A low light intensity might lead so long plants because they stretch to receive enough light. When having high intensity your plants may turn our shorter. You can adjust the light intensity by choosing the distance from your plant.
In the vegetative stage your plants will want up to 18 hours of light. In the flower stage they grow best in 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. Your ability to choose the rhythm of lighting lets you create the perfect light timing for your plants.
Make sure you provide a minimum of 6 hours of darkness for your plants. The 12/12 hours flowering cycle will make your plant believe it is late summer which is their time to develop buds. You want to start this after 2 to 4 weeks of growth in the vegetative phase. This is the time where you can switch from fluorescents to HPS grow lights.
Pro Tip 7
Gently switch from one cycle of light to the other. Take a couple of days to switch from 18/6 to 16/8 to 14/10 to 12/12 hours.
Pro Tip 8
Use a timer to do the switching. This way your lights are always on schedule and you do not have to worry about it. Timers can be easily shopped online or in any store that has electronics for home improvement.
Grow lights are the heart and soul of your plants’ health. If you are small or on a budget you might start out with fluorescent lights but keep in mind that this will affect your yield. Use a mix of fluorescents and LED grow lights for vegetative phase and HPS for flowering stage for professional purposes.