Trees are truly astonishing creatures. Just think of the way trees feed themselves, and you will quickly realize the supreme intelligence of the Universe. All the tiny elements involved create a magnificent puzzle of extraordinary reactions that are interconnected – a profound knowledge that is foundational in the Zen philosophy embedded in the art of bonsai.
Living in the 21st century, mankind has started to mimic better some of the forces of nature and make the best use of the related discoveries and cut-edge technologies.
Any bonsai practitioner can learn how to use artificial light to grow bonsai trees with tremendous success, regardless of whether or not he/she has any previous experience with indoor lighting systems.
Artificial Light & Bonsai 101
There are three major categories of artificial lights that can be suitable for growing plants in the absence or deficit of light to reach the goal of making bonsai trees flourish. None of these types of artificial lights, namely fluorescent lights, LED lights and HID lights should be deemed superior for bonsai trees cultivation, as all of these have their pros and cons.
Therefore, picking the most beneficial lighting system is a strictly individual matter of choice that a bonsai practitioner needs to make.
Also, instead of focusing on the watts, you should focus on the lumens of the artificial lights you opt for.
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Fluorescent Lights for Growing Bonsai Trees
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It was in the 1930s when fluorescent lights first became available for commercial use. Bonsai trees can be grown under CFL bulbs or under T5 or T8 fluorescent lighting.
Fluorescent lights need to be kept ON for 16 – 18 hours a day as a major source of light. They can be used as an additional lighting supplementation for outdoor bonsai trees, too, and the hours of exposure will depend on the specific requirements of each bonsai tree, and, respectively, the time spent under natural sunlight outdoors.
Fluorescent lights should be placed close to the canopy, at approximately 8 – 10 inches away. If the lights are placed too near, you will be able to notice burnt edges on the tips of the leaves, which is a clear signal to re-position the lights.
However, if placed too far away, lights will fail to produce the best PAR, so careful monitoring of the way your bonsai develops and reacts when introduced to the artificial lighting system is a must.
Depending on the stage of growth, you may want to opt for fluorescent lights that feature a different Kelvin (K) number. 2700K CFL bulbs will provide the right type of light needed to initiate flowering/budding while 6500K bulbs will provide the right color spectrum bonsai trees need for the production of healthy foliage. For the main period of growth, it is best to stick with 5000K.
Fluorescent lights do not emit a lot of heat which makes managing the temperatures in the bonsai grow room a fairly effortless task. Also, they do not get too hot as to dry out the soil too abruptly which is a big plus, too.
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HID Lights for Growing Bonsai Trees
HID (High-Intensity Discharge) lights do make a wonderful, powerful, and highly efficient source of artificial light to grow bonsai trees as they generally provide better light penetration than fluorescent lights.
However, HIDs have been progressively deemed as an inferior choice, especially when compared with LED lights. That’s because HID lights have a very high energy output.
Not only does this mean that you will spend more on electricity but altogether in combination with their high heat output, HID lights can be very, very difficult to tame.
It’s good to keep in mind that HIDs can make an excellent additional source of light for bonsai trees grown both indoors and outdoors.
To illustrate this better, tropical bonsai varieties can truly benefit from a mixed indoor-outdoor growing routine with a mind to increase the time spent under plenty of light to help them flourish.
HID lights are well-suited to stimulate vegetative growth, as well as to stimulate the flowering/ budding phases.
If working with HID lights, proper ventilation becomes a must. Or else, the hot, stagnant air can easily exuberate the health of your bonsai. HID lights should be kept at approximately 20 – 24 inches away from your trees, monitored regularly and repositioned if and when needed.
LED Lights for Growing Bonsai Trees
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The most innovative types of lights – LED lights, have been a revolutionary discovery in the world of artificial lights.
They outperform the deeply penetrating properties of the light emitted by HIDs but with the significant reduction in both energy consumption, as well as heat output.
In fact, it is fair to compare LEDs as a modern-day form of a hybrid between the benefits of HIDs and the benefits of fluorescent lights.
High-quality LED light systems are the most durable artificial lights available and they also provide the full spectrum of light which is closest to the natural solar spectrum.
For the budget-minded bonsai enthusiasts or for those growing on a small scale, LED bulbs can work perfectly fine, too.
As a rule of thumb, 50W LED lights should be kept at approximately 10 inches away from your bonsai trees. You can use this example as a referral in calculating the best distance depending on the power of your preferred LED lighting system.
Above all, light is one of the three crucial elements plants utilize in order to convert energy into food during the process of photosynthesis, along with water and carbon dioxide.
With this in mind, it is important not to underestimate the key role light plays in helping your bonsai tree reach the potential that the living nature has hidden in its powerful genes.
Learning how to use artificial light to grow bonsai trees can benefit both indoor, as well as outdoor bonsai growing enthusiasts. There are no wrong moves, as long as you take the time to monitor your bonsai tree and respond to the signals it sends you.