4 Reasons I Love LED Strips for Growing African Violets

Almost all serious hobbyists grow some of their African Violet collection under artificial lights. This is because artificial lights :

  • Give the grower complete control over all the light parameters (duration and intensity),
  • Produce plants with more even and compact growth habits, and
  • Ensure plentiful blooms throughout much of the year

 

 

For decades, the most reliable source of artificial light for growing African Violets were fluorescent tubes – usually two T8 tubes (a cool white and warm white) placed around 20cm above the plants.

African Violets growing on shelf with fluorescent lights
African Violets growing under fluorescent T8 Tubes

Are fluorescent tubes outdated?

LED technology has evolved to the point that many growers are experiencing great success growing plants to show standard under LED.  Also, there are advantages to using LED lighting over fluorescent tubes.

Although there are many types of LED lights, by far the most flexible option is flexible LED strips with the only drawback being the initial setup.  

There are at least 4 advantages to using LED strips for your African Violet collection

1. Intensity

  • LED strips can be connected to a dimmer control which allows for fine tuning of the light intensity.
    Hint: about 1500 to 2500 lux is good for healthy growth and blooms.

  • The only way to adjust intensity with fluorescent tubes is to move the tubes closer/further away
    from the plants. This is not practical on a multi-tier shelf set-up.

  • Fluorescent tubes start out at their maximum light intensity and gradually lose strength over the
    course of their life. After just a month of use, tubes could be anywhere from 8-12% less effective
    and all tubes should be changed annually.

  • Across their lifetime, LED strips remain consistent in the intensity of light they emit.

2. Evenness

  • Fluorescent tubes emit light in all directions (360 degrees). Much light energy is wasted when it is not directed down at the plants, unless you build some sort of light reflector. If the room housing your violets is used for more than one purpose, it can be distracting to have a strong light source emanating from one corner of the room. 
 
  • Depending on the type of light fitting and quantity of tubes, fluorescent lights tend to produce an uneven distribution of light of across the width of your shelf. The light source in the middle of your shelves will be stronger and there will be shadows and dark patches towards the outer edges. For this reason, some growers will put darker leaf varieties (which generally require stronger light) in the
    middle of the shelves and the lighter leaf varieties (which need less light) towards the edges.
 
  • By evenly spacing 3 or 4 LED strips across the underside of your shelf, it is possible to achieve a more even spread of light, with no dark patches. Also, there is no need for a light reflector, because LED strips already direct the majority of their light energy down at the plants.

3. Efficiency

  • Without a reflector, fluorescent tubes must be on for longer periods of the day to achieve the same
    degree of light penetration as a LED strip.
  • LED strips are more effective at converting energy to light. If your collection comprises only a couple of shelves, this may not be a major concern. However, across multiple shelves, the energy savings are significant.
  • As part of the conversion process, fluorescent tubes generate a lot of heat. In colder seasons and with plant propagation, this can be an advantage. However, on balance Australia is a warmer climate and the extra heat can be counterproductive.

4. Flexibility

Chrome wire shelves with LED strips
Chrome wire shelf unit fitted with LED strips
  • Fluorescent tubes come in 3 standard sizes – 4 foot (122 cm), 3 foot (91.5cm) and 2 foot (61 cm) with the 4 foot tubes being the most commonly available.
  • The commercial shelves used by hobby growers are the chrome wire racks or garage shelving kits. These shelves come in standard widths of 900mm, 1200mm. 1500mm and 1800mm which do not match the size of fluorescent tubes exactly
  • However, LED strips can be cut to size to match almost any shelf dimensions. Since the strips are flexible they can be bent around corners. Alternatively, they can be cut and soldered at 90 degree angles to suit corner book shelves.
  • With LED strips you can maximise the use of your available growing area. 
Ceramic African Violet Pot

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