Learn About African Violets

Question: Because I'm completely inexperienced with artificial lighting, I need someone to quite literally point me in the direction of an appropriate lighting source to fit my needs. I have relatively few African violets (8 miniatures and a few young standards) and relatively limited space due to the fact that I'm a college student and will be living in a dorm. While I am willing to spend what I need to help my plants, cost is definitely a factor. I would, if I could, like to have specific product and lighting recommendations.
 
Answer: My first light unit was a 4-foot shop fixture (purchased at a discount store) which had two 48 inch fluorescent tubes, was made of metal, and hung on two chains from an old sheet of plywood that was held up by 2 stacks of cement blocks. The total investment (a few years ago) was less than $10. It won't cost you much more today.
 
The fluorescent tubes may be simple "cool white" tubes available in almost any lighting department of garden or discount stores. The lowest grade of bulbs will burn out rather quickly. Cool white is the next step up and worth the extra dollar or so. If you want to improve the color of the light a bit (not so blue) and probably get a little more quality growing, use a combination of one cool white and one "Gro-lux wide spectrum" (also pretty easy to find in local stores).
 
Once you have the metal fixture and the two tubes, you will need to rig a way to hang it so that the tubes are about ten to twelve inches above the foliage of the plants. You can use a stacks of bricks, or you might be able to build a rack using PVC pipe (in the plumbing department) fitting pipes together with elbow joints. Our setup today is built with 2x4 lumber and plywood.. not much fancier than the first rig we built. It needs to be on for just ten to twelve hours a day, so a timer is a good idea. Look in the same lighting department for a timer.
 
My best guess is that all of this will cost about $30. If that is far under the budget you had in mind, an excellent supplier online is Indoor Garden Supplies www.indoorgardensupplies.com which sells wonderful light carts and higher quality light fixtures, etc. If nothing else, check out their site just to see specific information on the types of bulbs to buy. One caution, when you first start using brand new light tubes, the light intensity is pretty strong. Run the lights for a shorter day (starting at eight hours) and increasing the day-length by a half an hour each week. When you have to replace a worn-out tube, replace only one tube at a time to avoid bleaching the leaves. If you have any additional questions, please ask! Happy Growing! Joyce Stork
Answer: My first light unit was a 4-foot shop fixture (purchased at a discount store) which had two 48 inch fluorescent tubes, was made of metal, and hung on two chains from an old sheet of plywood that was held up by 2 stacks of cement blocks. The total investment (a few years ago) was less than $10. It won't cost you much more today.
 
The fluorescent tubes may be simple "cool white" tubes available in almost any lighting department of garden or discount stores. The lowest grade of bulbs will burn out rather quickly. Cool white is the next step up and worth the extra dollar or so. If you want to improve the color of the light a bit (not so blue) and probably get a little more quality growing, use a combination of one cool white and one "Gro-lux wide spectrum" (also pretty easy to find in local stores).
 
Once you have the metal fixture and the two tubes, you will need to rig a way to hang it so that the tubes are about ten to twelve inches above the foliage of the plants. You can use a stacks of bricks, or you might be able to build a rack using PVC pipe (in the plumbing department) fitting pipes together with elbow joints. Our setup today is built with 2x4 lumber and plywood.. not much fancier than the first rig we built. It needs to be on for just ten to twelve hours a day, so a timer is a good idea. Look in the same lighting department for a timer.
 
My best guess is that all of this will cost about $30. If that is far under the budget you had in mind, an excellent supplier online is Indoor Garden Supplies www.indoorgardensupplies.com which sells wonderful light carts and higher quality light fixtures, etc. If nothing else, check out their site just to see specific information on the types of bulbs to buy. One caution, when you first start using brand new light tubes, the light intensity is pretty strong. Run the lights for a shorter day (starting at eight hours) and increasing the day-length by a half an hour each week. When you have to replace a worn-out tube, replace only one tube at a time to avoid bleaching the leaves. If you have any additional questions, please ask!
Happy Growing!
Joyce Stork

 Much of the information here in Violets 101 was originally published in the African Violet MagazineJoin AVSA to receive the magazine with much more in-depth information.

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