Which lighting system for my propagator? blog

This article is a review of some of the best systems around. We have tried to be as broad as possible so that we can meet the needs of any grower, regardless of experience and budget.

So you have your cuttings in the propagator. They have been dipped in hormone rooting powder, misted and settled into their new home. Now they need some light. All plants need sunlight to grow. Thought the process of photosynthesis the plants will transform sunlight into energy stored in the plant cells. The type of light, length of exposure and intensity will cause the plant to behave in different ways.

For propagation we want the plants to develop a good root structure and begin to establish the best possible plant structure and health for maximum flowering. Your lighting is just as important as your humidity and growth medium. So it is important to get it right. Early stage cuttings require low intensity light. Think about the plant as if they were growing in a natural environment. They would be low down and in shade from other plants.

Although HID (High Intensity) systems can be used by increasing the distance from the plant this means that you are going to need more space and it is not an efficient use of such a system.

So what are you going to choose?

Let’s start with the three principle types of light that we would recommend for propagation.

Choosing Your Bulb

  1. T5 (5/8” Fluorescent Tubes)

These are the tube style lighting that you will immediately recognise. They are available from hardware stores and garden centres and can be used to grow just about any type of crop.

These are easy to fit and due to their length can be used for larger propagators.

They run cool and can therefore be hung fairly close to the plants.

  1. CFL (Compact Fluorescent Tubes)

Still fluorescent, but because they are wound into coils these lights are ideal for small growing spaces, such as propagators. They are also useful as supplementary lighting for larger growing spaces, but more of that another time.

Like T5 systems, CFLs are easy to fit and can be hung quite close to the plants without damaging them.

CFLs can be found in red and blue spectrum and you can also get dual spectrum bulbs. However, for propagation all you really need are the white/blue spectrum bulbs.

  1. LED (Light Emitting Diodes)

These really are the new kid on the block. LED technology has come a long way in the last ten years and with modern systems it is possible to slash the power output and increase growth. These lights run extremely cool and will reduce the need for secondary cooling systems, reducing your power out put event further.

LEDs also provide greater penetration into the plants so that you will get smaller distances between the nodes and greater quantity and quality of foliage. They are easier to adapt for different lighting conditions (Red to blue) and will give superb results.

There is more and more research being put into LED technology because it is easier to run of renewables, and because it is the way forward for many industries, not just growers.

The downside is that these systems can be expensive to set up. However, for propagation, you should be able to create something affordable and then you can get to grips with the benefits of LED.

T5 (5:8” Fluorescent Tubes)
CFL (Compact Fluorescent Tubes)
LED (Light Emitting Diodes)
T5 systems
DFL Systems
LED Systems

Hanging Your Lights

So those are the three types of bulb. One you have made your choice you will need a hanging system so that you can correctly position the lighting over your cuttings.

T5 systems are usually 2, 4 or 8 tube systems which can be hung by chains over the propagator. The bulbs can be daisy chained together, although you will want to keep an eye on the power that you are drawing. There are loads of different types of hanger that you can use, and they will come with an array of pros and cons. We recommend that you use adjustable units with their own on/off power switch.

DFL Systems are generally hung in the same way, but they are of course far more compact, which makes positioning them far easier. If you do go for a fluorescent system we would really recommend using CFLs for a probation unit – it just makes life a lot easier, unless you are bringing on a large number of plants.

This particular unit has reflector wings which can be adjusted depending on the height that you hang your lights. If you are hanging the lights low down then you need to widen the wings; higher up and you will need to narrow the wings.

LED Systems are compact and easy to fit . They are usually hung in singles and because they are generally hung higher they will give you a wider spread. So if you are considering a larger propagator, it might be more cost effective energy wise to go for an LED system, even if the set up cost is higher.

How High should I hang them?

This is an excellent question, and it is important to get it right. You can buy ratchet systems which provide adjustable height for your lighting units, another way is to adjust the height of whatever your propagator is on.

As a general rule, when using a T5 and CFL systems the lights should be between 10 and 12 centimetres above your cuttings. Because LEDs have a greater light penetration, they can be hung a little higher which provides a greater return on your investment. With LED systems you can double the distance to between 20 and 24 centimetres.

Hanging the lamps higher means that you get a greater spread and need less lighting.

RATCHET

Multiples

If you are using a large propagator you may need more than a single unit system. If this is the case then the distance between units is crucial. Too close and you will get over lap which could damage some your cuttings. If the distance is to great then you will get gaps and, again, the plants will suffer.

For your T5 and CFL bulbs a spread of between 8 and 10 centimetres should give you the best results. With LED systems you can double this distance. You can always make adjustments to see what works best for you. Every growing space is different, so is every plant and every grower, this kind of fine tuning will give you the best understanding of your own system.

If you also adjust the height of the lighting then you will need to think about the spread and wing setting (if you are using that kind of system.)

We recommend that if you are just starting out that you start small. It is very tempting to try and do too much too soon. If you start small then you can make mistakes without risking too many plants. Make sure you keep a record of your settings and make small adjustments. Do plenty of research and do get in touch if you need some expert advice.

We hope you’ve found this blog useful.

Drop us a message or call through on 01924 492298  and we can help you!

All of the items described in this article are available from the web store.

Happy Growing.

Subscribe for news and offers.