The one question that looms among all those who consider themselves to be gardening enthusiasts or have an interest in having houseplants is the dilemma of sunlight.
Do plants grow best in sunlight or no sunlight? This question is fuelled by the diverse number of plants available, all with specific requirements about the type and amount of light they require to grow.
For instance, there are herbs, shrubs, climbers, creepers, and trees. To categorize further, you have thistles, flower plants, mushrooms, reeds, cattails, etc.
Having so many categories of plants, it is best to learn about the needs of your plants before endorsing the popular belief that all plants need the Sun to grow.
In this article, we would be addressing the question: Do plants grow best in sunlight or no sunlight?
First, let us talk about Photosynthesis. You must have come across this term back in your school days in your science classes.
We would learn the concept behind this process, the effect of sunlight on plants, and the categorization of indoor and outdoor plants.
In simple terms, photosynthesis is the process by which plants absorb sunlight and turn it into energy for their consumption, subsistence, and growth.
The primary components in this process are sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide (CO2) which are absorbed using a pigment called chlorophyll present in most plants that helps convert water into oxygen and using light, creates glucose from carbon dioxide.
The glucose thus created is helpful in growing new plant cells, and repairing and replenishing the existing cells.
Furthermore, there are two types of photosynthesis: oxygenic and anoxygenic, but for the purpose of this article, we need not learn about them in detail.
Effect of sunlight on plants
There is a strange but well-found relationship between plants and sunlight that cannot be neglected.
The primary reason behind it is that the process of photosynthesis is large, if not entirely dependent on sunlight, without which most plants fail to produce chlorophyll and start losing their green color.
Thus, the effect of sunlight is crucial in plants to grow flowers, and new leaves and also repair damaged cells, which cannot be neglected.
Indoor v/s Outdoor Plants
It is crucial to note that photosynthesis does not have the same effect on indoor and outdoor plants.
This is why you must know beforehand which plants are best suited to be kept outdoors and which plants may be grown indoors.
Most microgreens, herbs, and leafy vegetables require a lower intensity of sunlight and thus may be grown inside your home easily with the help of artificial light or a window that allows sunlight to pass.
However, other vegetable and flower plants that require a stronger intensity of sunlight, may be preferably grown outdoors.
Another notable criterion to differentiate between whether a plant can be grown indoors or outdoors is the presence of chlorophyll.
In most cases, plants that do not contain chlorophyll (basically, the ones that are not green in color) can be grown indoors without much help from sunlight.
Types of Lights and Their Pros and Cons
Let us now learn about the various types of lights that you can use to grow your plants:
The first and foremost is indeed the good old Sun!
- It contains all the sufficient energy that plants need to create food for themselves
- You don’t have to invest in a setup as this light is available naturally outdoors.
- Sunlight might not be available in every region of the world and certainly may not be available throughout all the seasons
- Pollution and rising global temperatures may make it difficult to solely rely on sunlight to grow plants.
- You can have access to artificial light throughout all the seasons and almost in all the regions of the world
- You can utilize plants kept in artificial light for the purpose of interior décor as well since the location does not limit you
- You can easily adjust the lighting according to the need of the plant, which then requires less attention and care as opposed to a plant kept in sunlight.
- What comes from nature is the best, which is why artificial light can help plants grow but is not as suitable as sunlight
- The cost of setting up an artificial light and ensuring an adequate environment for growing plants in it cannot be overlooked.
- Plants that require a high amount of strong light (like Cacti) may not grow well under artificial light. Such plants grow best in warmer climates and sunlight is ideal for their growth.
To further categorize artificial light, it could be differentiated into low light or high light.
Low light (10-20 watts) is beneficial for most leafy vegetables and microgreens while high light (more than 20-25 watts) is ideal for flowering plants and other vegetables.
Thus, both sunlight and Artificial light are equally beneficial for their own reasons, and the choice for it largely depends on factors like geographical location, climate, availability of water and sunlight, architecture, pollution, type of plant, etc.
Do Plants Really Need the Sun?
In this article, we learned about photosynthesis and the importance of sunlight for plants, while also learning about artificial light and its pros and cons.
Now, let us discuss whether plants really need the sun to grow.
The simple answer to this question is No. Plants don’t ‘really’ need the sun to grow and can flourish and sustain themselves in artificial light or minimal sunlight as well.
Depending on the factors discussed earlier, if you live in a region where you do not have access to the sun around the year or if you are growing plants that need less amount of sunlight, it is better to grow them indoors, with the help of artificial light.
You may customize your options by looking at horticultural lights, fluorescent lights, bulbs, etc.
However, it cannot be denied that the sun is the best source of energy for plants to make their food and retain their color and nutrition.
Thus, while you can grow plants without the help of the sun, it is advised that you don’t do it unless sunlight is doing more harm than good for your plants.