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Are you trying to grow your own crop of marijuana plants? Do you know everything you need to know about proper lighting? Read this first!

For many cannabis connoisseurs, their enthusiasm for marijuana plants begins and ends with loading it into our bongs, others prefer to take their love of the plant to another level. Growing your own cannabis is a fun and rewarding activity, but far too many beginners do not bother to educate themselves on certain aspects of the growing process before they begin, particularly when growing indoors. Many just buy a clone, follow some of the basic instructions like adding nutrients and watering regularly, then they hope for the best. The fact of the matter is that it is a long journey from seedling to bong. However, you will do fine as long as you make sure your plants get plenty of nutrients, fresh air, and of course, adequate lighting.

Before you start growing it is very important that you learn the difference between the different types of lights and light cycles you will be using in your grow room. Keep in mind that this is the same whether you are using a hydroponic system or growing in soil.

Different Stages of the Cannabis Plant

Cannabis plants have two different growing stages: the vegetative stage and the flowering stage. The vegetative growth stage is the time from when you first plant your seeds or clones until the time buds begin to bloom, thus signifying that the plant has entered the flowering stage. Cannabis plants need more light during this growing stage.

The flowering stage, which is the period of time from when your female plants begin to grow buds until the time you harvest your crop. This is when the plants need the least amount of light. When growing outdoors the sun takes care of handling the light cycle. When growing cannabis indoors, that responsibility is now in the hands of the grower.

Light Cycle of the Vegetative Stage

There are two preferred light cycles commonly used in an indoor growing area: 18 and 24 hours. Indoor growers have been debating since the beginning of time which one is better. Keeping your plants in light for 24 hours at a time causes them to photosynthesize 24/7.

While this may sound like it would produce faster results and possibly bigger yields, as proponents of 24-hour lighting argue, one does have to consider that this is not the natural state of the plant. After all, plants growing outdoors are not in constant sunlight and they grow perfectly fine most of the time. Forcing your plants to photosynthesize constantly can put too much stress on them and could possibly result in stunted growth and/or nutrient deficiencies during the final flowering stage, both of which would be disastrous to your marijuana plants. If you do use a 24-hour light cycle and the plants start to turn yellow, this could be a sign of a nutrient deficiency. If this happens, you should absolutely consider adjusting your lighting cycles.

Keeping plants in constant light does not give them a chance to replenish their energy reserves after a long day of growing. Plants need that darkness in order to translocate nutrients and energy. I strongly recommend that you keep your plants in 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness during this stage.

Light Cycle of the Flowering Stage

Marijuana plants in the flowering stage require significantly less lighting. As such, the recommended lighting cycle is 12 hours on and 12 hours off. Since these lighting cycles are so different it is required that you maintain two separate grow spaces or grow tents: one for vegetative plants and another for your flowering plants. When marijuana plants grow outdoors, the flowering stage corresponds with the shorter daylight hours and longer nights of fall.

Other growers like to use alternative lighting cycles such as 12 hours on and 6 hours off, or 12 hours on and 10 hours off, because they claim that they are able to harvest more often than with a 12 on and 12 off light cycle. This type of lighting practice is fine, but often has the unwanted side effect of reducing your overall crop yields, so it’s up to you to decide if you want to spend the extra effort in an alternative lighting cycle.

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Go with What Works for You

While it is very important for the health of your plants that you use the correct lighting cycles, this does not mean that you can’t experiment. One of the fun things about growing marijuana plants is trying out new methods for growing. Indeed, some of the best new strains we’ve seen have come about from experimentation by experienced growers. The operative word here though is “experienced.” Newer growers should stick to the basics and the tried and true methods for cultivating their plants. Leave experimentation to the experts, or until you have a more than a few successful crops under your belt.

That being said, every grower is different. What works for other people, might not work as well for you. Cultivating plants, even marijuana plants requires using your intuition. Remember that plants are living things. They talk to you through the way they grow and develop. If your plant is telling you that something is wrong, you had better listen to what it has to say.

What About LED Lighting?

While we are on the subject of lighting, we should probably talk about LED lighting. Many growers are starting to make the switch from the traditional high-intensity discharge (HID) lights to this new method. Growing marijuana plants using blue lighting is said to produce plants that are shorter and have a higher number of terpenes and cannabinoids. Before you decide to begin using LED lights, there are some things you should know about them.

LED lights conserve energy output by isolating the different colors on the color spectrum. As you may well know, red light is the primary driver of photosynthesis because it provides the most energy. Other colors in the spectrum do not emit nearly the amount of energy, and LED lighting prevents your plants from receiving the full benefits of the different colors of light in the color spectrum.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the intensity of LED lighting diminishes the further away from the light the plants are. This is why LED lights are set up to reach as broad an area as possible and to disperse light evenly throughout the grow space. HID lights on the other hand disperse light in one concentrated area.

Lastly, one of the most important distinction between LED and HID lights is that LED lights emit practically no heat. This means that you can keep your plants relatively close to your lighting system and significantly increase the amount of light intensity on your plants. Of course, you cannot do this with high intensity lights because they emit far more radiant heat and you will definitely end up burning your plants.

Why Choose LED Lighting?

Why do some growers prefer LED lighting over high intensity lighting? The reason is because it enables people to grow in much smaller spaces than before. Homeownership is less common now than in days past. A lot of people are renting tiny apartments and are extremely limited in their options where growing space is concerned. LED lends these people an opportunity to grow quality marijuana plants, when before they could not.

There is no question that growing marijuana requires a considerable amount of energy. Though high energy lights produce great cannabis plants there is a great deal of cost to consider. First there is your energy bill. Your energy costs are going to go through the roof when you grow cannabis. Not only will you end up paying more, you’re likely to draw unwanted attention from your neighbors, your landlord, or even the police. Your costs and your risk will decrease all around if you switch to LED lighting. Again, use what works best for you!

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What are your preferred light systems and lighting cycles? Tell us in the comments!


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