African Violets:

LED light strips VS regular grow lights.

In the good ol’ days…

I’ve grown African Violets under what I call, “regular” grow lights – fluorescent tubes, for years. In the late 70s, lighted in-door gardens were the “thing” and people would modify unused closets into beautiful lighted gardens. Those with deeper pockets added solariums or atriums that, during the day, didn’t need added lights, but at night they became glorious pictures of thriving house plants and beautiful blooms.

Over the years, with wars and recessions and numerous other distractions, it seems the luxury of spending on electricity – which grew more expensive – declined, though the costs and availability of grow lights, plus the diversity of lighting types grew. Many of us plunged on because living in a house, apartment, whatever, was too drab and empty without a corner of brightness filled with blooming plants.

Those of us growing African Violets and other gesneriads, know all too well that NEED to have that bright little spot to look at, to putter over and fill our dark winter months particularly, with flowering house plants. There ARE worse fetishes!

Fluorescent lights are cheap, available almost anywhere, and easy to use and have been recommended for African Violets for years. The industry has gone from the big fat T12 tubes that I came up with, to T8s – narrower tubes to T5s, what I call the super-duper brights of the tubes, very narrow, normally about 36 watts each and in daylight, full spectrum and everything in between , to the high output VHO and UHO tubes. Unfortunately, the wattage has gone up along with some of the prices for these types, from 47 watts to one I saw advertised as a 4 foot T5 at a whopping 95 watts! They come up to 6500K…which is good, but at 95 watts each…unless I have an indoor garden growing tomato plants or “some other type of leafy tree”…don’t need all that and wouldn’t want to see the electricity bill either!

Fortunately, for growing African Violets and many other house plants, we don’t need to go that far. Now with the arrival of LED light strips and LED T8s, our electricity bill may become a little less bloated. LED light strips use fairly less electricity, burn cool, and have a lifespan FAR GREATER than the average fluorescent grow light. We all know about the dark circles that develop at the ends of our fluorescent tubes after about 6 months of wear and we know we have to replace them or the light output will be reduced over our plants. Basically, once a year, we replace old tubes with new ones. Granted not a BIG outlay of cash, but a necessity if we want to keep our beautiful blooming house plants growing at optimum.


With LED light strips, they can be placed close to the tops of delicate African Violets without the worry of burning because they’re cool. They have a lifespan, according to most of the manufactures, of 50,000 hours. Without whipping out the calculator, equates to about 8 years of use, at 16 hours a day! I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty impressive! I believe I might see HALF that length of time, though it would be nice if they did actually last that long…not that I don’t believe the manufacturers hype…but again, I’d be happy if they lasted 4 years!

The neat thing about LED light strips are the versatility. You can get them by the roll of 300 type 3528 LEDs, 16 feet or more, waterproof or non-waterproof (depending on your intended application). They can be cut to any length and joined together with LED light strips connectors for curves and around corners and all you need then is a 12 volt transformer that will carry the wattage load. Then, you’re in business! All of the strip light equipment I’ve gotten was from Amazon and can be gotten at the links below. I also got the power adapter from Amazon and you can see that here. If you’re going to be putting the transformer a good distance away from the plant shelves, you’ll also need a roll of extension cable and you might have to do a little soldering.

These are what I use for my setups.

A 4 foot by 18 inch shelf set up might have three 4 foot strips of daylight white and two 4 foot strips of red alternating one white, one red, one white, one red and one white. Why the red, you ask? African violets respond best to light on the red side of the range and less on the blue side, so the red LEDs would give them more of what they “see” to help promote blooming. Blue light promotes foliar growth, so, for more vegetative growth, a shelf might have two blue strips instead of the red, and that could be where you put the containers for rooting African Violet leaves. Each 3528 strip is about 5 watts. That’s roughly 25 watts per shelf as opposed to the near 100 watts for a standard 4 foot fixture with two 40 watt tubes plus ballast. With that said, the light from these LEDs is very bright. Plus, the ENTIRE shelf would be lit. Unlike with the fluorescent set up, there’s only one fixture and only the plants directly under it get the most light with the ones on the end and sides not getting so much. More shelf area completely lit, the more plants growing optimally per shelf!! These are just options.

Playing with the red and blue LED light strips make for interesting study as to the African Violet either being too compact in growth or stretched out depending on light intensity and color. You can also get the packs of LED light strips in red and blue from Amazon! I love Amazon. It’s a new horizon, open to exploration for nurturing our house plants. Some have already taken a great leap into LED light strips, like Hector’s Gesneriads, an ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS site I tripped over on Facebook. Here’s the link, very informative:

Have fun with your African Violets!

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