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Growing House Plants in Basment

Lancaster, OH

So I start school in a few days and the school advises to create a personalized learning room for my online classes. I love plants and would like to grow some in my learning room. The problem is that there are no windows in my basement. What kind of plants can live in a basement with no sunlight? Only regular house lights? Any?

Poughkeepsie, NY(Zone 6a)

Get a few shop lights (Florescent, the 4 foot kind) and you can grow lots! African Violets will cheer you up!

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Good suggestion. Those will grow a lot of things. Even my Variegated Split Leaf Philodendron (Monstero Delosia) sic. loves these lights.

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

I've used shop lights also for house plants during the winter, and for extended periods in an apartment, which I wasn't sure from your post if that's your goal or not - just for the winter or for a few years? Some will actually grow, and many will "hang on."

The humidity is likely higher in the basement and the temperature lower, both of which would be appreciated by a great many plants for the winter but not necessarily permanently. Both lower temp and higher humidity will cause the plants to use the water in their pots more slowly, so overwatering/poor soil can be a greater concern. If the plants are able to go outside for the summer, that would greatly increase your number of candidates. If you did want a more permanent arrangement, swap plants might work for you. Buy 2 of the same thing and put one in the basement, and one upstairs with better natural light. Then switch them once a week.

Agree African violets are famous for doing well like this, and I've kept them for years under shop lights. Good suggestion there, my first choice too. Any of the plants famous for surviving in low light situations could be candidates if you do employ a shop light. Pothos, wax Begonias (which would likely keep blooming,) peace lily, parlor palm, Dieffenbachia, Syngonium, snake plant (Sansevieria,) to name a few.

As the distance from the bulbs increases, the light is exponentially weaker, so if you can use something to raise shorter plants, so they are all at a similar height, you can put a shop light as close to the plants as possible and get the most benefit. For this reason, I would prefer/recommend shorter, slow-growing plants, and/or "baby" versions of whatever plants (except African violets of any size which are usually kind of "flat" on top anyway.)

Did you have any particular plants in mind that you were wondering about?

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Spathofilium sic, is also a good low light plant and they even bloom with low light. And are beautiful too.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

One of 2 - 4x8 grow areas under fluorescents in my basement. I also over-winter all my tropical bonsai under lights in a dungeon with only 1 12x30 window, so natural light isn't a consideration.


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Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Hi Al, Hibiscus? Very pretty and they are so lush. Do you put them outside at all in the summer? What do you do to them before bringing them in the house for the winter as far as bugs go? That is if you take them out. I have several, including a lace leaf maple in pots that I have to bring in. A few I will keep going. By going I mean they are not deciduous like the Maple is so will even let them continue to bloom.

Do you know if it is possible to keep tuberous begonias growing over the winter inside? Or is it better to just clean up the tubers and store them? Actually, I really don't have room to keep them growing. Guess I will store them. But, is an interesting question. What do you think?

Salisbury, NC

do you have to leave the lights on 24/7? or just a few hours a day?

Dayton, MN

Would this set up work for a Yucca & Banana tree too? I'm trying to figure out what set up I need once I bring them in from outdoors for the winter (I'm in MN). They just barely survived last winter with the indirect light coming from the basement windows.

Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

Home Depot has a Florescent shop light fixture that looks like diamond plate. This is a VERY good reflector. Holds 4' bulbs, T-8, if I remember. These are pretty efficient bulbs, and with the diamond plate reflector you can get almost all the light aiming straight down onto the plants.

Add some bulbs that are high PAR rating, and you could probably grow all the house plants that normally come from slightly shaded places like the jungle floor.
Not sure if you can get it bright enough to replicate the full sun to grow something like any of the Yucca species. Maybe.

PAR is a measure of how well a light produces the correct wavelengths for plants.
To our eyes such a bulb will look dull, and sort of purple-pink.

If you also need this to be your source of lighting for your studies, then I would use one plant specialty bulb and one 'daylight' or 'cool white' bulb. These last 2 produce more of the light waves that we see the best, and will also make the plants look a more natural color.

As noted above, the closer the light to the plants the better. I have some plants with leaves brushing the bulbs. Direct contact is too hot. The leaves burn. But just inches away is great.

Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

No Britts, not 24/7. Seedlings take about 14 to 16 hrs. Others, I am not sure, but I don't think there are many plants that take 24/7. I run mine 14 hours on my regular plants like begonias etc.

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

I bring in my banana and yucca (I am assuming this particular yucca is tender versus the ones I have in the ground) with good success. The yucca didn't need much light as it stayed in the center of one room of the basement with indirect sunlight through a close by window and whatever fluorescent lights nearby reached it. It came through with flying colors.

The banana trees were relatively small (less than 4 feet) and put into 5 gallon buckets that were watered as needed. The only soil was what was on the roots when I dug them up from the ground. I raised the lights to four feet and under them they did much better than the years earlier. My problem this year is the bananas are 12 feet (to the top of the largest leaf). I may have to cut it back and let the young ones take over or lay the plant horizontally and hope for the best.

Here are pictures of the yucca, bananas in the basement and the bananas a week or so ago. I cut the middle stalk out of the yucca a few weeks ago because it was over 8 feet tall and the ceilings in the basement are that height. I cut that stalk in half and rooted both and hope to have them growing in their own pot in a few weeks.

Edited to add I just had my bananas under two 2-bulb light shops and they did fairly well. No special lights per se - one was a T8 and the other was an older T12 with whatever bulbs were cheapest at the time.

This message was edited Sep 22, 2013 7:32 PM

This message was edited Sep 22, 2013 7:34 PM

Thumbnail by hcmcdole Thumbnail by hcmcdole Thumbnail by hcmcdole
Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

So how many years are you going to be cutting the tops out of them, and why grow them if you are going to do that?

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

Until I get tired of them due to their immense size like the Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) and giant Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia nicolai) I let freeze a few winters ago.

So far I keep topping the two large columnar cacti I have and starting the tops (7 foot tall cactus is a bit hard to move about) and have had these for years. I topped my ponytail palm this year too after about 15 years - it was close to nine feet tall.

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Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

What is the begonia on the right hand side of the pot? Gryphon? and what is the other plant on the left? Looks like a Wandering jew of some sort, philodendron?

I have never kept plants that long to do things like that to them. Why do you call yourself a beginner? Because you grow these plants outside? Don't you get tired of moving them in the house every winter?

I have a few I do that with, but it appears you do that with most of yours.

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

The begonia is Lana. Not sure exactly what plant you are asking about on the left side. Stromanthe? Persicaria 'Painter's Palette'?

Never said I was a beginner but then we all start at some point down this path. The discussion was about plants in the basement and then another question about banana and yucca under lights.

Yes, I move hundreds of plants every year in and out. Takes about a week several hours each day to accomplish. I run about 75 shoplights in my basement.

Here is an example of one of my rooms peeking into another room. I have two other "utility" rooms I use as well.

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Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Very, very nice. Looks like so much fun. But, you must do that summer and winter? Gosh, I have to do my outdoor plants in the summer.

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

That too but I can water both plants in pots and in the ground at the same time. Fertilize and treat for bugs as well.

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Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

What is the last photo? Very nice. All of them.

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

Camellia - fast growers and blooms start in February.

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Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

I love Camellias. You are so luck to be able to grow them. It is too cold here for them.

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

My oldest one is nearly 12 feet tall now and needs to be pruned back. It is a double but the blooms are smallish.

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Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Just beautiful.

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

You might try Sasanqua (fall blooming relative of camellia) since camellias usually bloom starting in January up through early April.

Another double (pink and white).

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Northeast, WA(Zone 5a)

Thanks, I'll check them out.

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