window plant

David Hershey dh321NOdhSPAM at
Fri Jul 28 19:50:35 EST 2000

I posted a similar reply yesterday but I didn't see it appear so
I'm reconstructing it.

The Wisconsin Fast Plant (WFP) website has
instructions for building plant light systems from standard
fluorescent lamps. They state that "24-hour continuous
fluorescent light is a critical component" for successfully
growing WFP so don't expect WFP to do well on a windowsill.

Back in 1996, I posted about how I used the WFP fluorescent light
banks to grow a variety of dwarf bedding plants including
'Thumbelina' zinnia, 'Brownie Scout' marigold, 'Pink Splash'
polka dot plant (Hypoestes), 'Super Elfin Orchid' impatiens,
'Fiji Series' coleus, 'Jewelbox' celosia, 'Double Mix' portulaca,
and 'Ministar Mix' gazania. They are not as fast as WFPs but
marigolds and zinnia can be in bloom in about 6 weeks. If you
want edible crops, try lettuce and radish. Chia seeds (Salvia
hispanica), from chia pets germinate quickly but get too tall to
grow under light banks for more than a week or two. I grew the
plants in solution culture (Hershey, D.R. 1994. Solution culture
hydroponics: History and inexpensive equipment. American Biology
Teacher 56:111-118) but they should grow just as well in a good
potting medium.

If all you have is windowsill light, foliage houseplants work
well and can easily be propagated by cuttings. Fast growers
include wandering jews (Tradescantia species), pothos, and
piggyback plant (Tolmiea menziesii), the latter propagated by
foliar plantlets. Although usually grown as a house plant,
piggyback plant is native to the Pacific northwest and is cold
hardy so can also be planted outdoors and may eventually bloom.
Devil's backbone or mother-of-thousands (Kalanchoe
daigremontinana) is an excellent teaching plant and is propagated
by abundant foliar plantlets, which are almost like pregerminated
seeds. One plantlet will soon give rise to hundreds. You could
even have a student competition for most plantlets produced.

If you want flowers quickly, try amaryllis or paperwhite
narcissus bulbs, which go on sale before or after Christmas in
department stores and garden centers. They bloom quickly with
little light.

I have not seen the "Construct a Greenhouse" book but a miniature
greenhouse indoors is nothing more than a terrarium or humidity
chamber. The major limitation indoors is usually lack of light,
which can be remedied with fluorescent light systems.


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