Fluorescent Grow Lights
These 4 foot long lamps are an ideal source of artificial light for your peppers because they provide the right amount of heat and do not cost a lot of money. You can buy these lights, typically called “grow lights” or “plant lamps,” at a nearby hardware store and each lamp usually sells for $12 to $15.
Before you run to the store, check around your house because you might already have what you need. In our situation, we had an old fish tank and I saw that it still had the aquarium light on top. Sure enough, I verified that it had fluorescent grow bulbs. I grabbed the light and we placed it over the pepper seedlings, which responded really well.
Additionally, take a look in your garage or shed for an unused fluorescent shop light because that will work too. Nothing is more cost effective than being free!
Indoor growing lights are designed to be hung or mounted directly above your plants, which you can safely do because they do not contain the lumens that makes them burn too hot.
The key factor here is making sure that the light is close enough to the pepper seedlings so that they do not become “leggy” and use all of their energy to grow a long stem with hardly any leaves. Most pepper growers place the lamp 2 to 4 inches away from the top of the plant to avoid this problem.
Next, be aware that the plant will bend towards the heat if the growing lights are not directly above them. When we first tried growing peppers, we had a fluorescent grow lamp with a smaller width and it didn’t quite cover all the pepper plants in that row. Not knowing any better at the time, I watched as the plants in the middle grew well, while the ones on the right and left bent at dangerous angles trying to get to the heat. It was so sad! Luckily, we replaced the light in time to save most of them, but one beautiful early jalapeno plant bent so much that it fell over and never recovered. If you need to, buy extra lamps to cover the width and depth of your chili plants.
How Long to Keep Your Plant Lamps On
Leave your fluorescent growing light on for about 12 to 16 hours each day. This time frame gives your chile seedlings the exposure to the heat that they need. You can make this process easier by acquiring a plant timer from a hardware store (about $10) to turn the lamp on and off automatically. And don’t worry, your electric bill shouldn’t suffer because the fluorescent bulbs typically use the same wattage that a regular light bulb does.