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Written by Neal Brown . Updated: March 8, 2021

MH and HPS Grow Lights for Marijuana

The key to growing marijuana indoors successfully is replicating the plant’s ideal natural outdoor environment while reducing the risks associated to growing outdoors, like unpredictable weather and pest infestation. In most conversations, cannabis seed growers agree that the most important factor in growing indoors is the lighting used.

Growers have a wide range of lighting options for their indoor grow operations in Utah or Rhode Island, but the question that continues to rise above the rest is whether to use metal halide (MH) or high-pressure sodium (HPS) lighting. Before deciding, it is essential to understand the light cycle required by marijuana plants during their symbiotic growth cycle.

Light Cycling

Most marijuana plants are photoperiodic, which means their growth stage is determined by the number of hours of light they receive. It is well known among growers that these plants require thirteen to eighteen hours of light in the vegetative stage and equal parts light and dark to enter the flowering stage. Barring automatic flowering plants, most feminized and regular seeds produce photoperiod plants whose lifecycle depends on a well-structured light/dark schedule.

Vegetative Stage

During the vegetative stage, the plant focuses its energy on growing bigger and producing leaves. This stage has a direct effect on the yield and quality of the marijuana it produces later. Plants with thick, tough stalks can hold up the weight of dense buds without cracking.

To get the most robust plant possible, most growers recommend providing plants with eighteen hours of light and six hours of dark from the seedling stage through the vegetative stage. It is important to provide the plant with blue spectrum lighting during the vegetative stage. Blue light wavelengths trigger chlorophyll production, which assists the plant in growing tall and producing leaves.

Flowering Stage

During the flowering phase, the lighting needs to be set to 12 hours dark/ 12 hours light. If there are too many plants sharing one light, the flowers will not develop to their full potential. It is recommended that a grow room has at least thirty-thousand lumens per ten square feet.

A marijuana bud comprises a stem, sugar leaves, and a calyx. When the plant does not receive adequate lighting, it will produce more leaves, making the buds less dense. If the plant receives an abundance of light, it will focus its energy on calyx production, increasing the plant’s yield. Growers should provide their plants with red spectrum lighting during this stage, as red spectrum wavelengths trigger flowering.

Too Many Hours of Light

Many new growers from Virginia to New Mexico assume that leaving the plants in the light twenty-four hours a day is the best way to ensure they do not enter the flowering stage too early, but that is not the case. Plants that receive twenty-four hours of light are forced to grow quickly, which can leave them weak and leggy.

When growers do not use timers on their lighting system, they can accidentally give their plants too much light. If this happens when the plants are in a vegetative stage, it will not harm them much. If this happens when they are in the flowering stage, the plant’s yield and quality may be impacted, and may even cause the plant to become a hermaphrodite.

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