Should We Torture Plants with Lights?

It is the time of year when some of us go a little crazy with decorating for the various holidays involving bringing light to the darkness in some way or another (Christmas, Yule, Hannukah, and more). Seeing all those lights, candles and blow-up characters does life one’s spirits when driving home in the dark. (I admit, I’m actually more fond of lights and less fond of blow-up things, which look so sad during the day when they are deflated.)

Never thought I’d decorate an aloe plant.

This year, we’ve brought more light to the darkness than usual, thanks to our love of battery-powered lights and a gift of a lot of regular lights that my coworker no longer wanted. 

After this photo, I also electrified Rudolph. We have so many lights.

We did put a few lights on the deck and door, but most of them are in plants, both outdoors and indoors. I even bought NEW plants to stick lights on (and I hope they will live a long time and decorate the house the rest of the year, too).

The Christmas owl wreath looks lice with my new little evergreens, over-burdened with LED lights. Next year they should be bigger.

I got to wondering, though, whether all these lights are secretly plant torture devices. Sure, some of them are on timers, but some are not, and just twinkle away all the time. Good researcher that I am, I sought out articles about it. The first one I read was about outdoor trees, and it said as long as you don’t wrap things tightly around trees and leave them there, you’ll be fine. 

Is the heat or light from these “regular” lights bothering my delicate babies in the window?

But, that article didn’t address the heat factor, and I wanted to know if so much light would be a problem. According to this fine article, “Are Your Christmas Lights Murdering Your Plants,” the answer is maybe. They point out that heat may be the culprit:

Where this becomes a problem is that during winter, your plants take a nap. They’re dormant, which allows them to make it through the swings of winter weather. If you use incandescent bulbs, they can actually throw off enough heat to come out of dormancy.
The highlight of our lighted plants is this big ole succulent thing. All LED, so it should be fine.

They recommend using LED bulbs, which is exactly why we now have so many lights: the coworker has switched to LED lights. This fact made me feel better about my indoor plants, which are nearly all covered with LED lights. And outdoors, I believe just one poor plant has the old bulbs on it.

Even the mother-in-law tongue got into the act. Those are hard to string lights on. I figure nothing will destroy this hardy plant (which came with a bonus philodendron that I didn’t originally realize was there!)

I did not find anyone who said the light factor was a problem. Instead, I found many, many people recommending the lights in indoor plants, tastefully done. That said, our over-abundance of lights will not be permanent. Some of them will come down immediately after the work happy hour I’m hosting. The rest will be history after New Year’s. 

Well, a couple of them look really nice. Maybe they can stay a while.

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

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