Indoor Care for Bay Laurel, Indian Nightshade, Henna
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Linda Stuart
Posted on: September 29, 1999

I have a small bay laurel, an Indian nightshade and a henna plant, all of which I have brought in as our night temperatures have now dipped below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. What is optimum indoor care for each of these plants? I have many trees in my yard, so lack any good, sunny windows. I have a 65 watt bulb type plant light. If I use this, how far should it be from the plants so it does not burn them? How long should it be left on each day?

The three plants you own are like most herbs in that they need good light. The bay laurel needs the least light of your group. A 65 watt incandescent light bulb will not provide enough light. We usually recommend a two light 4 foot flourescent light fixture with two 40 watt fluorescent bulbs as the minimum for high light plants. Better yet are the high intensity lamps now offered by specialty plant lighting stores and hydroponic suppliers – but these are expensive to buy and operate. If you set up the fluorescent lights in a window, the natural light during the day will provide beneficial supplementary light. A south window would be best for the winter, since the low sun will be best utilized there.

As for the distance the plants should be from the light, this will vary according to the amount of air movement you have. If you have still air (not something that plants like) you might have to keep the plants at least a foot (30 centimeters) away from the bulb surface to avoid overheating. With a small fan this distance might be halved. With fluorescent lights the plants can be right underneath the lights, but should not touch them. Keep the lights on 16 hours a day.

For more information on growing herbs indoors, check the Magazine Rack section of our web site (http://www.richters.com) for articles on indoor growing.

What soil pH does each plant need?

Bay laurel likes a pH of 4.5 to 8.2, henna 4.5 to 8.0 and Indian nightshade is reported to do well at a pH of 5.6. Therefore, keeping all three in a slightly acid mix will suit them well.

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