27 November 2022

Enjoying the 70s

No, not my age (73 and counting) — even though I enjoy my 70s most days. The 70s I'm referring to in my title are the 1970s, which I remember well. It's because I bought something I had hardly ever heard of since about 1978 — a grow light. It's a light bulb or fixture that emits what is called "full-spectrum" light that plants need to grow green and healthy. This one is two strips of tiny LEDs that you plug into a USB power supply and stick to a surface over the plants you want to see prosper.

As you can see in this picture, there is a little window that faces north where I can put a couple of plants. The window opens inward, so if we need to open it this winter we'll have to move those plants. The grow light is affixed with double-sided tape to the bottom of the wooden top of this table. Here's one that resembles the one I bought.

The plants above, growing in natural light behind an east-facing sliding glass door, are a portulacaria (grown from a cutting that CHM brought me from California nearly 20 years ago), a pothos (given to us by a kind neighbor who moved away two years ago and who used to take care of Bertie the black cat when we went traveling around France), and a sansevieria that is a descendant of a plant that my paternal grandmother had in her house when she died in 1977 and that I've kept growing since a cousin gave me a sprout from it in about 1984.

Why do we need a grow light? It's partly because winter days here in Saint-Aignan, which is actually farther north from the equator than is Quebec City or Minneapolis — it's at about the same latitude as Seattle. The other reason is that most of the windows in this French house have big radiators under them. So it's impossible to put plants under or near them in wintertime. Radiator heat is too hot and dry for plants. The plants are on the bottom of a Madison table that we've had since we lived in California. Three of them are gifts given to me by Evelyn (a pilea plant), by CHM (a portulacaria), and by our former neighbor Chantal (a pothos).


  1. I had grow lights in the basement of our house in Connecticut in the '80s. I grew African violets, brought them upstairs when they were ready and returned others downstairs under the light at the same time. Now, I struggle to find places for plants that don’t want constant sun. It’s just about all we have.

  2. In a way, you're lucky to have constant sun. Especially if it isn't too hot outside. We have more or less constant gray, with just the occasional sunny day, from November through March.

  3. The pilea plant looks good. Mine has suffered because our young cat loves to bat the leaves. I didn't know about those grow lights. I may try some next year.

    1. I wonder if it isn't time to repot it into a bigger pot. Maybe it will grow bigger.

  4. It's wonderful how LEDs have changed the world of lighting. Grow lights used to have to be those big, long tube lights... these are really cool. We just made a lighted star for atop an outside Blue Spruce tree, and we used a long skinny strip of LED lights on a sort of tape... amazing. Your plant display looks lovely! It's so great that you got to use that upstairs attic space (that's the new bathroom behind that wall, yes?).

  5. Yes, that's the (relatively) new half-bathroom. It's great to have it.


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