Fluorescent grow lights have taken big strides in recent years. If you're imagining flickering shop lights accompanied by an annoying buzzing sound, you'll be amazed at the quality available now.
Energy-efficient fluorescent tube lights come in a variety of lengths -- from 1 to 12 feet. You'll likely want the 2- or 4-foot tubes because they fit standard light fixtures and they're easiest to find.
Fluorescent tubes are classified by their size in diameters. Standard fluorescent tubes are called T-12 and measure 1-1/2 in (3.8 cm) in diameter. The downside of T-12 tubes is that they use old-fashioned magnetic ballasts that operate with more electricity and will get hot.
Most indoor gardeners prefer T-8 (1-in (2.5 cm) diameter) and T-5 (.625-in (1.6 cm) diameter) fluorescent grow lights. The advantages here are that the slimmer T-8 and T-5 fluorescent tubes use electronic ballasts and are more energy-efficient, run cooler, quieter, and do not flicker.
The T5 Fluorescent Grow Light System (shown here) includes 4 full-spectrum T-5 fluorescent lights. Technically, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), these lights offer superior light spectrum that both foliage and flowering plants need for healthy growth.
The Tabletop SunLite Garden (shown at left) holds 2 full-spectrum T-5 fluorescent tubes (included).
This is one of the simplest, most energy-efficient light fixtures available. It can be situated anywhere you want a table bursting with lush foliage and beautiful blooms.
Bright enough for seed starting, this light produces the right kind of light to develop healthy, stocky seedlings with strong roots.
Tight on space? You owe it to yourself to check out this Compact 2-Tier Garden Starter Grow Light Kit. Just a scant 2 ft wide, it goes just about anywhere. This easy system helps your seedlings and herbs thrive under full-spectrum T-5 fluorescent lights. These grow lights are power-savers, using 45% less energy than standard fluorescent bulbs.
You'll also get the seed-starting supplies to get your seedlings off to a good start. This kit includes organic, nutrient-rich seed-starting mix, 2 self-watering 24-cell trays, seedling markers, plus a power strip with timer so you can set the lights to come on at the same time everyday.