over 30 years I have been an active gardener, both indoors and out.
I’m always happiest when I have my hands in the dirt either
planting seeds, putting out annuals, or repotting a houseplant.
years of trial and error, I’ve developed an understanding of what it
takes to successfully grow a variety of indoor plants.
While the rules are basic, actually growing a plant can be
difficult. Friends have
frequently asked, “How do you grow so many beautiful plants when mine
die?” The difference is
that I provide my plants with all their needs.
They get the proper amount of light, water and fertilizer.
I use a three-tiered light stand that has fluorescent lamps and
special evaporative trays to surround the plants with moisture.
While the method is very successful, it’s certainly overkill for
I figured the theory should certainly work on a smaller scale.
Why not create a small tabletop plant light that provides all of
the necessities a plant needs to thrive?
The result is Timely Lighting Care: The Intelligent Plant Light™.
The following booklet describes both the light itself and tips for
successfully growing a wide variety of plants.
special thanks to those who have worked with me to make Timely Lighting
Care™ a reality: Jim Oram, Don Oddo, Jeff
Eric Law, Stefanie Cohn, Patrick Hung, Ricky Wong, Tom Heidke, my wife,
Barbara, and my friends from the garden club, The Gardeners of the North
TLC plant light has an automatic, computerized timer built into the
controller. It will turn the
light on and off everyday simulating the changing length of days with the
passing seasons. Just plug
the power adapter into an electric wall socket and the light will turn
itself on and off each day, year after year.
The plant thinks it’s outdoors and thrives.
To adjust the lighting cycle, refer to the instruction section of
telescoping stem on the TLC plant light is adjustable from 7” to 14”
high. This allows you to grow
very small plants or larger plants up to 12” tall.
It also allows you to position the lamp closer or farther away from
the plant to control the light intensity, so you can grow plants that need
high, medium or low light. When
the lamp is 2” away from the plant, it is receiving the equivalent of
bright light. At 4” it is
receiving medium lighting and at 6” the light is considered low.
Full spectrum 9-watt fluorescent lamp
TLC plant light uses a full spectrum 9-watt fluorescent lamp.
This custom-designed lamp emits a mixture of light waves that
simulate the light of the sun. Plants respond to this solar light and grow rich green
leaves, healthy stems and flowers. When
it’s time to replace the bulb, use the Timely Lighting Care 9-Watt
Soil moisture sensor
is a soil moisture sensor included with the TLC plant light.
When it is inserted in the soil, it will indicate when it is time
to water the plant. A
light will flash next to the words “water me” on the controller.
The depth of the sensor rods can determine how often you should
water your plant. When fully
pressed into the soil, the sensor will indicate when the soil is
completely dry. When inserted
only half way, the sensor is measuring only the top inch of soil.
This top layer dries out first.
So, if your plant requires more consistent moisture, insert the
sensor half way into the soil.
base of the TLC plant light catches the excess water that drains through
the plant after watering. This
creates a humid microclimate that is beneficial to the plant as the water
evaporates. The pebbled base is designed to keep the plant above the water
so that the roots will not rot.
The base will accommodate a pot up to 5½” in diameter.
combination of these features will enable you to grow potted plants in any
location. To better
understand what plants need and how to grow them, please read the
following tips for successful indoor gardening.
Quick set-up instructions
the plant light stem and controller assembly into the slot in the base
the power adapter into a 115vac outlet
the season you want by pressing the button on the controller until your
selection lights up
the height of the stem to accommodate your plant
the soil moisture sensor into the soil of the plant
Setting the seasonal timer
computer chip in the TLC plant light has been programmed to simulate the
changing daylight cycle of the seasons.
Once set, the days will get longer in the spring and shorter in the
fall, etc. Because day length
varies at different latitudes, we chose 35° N latitude for the optimum
day length for blooming and non-blooming plants.
Cities that are at 35° N latitude include Charlotte, NC; Memphis,
TN; and Las Vegas, NV.
first time you plug the TLC plant light into an outlet, the lamp will come
on and the cycle will begin as if it was December 2lst at sunrise (7:23
AM). The winter indicator
light will be lit. You may
leave it at this setting or select another season.
The automatic timer will continuously change the day length year
round. It even adjusts for leap year every four years.
you decide to start the cycle in another season, just push the button on
the panel. Each time the
button is pressed the seasonal timer and indicator light will change
depending on the season you pick. When
the lamp turns on, the timer will be set to sunrise for the first day of
that season, then it will continue to change the length of the days as the
What happens to the lamp when it
is unplugged or the power fails? The
TLC lamp loses track of the day and the time.
When you reconnect the lamp, you can reset it to the first day of
any season just by pushing the button and selecting the season you want.
If you’d like to be closer to the actual day, let the timer
continue until the actual first day of the next season, then just push the
button to match the season.
example, should your power go off on May 11th, reset the season
indicator to spring. The day
length will be similar to the shut off date.
On June 21st press the button once and the season will
advance to summer. Even
though the seasonal timer is not perfectly aligned to the actual date,
these changes should not effect the growth of your plant.
plants may prefer the same amount of light exposure every day.
The timer also can be set so that your plant receives 13 hours of
light each day instead of varying amounts of light.
Hold in the button on the panel for about five seconds.
The season light will turn off.
When you let go, the summer light should start to blink indicating
that every day your plant will be receiving 13 hours of light.
When the light is unplugged and plugged in again, it will reset
itself to the seasonal cycles.
the intensity of the light
stem on the TLC plant light can be extended from 7” to 14” high.
The intensity of the light increases dramatically the closer it is
placed to the plant. When the lamp is 2” away from the plant, it is receiving
the equivalent of bright light. At
4” it is receiving medium light, and at 6” the light is considered
low. Many potted plants have
light requirement labels. Use
these guidelines for setting the height of the lamp.
For additional information, refer to the details on specific plants
that are included later in this manual.
the moisture sensor
soil moisture sensor will measure the amount of water in the soil of your
plant. The depth of the
sensor rods can determine how often you should water your plant. When fully pressed into the soil, the sensor will react when
the soil is completely dry. Use
this method for cactus, succulents and other plants that need to dry out
between watering. When the
sensor is inserted only half way into the soil, it is only measuring the
top inch of soil. This top
layer dries out first. So, if
your plant requires a moist soil, only insert the sensor half way.
When the plant needs to be watered, an indicator light will flash
next to “water me” on the controller.
After the plant has been watered, the indicator light will turn off
until the plant needs watering again.
TLC plant light is now set and ready to help you grow beautiful plants!
For more specific plant information read on...
are like people or any living thing.
If they get what they need, they will thrive.
So what exactly do plants need?
They need light and dark periods, soil, water and food.
While this seems basic, providing these needs for your plants could
require considerable attention. The TLC plant light was developed to provide most of their
needs with little effort. Now
let’s take a closer look at these requirements.
All plants originally grew outdoors
either in bright light or shade. If
a shade-loving plant is placed directly in the bright sun, its leaves will
burn just like you do on a sunny beach.
On the other hand, if a plant requires bright light and is placed
in a dark corner, it will become pale, refuse to bloom, and eventually
also need light that simulates the color of the sun. While not visible to the eye, sunlight is a combination of
all the colors of the rainbow. Plants
need a combination of colors from this full spectrum of light in order to
addition, plants need varying periods of light and dark.
Just like people, plants sleep.
So, if a light is always on, a plant will suffer.
By simulating the seasons, the TLC plant light provides just the
right amount of light and dark periods.
Water, soil, and pots
need the right amount of water to live.
Unfortunately, many of us forget to water our houseplants, or
overcompensate by watering too much.
If you think you have a “black thumb” and kill your
houseplants, it’s probably because of over-watering or under-watering.
plants absorb water through their roots, and roots actually need to
breathe. That’s right,
roots need some air in the soil. For
this reason it is important to use a light peat moss-based soil mix for
your potted plants. A proper
soil mixture will hold water yet allow excess water to pour from the
bottom drainage hole in the pot. The
addition of one part sharp sand to four parts potting mix will improve
drainage. It is important to
note that you should always use a pot with a drainage hole when gardening
with the TLC plant light. If
the pot does not have a drainage hole, water will accumulate in the bottom
of the pot. This condition
will rot the roots and kill the plant.
plants do better in a humid environment, so allow excess water to remain
in the base of the lamp after you water.
The pebble-like bumps on the bottom of the base keep the pot from
sitting directly in water, and help the moisture to evaporate.
This moist air creates a beneficial climate around the plant, one
that is very helpful when growing African violets, orchids, seedlings, and
addition to the proper amount of light and water, plants need to be fed.
There are many liquid and powder plant fertilizers available.
To avoid over feeding, mix your fertilizer of choice at ½ the
amount recommended in the fertilizer instructions.
As a general rule, you can use this mix with each watering.
A steady diet of this half-strength plant food will provide your
plant with all it needs to thrive. More
specific instructions for feeding special varieties of plants are spelled
out later in this book.
fertilizers contain various salts that can accumulate in the soil and on
the pot. It is a good
practice to water your plants over a sink with warm water running through
the soil every once in a while. This
procedure will flush any excess salts from the soil.
to your plants
talking to your plants may seem bizarre, there actually is a benefit to
talking or even breathing on your plants.
It’s a symbiotic relationship.
We need the oxygen that plants produce, and plants need the carbon
dioxide that we breathe out. To
increase the growth of plant crops in commercial greenhouses, growers use
carbon dioxide generators. You
can help your plant grow by simply blowing on it.
productivity and reduce stress
plants can actually improve your productivity and reduce stress.
In a study conducted at Washington State University, researchers
determined that plants in a business environment could increase
productivity as much as 10% to 15% and reduce stress.*
It only seems natural that a healthy plant growing under a bright
little light will cheer you up.
How to grow African violets with your TLC lamp
African violets grow best in uniformly
moist soil. When you water,
always make sure that your water is warm, not too hot or too cold. If the water is the wrong temperature you may begin to see
little light dots on the leaves of your plant.
Also, African violets thrive in a humid climate.
Make sure that the pot has drainage holes in the bottom so that
extra water will drain into the base. When water is retained in the base,
it evaporates slowly creating the right humidity for your plant.
However, make sure the water level in the base is below the top of
the pebble-like bumps, otherwise your plant will sit in water and the
roots will rot. Inserting the water sensor half way into the soil will
provide the proper
African violets require medium light,
about 800 to 1200 foot-candles. By
adjusting the stem on the TLC lamp so that the bulb is 3” to 4” above
the violet, your plant will receive the proper amount of light.
African violets are relatively
light feeders. To prevent
over-feeding your plant, we suggest using half the amount of fertilizer
recommended on the package. Feed your African violet with this weak
solution every week rather than a heavier dose at longer intervals.
The best type of fertilizer for this plant is a fertilizer made
especially for African violets. A
15-30-15 fertilizer would work well.
you’ve had your African violets for a while the outside leaves tend to
get soft or really dry. To
keep the plant looking fresh, simply break off those leaves at the base of
the stem. As you continue to
maintain your plant the main stem is going to get taller. Once your stem
is so long that it’s unattractive, consider re-potting the plant.
re-pot an African violet, take it out of the original pot. You can either
put it back in the same pot or in one slightly larger. Violets bloom more
frequently when their roots are confined, so don’t use a pot that is too
large. Before you re-pot, you
should pick off the callused area of the stem.
Cleaning the stem is like picking bark off of a tree.
Next, loosen and remove some of the soil from the root ball.
If the plant stem is too tall for the pot, you can cut off some of
the roots. Then re-pot it
with the leaves just above
to grow cacti with your TLC lamp
easiest way to kill a cactus is to give it too much water.
Dry, is the key word in growing a cactus successfully.
When you water your cactus use tepid water, because water that is
too hot or too cold may shock the plant and cause some damage.
It’s also important to empty the base after watering.
Water in the base creates humidity, and remember, the key word here
is dry! Be sure to insert the
water sensor completely into the soil so you are measuring the moisture at
a deeper level. The top layer
of soil dries out faster, and you want to be sure the deeper soil is dry
before you water again. Another
tip: a cactus needs less water when it is resting in the winter months.
cacti are usually grown in the desert, they need lots of light.
Set the stem of the plant light so that the lamp is about 2” to
3” above the plant to meet its lighting requirement.
Usually a reduced day length of 12 hours or less helps the cactus
to bloom. By changing the
seasonal timer to “fall”, you’ll make the days shorter and nights
longer which will stimulate the flowers.
However, you shouldn’t reset the timer repeatedly, since cacti
only bloom once a year.
cacti need an extra little push to bloom.
Fertilizer is the perfect solution.
You should fertilize your cactus once a month June through August
to help flower production. A
formula like 7-40-6 is good. However,
always use half the recommended amount, so you won’t damage your plant.
If too much fertilizer is used your cactus may become disfigured.
While cacti usually don’t need fertilizer during their resting
period, if you notice that yours look discolored or unhealthy, you may
want to try adding some fertilizer to the water.
your cactus in an unglazed pot with a hole in the bottom.
If there isn’t a hole in the bottom, the roots of the cactus may
sit in water and rot. Place a
layer of rough stones on the bottom of the pot for good drainage, then add
the soil. The easiest formula
for making your own soil is to use equal parts of sharp sand and potting
soil. To increase the growth
of your cactus, bone meal and limestone can also be added.
This mixture will provide certain nutrients your cactus needs.
to grow orchids with your TLC lamp
orchids will grow best indoors?
there are thousands of orchid varieties available, the three that are best
suited to grow indoors are Phalaenopsis (moth orchid), Paphiopedilum (lady
slipper) and Miltonia (no common name, but they resemble large pansies
with flowers that look like faces). Your
TLC plant light and average room temperatures will provide these varieties
with all of their growing needs.
is important to have a drainage hole in the bottom of your pot. When
you water your plant the extra water will drain out of the bottom and
settle in the water-retaining base. While the pebbled base will keep the
plant from sitting in water, the excess water will evaporate and create a
moist environment for the orchid plant.
This is great, because most orchids really like humidity.
Water your orchid every 5 to 10 days or when the moisture meter
says, “water me”.
these orchids bloom, they send out a long spike or spray of flowers, but
the flowers don’t need to be under the light.
Only the green leaves require lighting.
This unique feature will allow you to grow orchids that have large
showy, sprays of flowers.
orchids require bright light, but not direct sunlight to bloom.
The three varieties mentioned above like 1000 to 1500 foot-candles
of light. Adjust the TLC
plant light so that the light is 3” to 4’ above the leaves of the
plant. If you notice that
your orchid leaves are becoming pale or less green than before, move the
light a little closer to the leaves.
need the seasonal change of daylight to encourage blooming, and the TLC
lamp automatically provides this change.
The orchids will flower for several months, then rest until the
next year. However,
Phalaenopsis will flower twice a year if you cut the stem half way down
after the first blooming period.
helps your orchid grow strong and healthy.
A diluted feeding of ½ strength liquid fertilizer is recommended.
prefer 3-1-1 with each watering, and Lady Slipper orchids like a stronger
30-10-10, but alternate with just plain water every other time you water.
One half strength 30-10-10 with each watering is best for Miltonias.
will grow well in either a clay pot or a plastic pot, but no matter what
kind of pot you use always make sure there are holes on the bottom so the
water can drain out. Orchids
grow better when they are in a confined space, so choose a smaller pot
rather than a larger one, and don’t repot more than once a year.
Use special orchid potting mix that contains fir bark, not regular
potting soil, or the roots will get soft and mushy.
to grow herbs
with your TLC lamp
type of herbs can you grow indoors?
chives, marjoram, mint, parsley, thyme, basil, tarragon and sage are all
easily grown indoors, and fresh herbs make a great addition to your
recipes. Some are annuals,
like basil and will have to be replaced in about six months, others, like
thyme and rosemary can last for years.
herbs have leaves that will dry out if the soil gets too dry.
The moisture sensor with your TLC plant light tells you when water
is needed. Insert the soil
sensor half way into the soil. This will prevent the soil from getting too dry before the
“water me” light goes on. When
you water, give the plant enough so that there is water left in the base
for extra humidity. This
should keep the tips of the leaves from drying out.
it or not herbs like to lay in the sun and get tan more than we do. To
give your herbs the light they need to grow and be healthy; you should put
the lamp approximately 2” above the top of the plant.
planting your herbs make sure that your pot has holes in the bottom for
drainage. Herbs grow best in
well-drained soil made from a mixture of one part sharp sand to four parts
potting mix. Select a small
pot for several reasons. Herbs
grow best when their roots are confined and by limiting the root space,
you will also limit the size of the plant.
Plants grown in larger pots will outgrow the limits of the plant
How to grow foliage plants with your TLC lamp
suggestions for plant selection
are numerous varieties of foliage (non-blooming) plants available today.
Some have green leaves and others are variegated (these have white,
yellow or other colors mixed on each leaf).
When selecting plants you want to grow, keep a few things in mind.
The small plant you purchase today may soon outgrow the pot and the
height capabilities of the plant light.
Select varieties that normally remain short and compact.
If you are going to have more than one plant in the pot, try to
select varieties that require the same amount of light intensity. The instructional tags that come with many houseplants will
tell you if they are high, medium or low light plants.
foliage plants like to have moist soil.
For these plants, push the moisture sensor into the soil only half
the length of the sensor rods. In
this position the “water me” light will go on when the soil is still
moist on the bottom of the pot. This
will prevent the plant from drying out completely.
As with any plant, be sure to use a pot that has drainage holes in
the bottom. Any excess water
will drain through the pot and remain in the base which will benefit the
plant as it evaporates. Be
sure the water level is below the pebble-like bumps in the base to prevent
the roots from rotting.
light requirement will vary depending on which variety of foliage plant
you choose to grow. The
regular seasonal timing cycle is perfect for these plants.
If you choose a plant that prefers high intensity light, position
the lamp about 3” from the top of the plant.
Low light plants can be placed 6” away from the lamp.
Most foliage plants are very tolerant when light intensity is
concerned. So if your plant
grows taller and gets closer to the lamp, don’t worry it will probably
plants do not require much fertilizer.
Feed your foliage plants once a month with a feeding of ½ strength
10-10-10, or similar, fertilizer. During
the winter months you can skip the feeding for 2 to 3 months.
foliage plants grow taller they generally shed their lower leaves.
Initially these lower leaves will turn yellow or brown and finally
drop off. This is normal.
To keep the plant looking fresh and attractive simply cut off faded
leaves. Eventually many
foliage plants will outgrow the pot and the height of the lamp.
This is the time to find another home for your plant, place it near
a window or give it to a friend.
to grow flowering plants with your TLC lamp
plants come in a variety of sizes
are a wide variety of flowering plants and miniature versions available in
stores. These plants are
available in full bloom and are bright and exciting to own.
However, the blooming season is short.
You should choose plants with lots of buds, rather than lots of
flowers to extend the blooming season.
Some of these flowering plants come in pots as small as 1½”
across. The base of your TLC
lamp was designed to hold up to five of these miniature beauties.
easy way to water the miniature plants is to fill the base of the lamp
with water so that the plants can absorb the water from the holes in the
bottom of their pots. After
five minutes the water level in the base should be at or below the top of
the pebble-like bumps in the base. Larger
flowering plants can be watered from the top of the pot, but avoid getting
water on the blooms. Water
remaining on the flowers tends to leave spots.
of the flowering plants that your purchase, like mums, begonias, or
primrose, have nearly reached their peak.
You won’t be growing them; you’ll be enjoying them. The TLC plant light will highlight the blooms and extend the
growing season a bit, but the flowers will fade within a few weeks.
that are in full bloom, and especially the miniature varieties, will only
grow for one season. When the blooms fade, the plant should be replaced,
planted outdoors, or re-potted. The
miniature varieties can be potted up into 3” or 4” pots and placed
back under the plant light, but they will not bloom again for some time. Since the growing season is short, there is no need to
fertilize these plants unless you re-pot them.
to grow your favorite flower or vegetable from seed
base of your TLC lamp will accommodate a pot up to 5½” or five or six 1½”
to 2” pots. These pots should be absolutely clean to prevent a seedling
disease called damping off. When
seeds first start sprouting, damping off can cause the stems to suddenly
rot, and the seedlings will die. Using
a clean pot and sterile soil mix will prevent damping off.
a fine soiless mix especially made for starting seeds.
Even though these mixes are ready to use from the package, it is
suggested that you take an added step to insure a disease free start.
This step calls for cooking the soil.
That’s right, cook the soil.
First, wet the mix with just enough water to make it damp.
Then cook the mix in the microwave for three minutes.
The heat kills any unwanted plant diseases. After the soil has cooled, put it into the clean pots.
you are ready to plant the seeds. It
is very important to follow the instructions on the back of the seed
packages. Each variety of
plant has it's own requirement for sprouting.
Some need to be buried, some need light to sprout, some actually
require freezing or total darkness to break their dormancy.
pellets are another way to start seeds.
They expand when you add water making their own containers.
Just sow 2 or 3 seeds in each pellet, then them cover lightly with
peat moss and plastic wrap. When the seeds have sprouted, remove the plastic and let them
grow until they are ready to plant outdoors.
seed and seedlings are very small and delicate, watering should be done
from below. To accomplish
this, fill the plant light base with warm water to about ¼ inch above the
pebble-like bumps on bottom of the tray.
By doing this you are allowing the water to wick up into the pot of
soil. It’s like a sponge.
If after 15 minutes the water is still higher than the bottom of
the pot, just empty some out. If
you leave too much water just sitting in the tray the roots will rot.
Continue this watering method until the seedlings are large enough
to withstand watering from the top without washing them away.
the seeds are planted, place them under your TLC lamp and lower the stem
to its lowest position. This
will provide the brightest light for your seedlings.
Set the season to “spring” by pressing the button on the
control panel until the green light is on.
Once the seedlings begin to grow you can raise the stem of the
lamp. Try to keep the light 2” to 3” above the top of the plant
leaves. By the time the
plants are as tall as the lamp, it is probably time to plant them
outdoors. Follow the
instructions below when you are ready to put your seedlings outdoors.
your seedlings do not need to be fed, because the first sets of leaves
store the nutrients the plants need.
However, the second sets of leaves do not have the nutrients. By using a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) you could help your
plants grow up to be happy and healthy adults.
Use half-strength fertilizer with each watering after these second
leaves have formed.
your plants to the outdoors
the weather starts to get nice and you feel that your plants are mature
enough to live outside, you need to give them some time to
hardening-off we mean give your plants some time to adjust to the strong
sun and outdoor temperatures. Place
them outdoors in a sheltered area with partial sun for a few days, before
you plant them in a sunny location.
a number of seeds were started in the same pot you will need to gently
divide them so you can plant them individually. Leave as much soil around
the roots as possible.
detailed growing information
instructions have been designed to provide the basic knowledge needed to
successfully grow a variety of plants with your TLC lamp.
There are many issues that are beyond the scope of this booklet.
For further information we suggest you refer to the numerous
gardening books and Internet web sites available on the subject.
Copyright © 1999, Glentronics, Inc.
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