In nature, plants depend upon the energy of the sun. Through a process called photosynthesis, sunlight is converted to sugars to provide fuel for growth. These sugars are utilized as necessary in a process called respiration, excess sugar can then be stored for later use. Photosynthesis is made possible by chlorophyll which is contained within the leaf cells. It is this chlorophyll which gives vegetation its characteristic green color. Light is trapped by the chlorophyll, activating the process of photosynthesis. Inside the chlorophyll, light energy is combined with carbon dioxide and water to produce oxygen and sugar. The sugar is then oxidized (or metabolized) through the process of respiration, producing carbon dioxide, water, and energy for growth. Excess oxygen and water are transpired by the leaf into the air. Plant growth, therefore, is directly affected by the amount and quality of light it receives.
The quality of light refers to the intensity and spectrum of colors contained within the light, as different colors of light affect the plant in different ways as described above. Different plants require varied lengths of daylight hours, this duration of daylight is called the photoperiod. Photoperiod affects flowering (reproduction), and in many cases must be precise to induce the flowering of certain species. In addition, different plant types require different light intensities, be sure to research the natural environments of the plants you intend to grow in order to reproduce their favored climes as closely as possible.
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