Greenhouses are a popular agricultural tool thanks to their many benefits. From their ability to lengthen growing seasons, to their protection against harsh weather and pests, there are several reasons to love greenhouses. However, the effectiveness of greenhouses is subject to a few factors. One of these is color. What color should a greenhouse be?
The best color greenhouse for most situations will be clear panels for a covering and white on most surfaces on the inside. The structural elements can also be white, but aesthetic choices of other colors will only minimally impact the healthy grown and yield of plants.
For most situations the color of the greenhouse in question is important and today we will be looking at what you should opt for when erecting one. We will discuss the best colors for your needs before looking at why color is so important. Let’s get started.
What Is The Best Color For A Greenhouse?
People who are unfamiliar with greenhouses may assume that one size (or, in this case, color) fits all. Yet, there are several material and spatial choices that need to be taken into consideration. Size, shape, material used, and color are all important. There are also different parts of the structure that are better suited to one color or another.
Though many believe the only color for greenhouses is green, the cover material and structure often are more efficient in other colors. White is the popular choice for structure elements to reduce shadows and reflect light where needed. Seasoned growers recommend clear greenhouse panels.
This oversimplified type of thinking may be influenced by the range of options available on the market. Not only do you have to decide the best color for your greenhouse, but you have to choose between various covering materials. Then there are the structural elements and the range of colors advocated for each of them.
So, what is one to do?
Well, let’s start by focusing on color for now. There are also two areas to which the color can be applied. There is the material covering known as ‘panels’ or sheeting over the opening sections, and then there is the structure itself.
I will discuss issues separately on both since they each play roles in the overall health of the plants within, but in different ways.
Greenhouse Cover Material Color
The color of the covering material for a greenhouse matters more than you may think. It plays an important role in how some plants develop and the overall functioning of a greenhouse. Its color is an integral part of this equation.
The main “colors” you have to choose from are clear, opaque, and green. You’ve probably encountered green or clear greenhouses in the real world or online.
The primary color choice for greenhouse cover panels is clear. This is best for most plants as the most amount of light color and intensity is passed unhindered. Simple shades, filters, and vents can be used with clear panels whereas opaque and green panels permanently blocked some elements.
Another easy assumption to make is that green is the best color for a greenhouse (duh…), but that is simply not the case. This common idea stems from the name and a misunderstanding of why they are called ‘greenhouses’. But more on this later.
In fact, many seasoned farmers and gardeners actually recommend clear greenhouse coverings or panels rather than green or opaque ones…in most cases. These let light in in its full spectrum. When less is desired there are shades that can be drawn and then retracted for optimal control.
Green Colored Greenhouse Panels
The problem with green coverings, and colored coverings in general, is that they block out parts of the natural light spectrum. This can be a bad thing for most types of plants. Unless there is a very specific environment that is desired for a very specific type of plant, green is not going to be the best choice.
For a ready made, easy to setup and use greenhouse that anyone can assemble green colored greenhouse, I recommend this very popular option from Amazon. 8’x6′ Fast Easy Setup Pop Up Garden Greenhouse
You see, visible light is made up of a spectrum of various colored rays. The spectrum of natural light consists of red, yellow, orange, green, blue, violet, and indigo rays.
Certain light rays from the spectrum are beneficial for efficient plant development and yields. Blocking them will lead to some plants growing at a slower rate, and producing lower yields than they would under a clear covering.
Green covering, in particular, blocks out green light rays. Green rays are particularly useful for plant stem elongation, which in turn makes light absorption (and, ultimately, photosynthesis) even easier.
Though clear or even opaque panels are optimal and the best choices overall, of all the colors you can opt for, green is the best choice. Although it blocks out green rays, it permits most other light rays to pass through it.
Red and blue light rays are important for photosynthesis because they are absorbed by chlorophyll directly. This is why you must never use blue or red greenhouse coverings or panels…ever.
Although it has its limitations, a green covering is a good choice for seeing plants through to maturation.
Clear Greenhouse Panels
Clear coverings, on the other hand, allow all natural light to filter through and reach plants as if they were outside. No rays are blocked out so plants can receive all the benefits.
Right up front I would like to say that if you are going with the 6 mill plastic sheeting option here, I couldn’t recommend more the inexpensive farm plastic found on Amazon. Check it out here… Clear Greenhouse Plastic Sheeting
We highly recommend a clear covering if you’re germinating seeds from scratch. Seeds need as much light (particularly direct sunlight) and heat as possible to stimulate germination. They will have a much tougher time germinating in a colored greenhouse.
However, clear coverings are not perfect for certain situations. This is especially true if you’re growing plants that only need so much light.
Tomato plants, for instance, are famous for curling up their leaves to prevent the absorption of excess sunlight. If you’re growing tomatoes, you might be better off using green coverings.
If you are in a hot area, clear coverings might not be the best choice either, especially if you’re growing plants that favor cool weather. The more direct sunlight a greenhouse takes in, the hotter it will be inside. This is why transparent greenhouses aren’t ideal for growing carrots, beets, radishes, and turnips.
However, crops like eggplants, melons, and beans are well suited to life in a clear greenhouse because they can stand the heat. Tomatoes may have limited tolerance to direct sunlight but they are very resilient to high temperatures, so you can grow them in a clear greenhouse, but with great care.
Transparency can also be a problem for tall mature plants. While they grant easy access to direct sunlight, clear coverings also facilitate the formation of shadows. Light may hit some plants directly, but those plants may cast shadows over neighboring plants and disrupt the overall efficiency of greenhouse photosynthesis.
Opaque Greenhouse Panels
One popular alternative to clear plastic or glass panels is opaque. This option has a clear advantage (pun intended) over clear panels in perpetually hot and sunny locations. Climate plays a big role in the construction and maintenance of any greenhouse.
For those looking to go opaque and have more rigid panels instead of 6 mil sheeting, I would recommend the 24-Pack of 24″x18″ Ultra-Smooth Opaque Corrugated Plastic for small residential applications. These are actually yard sign panels, but for small use they are inexpensive and great for the project.
Opaque panels naturally will soften the intensity of the sunlight coming through and reduce the chances of shadows that can unevenly affect plants depending on where they are placed in the greenhouse.
Again, this is all relative in the end. There are shades that can control all manners of light color and intensity. These can also help control temperature. Not to mention, ventilation also plays a major roll in air quality and definitely temperature.
Though the color of your greenhouse cover material or panels is a major consideration, if for one reason or another the one you choose is not optimal for all plants, it can be augmented with ventilation, shades, and light filters.
Greenhouse Structure Color
One of the color choices that matters a great deal that many not well aquainted with greenhouses may not realize is the color of the surfaces and structure of the greenhouse itself. The material and color choice for the panels is not the only consideration.
White is a major color choice for most of the interior surfaces of an greenhouse. It cuts down on shadowing which in turn makes the light available in the building more evenly distributed. White structure, floor, and table coloring also reflects light rather than absorb it and related heat.
Though you may see metals and natural wood color in some smaller setups, major production greenhouses will normally choose, if not white, some similar light color. There are several reasons for this.
Shadows and reflected light from shiny metals can alter the environment for those they touch. They can create areas of intense heat or light or deprive specific plants of the same. When uniformity and yield are the goals, even distribution of light and climate control is key.
Why Are Many Greenhouses Painted White?
There is a choice that can be made to exteriors of greenhouses on sections that are not meant for passing light through to the inside. I am talking about exterior structural elements and safeguards against animals a pests. Why are some greenhouses painted white?
Whitewashed or white painted greenhouses can be a choice either for traditional aesthetic purposes or in order to reflect some sun rays and heat in overly hot climates. White may be chosen to match home or farm décor or it can be utilitarian in use.
Some choose to whitewash the exterior structure in hot climates during particularly warm months of the year only to change the color in cooler ones. There are several whitewashing techniques that can be used and then removed.
In perpetually hot climates a more permanent white color choice could be made. Painting a greenhouse white helps in reflecting some heat and light to aid in climate control inside. In hot, dry, arid regions, this could very well be a valid option.
Then there are those greenhouses that are located near homes or other buildings that have a particular aesthetic to them. In these cases, a host of exterior colors may be chosen. Seeing as the most popular home trim color is some version of white, it stands to reason that greenhouses near them could be painted white.
Though this may seem like a trivial reason, aesthetics is one of the main purposes many grow plants in the first place, even the vegetable varieties. The more aesthetically pleasing a greenhouse is and the more comfortable it is to be working inside of it, the more care people are apt to take of the plants within.
Here are some more of my articles on LawncareGrandpa.com…
- What To Do About Tomato Plant Leaves Drying Up
- Watering Plant Leaves Benefits: Mist Em, Spray Em, Soak Em
- Can You Grow Plants In Glass? – (Jars, Containers, Bottles)
Why Is It Called A Greenhouse If Most Are Not Actually Green?
Here we will get into the myth of why greenhouses are called, well ‘green’. The assumed answer to this question leads to a misunderstanding between the purpose of a greenhouse and the look of one.
Greenhouses are called greenhouses because of what is grown within them and not necessarily because the color of the structure. Their purpose is to aid in the growing of plants that require photosynthesis, which causes a display brilliant greens through the clear or opaque panels of the greenhouse.
There are two prominant misconceptions about the title ‘greenhouse’. They don’t point to a lack of intelligence or education on the part of the person that holds them. It just signifies that the reason for the name is easily mistaken for one of these explanations.
For those that haven’t thought much about it, it is easy to see why they would hold to one of these myths.
Greenhouses And Greenhouse Gas
One myth for the name of these useful gardening tools is that the term greenhouse somehow has to do with the greenhouse gas effect caused by increased CO2 levels within the opaque or clear walls.
Important Note: Contrary to this myth and the assumption of many who have not looked into the subject, the interior of greenhouses actually have reduced levels of CO2 when compared to outside air. This is due to photosynthesis and proper air circulation.
This is an attempt to marry the disputed ‘greenhouse effect’ theory of the earth’s atmosphere with the simple workings of the interior of an actual greenhouse. This is not only circular reasoning, seeing as this theory came from the name of the building that already existed, it is a gross oversimplification of the the earth’s atmosphere.
Greenhouses Are Green Houses, Right?
Another myth is that the ‘green’ in greenhouse must have a connection with the color applied to the panels of the building. It is assumed that this is the proper color for the panels and that green should be applied to structural elements to follow suit as a tradition.
Here again, this is a misunderstanding of why the color green is in the name. The color green refers to the leaves that are clearly visible through the traditional clear or opaque glass that was used as panels. Green things are grown within this ‘house’ and thus it became known as the house of green or greenhouse.
As a matter of fact, very few opt for green as a color for either the panels or the structure of the building itself. There are better options for each in most cases, and those that do opt for green are usually doing it out of preference rather than optimal growing conditions.
Does The Color Of Greenhouse Matter?
The color of a greenhouse’s covering is essential when it comes to the covering sheet or panels. The color of the framing doesn’t make any difference.
The greenhouse panel color matters because the color determines the light rays that your plants receive. The color of the covering blocks out some light rays. This can deprive permanently of these light effects. Yet, clear panels, shades, and vents can better control heat and light better.
For plants, green is the best color to block out if any is to be reduced since they don’t absorb a lot of green light anyway. Green covering is perfect for getting the most out of mature, harvest-ready plants. The translucence also ensures even light distribution, resulting in fewer shadows and more efficient photosynthesis.
That said, a colorless covering is the best choice for the entirety of the growing process. All the natural light of the outside world is combined with all of the benefits of greenhouse insulation. A clear cover is the best way to go.
What Material Should My Greenhouse Be?
However, equally important to color is the covering material. The color can be more or less effective as well depending on which type of panel material is used.
There are some traditional or popular options that should be discussed first. The choices are plastic sheeting, acrylic, glass, and fiberglass.
Traditional Materials For Greenhouse Panels
Let’s start with some of the more commonly used materials. These will have been tried and true solutions to filtering in the proper amounts of sunlight and heat.
Plastic Greenhouse Panels
Plastic sheeting is the classic choice for large-scale greenhouses. Affordable, durable, portable. Able, able, able.
“Plastic” usually refers to polyethylene, a highly versatile material with the ability to protect plants from ultraviolet rays. The only problem is that plastic must be replaced every 3-5 years because it can discolor and block more light.
Fiberglass Greenhouse Panels
Fiberglass, commonly found in the form of panels, is another good choice.
Fiberglass is much more durable than film plastic (it can last two decades or more!). It is also fairly affordable, although not to the extent of plastic. We recommend clear panels to take advantage of the material’s awesome light absorption and heat retention.
Acrylic Greenhouse Panels
Acrylic has many of the same properties as fiberglass and it also tends to cost the same. You can get panels of any color but, unless you live in an extremely hot region, you should go colorless here too.
Glass Greenhouse Panels
Finally, in the category of popular and traditional we have glass.
Glass is the best material for a greenhouse and traditionally the main source of roof and wall material. It lets in the most light, holds heat the longest, and is the most durable.
It is also the most expensive greenhouse material; hence why big crop farmers tend to avoid it. Loading, transporting, unloading, and installing glass panels is also a series of ultra-delicate chores.
Another issue with this option is the delicate nature of this expensive ‘window’ into your greenhouse. Though they can take most wind and even some snow load, flying objects are their kryptonite. Though other materials are affected in this way as well, glass of course is very brittle and much more expensive to replace.
However, glass is perfect for small greenhouses. Of course, you will need strong (preferably metal) framing to support glass panels. If mas production is not the goal, then it offer the best environment for your plants and in turn offer superior results.
With glass, like most others, you should avoid coloring. Transparency is best but you can also go for frosted glass if you already have too much sunlight. As well, along with other materials, the option of retractable shades over clear glass could offer the most precise sunlight and heat regulation.
Alternative Greenhouse Panel Materials
Now let’s look at some inexpensive and creative ways to cover greenhouses both big and small. Some of these options will work better on smaller applications and some will work even on larger ones.
Some plastics that are not commonly seen as greenhouse panel material can be used on residential applications.
Cellophane Wrap For Greenhouses
You think I am joking here right? You would be mistaken then. This is a viable and surprisingly sturdy option if properly applied. Is it permanent? Well, of course not. But for those that are looking for a seasonal solution to helping plants last through colder months, this could be it.
I would also like to add that this is not new to greenhouses alone. I am into bushcraft and survival building as an interest or hobby. In the world of bushcraft, cellophane has many uses. You should check out this cellophone bushcraft cabin build done by some interesting guys living in Russia near the Finnish border.
Corrugated Plastic Greenhouse Panels
These wavy plastic sheets are construction materials that are cheap and very light weight. They are normally used for skylights to shed roofing. Yet, if you get the clear or opaque versions they can also make good greenhouse panels.
They will last much longer than plastic wrap, but they will not have the longevity of fiberglass or normal glass panels. The plus side is their weight. If your structure cannot support heavy panels they can be a great option.
These panels will normally last around 5 years or so. In that amount of time you will be able to decide if they are worth replacing or changing out for other types of materials.
Netting for greenhouses could be seen as changing the greenhouse into an area simply protected from birds, rodents, and other pests. Many do see these as greenhouses of a sort.
They do offer protection from certain elements in nature while allowing sunlight through.
This could be a viable option if growing berries or other crops that are tempting to birds. This can also help to keep some rodents away from certain plants.
Netting is a viable option if the weather of the zone and area you are in is optimal for the types of plants you wish to grow.
The Final Touches On What Color Greenhouse We Should Choose…
In a nutshell, no color is the best. That is to say, clear is the best option for most greenhouse panels.
For structure and interior surfaces, white is the color that yields the best environment for the most types of plants. This means the tables, flooring, and structural elements. Any dark or shiny surfaces could work against your goal of the healthiest plants or best yields.
Though it is true that there are successful greenhouses that don’t go by these color choices, when we are talking about the best of the best, these options will be it.
On the other hand, if you are doing this as a hobby, would like a cedar greenhouse with opaque panels and green tables, with proper effort your greenhouse could produce wonderfully vibrant plants.
The most important thing is to choose what fits your goal the best, and since the difference between materials, colors, and textures are not ‘make or break’ in many scenarios, choose what will make you want to work in your greenhouse. This is the number one element that will keep your plants healthy and thriving.
To see more great articles…
- When Morning Glories Bloom And How To Encourage Them
- Is There Actually A Japanese Blue Maple Tree? (Answered)
- What Is Eating My Strawberries? Let’s Find Out!