Bioluminescent Plants Are the Next Big Thing

Add some glowing plants to your collection

bioluminescent plant

The Spruce / Design by Amy Sheehan / Photo by Glow Plant Inc

Imagine being able to add glowing plants to your plant collection. It sounds a bit crazy, but it’s actually a possibility because bioluminescent plants are the next big thing. We've seen a lot of houseplant trends come and go, but it seems like it's just the beginning for glow in the dark plants. “Bioluminescence is (and always will be) an eye-catching spectacle. Check out some of the glowing algae blooms in the ocean, some glowing fungi in our forests, or a swarm of fireflies on a nice summer night. Now imagine a garden that is self illuminating at night. We strive to bring the wonder of living light to people's homes,” says Cameron Gotti, founder of Glow Plant Inc, a small biotechnology company located in Toronto, Ontario. It’s true, you can't find bioluminescent plants in the wild, but being able to add some to your home is pretty special (and a bit futuristic, too). 

What Kind of Plants Are Being Made Into Bioluminescent Plants?

Most of the bioluminescent plants we’ve come across are air plants. And while these plants aren’t genetically modified, they’re coated to create that glow. “We developed a plant-safe phosphorescent coating specifically for tillandsia foliage. The trichomes help the glowing compound adhere to the surface of the foliage." explains Gotti. "It is made of silica-coated photo-luminescent nanoparticles. The silica bends the light around the nanoparticle and reduces its visible appearance. It is then mixed into a plant-safe sugar based liquid and is applied to the foliage. It then dries and sets to the leaf permanently." The coating was made to be slightly elastic to allow for stretching over new growth areas, though all glow plants sold by Glow Plant Inc. area already mature and won't get much larger.

Glow Plant

Glow Plant Inc

Does the Glow Last Forever?

If you’re wondering how long that will make your new plants glow for, the answer is for the plant’s life cycle. All you have to do is expose your Glow Plant to UV for a few seconds. The plant will then glow for about three hours before needing more UV exposure to “recharge” the glow. It’s a pretty spectacular thing to see and it’s just really cool to be able to see your houseplants glow in the dark.

Imagine placing these glowing plants in your bedroom and using them as a nightlight. Or you could leave them in your living room and as the sun goes down, your plant will glow and create a relaxing ambiance, similar to lighting a candle. These are just some of the ways you could add bioluminescent houseplants to your home decor.

The Impact of Bioluminescent Plants

And while spectacular, it’s also a bit novel. It makes people wonder, why are bioluminescent plants having a moment? Aside from being pretty, Glow Plant Inc. believes there’s actually a practical use for this in the commercial and industrial world. Gotti told us that it can help identify pests and diseases on plants, allows us to understand how plants react to stress and stimulants, and so much more.

At home, bioluminescent plants add something special to your collection and are just as easy to care for as your other houseplants. Because the glowing compound is adhered to the plant’s surface, you can care for it the way you would a normal air plant. All you do is soak it in water every so often so it can rehydrate itself. 

Will We Ever See Genetically Modified Plants?

We are working toward genetically modified tillandsia to produce bioluminescence from seed to maturity, however this is a long term goal and is a few years away," says Gotti. "The technologies we use are relatively new and there are many evolving regulations to consider. The cost of completing our laboratory is another limiting factor in our ability to produce and commercialize such specimens." It will be fun to watch this trend unfold over the next few years and see if some of our favorite house plant species can have the chance to glow too. Remember, that at this point there are no houseplants that are truly bioluminescent without modification — but it may not stay that way forever!