If you've got a green thumb, the idea of a glass patio enclosure is likely appealing to you as an in-home greenhouse so you can enjoy the beauty of tropical blooms all year round. However, choosing the wrong glass for your enclosure project could leave you with a light-filled space that is still inappropriate for growing healthy and happy plants. Pick the right glass to fulfill your cold-weather gardening desires by taking these features into consideration as you design your space.
First, single-pane glass is not a good choice for an enclosed patio because it exposes your plants and you to extreme temperatures on both ends of the spectrum. Heat can escape quickly through single pieces of glass, leaving the space chilly enough to kill off delicate plants before you realize it has gotten cold. Naturally, that also means you'll have extreme heat around the glass in the summer, which can also kill your favorite plants. Double- or triple-paned glass creates a more stable environment for your house plants and makes the space comfortable enough for you to enjoy year round.
Tinted glass only allows a limited amount of actual light to transmit into the patio area, so don't choose a tinted glass unless it allows at least 70% of light through for happy plants. Low-E glass only blocks some UV rays, but since the glass often blocks total light transmission below the 70% mark, it's not the best choice either. Make sure any Low-E glass you choose for a plant patio has a high-enough light transmission rate to fit your needs.
Don't forget about the specific color of the tint product you're choosing if you need to keep your enclosed patio cool during the summer. Brown or red tints block these particular colors, allowing blue color to shine through. House plants that primarily grow beautiful foliage need more blue light than red, while red light is essential for triggering the flowering and fruiting processes. Make sure the tint you choose doesn't block the colors of light you need most, which means blue tints are a bad idea for almost all plants since nearly every plant needs strong leaf growth.
Most of the glass recommended for patio enclosures is polished and perfectly clear so you get an unimpeded view of your surroundings. This might seem like the best kind of light for plants grown indoors, but clear glass actually creates a magnifying effect that interferes with optimal plant growth. You'll get decent results growing plants in a clear glass enclosure, but carefully etched or frosted glass actually works better if it's designed with plants in mind. Many frosted glass products block light transmission in a way that is not ideal for growth, but the right kind of etching allows the maximum light through while diffusing the beams. This scattered light is absorbed by the entire leaf instead of the top alone, resulting in stronger overall development and reduced sunburn or heat damage to plants.
UV light is dangerous for humans because it increases your skin cancer risk after repeated overexposure, and it's not necessary for plants either. While plants do absorb some UV rays, they're not required for general growth and can damage delicate leaf tissue as well. If you're investing in rare plants like orchids and violets that can easily succumb to sunburn damage, choose Low-E glass to control the amount of UV light entering your patio area so you don't lose your plants and have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to replace them. The extra upfront cost of the glass is well worth the reassurance.