Lite Up My Life® philodendron. Photo: hiclipart.com
Indoor Gardening has Never Been Easier!
By Larry Hodgson
Developed and tested in Lithuania, a brand-new class of houseplants now awaits you. The Lite Up My Life® plant series is a trio of tropical plants developed over the last 12 years by gene transfer specialist Dr. Andrea Pokštas and her team at Kaunas University of Technology.
The team began experimenting with CRISPR technology in order to transfer genes from a firefly to tobacco plants and Arabidopsis plants, successfully getting them to glow in the dark. However, both are short-lived annuals of little commercial value. Dr. Pokštas’ team then switched to the lucrative houseplant industry and managed to transfer the gene that allows the production of the light-producing enzyme luciferase to specimens of several common houseplants.
Light From Within
“For generations, people have been having trouble succeeding with plants in their homes,” notes Dr. Pokštas. “This is largely due to a serious lack of light indoors. People think their homes are brightly lit, but plants don’t see it that way and eventually fail. Our Lite Up My Life® plants provide up to 40% of their own light due to light-producing cells they contain that use enzymes imported from an Asian species of firefly. This moderately intense light is enough to stimulate photosynthesis. With the extra light, these plants are able to thrive almost anywhere, even under conditions shadier than other houseplants would be able to tolerate.”
The plants even glow in the dark to a certain degree, although that is not their main attribute. The yellowish-green glow, although present during daylight hours, is not clearly visible in a lighted room. The plant has to be placed in a totally dark room with no outside light for their glowing to be visible. Under average home conditions, it will most clearly noticeable in evenings during late fall and winter, when days are shorter than 12 hours. Since the plant is genetically programmed to carry out photosynthesis 12 hours a day, during short days, it will continue illuminating after sunset until that 12-hour limit has been reached. Then its cells shut down for the night. At peak glow, a single plant is bright enough to modestly illuminate a small room, in the manner of a living lamp.
Dr. Pokštas’ studies show that Lite Up My Life® plants grow on average up to 30% faster than regular houseplants. Thanks to the extra energy from their bioluminescent cells, they’re also more tolerant of dry air and other poor indoor conditions, although not cool temperatures. All require temperatures above 20˚C to produce bioluminescence.
Trials in Lithuania and Poland show that the survival rate of similar but non-self-illuminating houseplants in the average home was only 38% after 12 months. It was 95.4% for Lite Up My Life® plants.
Latvian influencer Anna Jansons commented, “I’ve had my glow-in-the-dark spider plant for a year now and it’s doing wonderfully. I’m just thrilled, as I’ve never been able to keep a houseplant alive before. All my followers are jealous!”
Lite Up My Life® plants, now produced by tissue culture and grown on a massive scale in Lithuanian and Polish nurseries, were launched in March 2021 in Amsterdam to great media interest and over 50,000 plants found buyers. They were relaunched on a limited scale in New York, Hong Kong and Monaco in March 2022 and will be available across the United States in 2023.
The launch in New York City on March 4, 2022, was marred by anti-GMO protesters shouting, “Punch their lights out.” Protester Mavis Beeb stated “I’d rather own a dead plant than one improved by Frankenplant technology.” Even so, all 2,300 plants made available at a cost of $150 US were snapped up within 2 hours of sales opening. Some have been since seen offered on eBay at $3,000 per plant.
Take Your Pick!
There are currently three varieties of Lite Up My Life® houseplants:
- Lite Up My Life® Philley philodendron (Philodendron × hybridum ‘Philley1’)
- Lite Up My Life® Spidey spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum ‘Spidey1’)
- Lite Up My Life® Spikey columnar cactus (Cereus peruvianus ‘Spikey1’)
Further Lite Up My Life® houseplant varieties are being developed and are expected to be launched in 2025.
Dr. Pokštas’ team is also working on self-illuminating vegetables, like tomatoes and peppers, that will grow to perfection in the shade.
For more information on Lite Up My Life® houseplants, please contact the April Fool’s Day Council of Lithuania.