Unless they are given enough light, your indoor plants will start to deteriorate and eventually die and no plant grower wants to have a collection of withering plants.

To prevent that from happening, you need to supplement your plants’ exposure to light. One of the ways you can do that is by using the best grow lights for plants.

In this grow light guide you will learn:

What Are Plant Grow Lights

If you are an inexperienced gardener who has just started cultivating plants indoors, it can be a daunting task to determine the position that’s best for your plants.

Sometimes, your plants won’t get enough natural sunlight, for instance, if the room is not bright enough or if it lacks windows.

What you can do in that case is use artificial lights for plants to supplement their exposure, which is an easy and affordable way to mimic daylight and underpin the process of photosynthesis.

Another advantage of using grow lights for indoor plants is that some of your flowering plants will develop buds and flowers outside the growing season. Who doesn’t want to see plants in full bloom all year round?

Prior to buying any light for plants, it is advisable to understand your plants’ needs for light and do some research to decide what the best light is. This article will help you in that endeavor.

How to Choose the Best Plant Grow Light

how to choose grow lights

Seedlings versus mature plants

The first factor to be considered is the type of plants you are going to grow under grow lights.

Put them into 4 categories: seedlings, mature, foliage and flowering plants.

Seedlings need lights that are less intense such as fluorescent tubes, while taller plants can be grown under stronger ones like LED lights.

The distance between the lights and the plants also depends on the type of plants. If you are using stronger lights for seedlings, place them further away from seedlings, while fluorescent tubes can be positioned closer due to their lesser intensity.

The color spectrum you need depends on the type of your plants.

What color of light is best for plants

While warm colors (orange-red) are used to help plants develop fruits and flowers, cool lights (blue and white) help plants to grow healthy, stay compact and stimulate foliage growth.

That means that if you want to encourage flower and fruit growth, you should use red LED lights, while if you want to encourage foliage growth you should purchase white fluorescent lights, blue LED lights or metal halide.

Lumens

Lumens specify the maximum exposure to the light that your houseplants are able to absorb.

LED lights (7 Watts)  offer a lifespan of 25,000 hours of light, 850 lumens for the price of 35 dollars, which makes them less expensive than CFL and Halogen lights.

Other factors to consider

Take into account adjustability, purpose, the number of hours you need to keep the lights on, the number of lights you need, the place or fixture where you are going to install the lights.

Purchase lights that have a longer lifespan in case you need to keep them on for at least 10 hours a day and lights that save energy and give off as little heat as possible.

If you are planning to install lights on a fixture such as a shelf, getting full-spectrum rectangular lights is recommended. This is because not many plants can be lit by one source of light.

Install a LED light bulb in a gooseneck lamp if you need it for separate plants and attach it to the wall above the plant.

If you have a light stand from which the light should hang that closely resembles a swing, buy a fluorescent tube.

All of these options are adjustable, but not all of them serve a decorative purpose. If you need one that does, consider researching some creative ideas on how to make attractive displays out of growing lights for indoor plants.

You can use a spectroradiometer to measure the light output your houseplants receive, which will help you make a good decision.

Types of Grow Lights for Houseplants

There are various types of growing lights on the market which differ according to their lifespan, color spectrum (K), the amount of heat they emit, intensity, size and shape.

Most of them can be used as plants for  indoor plants, save for HPS lights which emit warm light.

We can conclude based on this information that LED grow lights have the greatest lifespan, while fluorescent tubes and LED lights to produce the least amount of heat.

Grow lights that convert electrical energy into visible light better will produce less heat. This is important because heat can impede plants’ growth and burn them. Choose the light that emits less heat as possible.

1. High-Intensity Discharge lights

Metal Halide and High Pressure Sodium are suitable for larger plants, but these do not emit orange-red light that is necessary for fruiting and flowering.

2. Compact Fluorescent

T5, T8. Their color temperature also varies and they are best used for seedlings, like fluorescent tubes as well which have a longer lifespan than compact fluorescent light and use less energy and heat than incandescent bulbs.

3. Light Emitting Diode or LED

The color temperature expressed in Kelvins can vary a lot. It saves energy and it is good for growing both seedlings and mature plants, but it can be expensive to construct a fixture. Their lifespan is greater than the lifespan of fluorescent lights.

4. Incandescent bulbs

These are your regular light bulbs with a metal wire enclosed. Their lifespan is extremely short and they produce the greatest amount of heat. This type of light is the least recommended one.

Related: Can You Use Regular Lights as Grow Lights for Your Plants?

Pros and Cons

CFL are great lights for small grows, affordable and available in warm and cool color spectrums, but they offer low light output, they need to be closer to the plants and you will have to use a couple of them. They are difficult to use with a larger group of taller plants.

HID is easy to set up and offers great results, but can increase the electricity bill, emits a good deal of heat and has a short lifespan.

LED lights are energy-efficient, produce the least amount of heat, last long and plug into regular sockets. At first they seem to be expensive, but prove to be cost-effective.

So, the best light is…

While incandescent bulbs can be used to cultivate indoor plants, they are not the ideal option. Most people recommend LED lights above all, then HPS, MH and fluorescent lights.

Recommendations for the Best Light for Growing Houseplants

You can purchase any type of light at your local store or order lights online, at the comfort of your own home.

Window show prior to making a buying decision. Consider what type of light you need and pay attention to their specifications (color, watts, lumen, PAR).

Compare the specifications and the price on several websites, choose a reliable one and lights that have a lot of positive reviews and orders.

Contact a salesperson to make sure that your order is safely packed and be informed as to the route of the package.

Here are some of our recommendations:

  1. Full Spectrum Plant Growing Lights for Indoor Plants (120 dollars) which is suitable for foliage and flowering plants, saves energy, comes with a fire-resistant reflector for safe usage.
  2. LED grow lights for indoor plants with red and blue spectrum (around 70 dollars) that performs well for mature plants, seedlings, flowering and foliage plants.
  3. LED light with thermometer also for foliage and flowering plants featuring a modern design, adjustable cord, and double switch.

Related: Grow Lights Vs. Regular Lights – Here’s Why You Should Use Grow Lights

Other Necessary Elements

Depending on where you are going to install the lights, you might need hangers to attach the lights to the fixture of your choice, such as a shelf.

We highly recommend this adjustable grow light hanger that’s tear-resistant.

If you have many lights and heat mats, you might need to buy an extension cord. This power strip with 10 outlets has over thirty-four thousand ratings and it is extremely popular because it protects against spikes and fluctuations, is extra-long, and provides extra protection.

You should get protective glasses for intense LED lights so as not to hinder your eyesight and prevent undesirable headaches.

Finally, you should install a ventilation system or fans so as to decrease the temperature levels. 

How to Use Grow Lights  for Plants

How to Use Grow Lights  for Plants

Grow Light Guide – Setup

Thoroughly clean the area where you will be cultivating your plants.

You can simply insert the light bulb into a gooseneck lamp and fix it to the wall above the plant if you need lights for separate plants.

However, in case you have a group of plants, you will need some kind of a stand. You can either purchase a shelf that has lights installed or a similar fixture.

Alternatively, you can build a DIY grow light stand which is a more affordable option. 

Positioning

Your seedlings need up to 150 micromoles/sec/m² of PAR to photosynthesize. To help them get that, position your LED bars up to 30 cm from the seedlings.

Conversely, position T5 fluorescent lights up to 16 cm away from the seedlings.

It is obvious that fluorescent lights are weaker in intensity and can be positioned closer to seedlings, unlike LED lights.

Next, think about how far from each other should you position your lights. This depends on how much space have you have available.

LED lights should be positioned up to 25 cm away from each other, while fluorescent lights can be placed around 12 cm away from each other.

Incandescent lights should around 60 cm above your plants because they give off the largest amount of heat.

Remember that the higher the wattage of the lights, the greater the distance between the plants and the lights.

So if you are using a high watt HID system, position the lights more than 60 cm above the plant, the distance dropping if using a medium, low watt system or stealth grow LED system which can be placed relatively close to the plants (15 cm).

If your plants are too close to the lights, they will get scorched, burned, and may even die.

How many hours a day should I use growing lights?

This depends on the maturity and the type of your houseplants.

If your seedlings have germinated, they will need around 12-18 hours of light per day, if that’s the only source of light they receive. Similarly, your fruiting or flowering plants need the same amount of light daily.

On the other hand, mature plants need lesser exposure to light, so they will be happy with 8-10 hours of supplementary light per day.

Can I keep my lights on for 24 hours?

This depends on the plant. While succulent perennial plants can perform well if exposed to 24 hours of light, some winter blooming plants need a certain period of darkness to store the energy for later usage.

It is advisable to keep lights on for up to 16 hours a day, and if your plant needs more, it will let you know by its appearance.

Safety considerations

Fire is not the result of grow lights themselves, but the wrong electrical sources that are used for grow lights. There is a risk if you plug many lights into one outlet and you keep the lights on for long periods.

Mold or mildew can also occur as a result of the lights turning on and off. When the lights are on, the heat is greater and the moisture level lower, while turning them off condenses the moisture. This can be detrimental to both plants and humans.

Most lights save for LED lights have mercury present and if the lights break, inhaling it can be dangerous.

Related: How to Use Grow Lights for Plants – Best Tips and Tricks in 2021

How to Care for Plants Under Grow Lights 

Here are several tips on how to care for plants under grow lights:

  1. Avoid burning your plants. This is obvious by the curling of the leaves and dark brown markings. To avoid that, adjust the distance between the lights and the plants and provide good airflow by installing ventilation or fans.
  2. Don’t overwater the plants just because they are exposed to more light. Artificial lights are not that powerful as the sun.
  3. Check if your plants are receiving the right amount of light. Do this by maintaining your lights regularly and sticking to the right light schedule. This will ensure that your buds develop properly.

Don’t forget to maintain the hygienic conditions of your growing area, routinely dust the lights and replace them once they show signs of being lower in intensity.

Conclusion

Finally, you should think about the goal you are supposed to achieve with lights. For commercial use, we recommend LED and HID lights, but if cultivating plants is your hobby and your budget is limited, we advise purchasing CFL lights.

Observe your plants for any potential reactions, especially during the first two months from the day you start growing your plants under grow lights.

I hope that this article has helped you decide what grow lights you should buy to stimulate the growth and improve the overall health of your plants.

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