Keeping indoor plants has many advantages, such as reduced anxiety, stress, increased productivity, focus, and even better healing. Bringing nature inside can make a huge difference in our health and well-being. Plants bring so many aesthetic and mental benefits to our homes. They bring life to our indoor spaces. Here’s how to keep your houseplants healthy and happy with grow lights.
What Is a Grow Light?
Using grow light, we can grow many plants indoors regardless of the weather or availability of sunlight. These plant grow lights use a particular ratio of wavelengths, mainly in the red and green spectrums. This is ideal for helping plants photosynthesize.
Plant grow lights are used to grow vegetables, herbs, flowers, and other plants indoors. They can be used to grow microgreens, keep your houseplants healthy and happy, or add light to a greenhouse. After all, plants need bright light to grow and photosynthesize. It all depends on:
- The intensity of the lamp (also known as the photosynthetic light flux density, PPFD).
- The wavelength (the spectrum of light, also known as photosynthetically activated radiation or PAR)
- The lamp’s proximity to the plants
- What amount of natural sunshine do the plants get (e.g., if they are in a sunny corner versus on a windowsill).
- Based on the availability of supplemental light, which time of the year it “thinks” it’s, and what season.
How Do Grow Lights Work?
While traditional light bulbs are great for keeping our homes bright and shining, they do not benefit our plants. They require specific light levels to thrive. The best wavelengths of photosynthesis are found in the blue spectrum (450 to 450 nanometers) while the red range (600-700 nanometers), while traditional bulbs fall in the middle (500–700 nanometers).
Blue light is good for vegetative and structural growth, while red light supports flowering. Both types of light are vital for healthy and balanced plant growth. Indoor plants need to be provided with the right amount of light to photosynthesize. Grow lights can provide this type of light. Grow lights can mimic the full spectrum of sunlight (called full-spectrum lighting) or emit specific wavelengths within the red or blue ranges.
Benefits of Grow lights
To survive, plants rely on sunlight. The amount of sunlight a plant gets directly correlates with how vigorously it grows. Grow lights are a great way to supplement natural sunlight and support plants.
The need for light for plants is more important than what we realize. Lack of natural light is a common problem with indoor plants. Indoor plants need more light to thrive. Grow lights boost nutrition, speed up growth and accelerate flowering.
You may have seen seedlings so tall that they are leaning towards the window. They are looking for more light. Taller is not always better in the seedling world. Without enough light, vegetable seedlings can become lean and weak. They are at risk of falling over or breaking. Without enough light, other indoor plants might struggle to grow, produce or thrive to their full potential.
Using grow lights indoors is one of the best ways to avoid leggy seedlings. This will allow you to grow healthy and flourishing plants. It is a terrible truth that a bright window won’t be enough to provide sufficient light for indoor seed starting. This is the best time to start seeds indoors, particularly in winter, when daylight hours are scarce. Best grow lights for plants provide ample light to keep seedlings healthy, strong, and short. For most houseplants, however, bright windows and natural light are sufficient.
Types of Grow Lights
Depending on the plant you are growing, which kind of grow light you choose will depend on your needs. It can be pretty complicated for some plants.
There are many cheap grow lights available on the market today. AGRIKULTURE TODAY recommends lamps made of the best quality and durability, along with customer service. These are the leading indoor grow lights:
- Fluorescent lights
- LED Lights
Fluorescent Grow Lights
Fluorescent plant lights were the original plant grow lights, and they dominated the show until flashy LEDs arrived. Although they don’t last as well as LEDs and are bulkier and less durable, they are still easy to find and a worthwhile option.
Fluorescent lamps have a ballast that produces heat. One section of the fixture will be hotter than the others. Sometimes, plants that are under the ballast can experience heat stress. Some fluorescent lamp ballasts can contain mercury. Some LED replacements can be used to replace fluorescent fixtures with LED lighting.
LED Grow Lights
These are cheaper than fluorescents, and they last longer than LEDs. However, the high-quality ones are more costly. Because LEDs don’t measure watts accurately, it is difficult to determine if the intensity of LEDs is sufficient.
Low-power LEDs are the most affordable ones. However, these are often sufficient for small succulents and foliage houseplants. They are not recommended for plants that require intense light like tomatoes, citrus, and herbs.
High-power LEDs can be used for edible flowers, larger houseplants, and just about anything else that’s not a windowsill. You get what you pay to get adequate light intensity (PPFD).
Differences Between LED Grow Lights and Fluorescent Grow Lights
- While LED grow lights are typically more expensive than traditional fluorescent grow lights, they can last longer.
- LED grow lights are typically more efficient than fluorescent lights, which means lower electricity bills.
- Because LED grow lights are made up of many diodes, they come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes.
- LED grow lights should be placed at least two inches higher than fluorescents. This makes fluorescents ideal for shelving systems that require close quarters. Each light has its own recommendations.
- LED plant lights emit more light per watt. A compact LED fixture can emit more light than a larger T5 fixture, but it all depends on the specifications of each fixture.
Growing Indoors Plants Using Grow Lights
You can grow many indoor plants, including orchids and houseplants, with a set of grow lamps. Because they ensure that seedlings are stocky and green, grow lights are ideal for seed beginning. You can also grow winter harvests of herbs and greens under lights. You can learn about how light affects plants and the options for fixtures to help you choose the right indoor lighting system for your plants.
The Right Color
Sunlight is the full spectrum of light, including all colors: red, yellow, and blue to violet. Indoor plants thrive under full-spectrum lamps, which provide a balanced amount of warm and cool light to replicate the natural solar spectrum. These bulbs are great for growing seedlings and houseplants. Our grow lights, stands, and replacement bulbs have a full spectrum.
The Right Intensity
The brightness of the grow light bulb, as well as the distance from the light source, determine the intensity of light a plant gets. Many factors affect the light intensity requirements of plants. Plants native to tropical forests or shady forest environments do not need as much light as plants raised in sunny, dry climates like the Mediterranean or southern Mexico.
Some flower houseplants, like African violets or begonias, are content to be placed between 10 and 12 inches from a light source. Keep the foliage plants like philodendrons and ivy as far as 36 inches from a light source. However, many flowering plants such as citrus, orchids, and gardenias require more light to bloom and produce fruit.
The Right Duration
You must give your plants rest, no matter what plant you have. Plants breathe when it is dark. This is an essential part of their growth process. The balance between active and rest time can affect many biological processes, including the growth rate and setting of buds or fruit. Most indoor plant grow lights have built-in timers that make setting suitable duration easy. For vegetable seedlings to thrive, they need between 14-18 hours of sunlight per day.
Botanists often divide plants according to the day they prefer: day-neutral, day-long-day, or short-day.
Short-day flowers such as chrysanthemums or azaleas will thrive with less than 12 hours of sunlight per day. These plants must go through a string of shorter days before they can set buds or flowers.
Long-day plants need 14-18 hours of sunlight each day. Long-day plants are the norm for vegetable seedlings and garden flowers. They become pale and leggy if they don’t get enough sunlight.
Day-neutral plants, including foliage plants and geraniums, are generally satisfied with 8-12 hours of light throughout the year.
Tips to Use Grow Lights
Growing lights can be difficult. It will take a lot of trial and error to succeed. Have fun, try new things, and don’t let your discouragement get you down. Here are some tips that will help you succeed.
- Place the lights near the plants.
The closer the light is to the plant, the more it will use. Although it varies from lamp to lamp, six inches is the best rule. A light less than a foot away from the plant will dim by 75 percent. Hang a collection of shop lights on adjustable chains to make it easy to move the lights as your plants grow.
- Be careful when choosing a bulb.
Decide what you intend to do with your light before buying it. You may not need the expensive lights to work as hard as your cheaper ones. If you are planting seedlings to transplant, then you need bright lights. Low light is the norm for most houseplants.
- Determine the amount of light each plant requires.
Fill up a bucket with photons. The intensity of the grow light and the amount of natural light received by the plant will determine how fast the bucket fills. The majority of houseplants have tiny buckets. However, lettuce and fruit have more giant buckets. Most herbs are full-sun plants and can grow to about 10 feet. Place your herbs on a bright windowsill, and the shop lights above them for between 14 to 23 hours, depending on whether there is the sun.
- Set a timer.
Some plants thrive in constant daily sunlight. If you have a day-length sensitive plant, giving it eight hours on one day and 22 hours on the following day might be confusing.
- The day length of plants is unimportant, but it will be for some plants, particularly basil.
Plants that have evolved in temperate regions know which month it is. They also know how long the day is. This means that some plants will do different things, such as stop flowering or they flower, depending on how much light they see. But stuff near the Equator doesn’t get that response because daylight is always 12 hours a year.
- Add plenty of water.
Succulents such as aloe are not known to need a lot of water. They don’t get enough sunlight to drink all the water they need. Keep seedlings well-watered. They will need more light if they appear stretched and have lots of space between the leaves.
Grow Lights Safety Considerations
- Look for high-quality, reputable brands with good reviews. The light must be UL listed certified. This means it has been tested to ensure safety.
- Some grow lights emit heat. The warmest LED lights are generally the T5 fluorescent tubes, which are also quite cool but slightly warmer than the LEDs. T8 fluorescent, CFLs, or incandescent lamps heat up the fastest.
- Grow lights should not be used in areas susceptible to moisture, such as a humid greenhouse or one with ceiling vents. If you’re using grow lights in a humid greenhouse with ceiling vents, ensure the light is waterproof and safe for that area.
- Make sure your light is mounted or hung in a safe, secure way that conforms to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Grow Light Reflectors
Many grow lights have reflectors built into them that can be placed around the bulb to help direct the light downwards. Additional reflectors can be added to your growing area. The reflective surface created by lining the sides and back of the tray with tin foil allows for additional light to bounce back to the plants. For the same reason, reflective materials are often used to line the inside of special grow tents.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do grow lights cause damage to the eyes?
Yes. Extra bright UV light can cause eye damage. Don’t look at them. Blue light disrupts sleep patterns and brain activity. Some people find it uncomfortable to work with colored grow lights instead of white or natural-looking light.
How long should my grow lights be on?
Light is not necessary for seeds to sprout. You will need to make sure that light is available as soon as possible after the germination. The tendency for seedlings to become leggy quickly after sprouting is apparent. You can turn the light on a few days after planting seeds to ensure they don’t get too leggy.
Most vegetable seedlings and other plants need at least 12 hours of light each day to grow. Depending on the plant type, they will grow best with 16-18 hours of good light per day. AGRIKULTURE TODAY recommends adding a timer to the grow light setup in order to keep the light schedule on track. The timer will turn on the lights at 6 am and shut off at 9 pm.
How high should the grow light be hung above the plants?
It is recommended that high-output LED lights are at least one foot from plants. The LED lights can burn your plants if they are too close to the plants. This is called ‘light burn’ and is similar to a sunburn. However, fluorescent lights perform best when placed just a few inches above plants.
AGRIKULTURE TODAY recommends always referring to the height recommendations of the manufacturer. If this information is not provided, watch for signs in your plants. Seedlings that receive enough light will grow taller and more stocky if they are happy. Seedlings hungry for more light will grow taller and thinner and lean toward the brightest light source. Burnt leaves can turn yellow or brown if the light is too intense or close to them. In most cases, it is necessary to raise your lights as the plants get taller. This can be done with an adjustable light chain or pulley system.
Which plants require a grow light?
Some plants need to be in full sunlight for most of their day. Plants that love light include all vegetable and flower seedlings, annual warm-season crops such as tomatoes and pepper plants, and hemp. They can all benefit from indoor grow lights, regardless of the brightness. Cacti, microgreens, and herbs enjoy full sunlight but can be grown indoors without grow lights as long as they are near a sunny window.
Some plants, like sansevieria, pothos, and philodendron, can thrive in low to moderate light. Partial shade is suitable for ferns, orchids, and leafy greens. Your space will determine if your houseplants need a grow lamp. Plants in darker homes and interior rooms that don’t have windows will appreciate the light. For more information on the best low-light indoor plants, see our 5 Best Low Light Indoor Plants Guide.