Using plant grow lights during the winter can help you to extend your indoor growing season.
Find out what you need to start indoor growing with artificial light for plants.
Do you still believe that you must plant in the spring and harvest in the fall even if you try to cultivate plants indoors?
Thankfully, these rules no longer apply to modern gardening. Artificial grow lights for indoor plants are readily available and can be used effortlessly indoors to produce robust and thriving.
Generations ago, people had to rely on finding a sunny window to grow indoor plants. However, grow lights have revolutionized your ability to grow an abundant crop in a grow tent, grow room, or any location within your home.
You’re no longer have to rely on the sunlight and the solstice; now, you can grow your plants indoors, in a greenhouse or grow tent, any time of the year.
You can also decorate your home’s interior with abundant green thrive and flowering plants without relying on a south-facing window or a skylight. Artificial light for plants has liberated your ability to grow indoor plants.
Table of Contents
- 1 Do Plants Grow Well Under Artificial Lights?
- 2 Plants Can Grow Well Under Lights
- 3 What is a Grow Light and How Does It Work?
- 4 Types of Artificial Light for Plants | Pros and Cons
- 5 How to Install Grow Lights
- 6 How to Get the Most Growth Under Grow Lights
- 7 Artificial Light in Plant Propagation
- 8 Indoor Garden Grow Lights FAQ
- 9 Conclusion
Do Plants Grow Well Under Artificial Lights?
Historically, sunlight has been needed to grow plants and encourage blooming, but now you can use grow lights to replicate the sun’s wavelengths. You can cultivate a variety of plants indoors, even in a windowless room, using artificial lights.
Honestly, there is not much difference between natural or artificial light to a plant.
Yes, natural light supplies the perfect balance of wavelengths, but new grow lights such as full spectrum LED grow lights (and some regular LED lights) also offer the ideal combination of wavelengths to promote abundant plant growth.
All plants need artificial grow lights to grow well inside. The lighting must successfully imitate the wavelength colors produced by the sun.
Full spectrum LED grow lights can make the following colored wavelengths for greatest plant growth.
- Red Wavelengths: Fruiting and flowering plants need red wavelengths to complete their life cycles.
- Blue Wavelengths: Plants must have blue wavelengths to produce ample foliage. A healthy plant has robust leaves to absorb the energy of the light for maximum growth.
Plants Can Grow Well Under Lights
Plants can grow every bit as well under lights as they can outdoors in the sunlight.
Plants typically grow better under lights because you create the perfect environment with the lighting, humidity, temperature (whether it’s heating in the winter or cooling in the summer), water, and fertilizer to encourage robust growth.
Here are a few types of plants that grow well under lights:
- Vegetables: Lettuce, radishes, peppers, kale, chard, carrots, onions, tomatoes, and bush beans.
- Herbs: Chive, catmint, cilantro, basil, parsley, oregano, lavender, and rosemary.
- Flowers: Geraniums, petunia, candytuft, roses, alyssum, and daisies.
- Fruit: Citrus, strawberries, blueberries, and apples.
- Houseplants: African violet, croton, aluminum plant, cast iron plant, asparagus ferns, orchids, and spider plant.
- Succulents: Jade plant, aloe vera, panda plant, zebra plant, flaming Katy, and burros’ tail.
What is a Grow Light and How Does It Work?
A plant grow light is an artificial light source that effectively stimulates a plant’s growth. The grow light must produce an adequate light balance of blue and red wavelengths to encourage the plant’s photosynthesis capabilities.
The conventional lamps used in your home are not growing lights. They produce an abundance of visual light but none of the red and blue wavelengths of the sun.
The lack of spectra wavelengths makes the lamps used within your home for general-purpose lighting useless as grow lights.
It is imperative that you use a grow light to achieve the same plant growth results as the sun when increasing flora indoors.
What is the difference between warm light and cool light?
As a plant transitions from seedling to adult and then enters its flowering and fruiting state, it needs assorted color spectrums for greatest growth. Full spectrum LED lights gives the various light rays needed.
As stated above, plants require blue and red wavelengths to grow well, but out of those colors, the plant uses multiple wavelengths to meet its photosynthesis goals.
They even use tiny amounts of green and yellow wavelengths to achieve perfect growth.
Another benefit of spectrum grows lights is that they are cool so can be placed close to the plant’s canopy, unlike traditional lights which are too hot and will scald a plant’s foliage.
Types of Artificial Light for Plants | Pros and Cons
There are a variety of grow lights that you can use for your indoor plants. Each one has its pros and cons.
HID Grow Lights
HID grow lights (high-intensity discharge) are the most common type of grow lights available. They give a high-intensity discharge that is favored by many growers.
The HID light relies on an electrical gas-discharge that uses a tube filled with gas and metal salts which react to an electric current to generate light.
HID lights have replaced fluorescent grow lights and are affordable. The HID produces excellent lumens-per-watt. Within the HID category, you can choose from distinct types such as metal halide, ceramic metal halide, or high-pressure sodium.
Most will use metal halide lights during a plant’s vegetative growth stage, and HPS grow lights for flowering.
You can switch the bulbs in the HID lighting system to achieve the transition without having to invest in different housing or ballasts.
Pros of high-intensity discharge row lights:
- Produces more usable light than some other plant lights such as fluorescent tubes.
- HIB plant lights are interchangeable on all ballasts.
- The HIB light can be dimmed to better customize the lighting output.
Cons of High-Intensity Discharge Row Lights:
- Extremely hot and can easily burn the plant’s foliage plus increase the temperature in the room so that an HVAC system is needed.
- The effectiveness of the plant lights diminishes over time as the bulb ages.
- Requires additional equipment such as reflectors and ballasts.
led lights for growing plants
LED grow lights rely on light emitting diodes (LED) to create lighting. The bulb uses a semiconductor and electroluminescence to generate the rays.
Most modern LED’s also have tiny reflectors that are engineered into the light to amplify the rays. Unlike HID lights, LED grow lights do need a ballast to regulate the electrical current.
can be bought that emit wavelengths, so you can control the best configurations for your grow room and the plants you are cultivating.
Although they are initially costly, full-spectrum LED grow lights have become king for most grow operations.
Pros of LED grow lights:
- Energy efficient
- Run at cool temperatures
- Can be plugged directly into an outlet
- Superior range of color spectra
- Easy to use even for a novice grower
Cons of LED grow lights:
- May not emit strong enough light during the flowering stage of some plants.
- Reflectors might be needed.
Fluorescent Grow Lights
In the past, fluorescent grow lights were the most common grow light used. However, HID and now LED has changed that. Now fluorescent grow lights are considered dinosaurs and rarely used.
Fluorescent lights use a mercury vapor and an electrical current to generate light.
When the electric current passes through the tube and across the mercury vapor, it produces ultraviolet photons that are converted into visible light when they line the phosphorous interior of the cell.
Pros of fluorescent grow lights:
- Emit enough light to cover a large area
- Long life.
Cons of fluorescent grow lights:
- Often inferior during the vegetative and flowering stages of some high-light demand plants.
Sulfur Plasma Lights
A sulfur plasma light is a kind of light emitting plasma (LEP). They are relatively new and rely on the technology of burning gas within the bulb at a high temperature to mimic the sun’s rays.
Pros of sulfur plasma light:
- Long life span
- Mimics the sun’s rays effectively.
- Useful in a grow room with a high ceiling.
Cons of sulfur plasma light:
- Expensive and rare
- Burn at an extremely hot temperature so can damage plants
- Heats a grow room excessively so an HVAC system is needed
- Can pose a fire hazard
- Fixtures are large and bulky
Induction lighting is a form of fluorescent lighting. The bulbs work by igniting gas magnetically.
Pros of Induction lighting:
- Twice as efficient as fluorescent lighting.
- Burns cool
Cons of Induction lighting:
- Lacks the efficiency of other plant lights
- Noisy to operate
Light Emitting Ceramics (LEC) and Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH):
LEC and CMH are types of HIB lights. They are both the same type of bulb and run in much the same fashion. The LEC and CMH simply has a ceramic arc.
Pros of HIB lights:
- Produces light that is like the sun.
- Lasts twice as long as some other types of plant lights.
- Produces the full spectra of rays for all a plant’s growth needs.
Cons of HIB lights:
- Burns extremely hot
- Grows must cover their eyes and skin because of the high UV output when working around these plant lights.
- Modern technology so not widely available
- Needs a magnetic ballast that must be placed at the correct angle to operate.
What Are The Best Light For Growing Plants Indoors?
There is no ‘best light’ for growing plants indoors. Each type of plant grow light has its pros and cons. One might fit your unique situation well, but another be unsuitable.
To select the appropriate grow light for indoor plants, you must take into consideration your budget, the types of plants you will be growing, and the space allotted to create the indoor grow room.
How to Install Grow Lights
Installing grow lights is not difficult. You can complete the DIY project in one afternoon if you have the necessary tools available.
You’ll want to determine the proper distances to change the lighting based on what type of lights you opt to use.
HIB lights become extremely hot so must be placed further away from your plant’s canopy and other cooling options such as fans might be required to keep the room cooler because a small confined space can heat up quick.
LED lights are ideal for a small grow room or grow tents and can be placed close to the plant’s canopy. You should take the time to read the manufactures suggestions when determining how high to hang the lights.
When picking a location, you will also want to make sure you are within easy reach of an electrical outlet to plug in the lighting.
Another consideration is that LED lights need no reflectors or ballasts, but HIB lights do, so you will need to think about plant placement to make sure that the light effectively reaches the plant.
How to Get the Most Growth Under Grow Lights
Growing plants under grow lights is not difficult if you take into consideration the plant’s natural needs and try to replicate the outdoors.
Let us assume that you have picked out your ideal light source and installed the lighting fixtures. Now it is time to start growing your plants.
Here are just a few ways to get the most growth under using grow lights:
Avoid overheating your plants. Keep a thermometer by your plants.
If the bulbs are too close to the plants or if the room becomes too hot, then you risk burning the delicate growth. Watch the plants foliage to determine if the place is becoming too hot.
Leaves that curl are often your first sign. Installing fans or some other form of ventilation can prevent this overheating.
How Far Should Grow Lights Be From Plants
If your plants are not thriving then you might have the lights too far away. I suggest you to check this grow light distance chart to get clear idea about how high To Hang A Grow Light should be from your plants.
However, in genral place LED lights within 12 to 18 inches of the plant’s canopy, but hot HIB lights must be anywhere from three to four feet away from the plant’s foliage to prevent scalding.
You should know your distinct plant’s growth schedule to obtain greatest results.
It is not unusual for some plants grown indoors to need a full 18 to 24 hours of light to obtain maximum results but during the flowering stage only need 12 hours of light per day.
Many people overwater their indoor plants. A plant grown under an LED light does not readily dry out so needs far less water than a plant grown under hot HIB lights.
As your plants grow, you will need to adjust the height of the lights.
When germinating seeds, the temperature typically needs to be hotter in the grow room, but during the seedling phase you can lower the room’s temperature by 5 to 10 degrees, depending on the plant type being produced.
Many people suggest rotating the plants once a week to make sure they all receive the right amount of light, but this is going to depend a lot on your grow lights. You rarely need to rotate plants with full spectrum LED lighting.
Artificial Light in Plant Propagation
Many people turn to artificial lights in plant propagation. Full spectrum LED lights are ideal for plant propagation.
During the seedling stage of a plant’s life, it favors the red spectra for growth. Foliage and flowers grow best with the blue spectra.
Unlike with Mother Nature, you do not need to wait for spring to enjoy plant propagation. Instead, you can turn to artificial lights to recreate the required conditions indoors.
Indoor Garden Grow Lights FAQ
How Long Should I Leave Grow Lights On?
Most vegetables and flowering plants grow best with 12 to 16 hours of light per day. Ideally, you should give your plants at least eight hours of darkness every day.
However, many people use lights to reach critical growth in certain types of plants by leaving the lights on for 24 hours during the vegetative growth phase and then reducing the light output to 12 hours during the flowering stage.
Ideally, you should research the specific needs of whatever types of plants you are growing indoors to determine how long to leave the lights on.
How Far Should LED Grow Lights be From Plants
Placing LED lights within 12 to 18 inches of a plant’s canopy will not cause damage to the foliage. During the seedling phase, the bulbs can be as close as six to eight inches.
Can Plants Grown Under Lights Harm People?
Plants grown under lights cannot harm people. You can produce a bountiful harvest of nutritious foods using grow lights.
Grow lights have revolutionized plant cultivation. Whether you have a large 5×5 grow tent or a small grow box, you can now grow crops year-round in your own home using artificial lights.
In many cases, plants grow far better in an indoor grow tent with artificial lighting than outdoors at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she studied at the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. She continued her gardening education by working on organic farms in both rural and urban settings. She started UrbanOrganicYield.com to share gardening tips and tactics. She’s happy to talk about succulents and houseplants or vegetables and herbs – or just about anything in a backyard garden or hydroponics garden.