Using seed starting lights during the winter can make sure your seedlings get enough light they need to grow as strong and healthy. Find out how to choose the best grow lights for seedlings!
Was your recent attempt to grow seedlings did not go as you hoped?
If you experienced having leggy and weak sprouts after germinating your seeds, then the problem is most likely the light they received right after the moment they surfaced.
Now, you might be wondering do you really need a grow light to start seeds indoors?
A direct and simple answer is, seedlings need more light than full-grown plants, It’s ideal for seedlings to get as much as 14 to 16 hours or at least 8 hours of exposure to light in a day and that is actually more than a whole day of sunlight.
This is why simply putting your seedlings beside a south-facing window to get enough light will still not be enough when it comes to getting an output that you desire.
If you’re wondering how to healthy seedlings indoors and to make sure that they get enough time under the light, then it’s best to use grow lights with a timer while growing them indoors.
My goal with this post is to answer the questions of “when do I put my seedlings under a grow light?”, “how much light should seedlings get” and “how to choose the best grow lights for seedlings?” as simply as possible.
Now that you know what to consider when starting seeds indoors under lights, here we’ll tell you the best grow lights you can get in the market. We listed five of them that you may be interested in.
Our Pick As The Best Grow Light To Use On Seedlings: The DL844s Ho Fluorescent Hydroponic Fixture
We made this our best seedling light pick because of its high light output. This is even considered one of the best T5 light fixtures you can get in the market. Compared to other brands, this can let your bulbs produce about 30-35% more light intensity.
The 6 Best Grow Lights For Seedlings To Buy In 2021
- ACKE Full 12W Full Spectrum LED Grow Light
- Growstar 45W Full Spectrum LED Grow light for indoor plants seeding
- T5 Grow Light DL844s Ho Fluorescent Fixture
- IPower 1000 Watt HPS MH Grow Light System Kit
- JCBritw 100W Hanging LED Grow Light Kit for Seedlings
- Lithonia Lighting 1242ZG RE 172J2C 4′ All Season Shop Light
1. ACKE Full 12W Full Spectrum LED Grow Light
Facts And Figures
- Coverage Area: 1x1ft to 2x4ft at 24″ Height
- Spectrum Range: Full spectrum Red 630nm and 660nm, Blue: 460nm and White light 2700K.
- Lifespan: 50000h
- Input voltage: AC110V
- Average power draw: 12 to 20 watt
- Frequency: 60Hz
- Warranty: 1 Year
- Lighting Time: 16 hours per day
- Hanging Height: 24 to 30″
On the top of our list is the ACKE LED Grow Lights that is also a full-spectrum setup. It is very ideal to use on seedlings. It has low heat output with the power of 40W.
Even if it’s full-spectrum, it doesn’t come with UV or infrared. It can also be used during the whole cycle of your plants.
Since it has a low heat output, the chances of your seedlings burning out are pretty low as long as you keep an acceptable distance of this from your plants.
Another great feature is that it is waterproof. The brackets of this setup are easily adjustable, but it is still substantial.
Installation is very easy. After plugging it, you just simply turn it on and off. It saves you from any complicated installation and assembly.
Each panel is 3.9″ x 10.2″ big, so it’s only ideal if you’re growing a few seeds in a not so large container.
Most growers who buy this are the ones with grow cabinets or small grow tents. It’s compact, so if you plan on moving your grow space, it’s a breeze to have this moved too.
Now even if each panel isn’t that big, this can still be for indoor growers with bigger grow spaces as each panel can be assembled together to cover a bigger space.
What’s nice is that if you get multiple panels, it already comes with the screws or other tools you’ll need to have it assembled.
It comes with 192 LEDs (128 reds, 32 blues, and 32 warm lights). This composition will work very well with seedlings.
It is advisable to have this hung at least 15 inches away from your crops to avoid burning and light stress. This isn’t really bad as other LED grow lights setup need to be at least 30 inches away from your plants.
It claims to last up to 50,000 hours and this being waterproof can possibly let you take advantage of its longevity.
According to one its users, the only downside that this setup has is that it won’t allow you to run a timer to be attached to the setup.
This means that you can still use a timer, but you’ll have to turn your lights on and off manually.
2. Growstar 45W Full Spectrum LED Grow Light For All Indoor Plants Seeding
Facts And Figures
- Coverage Area: 1x1ft to 2x2ft at 24″ Height
- Spectrum Range: Full spectrum
- Lifespan: 50000h
- Input voltage: AC85-265V
- Average power draw: 35watt
- Frequency: 50-60Hz
- Warranty: 1 Year
- Lighting Time: 12~18h, day/night
- Hanging Height: 36~40″
This is another full-spectrum grow lights set up that comes with 220 pieces of LEDs. If you want something that is also space-efficient, then consider getting this.
It has an ultra-thin design (0.4 inches) that is comparable to the thickness of an iPad.
This is also made of aluminum for better heat dissipation. It’s not water-proof like some of the grow light setups you can make so always be careful when watering your plants.
Also, avoid touching the surface with your hands when the grow lights are on.
This setup includes UV, IR, and white light of 6000-6500K, so it’s great to use for the whole cycle of your plants.
If you want something that you can use and do not need to change from germination to the flowering stage, then this could be something that’s for you.
Some buyers claim not to like what they purchased because they said the light easily goes out.
This is why it’s important to make sure that no water would get on the board so you could maximize its capability to last for up to 50,000 hours.
I suggest you not to put this setup too close to your seedlings to avoid burning them up. As much as possible, its distance should be at least 36 to 40 inches from your plants.
3. T5 Grow Light DL844s Ho Fluorescent Hydroponic Fixture
Facts And Figures
- Coverage Area: 7.5″x 12.5″ x 4″
- Spectrum Range: Full spectrum
- Lifespan: 50000h
- Input voltage: 120V
- Average power draw: 230W
- Warranty: 5 Year
- Lighting Time: 18 hours a day
- Hanging Height: 3~4″
Seedlings require intense light and this setup will give them exactly what they need. This fixture already comes with accessories and four bulbs.
This is tubular and can fit T5s that are four feet long and it could use about 100-200 watts for power.
What’s even better is that this fixture comes with two switches which will allow you to control the intensity of your lighting.
The first switch will let you turn the two inner bulbs on and off and the other switch controls the two outer bulbs.
If you have a large growing area, this is also something ideal as the daisy chain it comes with enables you to attach or connect more than one of these fixtures.
This also isn’t too heavy, but some users would claim that it could be quite difficult to assemble two or more of this product.
4. IPower 1000 Watt HPS MH Digital Dimmable Grow Light System Kit
Facts And Figures
- Coverage Area: Up to 5′ x 5′
- Spectrum Range: Blue & violet
- Lifespan: 24,000h
- Input voltage: 120V/240V
- Average power draw: 1000watt
- Frequency: 50-60Hz
- Warranty: 2 Year
- Lighting Time: 8~12h, day/night
- Hanging Height: 16~32″
This grow light system kit from iPower is customizable. The lights used here are dimmable and can be set to 50%, 75%, and 100%.
It promises flicker-free lighting. This works with two HDIs, an MH bulb which is 1000W and 6000K, and HIS bulb that’s also 1000W and 2100K.
This already comes with a plug-in mechanical timer, and you can have this installed using the 8-ft adjustable Ratchet Clip Hanger Rope it comes with.
It is textured with German aluminum that helps maximizes its light reflection to plants.
You can have this set up according to your preference and plants’ needs. You can get this with an air-cooled reflector, cooled tube reflector, or wing reflector. You can get all of these three, but the order will only come with one reflector.
To help you know which reflector you should get if you will buy this kit, here is a guide that you may use:
|Air-Cooled Reflector||Cooled Tube Reflector||Wing Reflector|
|This is the most efficient type of reflector and is ideal to use in grow tents. It helps lessen the heat produced by the bulbs, but this is the most expensive of the three.||This is the most efficient type of reflector and is ideal to use in grow tents. It helps lessen the heat produced by the bulbs, but this is the most expensive of the three.||This is the most efficient type of reflector and is ideal to use in grow tents. It helps lessen the heat produced by the bulbs, but this is the most expensive of the three.|
Both bulbs that come with this kit can last up to 24,000 hours. This is compatible with both electronic and magnetic ballasts.
What’s also great is that it is CE certified and UL-listed. The manufacturer would like to remind buyers not to use this in places without ventilation as it could generate much heat and can cause a fire.
5. JCBritw 100W Hanging LED Grow Light Kit For Seedlings
Facts And Figures
- Coverage Area: 6x52inch to 42x72inch
- Spectrum Range: full spectrum
- Lifespan: 50000 hours
- Input voltage: 100-240V
- Average power draw: 36W
- Frequency: 50-60Hz
- Warranty: 1 Year
- Lighting Time: 8-16hrs On per day, at least 8 hrs darkness per day
- Hanging Height: 12~32″
This seedling grow light will allow you to get either a full spectrum setup or just the red and blue spectrum.
It comes with 112 LED beads (80 reds and 32 blues) and can only consume up to 36 watts with 3000W HPS/MH capability. It’s made up of complete aluminum, so it can quickly dissipate heat.
It can cover a growing area of 16x52inches to 42x72inches. It is advisable to have this hung about 12 to 30 inches away from your plants to avoid light stress.
This doesn’t come with a timer yet so you may want to consider purchasing one if you’re getting this.
It is certified by CE, FCC, and ROHS but the manufacturer has the warning to wear UV glasses as the light it emits is too strong for the eyes to handle.
Thus, you should avoid staring at its lights directly to avoid any injury.>
Some customers would claim that even half of the lights are not working, it still works well for their plants. Some users noticed an oil-like substance building up on the board whenever it heats up.
One downside of getting this is that it has the tendency to overheat. If in case it does, it’s not advisable to continue using this to avoid any danger.
6. Lithonia Lighting 1242ZG RE 172J2C 4′ All Season Shop Light
This is a 48-inch long T8 fixture that can hold a pair of 32W fluorescent or LED bulbs. This is tubular and made of acrylic. It works well with cool light bulbs. It comes with a 5-inch power cord and won’t require you to fix any wirings.
You can have this hung with screws and chains. To power it up, you just simply need to pull its chain. Aside from growing plants, a lot would actually get this as a light fixture in the garage.
With that said, this is great for setups that are in the garage.
The only downside of purchasing this is that the bulbs are not yet included, so you’ll have to purchase two bulbs separately. This is sturdy, and longevity of use will really depend on the bulbs that you will get.
Why You Should Use Grow Lights For Seedlings
An excellent way to make sure that your seedlings would grow healthy is to use grow lights instead of relying on natural lights alone.
If you want to ensure rapid, healthy growth of your seedlings after germination then using grow lights can make all the difference.
If you’re trying to grow multiple seedlings, it will also help you make sure that all your seedlings are equally exposed to light.
During winter, it’s going to be hard to speed things up when it comes to germinating your seedlings as the days are usually shorter.
Aside from that, there won’t be much sunlight, so getting grow lights are the best thing to do about this. Some plants or seedlings will require a lot of time under the light to thrive.
Some of these plants are the Yucca plant, Pony Tail Palm Tree, Ficus Benjamina, and White Bird of Paradise.
These are high light plants, and they may need about 14-16 hours of light exposure. This is when grow lights would come in handy.
When Should You Put Your Seedlings Under The Light?
A very straight-forward answer would be: immediately!
In this case, you’ll be using grow lights and you need to make sure that this is on the moment the seeds start to sprout.
As soon as the first sprouts emerge from the soil, it will immediately grow towards the light and to avoid any setbacks, it is best that your grow lights are on the moment this happens.
What Color Light Is Best For Seedlings?
Based on research, plants do not really make use of all the spectrum that sunlight gives. When we think of lights, especially the sunlight, we think of the color white or a bit of yellow.
However, that’s considered as the visible light, which we can only see through specific wavelengths and frequencies.
The light is composed of different colors or spectrums, and it behaves like waves. This is why the light is identified by wavelengths and frequencies.
The different colors of the lights are interpreted by our eyes based on its frequencies and wavelengths. We have the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Thus, we have the colors of the rainbow.
The white light we see is basically the combination of all lights in the spectrum. If you have a prism, like let’s say, a diamond, and let the light pass through it, then it’s when you can see the rainbow colors pop out.
The light spectrums red and blue are what grow lights should have to make your plants grow healthy. Your grow lights should have a warm and cool spectrum.
However, research shows that it really isn’t required to have grow lights that only have two spectrums.
There’s really no difference if you’ll use full-spectrum lights or not. What could really be different is how energy efficient they are. It’s as simple as the more spectrums there is, the higher energy consumption is required for the grow lights.
Types Of Grow Lights For Stronger Seedlings
As mentioned, your setup can depend on the type of grow light or lights that you have.
Before we proceed with the kinds of grow lights you can get for your seedlings, you need to know that when it comes to grow lights, the spectrum is an important factor to consider.
Here are the different types of grow lights you may choose from
Full-Spectrum Fluorescent Grow Lights
This can be used on seedlings and plants. This type of fluorescent bulb is made to imitate the spectrum of natural light.
It is not as efficient as other types of fluorescent bulbs as it has the tendency to produce much heat, but because full spectrum grow light has cool and warm tones, this is something that could be very effective when growing plants.
HID (High-Intensity Discharge) Grow Lights
There are two types of HIDs, but before we discuss those, HID lights are considered as the brightest grow lights.
This type of light works with gases that are in glass or ceramic tubes. It’s more efficient than fluorescent bulbs and can emit up to 800 watts of light.
This is the first type of HID grow lights. When it comes to the spectrum it emits, it has more of the blue spectrum, and this helps speed up the growth of your seedlings and plants.
HPS (High-Pressure Sodium) Grow Lights
This is another type of HID. This does pretty much the same to your seedlings but take note that this has more of the red spectrum, so it’s something you may also use during the flowering stage. However, this really isn’t advisable to use on seedlings alone.
LED Grow Lights For Seedlings
Using LED grow lights enables you to make use of a wide range of spectrum. LED grow lights look purple as it is rich in the spectrums red and blue.
A lot of growers find this very efficient as this lasts long, about 5x longer than fluorescent bulbs. This is also energy-efficient and won’t shatter when dropped.
T5 Grow Lights For Seedlings
This is another type of fluorescent light that is efficient when it comes to its capability to help your plants and seedlings grow.
It is also a good choice if you are someone who’s mostly worried about the electricity bill when working with grow lights.
Why T5 Is The Best Grow Light For Seedlings?
T5s is most likely the best choice when it comes to growing seedlings because it gives a high light output that most kinds of seedlings actually need.
This type of grow light can also give you a full-spectrum, which means that you can use this during the cycle of your plant’s growth.
This is also considered to give the closes to natural light output amongst all the grow lights you could get.
One more thing that T5s could do is to make your seedlings grow faster without sacrificing their health and sturdiness.
T5s can help you grow healthy seedlings and if you decide to grow your plants outside, the use of this will make the transition easier for your plants.
Seedling Grow Light Which Kind To Choose?
Whether you use HIDs, fluorescent bulbs, or LED grow lights, it’s safe to assume that your seedlings will germinate with proper care.
There are different studies that are already done about this matter. The results are mixed, truth be told.
Some would claim that LED lights are better for germination, but there are also studies that showed how all types of grow lights have the same effect on seedlings.
How To Choose The Best Grow Lights For Stronger Seedlings
Those are the grow light setups that made our list. However, if you still would like to consider other products, we’re still here to help you decide.
Here are other factors that you should consider when purchasing grow lights for your seedlings.
- Price – You need to determine whether the price is just right with the quality and power of the grow lights you’ll be purchasing. Definitely, affordability is one of the most important things to consider when purchasing almost anything.
- Light Spectrum – While this really doesn’t matter during the germination process, it’s still best to get a setup that could work with you until at least the vegetating process. It’s even better if the setup will be good until the flowering stage.
- Size – Do not get a setup that is way bigger than your grow space if you want easier control when it comes to the light intensity. Always keep in mind that even if a setup is not as big as your grow space, you can still check whether purchasing multiple of those will help with your growing mission.
- Type of Grow Light – Now that you already know the different grow lights you can get, always make sure that what you get doesn’t only suit the needs of your plants. It should also suit the place where you’ll be setting up the grow lights. Avoid using HIDs in areas that are not well ventilated to avoid burning.
Grow Light Set Ups For Starting Vegetable Seeds Indoors
You’ve got to keep two goals in mind: the amount of light you’re giving seedlings, and the coverage of light that you’re giving seedlings.
Setting up your grow lights isn’t rocket science, but it may require a few electrician skills to be successful with this. Your setup will also depend on the type of grow room you’ll have.
Anyway, what will really matter here is the type of grow lights you have, and the distance of your grow lights from your seedlings.
While you can have this easy and just purchase grow lights that are ready to use and hang on top of your seedlings, it would still be a nice project to create your own grow lights set up. This way, you can have it customized as much as you’d like to.
There are different ways that your grow lights could be set up, but the most common and easier ones to use would grow lights supported by hanging chains, and the ones that have side support that can be adjusted.
You need to find a spot for your seedlings to grow. It’s really up to you, but keep in mind that it’s no longer necessary to have your grow area placed near a window as the grow lights will already provide sufficient lighting.
It’s best to place your grow space or area in a room where you can easily monitor the temperature. This will help you know whether your grow space is in the right temperature to germinate.
How Long To Leave Grow Light On Seedlings?
Now, the question is how long should your grow lights be on during the germination process? This is a common question so don’t worry as we will have that covered!
We’ve already established how important it is for seedlings to be exposed to lights, but this doesn’t mean that you need to expose them to lights 24/7!
Leaving your seedlings exposed to light for too long will disrupt their growth. Some seedlings won’t even germinate if this is the case.
What you really need to know is that most vegetable seeds need at least 6-8 hours of light exposure, like tomatoes. There are also seedlings that may require 16 hours of light exposure and another 16 hours of darkness. It really depends.
The bottom line is that your seedlings should have at least 6 hours of dark time to make sure that they process the energy they got from the light exposure. This gives them the time to rest after a whole day of trying to grow under the lights.
To help you manage the timing of light exposure and dark time, it’s best to use a light timer for your grow lights set up.
This way, you wouldn’t have to worry and keep track of when your grow lights should be on and off.
How Far Should Grow Light Be From Seedlings?
The general rule to follow on how far your grow light should be from your seedlings is that the grow light should never touch the bulbs.
With this said, it’s best to put at least 2 to 3 inches of distance in between your plants and grow lights. If you started out with covered trays to house your seedlings, then it’s normal for your bulbs to touch the lid.
Eventually, you’ll need to adjust the distance once the lid comes off. This is why it’s easier if you have an adjustable grow light setup.
You have to adjust the distance when needed to avoid burning and stressing your seedlings.
There are also grow lights that are ready to use that already comes with instructions when it comes to the hanging height.
You can simply just check it on the label, or if it doesn’t include anything, then you can always call their customer service.
Don’t think that having healthy seedlings would be hard to achieve. You just really need to plan and strategize well when it comes to starting seeds indoors under lights.
A lot of indoor growers would say that growing seedlings indoors is a must. It’s a very crucial part of the growing process, and growing seedlings indoors enables you to control the environment to ensure a great outcome.
We hope to have answered your questions about growing healthy seedlings with the use of grow lights.
Don’t forget that lighting is an important component when growing anything indoors. We hope you have fun and feel satisfied with your next indoor grow!
Based in Florida, Kimberly Sharpe has been a full-time web writer since 2006. She writes for numerous online sites and publications. She has published in USA Today and eBay. She has extensive experience in indoor gardening especially hydroponics and aquaponics. This includes equipment such as grow boxes, grow cabinets, grow lighting, and other hydroponic gardening topics.