Takeaway: Can you use any led lights to grow plants indoor? know what kind of light bulb you need to use in your indoor grow space that will maximize your yield.
Gone are the days of positioning your plants by the window to receive sunlight. With the introduction of LED lights that can mimic sunlight, indoor gardening, especially growing cannabis, became easier.
Yet, some growers wonder what kind of light they should use. This is because regular LED lights are relatively cheaper compared to LED grow lights.
Here’s the catch— can you use regular led lights for grow lights, but sometimes this could be at the expense of efficiency or the health of your indoor plants.
The important thing to keep in mind is that LED lights provide light to plants, the same way the sun gives sunrays.
So, can you really can you use any led lights to grow plants? Yes, and sometimes no.
In this succinct post, we’ve analyzed what makes regular LED lights effective grow lights for your indoor grow space.
We’ll also dive into considerations and aspects involved in using regular LED lights and specialized grow lights.
If your normal LED light cannot feed plants or trigger a metabolic reaction, it’s time to explore the colors of LED lights.
What are LED grow Lights: Importance and Benefits
Light Emitting Diodes (LED) are small, yet efficient bulbs used to customize the light spectrum. These are typically used in a panel to emanate more than one wavelength at a time. Hence, LEDs are useful for all growth stages.
Basically, LEDs are monochromatic sources of lights. Yet, they are the only sources of light that are designed to provide the right spectrum for the growth of your plants.
Not only do LED lights save space, they also save power because they can give off a great deal of light without drawing much power. Hence, you save money in the long run.
Too much heat could be risky because the leaves may get burned. Fortunately, LED lights do not generate much heat. Some models even come with a self-cooling feature.
Moreover, LED lights are low heat artificial source of light. The LED technology is customizable, meaning every bulb is different.
This is where you can secure different color wavelengths most utilized by plants.
In some cases, LED lights can help plnats grow healthier and faster, way better than under natural sunlight.
grow light vs regular light
Specifically Designed Led Grow Lights
- Contains specific light spectrum wavelengths.
- Supports all stages of growth, especially photosynthesis.
- Uses low energy, but produces great power.
- More expensive than normal lights.
- Can be damaging to the human eye.
Regular Led Light bulbs
- Inexpensive, permitting you to buy tons of bulbs.
- Long-lasting, like actual LED grow lights.
- Energy efficient only when used sparingly.
- Contains narrow spectral wavelengths.
- Releases high amounts of heat.
A good indicator of knowing whether your regular LED lights can serve as grow lights is by observing your plant’s physical growth.
If your plants aren’t receiving a sufficient amount of regular sunlight, they will grow tall and the leaves will be lighter in color.
Once this happens, it’s time to take action and get some additional light.
LED grow Light Spectrum Requirements
LED lights play a crucial role in a indoor grow space. Since there’s no direct sunlight, your plants will need a different source of light energy to grow.
A plant’s life cycle includes a vital process called photosynthesis, which makes it possible to get the required amount of sugars by processing light energy absorbed by the leaf.
However, weed plants have different nature and requirements. A typical LED light includes a few bands and colors like yellow and white, but most plant requires light as close to natural sunlight as possible.
The sunlight is composed of various light wavelengths and a range of colors.
If you are lucky, you can even score a single LED light that can manipulate the sunlight spectrum in an LED panel to create real light effects.
Here’s an easy to understand visual representation of light bands. You’ll also see the importance of each group in the life cycle of plant.
Why Is LED Grow Light Purple?
As you can see from the table, red and blue lights are two of the most useful groups. Different color LED chips are placed inside the light, thereby giving various kinds of response from a weed plant.
For example, you can increase the amount of green, yellow, and orange chips if you want plants to grow tall. On the other hand, blue or UV-colored chips help plants become compact.
But when you turn them on, you’ll notice that it seems the whole LED panel is color purple, especially in the dark.
During the vegetation phase, your cannabis plants need light composed of the blue spectrum. This is because the spectrum creates a purple effect in a grow space by delivering a dominant blue spectrum to the plants.
Meanwhile, the red-colored spectrum is crucial for the flowering phase of your cannabis plants.
From what I’ve experienced, it’s best to use light with the majority of the blue spectrum to help plants produce resinous and heavyweight flowers at the time of harvest.
What are the Crucial Light Colors?
As I’ve explained earlier, regular LED lights use yellow and white chips. While those colors provide the corresponding usage to the growth of plant, there are other colors that can do better.
Blue and red are 2 main lights colors recommended for cultivating in a grow space.
The great amount of red and blue lights gives off a shade of purple. When you see this, you’ll determine your LED light is providing the necessary wavelengths.
Red is the key component for photosynthesis and stem elongation inhibition.
It also signals that there are no other plants above it or competition in light absorption, giving your plants an uninhibited development.
Meanwhile, the blue wavelength works on the budding, flowering, and expansion of leaves. Thus, it drives the stomatal opening and stem elongation inhibition.
Additionally, it is responsible for leaf curvature towards the light, leaf expansion, and photoperiodic flowering.
Now, what if you have a LED light with blue and red chips?
That’s the best part.
blue lights + red lights = encourage Plant to reach the vegetative stage.
Furthermore, red and blue LED chips are good for photosynthesis, which helps your plants thrive. LED lights are also the cheapest to obtain.
So, what kind of lightbulb do i need to grow plants indoors?
The sun’s colorless rays can be bit a challenging to completely match because it comes from a balance of wavelengths.
Yes, regular LED lights can mimic this in a sense, but it may still depend on its features.
However, they aren’t as efficient as the actual LED grow lights. This is because regular LED lights use more power to provide the same output.
Yet, there are still 3 main sources of artificial light you can choose from: CFL, HID, and LED.
For small first-time growers, I advise using fluorescent bulbs because they last longer by using less power. Fluorescent lights are the most economical. Hence, this is the best option next to using an actual LED grow light.
Moreover, you can pick between the 2 types of CFL:
- 2000K/2700K = warm color, which is best for flowering and blooming.
- 5500K/6500K = cool color, which is ideal for all growth stages, especially vegetative stage.
But that isn’t the perfect set-up for other cannabis growers. White light LED bulbs will work to grow plants, but power could be compromised.
can you use regular led lights for grow lights?
Normal LED lights aren’t powerful enough to flower a growing space, unless you buy lots of regular LED lights.
Some indoor growers use CFL. Yes, CFLs are traditionally helpful since they only need to be placed about 6 to 7 inches away from your plants. However, CFLs aren’t installed with cooling systems, unlike LEDs.
Meanwhile, indoor growers prefer HID lights because they are cheap, but less powerful than LED lights.
Likewise, more HID lights means more heat. Should you want to experiment using HID lights, we suggest using this chart:
So, if you want to ensure measured spectra and wavelength that are crucial for optimal plant growth, specialized horticultural LED grow lights are recommendable.
Even without a full spectrum, LED grow lights are designed with the right wavelength for the growth and yield of your plants in your grow space.
Likewise, LED grow lights are specifically designed to produce wavelengths needed by plants in the ideal ratios. They are built to aid the different stages of plant growth. On the other hand, regular LED lights are manufactured for everyday use, especially for human needs. Although a regular LED light bulb produces spectral wavelengths necessary for a plant’s overall health, it is not concentrated enough to give what is beneficial for proper care.
For long-time growers, it’s known that you are better off purchasing LED grow lights, as opposed to regular LED lights.
How to Maximize the Capability of Your LED Grow Lights?
Don’t worry if you still want to use normal LED lights. While there are lights especially designed for growing plants indoor, we must not belittle the power of regular LED lights.
Instead, we can boost its power to attain maximum yield.
For instance, a standing lamp with three bulbs with a goose-neck feature works well for a small garden with a few plants.
Remember to use fluorescent bulbs with the highest wattage you can find.
Usually, a 200W LED light equates to a yield of 100 grams. You can use either 2 125W LEDs or a unit that produces 250W to dramatically increase your cannabis yield.
Furthermore, you must consider the size of your grow space. It’s advisable to use 50 watts per square foot.
To give you an idea:
- 2.5x2.5 feet growing space = 400W LED grow light
- 3x3 feet growing space = 600W LED grow light
- 4x4 feet growing space = 900W LED grow light
- 5x5 feet growing space = 1600W LED grow light
Place your fluorescent bulbs closer to the plants, but not too close to avoid heat damage.
To test this, use your hand to cover the bulb for 1 minute. If you feel a strong heat, it’s possible that the light can burn leaves.
There is no general rule for the distance, but we recommend placing LED lights 12 to 18 inches away from plants to avoid light burn.
In addition, you can place a reflective surface, like a foil or mirror, underneath the plants. As a result, the light can reflect back up towards the foliage.
Similarly, temperature control plays an important role. If you’re using grow lights, make sure to maintain the grow area temperature between 72 degrees Fahrenheit or 82 degrees Fahrenheit, with a relative humidity of around 30% to 40%.
Lastly, set a time to run the lights for up a minimum of 12 hours and a maximum of 18 hours per day.
Plants requires about 12 hours of light during the flowering stage and 18 hours of light during the vegetative state.
However there are lot's on others factors you should keep in your mind to determine ideal grow light run time. To help you in this, here I write a detailed guide on how long you should keep grow lights on plants.
All LED lights could be used as grow lights for your indoor grow setup, but only suboptimal because yellow and white lights aren’t the best in ensuring robust growth and maximum yield.
However, not all light sources contain a full spectrum of colors. What you need is a full spectrum grow light that can mimic the sun’s natural rays.
Always be mindful about the color and placement of your lights. Also, the brighter the lights are, regardless of the wattage, the better.
Remember, a blue wavelength light is beneficial for foliage growth. Meanwhile, a red chip is important for flowering and fruiting.
Nowadays, there are brands that produce a single LED panel that have better light coverage capabilities, ensuring your plants gets the necessary color bands to grow.
As general advice, do not succumb to the temptation of using cheap and inefficient lights. Use regular LED lights or LED grow lights that have the full potential to grow plants.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.