Are you planning to grow vegetables at home? Building a hydroponic or organic garden indoors is a great way to grow fresh vegetables to feed your family this year.
Learn how to use grow lights for houseplants to help them thrive indoors year-round. My guide has everything you need to know to get started, including the different types of lights and the best ones, the different types of indoor grow lights, and how you should set up grow lamps for indoor plants.
Growing indoors means you don’t have to worry about changing weather conditions. Not to mention, the chances of pests and diseases attacking your plants are much lower than in an outdoor garden.
However, growing indoors means you need to use technology to simulate the growing environment. The most challenging part of growing indoors is finding the right grow lights for your garden. There are many benefits and uses for grow lights for houseplants.
- From seedling planting to harvesting without any sunlight
- Start seedlings early before transplanting to the garden in early spring
- Breeding and flowering with specialized lighting systems
- Complete seasonal outdoor plants with low light
- Propagating your plants and your root cuttings
- Indoor Plants Year-Round
These are a few examples of the benefits of using grow lights and an indoor growing system for your vegetables this year. So, what are the best grow lights for houseplants for you?
This article will investigate everything you need to know about choosing the best light for indoor plants.
How to use grow lights for houseplants: What are grow lights?
Before you choose grow lights for your indoor garden, we need to understand some concepts about how light affects plants and growth. Knowing these basic concepts will give you everything you need to choose the right lighting system.
All visible and invisible light waves fall somewhere on the spectrum. Science measures these wavelengths in nanometers, which correspond to specific wavelengths on the spectrum.
The light we are interested in for indoor growing falls on the 400nm to 700nm spectrum. Light waves of this intensity are also known as photosynthetically active radiation (PAR). PAR refers to the specific wavelengths that plants use for the photosynthetic process to stimulate growth.
Within this PAR bandwidth, the wavelengths that plants use for specific biological functions.
400nm to 490nm – This wavelength produces blue light that plants use as they grow.
580nm to 700nm – This “orange-red” wavelength mimics late summer and early fall sunlight, signaling plants to start bearing fruit.
For those math geniuses, you might be wondering why we skipped light waves in the 490nm to 580nm range. The chloroplast in plant cells reflects these wavelengths of light because it is mostly green in the 510nm to 570nm range.
Now you understand PAR and the type of light needed to promote plant growth and flowering. The next step is to understand how much light we need to use to grow healthy plants and improve yields.
The amount of light produced by a light source reaching a plant is referred to as its “intensity”. The type of light plays an important role in the intensity of the light waves. The positioning of the lights also plays a crucial role. The closer you are to the canopy and the shorter the distance to the light, the more intense the light waves.
Therefore, the correct positioning of the grow lights is crucial. Getting too close to the canopy can cause crops to burn. Light too far away from the canopy means the plant doesn’t get the light it needs for optimal photosynthesis.
Each grow light has a specific design to cover a growing area. Attempting to grow outside this light footprint yields lackluster results. The wattage of the bulb and the working height are the two most important factors to consider when deciding on the right light footprint for your garden.
For example, a 1,000-watt globe operates 3 to 6 feet above the tree canopy, and it is suitable for growing footprints up to 3 square feet. When setting up your grow lights, we recommend that you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the distance from the bulb to the canopy.
You can adjust these settings with a small test during the first harvest. You may need the entire growing season to find the right setting for your garden. Finding the right location to provide the best heat, strength and footprint takes some time and testing.
The photoperiod of light refers to how much light you give your plants in a 24-hour period. If you are growing outdoors, your photoperiod will be limited due to sunlight. In midsummer, you can get up to 12 hours of sunlight per day, while in winter the daylight may be shortened to 6 hours.
When growing plants indoors, you can change the photoperiod to any length you want. If desired, you can run a 24-hour light cycle and maintain consistent lighting.
When some plants begin to experience a shortening of the photoperiod window, they experience changes. This shortening of the photoperiod simulates the days of the harvest season when plants begin to bloom.
What are the different types of grow lights?
Now that you know the basics of indoor lighting, it’s time to discuss the types of grow lights available. This topic confuses many newbies to indoor gardening. Knowing the difference between lamps can help you choose the one that suits your needs.
Fluorescent bulbs are a popular choice for beginner gardens. The blue-white spectrum of light is great for starting seedlings and planting them. Best of all, these fluorescent lamps are cheap to run and require hardly any electricity.
CFL bulbs are a great choice for botanical gardens, and the spectrum won’t burn your plants. You can place the bulb within a few inches of the top of the canopy and the tips of the seedlings won’t burn.
CFL bulbs don’t give off much heat and won’t cause burns if a plant’s leaves touch the light. Commercial farmers and amateur farmers alike use fluorescent lights to start plants before they enter the flowering stage.
Some plants, such as leafy greens like spinach and kale, will do well in these lights, and they don’t require any transition to another light source for additional growth. T5 bulbs are the most popular type of CFL bulbs.
You will need several of these lights on a growing area, and we recommend packing as many as possible.
2.Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
LED grow lights are the new gold standard for indoor growing. These lamps are the next evolution of high pressure sodium and metal halide spheres. However, compared to HPS and MH balls, LEDs are only a fraction of their operating costs. LEDs generate less heat and consume less power.
The early stages of LED technology were skeptical and many growers were hesitant to use them due to the unproven nature of the technology. However, LED technology has advanced significantly over the past 10 years, and today’s LED lighting systems are as efficient as HPS or MH without the massive energy bill.
Some LED models also feature dual spectral output. You can start your plants on the plant spectrum and with the flick of a switch, they will bloom. These lights are usually more expensive, but dual operation will come in handy.
3.Metal Halide (MH)
MH lighting is a favorite choice for indoor gardeners at the stage of plant growth. This light produces an ever-growing spectrum, providing sufficient energy and intensity to enhance the growing season.
However, these lamps consume a lot of power, making them less cost-effective than CFL options. MH production requires blue light plants to grow and they are suitable for power up to 2,000-W
4.High Pressure Sodium (HPS)
HPS bulbs produce light in the red range from 600nm to 700nm. This spectrum simulates the days when summer and spring taper off, with daytime hours starting to get smaller. If you are growing vegetables that rely on changes in the photoperiod to bloom, turning on your HPS bulbs after the vegetation cycle will induce flowering.
These lights emit a lot of heat and you will need an external ballast that you can set outside the growing area to reduce the temperature. HPS is a strong light with a power range from 400 watts to 2,000 watts.
These bulbs are notoriously expensive to run. In recent years, many growers have decided to ditch their HPS systems in favor of LEDs.
5.Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH)
These globes offer indoor growers the best HPS available, while the MH fits into one platform. These lamps have a balanced spectral output, offering a mix of red, orange and blue light. So you can grow year-round with one bulb without switching to a different spectrum.
Plasma bulbs are a new development in LEDs. These systems are attracting growers due to the efficiency claims surrounding the power consumption of these models. They offer the same one-size-fits-all growing spectrum, but they are significantly more expensive to purchase than most LED systems.
What Color Grow Lights Do Indoor Plants Grow Best?
So now that we’ve covered the different types of light bulbs, let’s talk about the different colors of light they emit. You may have noticed that some grow lights are purple, while others look like regular indoor lights.
Cool 400nm–500nm: Violet, blue, and green are all cool colors. Violet light is generally only useful in combination with red and blue. It can be used to make the color, taste and smell of plants more prominent.
Blue light is extremely important for plant growth; it is absorbed by chlorophyll, an important component of photosynthesis. Green light is not as useful for plants because they reflect most of the green light (which is why plants are green). However, your plants should still get some green lights for normal growth.
Warm 580nm-700nm: The warm end of the spectrum is red, orange and yellow. Red light is essential for plant growth, especially when combined with blue light. Red light helps grow stronger plants, more vegetation, and even helps with flowering.
Far-red light also signals germination and regulates flowering. Orange and yellow are not as useful, but they are still important for overall growth.
The Best of Both Worlds: The Full Spectrum
Full spectrum led grow light bulbs are the closest to true sunlight and will help your plants grow their best. Natural sunlight emits all spectrums of light, even ultraviolet and infrared, which are invisible to the naked eye.
You might be wondering, if blue and red light are the most important wavelengths for plant growth, why should I worry about other wavelengths? By giving the plant only red and blue light, you are weakening your plant and possibly hindering its growth.
There’s a reason that full-spectrum sunlight is necessary for plant growth, so grow lights should mimic sunlight in intensity and wavelength. Therefore, it is best to choose a full-spectrum grow light to help replicate it as closely as possible.
How do you maintain your grow lights?
There are some basic principles you can follow to maintain your lights. In most cases, ballasts will only require a small amount of cleaning, and you may need to turn on the ballast once a year to blow out dust.
Beware of bulb light degradation: Over time, all grow bulbs will begin to lose efficiency and power. Degraded bulbs do not produce the necessary amount of light to create optimal crop results. Therefore, you need to replace the bulbs at least once a season to prevent degradation.
However, different types of bulbs offer different lifespans, depending on type, wattage, manufacturer and use in the garden.
When do I change the bulb?
Sooner or later you will have to replace the bulb, and we recommend that you do so as soon as possible. Replace MH and HPS bulbs after 50% degradation – we recommend changing after each harvest season or every 8 to 10 months.