About Grow Lights

One of the hardest parts of caring for indoor houseplants is getting the lighting right. Nowadays, there are apps and timers you can set to help you with your watering schedule, but for many of us, getting our plants the light they need is an ongoing challenge. Sometimes there just might not be enough light to go around, especially in winter months. While there are a lot of helpful ways to maximize your light access, one way to supplement a lack of light could be with grow lights. 

While grow lights have been around for some time, recent developments have made them much more useful and accessible to the everyday plant lover. Today, we’ll try to answer some of the questions that you may have about grow lights, and whether they’re right for you and your plants.

How do grow lights work? 

Grow lights, whether they’re commonplace bulbs or specialized LED bulbs, produce full-spectrum light, including red wavelengths, which promote flowering, and blue wavelengths, which promote denser foliage.  Plants are able to use this intense, direct light to photosynthesize just as they are able to use sunlight.

Do I need a grow light? 

There are a few reasons why you might consider getting a grow light. Maybe you notice that your plants are producing weak stems or lightly colored leaves due to a lack of light. Maybe you’re heading into the winter months when less sunlight is available. Or maybe you just want to help your plants get all the way to flowering. Whatever the reason, grow lights can be a helpful way to get more hands-on with your plants lighting needs.

Do I need a special bulb?

While there are a variety of brand ‘Grow Light’ options available at your local Lowes, you might not actually need to make that investment. There are many commonplace light bulbs that can also work as grow lights, and that may be all you need!

Fluorescent light bulbs have long been used by horticulturists to promote plant growth. They are cheap, energy efficient, and produce next-to-no heat, protecting your plants from any damage. They are often the light of choice for indoor gardeners growing from seeds, and full fluorescent kits are widely available for this purpose. 

LED bulbs are more expensive than fluorescent, but even more energy efficient. With a higher intensity, full-spectrum LED’s come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit your needs, and can be screwed into any lamp or lighting fixture. Some LED lights are even customizable and can be adjusted to provide more red- or blue-wavelength light. 

How far away should the light be? 

The more distance you put between the light and the plant, the less intense the light will be. You can counteract this by finding a brighter, more intense light that can negate the distance, or by opting for a more mobile light, like a clamping lamp, which can stay closer to your plants.

Finding more directional light bulbs is one of the best ways to ensure that your plant is getting adequate light. A light bulb that provides a full 360 degrees of light might be wasting most of that light if the plant in question is directly under it. For this reason, spot or LED flood lights may be preferable to omnidirectional bulbs. 

This is the main reason why replacing your main overhead lights with grow lights might not benefit your plants, as convenient as that would be. By the time the light reaches your plants, it will have lost most of its intensity, so sticking to lamps or other adjustable lighting options is preferable.

How long should I leave the light on? 

This also depends on the intensity of the light. If the light is incredibly intense, you won’t need to leave it on as long. If your lights are low-intensity, they can stay on for 12-16 hours. This will be roughly equal to leaving a high-intensity bulb on for eight hours. While there’s technically no research that says plants can’t be under light 24 hours a day, odds are that if we need a rest at the end of the day, so do they.

Grow lights are an affordable and accessible way to supplement the lighting in your home, whether you buy specialty ‘grow lights,’ or do it yourself with high-spectrum fluorescent or LED bulbs. Adding a timer or dimmer, which is a widely available option in the LED realm, can make adjusting intensity and timing even easier, so you can be fully involved in your plant’s success. 

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to tag us in your home-growing adventures @houseofplantlovers. Show us your lighting set up, and let us know what worked for you!

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