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High pressure Sodium and Metal Halid

The Best Grow Lights for Beginners and Indoor Plants: A Complete Guide

Just like healthy soil and optimum watering, light also plays a critical role in the healthy growth and development of plants. It is an essential component of photosynthesis (a process in which plant leaf chlorophyll converts light, oxygen, and water into carbohydrates or energy). Then plants use this energy to grow, bloom, fruit, and seed set. This guide will walk you through the best grow lights for beginners and indoor plants.

Without proper lighting, plants won’t be able to make carbohydrates and die because of energy depletion. Similar goes for houseplants; if there is insufficient light, they will not grow and produce foliage or flowers. Then, grow lights come to the rescue. 

What are Grow Lights for Beginners?

What are Grow Lights for Beginners?

Grow lights assist the growers in starting seeds and other leafy vegetables before the growing season. Credit: Flicker

Grow lights, or artificial lighting, are great resources to mimic the natural sunlight for indoor plants. They allow houseplant owners to cultivate different types of plants indoors because they assist in photosynthesis, more energy, and growth.

These lights emit a spectrum of light that’s similar to the sun. At this spectrum, chloroplast conducts photosynthesis and uses energy for growth and development. Therefore, gardeners can grow and maintain plants all year round with these lights.

Note: Investing in good quality and affordable grow lights, planters, and potting soil is the first step towards developing and maintaining healthy houseplants.

Types of Grow Lights

The following are the main types of artificial lighting or grow lights for indoor gardens;

Fluorescent Grow Lights (Beginner Friendly)

These are well-known artificial lights for indoor plants and provide a broad light spectrum, thus suitable for many plants (vegetables and seed germination). They are perfect for beginners because they are easy to use, inexpensive, and great for many indoor plants. Also, fluorescent grow lights come in many sizes and shapes, from smaller bulbs to huge industry-scale sizes.

With their many advantages, these grow lights have some disadvantages. They consume more energy and are less durable. Therefore, using them over time is expensive despite the lower investment.

Fluorescent lights contain mercury, making them hazardous when they are shattered. They are also difficult to recycle and are unsuitable for an extensive collection of houseplants. For this (to grow plants from seeds to maturity indoors), use a full-spectrum light-emitting diode (LED). 

Light Emitting Diode (LED)

Light Emitting Diode (LED)

LEDs as grow lights are as popular as fluorescents to replicate the sunlight for the interiorscape. Credit: Flicker

They emit the entire light spectrum, stimulating seed germination, leaf growth, flowering, and fruit production. LEDs offer blue light and promote chlorophyll and leaf production in leafy greens and herbs. They also provide red light, inducing blossom and fruit production.

LEDs are energy efficient and have a much longer life than fluorescent lights.

Note: Although they are more expensive, they pay for themselves over time. They are also helpful for huge houseplant collections.

Light Emitting Diode (LED) best grow lights for beginners
300-watt LED grow light for indoor plants as a seed starter

The only drawback of LED growth lights is they are expensive and cover a smaller area. This results in buying more than one, depending on the size of the plant collection.

Incandescent Grow Lights

These lights are the least popular as grow lights for indoor gardens because incandescent lights are expensive. They are not energy efficient, and the bulbs get very hot (therefore should be kept from kids and pets). Also, when using them for plants, set them 18 inches away from plants to avoid burning.

Note: Incandescent grow lights emit high red light that causes the plant to stretch.

High-pressure Sodium and Metal Halide

High-pressure Sodium and Metal Halide
best grow lights for beginners

Metal halide system with sodium bulb stimulates tropical plant flowering (Frangipani). A grow light exposure of 6-12 hours will successfully induce flower bud formation.

This type of grow light is perfect for large-scale due to large scale but needs to be hung at tall heights. Like incandescent grow lights, high-pressure sodium and metal halide radiate heat and are based on older technology.

best grow lights for beginners
An indoor winter garden grown and maintained through artificial lighting

Factors to Consider when Selecting the Grow Light for Indoor Plants

When purchasing grow lights for sunlight makeup, consider the following factors;

Light Intensity: It indicates the brightness of the light and is measured in photosynthetic photon flux, watts, lumen, and foot candle. 

Light Quality: It refers to the color of light or wavelength. So, when buying artificial light, read the label carefully to know the light spectrum, as blue light is ideal for seed starting, leafy greens, and flowering houseplants. While red light bulbs are perfect for bud formation in blooming plants and keeping the plants shorter. The white light spectrum is suitable for all plants at any growth stage. 

Light Duration (Photoperiod): It defines the hours of sunshine a plant needs daily. Based on this period, plants are classified into three groups;

  1. Short-day indoor plants (they need short days to flower and will not bloom when grown on long days. Examples of these plants are Chrysanthemum, Christmas cacti, and poinsettia).
  2. Long-day plants (these are tuberous begonia, gloxinia, and African violets. They need more sunlight, exceeding the night period).
  3. Day-neutral plants (Examples of day-neutral plants are gerbera daisies, flowering maple, and indoor foliage plants. They are insensitive to day length and do not need certain hours of light to flower).

So follow these time duration for your houseplants;

  1. Seedlings need 16-18 hours of daily growth light for healthy growth.
  2. Lettuce and other leafy vegetables require 12-14 hours of light.
  3. Foliage and flowering houseplants need 12-14 hours and 14-16 hours of grow light daily.

Distance of planters from Light Source: Maintaining an optimum distance between plants and grow lights is essential to avoid excessive heat and plant burning. For example, high-pressure sodium, metal halide, and incandescent light put out so much heat, burning young seedlings and plants. So, keep this distance;

  1. Seedlings should be 4-6 inches away from the light source
  2. Lettuce, herbs, and flowering houseplants should be 6-12 inches away from the light source
  3. Foliage houseplants should be 12-24 inches away from the light source

The Five Best Grow Lights for Beginners and Expert Gardeners

The given below list includes the best grow lights for beginners;

GE BR30 LED Grow Light Bulb: It offers a high-intensity red spectrum light and is ideal for growing tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and fruit seed starters. It is also great for yucca plants and improves their photosynthetic activity. Another benefit of this grow light is its affordability, ease of use, and natural white light.

EXLENVCE 1500W LED Grow Light: It is from EXLENVCE and works best for indoor plants because it emits light in both blue and red modes. Thus best for chlorophyll production, photosynthesis, blossoming, and fruit production. It is energy efficient, easy to use, and best for tomato plants.

Soltech Solutions Grow Light: It is the best alternative to natural sunlight as it provides an intense white light lasting 15 years (even when used for 16 hours per day). It is best for aloe plants and other succulents to induce new growth.

Aceple Desk Plant Grow Light: It offers a combination of red and blue wavelengths to support vegetative and reproductive growth. Also, it is easy to use, inexpensive, and suitable for African violets and cucumbers. After two weeks of use on these plants, this light helps the plant in new growth sprouting.Hydrofarm Agrobrite FLT48 T5 Fluorescent: This grows light is very energy-efficient and works perfectly for indoor plants. It provides a broad light spectrum and stimulates new growth in green leafy vegetables. It puts out less heat and does not burn plants.

FAQs on Best Grow Lights for Beginners

What is the best Grow Light for starting plants?

Many grow light options are available for creating plants, but the best ones are blue-green spectrum or balanced light spectrum. It is because they are ideal for foliage growth and help in rapid cell elongation. These blue wavelengths of light are best for leafy vegetables, thyme, creeping phlox, basil, and oregano.

How do I know which grow light to buy?

Consider the following factors before buying grow lights;

  1. Light color
  2. Light intensity
  3. Type of plants you are growing are you using grow lights as seed starters or for indoor houseplants
  4. How much space do you have for artificial lighting?
  5. Your sensitivity toward light

What light is best for indoor grow?

The following are the best grow lights for indoor plants;

  1.  VIVOSUN 6500K 2FT T5 HO Fluorescent Grow Light (ideal for seedling growth, particularly leafy greens), 
  2. EZORKAS 9 Dimmable Levels Grow Light 
  3. The Aceple Desk Plant Grow Light
  4. Sunlite garden

How many plants can I grow with a 100W LED light?

A 100W LED growth light can grow four plants, from seeds to vegetative growth and fruit production.

Can regular LED lights grow plants?

Yes, standard LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are also efficient in giving out heat and balanced levels of the full spectrum of light for plant growth and development. However, the only drawback of these regular LED lights is their low-intensity light and unsuitability for seed germination.

How many hours a day do you need a grow light for plants?

The light duration varies according to plant growth stages. A grow light exposure of 16-18 hours is enough for seedlings, while for leaf and flower bud formation, 10-14 hours of grow light exposure are best.

How many grow lights do I need for four plants?

A 32-watt and 100-watt LED grow light can provide enough lighting for 4-plants. It will support plant growth from seeds to maturity.