Tips for Choosing the right Grow Lights for Your Houseplants

Have you felt that subtle change yet? The weather slightly getting cooler, the days are growing shorter-fall is finally here. As a plant parent, this means a lot, especially if you use windows and natural sunlight as a way to grow your plants. During the fall and winter time, your plants will slow in growth, drop leaves, and may even struggle a little. Perhaps, it's times to invest in some grow lights to help your plants get through those dark days.

Plants on a table under growlights
A group of plants on a table on Treleaf trellises under a growlight

Why use grow lights?

The two main reasons grow lights are used, is for supplemental lighting and they can be used as the main light source for houseplants.

When grow lights are used as supplement light, this could be because an area isn't getting enough light or you want to extend the duration of light your plants receive. This is the case for many, during the fall and winter months when the amount of day light hours have drastically decreased. To help get your houseplants through the winter, and to prevent dormancy, many people will have the grow lights on for 3-4 hours a day, after the sun goes down.

Then, there are plant parents (like myself) who solely rely on grow lights to make sure their indoor plants have adequate light to grow and thrive. My plant room has one, small window that's shaded by a big tree. The amount of natural light that comes into that room is extremely minimal and not nearly enough light to help any of my house plants growing. So, I knew I needed to invest in grow lights and now my indoor plants thrive under all types of grow lights.

What are the different types of grow lights?

Incandescent lights

Incandescent bulbs are your every day light bulbs that are typically sold in hardware stores. However, incandescent bulbs don't make the ideal grow light because they emit a lot of heat, which can scorch your plant foliage, they aren't energy efficient (which is crucial when you need to keep the lights on for multiple hours a day) and can break easily.

Fluorescent bulbs

Fluorescent grow lights, often sold as fluorescent tubes, are a good energy efficient option for grow lights. They provide a good light spectrum that plants can thrive under. They don't emit much heat, so it's safe for your plants. Fluorescent bulbs can run for a good bit of money and can be fragile compared to LED lights.

LED lights (light emitting diode)

LED grow lights are made up of little diodes that each emit their own light. LED grow lights come in various shapes and sizes and give off almost no heat, making it a great option for growing plants indoors. LED grow lights can give off red light, which is great for flowering plants, blue light, which is great for vegetative growth, or a full spectrum light, which is typically a yellow/white light thats good for overall plant growth.
LED grow bulb in it's box

LED grow bulb in packaging

What Grow Light Should I Use for my Indoor Plants?

When it comes to picking the right grow light for your indoor plants, I recommend going for full spectrum, LED grow lights. Don't worry too much about the blue and red light, indoor plants will still thrive and a flower and grow under any full spectrum bulb.

If you want to add more light to a few plants, go for a spot light type grow light. This can be a single led bulb, looks similar to traditional bulbs. These LED bulbs can be added to a lamp, a hanging light fixture or a pendant style grow light can be purchased online.

To light up an area with multiple plants, you can add grow light strips or multiple pendant type grow bulbs. For more intense light, especially for growing herbs, you can go for a commercial growers type grow light. These lights often give a lot of light and emit a lot of heat but high light plants thrive under these lights.

How to use grow lights for indoor plants

Now that you have the type of grow light picked out and set up, I would recommend putting your grow lights on a timer. This can be a cheap blue tooth timer purchased on line or any other sort of self timer you can find at the store. This will ensure your plants are getting the same amount of light every day which will ensure healthy foliage growth. It also has the added bonus of not having to worry about manually turning the grow lights on everyday or missing a day because you forgot.

When it comes to how many hours to leave your grow lights on, that depends on what you want to achieve. If you want consistent foliage growth on your plants, aim for 12-16 hours. If you're using the grow lights as supplemental light (especially during the winter months), have the grow lights on for a few hours after the sun goes down.

Personally, I like to have my grow lights to mimic the sun. During the winter months, I'll leave them on for a couple hours longer but I drastically decrease the amount of grow light time. Often times, you hear plant parents worrying about their plants going into dormancy but, in my experience, the plants bounce back stronger in the spring after a short dormancy period.

The distance between plants and the grow light

The distance between the grow lights and your plants will depend on the type of grow light and its light intensity. To prevent foliage burn, but start with the distance being about 3-4 feet away then slowly shorten the distance if you don't see any new growth. Look for bulbs with a color temperature close to sunlight.

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