How To Make Grow Lights For Indoor Plants

Growing plants indoors is a cumbersome hobby. It’s not short of the challenges of parenthood. And when your adopted plant-babies demand some extra lighting, you’ve to go out of your way to make that happen and learn how to make grow lights for your indoor plants. 

Luckily, grow lights have both an abundant market and literature. There’s a lot of research done in this field, mainly since they’re essential for greenhouses. 

So, what’s special about a grow light?

Well, the intensity and color of the LED grow light are tailored to suit your plant’s needs. Blue and red LED lights, in particular, are considered to be more effective at growing plants than any other LED light. 

Many plants require a specific duration of LED light exposure. 

So, how do you choose LED lights to grow houseplants? And how can you make one of your own DIY LED lights? Here’s all you need to know about grow light setups for plants. 

Why Do I Need A LED Grow Light?

LED grow lights are better when growing fresh vegetables indoors. They either mimic the spectrum of light provided by the sun or provide a spectrum more suited to that plant’s needs. 

You might want to use LED grow lights if:

1. It’s Dangerous to Place Your Plant Outdoors

The most common reason why people grow plants indoors is when the outdoors is not safe for them. A multitude of factors can contribute to this, including pests, humans, and the weather.

If you constantly have a weed or ants problem, your crops will grow smaller and likely die if the weed is not removed. While many people spend hundreds on weed removal, some find it easier to simply place the plant indoors. 

Humans, too, can cause problems, especially if you have to deal with troublesome kids. They may trample your vegetables or pluck flowers. Indoor plants with LED grow light systems make them easier to manage and keep safe. 

Many plants cannot survive the weather conditions outside. And while there’s no way for you to predict when the weather will go bad, if your climate is not the safest, place your plants indoors.

plant leaves with holes

2. The Temperature Outside Is Not Favorable

Oftentimes, you want to grow a plant that is “out of season”. Essentially, this means it’s for a different climate. This could be either due to the temperature, the weather conditions, or the angle of direct sunlight. 

The simplest example you can take is a plant that cannot survive the intense cold of the winters. Or of a plant that germinates best in hot conditions, like, growing tomatoes something that might be a rarity in your area. 

Of course, you’ll need an entire LED grow light system and a thermostat to carefully monitor LED light intensity and temperature. Without those, most outdoor plants will likely not survive.

frost-weather

3. You’ve Experienced Physiological Disturbances in Previous Plants

Many newbie gardeners forget how important is the angle of the sunlight. Just because you’ve placed your plant outdoors or near a window doesn’t mean it’s getting enough sunlight. The angle of the light varies not only throughout the day but across seasons and entire latitudes. 

If you’ve noticed significant abnormalities in previous plants, inadequate light might be the culprit. Either determine the correct position for your plant to get the right amount of light or buy a grow LED light. It can be easier to do so, and you can use one for multiple plants.

4. You Have Indoor Plants That Don’t Receive Sunlight

plant in dark apartment

Lastly, by far, the most obvious reason you would want a grow light system is if you have indoor plants that call for it. Many plants are marketed as being “indoor”. These are tropical plants that can survive only a specific range of temperatures. These are sensitive plants and are very picky on the level of moisture and sunlight they need. 

Instead of depending on nature, many indoor gardeners use LED grow lights. Led grow lights are important if you live in an area that hardly receives any direct sunlight. Your indoor plants simply won’t thrive. Many people today started using grow tents for creating a secure environment for their plants. Want to know what is the best grow tent? Check out our reviews.

Indoor plants not only benefit your mind but the environment as well. They absorb pollutants and improve indoor air quality. And can improve your mood significantly, as indicated by many studies on the subject.

Can Any LED Light Be Used As A Grow Light?

Yes. Any LED light can double as a grow LED light. You don’t need to pay attention to the spectra, as most LED lights offer the optimal range for seed starting. However, some are specific for growing plants, and those should be on priority if you can afford them. 

You might want to buy LED lights in place of any other light. This is for the following reasons:

  • They are energy efficient. LED lights produce the least about of heat, which means there are less Joule heating and thus lower energy wastage. This is not only good for the plant (since many don’t like heat), but it also saves on your electricity bill. Plus, the components aren’t subject to constant heat. LEDs last up to 5 times longer as compared to fluorescent bulbs.
  • They can calibrate for growing plants. While most LED lights offer all colors in the same intensity, those calibrate for starting seeds indoors are a bit different. LED lights offer an intense blue color to stimulate healthy root growth and seed starting. 

how to choose lED lights For your indoor plants?

Before you start using grow LED lights on your indoor plants, it is important to understand how you should set them up. A few factors should influence your decision:

What is the best led color for growing plants?

Contrary to what most people might presume, plants don’t just need any type of LED light. In some instances, certain colors (or wavelengths) of light might induce different growth outcomes. For instance, blue and red lights are the best for starting seeds indoors. Under the red and blue LED grow light system, the development of the plant leaves increases.

  • Blue DIY grow light is great for starting seeds indoors
  • Red DIY grow lights help in flowering as well as growth
  • Some people who want to grow plants may also adopt violet grow lights. This helps enhance the aesthetic of the plant as well as taste and aroma. Luckily, blue and red grow lights will naturally combine to make violet.
  • Green and yellow DIY grow lights should be avoided. But some research shows that green grow lights might help in chlorophyll production. They also make the plant appear greener, in case you’re going to be entertaining any customers. Avoid yellow grow lights entirely

And unlike what you may have thought, UV light is harmful to plants. It generates a lot of heat and can burn plants. 

There is one important factor that growers look for – the DLI. The DLI, also known as the Daily Light Integral, is a measure of the amount of LED grow light a plant gets each day for photosynthesis. Not all wavelengths of LED grow lights are for photosynthesizing. Many wavelengths are for other activities, and many still are not in use. 

You can also try white LED grow light , which offers the full spectrum.

The Duration:

Regardless of whether you’re growing indoor or outdoor plants, there’s a limit to how much sunlight they can receive. Yes, there is such a thing as too much sunlight. While plants tend to thrive on it, many require a specific period of exposure to flowers. 

This phenomenon is known as “Photoperiodism”. In this, the duration of LED grow light exposure each day determines how easily the plant will flower. It has no connection to photosynthesis.

We can classify the plants into the following categories:

  1. 1
    Short-Day Plants. These plants can survive on as little as 12 hours of light each day. Examples include chrysanthemums, Christmas cactus, poinsettias, azaleas, and violets. They flower as the days get shorter, typically in the fall or summer in the Northern Hemisphere.
  2. 2
    Long-Day Plants. Plants such as carnation, oat, pea, barley, lettuce, and henbane are termed as long-day plants. They require between 12 and 14 hours of sunlight each day to flower and thrive as the nights get shorter. In the Northern Hemisphere, this is the time between the winter solstice (21 December) and the summer solstice (21 June). The opposite is true in the Southern Hemisphere.
  3. 3
    Day-Neutral Plants. These plants require minimal sunlight to initiate flowering. Flowering on these plants is not dictated by the amount of sunlight but by other developmental factors. Some examples include cucumbers, tomatoes, roses, and some types of cannabis. They still require light for photosynthesis, needless to say.

The Grow Light Intensity:

The light intensity is separate from the color. It’s determined by the relative brightness of the grow LED lights as well as their distance from the plant. Unlike the other categories, this differs from species to species. So it’s harder to generalize how much LED grow light to give them. 

However, there are some guesses you can take before researching this. Plants that grow in tropical areas such as jungles and forests do not require a lot of sunlight. They’ve evolved to thrive on minimal sunlight and prefer shade. So, they’ll be happy as long as they’re not bombarded with light. 

Other plants, such as those from Southern Mexico, or most succulents, require a lot of sunlight. They grow in sunny, dry, arid climates and don’t survive without sunlight. 

Further research into exactly how much LED grow light you should provide and how far from the plant, will help your plants thrive.

What Can I Use Instead Of A Led Grow Light?

If you can’t use natural sunlight, there are other alternatives to a high-tech LED grow light system. Of course, any light you use for growing plants will be called a grow light. 

You have three options to choose from when it comes to growing lights: incandescent, fluorescent, and LED grow lights. You can also make your DIY LED grow light systems.

1. Incandescent Light:

Incandescent Light

Incandescent light bulbs were some of the first light sources, and least efficient. They generate light by passing a strong current through a thin wire filament. The resulting heat causes the filament to glow, which in turn provides light. 

While a breakthrough in their time, these types of lightbulbs are frowned upon nowadays for many reasons. Firstly, they generate a lot of heat. Not only does this indicate their inefficiency, but the heat is also not healthy for the plants. Since you place them close to the plant, they might end up burning the plant or affecting it nonetheless. 

The second reason is, they’re not available in a lot of colors. As we have already discussed in the color spectrum section, you want specific colors of light. Even white light would’ve been sufficient, as it provides the full spectrum. But most incandescent bulbs emanate an orange glow, not ideal for growing plants. 

2. Fluorescent Light:

Fluorescent-grow-lights

Fluorescent bulbs and tube lights are much better than incandescent sources. They generate light by passing a current through a discharge tube, which in turn produces fluorescence. The principle they work on is very simple, but the result is more economical and far less wasteful. 

You can find these in a variety of shapes and colors. The fluorescent tube light is preferred by gardeners that want to illuminate large sections. They’re also available in small fluorescent bulbs, which are also known as CFLs and can be used like incandescent bulbs. 

Since they can be available in any color, and the norm is white, they seem to be an ideal choice for indoor gardening. However, they are still susceptible to generating heat, but not as much as incandescent bulbs. The color temperature is what defines how hot the bulb gets. As you may have already guessed, it depends on the color of the light. 

3. LED Grow Lights:

This is by far the most common, cheapest, and most economical choice of indoor grow lights. LED is a short form of Light Emitting Diode. LEDs use special diodes that, when a threshold current passes through them, emit light. However, unlike the other two, these lights do not emit heat, at least not significantly. 

LED lights are costlier than the other two types, but not so much that you can’t afford them. The best part is that LEDs can be controlled electronically. So you can easily adjust the brightness, color, duration, and even combine various colors of varying intensities. 

DIY grow light

With the right equipment and the right type of lights, you can create your DIY LED grow light setups. It’s really simple, and you might save up a lot of money in doing so. 

First up, you must decide on what type of DIY LED light you want. Since CFL and incandescent are outdated, DIY LED grow lights should be your only choice. It’s not a very good idea to use any kind other than DIY LED grow lights, but if you want, CFL lights are good too. 

Next, decide on the colors you want. Blue and red are a must for any DIY LED grow light system. 

Lastly, decide on how long you want the DIY LED grow lights to be on and how you’re going to do that. A simple DIY LED grow light timer circuit can work, but if you don’t have a knack for electronics, you might not do it right. You can find some tutorials online on how to do so. Or you can manually turn them off each day. 

What Is The Best Grow Light For Indoor Plants?

While the type of light you want depends greatly on your specific needs, some are generally considered to be the best. Some of these are:

Roleadro 75W Grow Light

Roleadro’s LED lights are a peculiar array of LEDs that let you harvest and grow crops even in the winters. The spectrum consists only of red and blue lights, which is all most people who want to grow need.

The spectrum dissipates heat evenly, so none of it reaches your plants. The model adopts an aluminum back-paneling that keeps the entire setup cool, even in the hot summers. 

Feit Electric GLP24FS-19W-LED Dual

For gardeners and greenhouse keepers that want a more integrated grow system, try the Feit Electric Dual Grow Lights. These lights are made of LED arrays and emit more intense blue light for starting seeds indoors. They’re highly energy-efficient, easy to install, and are certified by the UL and FCC. 

The shelving unit features a housing socket that can be used to connect it to up to 8 similar fixtures. In this way, you can install an entire array of the Feit lights to illuminate your greenhouse. And much like other LED lights, they don’t emit heat. So, you don’t have to worry about the light burning your leaves and flowers. 

TORCHSTAR Indoor Garden Kit

This 24V indoor garden kit grow light comes with an auto timer function, and you can also adjust its light setting according to your needs. It features a 120-degree light angle, and there are 10 red and 32 white LEDs present on it. Therefore, you can conveniently use it to grow succulents, herbs, flowers, small tomatoes, peppermint, and various other types of plants. 

And that’s not all! This grow light also comes with low voltage safety and an ETL-listed adapter with a 5,58 feet power cord and 1150-lumen brightness. It will stay on for 16 hours and then will automatically turn off for 8 hours with the help of its automatic timer.

This automatic timing feature is suitable for the natural growth of plants at different stages, and the CRI95 light does a fine job of presenting you with the real colors of your plant as well. This grow light is pretty easy to install, and it also comes with a 2-year warranty. 

Conclusion

Indoor plants have their charm to them. Whether you’re growing them for fun or commercial purposes, grow lights will help you every step of the way. 

Grow lights are needed for starting seeds, initiating growth, and blooming flowers. Luckily, there’s abundant literature on the topic, and you can find the right grow lights for yourself. 

To conclude, there are three factors to always consider – well, two if you discount the first one. They are a type of light, the color of light, and the duration of light. Although you have some choices for the type of light, you should stick to LED. As for the color and duration, it all depends on the species you’re trying to grow. 

Nevertheless, now that you’re armed with the right knowledge, you too can grow your plants with surety. 

About the author 

Daniel Buckner

Passionate about urban gardening, indoor growing solutions, and sustainability. Believes in growing our own food and eat fresh and better food by getting back to basics, growing a fruit and vegetable garden, and cooking from scratch.

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