How To Make Grow Lights For Indoor Plants [Step by Step]

In this blog post, you’ll learn how you can make your own DIY grow light system and how to choose LED lights to grow indoor plants. And basically, all you need to know about grow light setups for plants. 

So, what’s special about a grow light?

Growing plants indoors can be a challenging hobby. When your adopted plant babies demand some extra lighting, you’ve to go out of your way to make that happen. Some plants will just die if they won’t get enough light.

And you can actually learn how to make grow lights for your indoor plants. 

So, let’s get started.

Why Do I Need A Grow Light?

Grow lights provide artificial light that either mimics the spectrum of light provided by the sun or provides a spectrum more suited to that plant’s needs. Using grow lights, you can grow just about any plant indoors, regardless of the season.

However, not all house plants need grow lights.

If you’re growing plants that originate from low-light areas of the world, such as most ferns, they will do just fine without extra light. However, if you want to grow more demanding plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, or roses, you’ll need to provide them with extra light.

You might want to have a light setup 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. For example, if you live in an apartment complex and your balcony lacks enough light, it might be too dangerous to place your plant there.

2. You Want to Grow Plants Out of Season

Often, you want to grow a plant that is “out of season”. Essentially, this just means that the plant is not naturally occurring in your climate zone at that time. For example, if you live in a cold climate and want to grow tropical plants, you’ll need to provide them with extra warmth and light.

3. You Want More Control Over Your Plant’s Growth

When you grow plants indoors, you have more control over their environment. You can provide them with the perfect temperature, humidity, and light conditions to help them thrive. A controlled environment also helps to prevent pests and diseases

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

Lastly, the most obvious reason you would want a grow light setup 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. 

DIY Grow Lights Project [Step by step]

Before getting into the DIY light project, there’s one crucial question you should ask yourself. Is building your own indoor grow light system cheaper than buying one?

I raise this question as the material cost for a grow light can range from $30 to over $100. It all depends on the size and type of grow light you need. And then there’s the time and effort you’ll need to put in to build your own grow light. 

So, if you’re only looking to grow a few plants, it might be cheaper and easier for you to just buy a grow light. But this project is for you if you want to grow a more significant number of plants or if you’re just the DIY type.

Let’s get right to the process. I will guide you every step of the way and hopefully get all your questions answered:

  1. Shopping list
  2. Understand what your plants’ needs are
  3. Choose your location
  4. Select your grow lights
  5. Setup your DIY grow light system

Now let’s get into more detail for each step

1. Shopping list

Before getting started, you need to gather all the supplies you will need for your project. You can buy most of these items at your local hardware store or online.

Here is a list of what you’ll need to buy:

  • Grow lights (LEDs are best) – I’ll explain it below
  • A timer
  • Shelving unit or something to hang the lights from (grow light stand)
  • Extension cords
  • Power strips

Extension Cords

You will need extension cords to plug into the lights and the timer (if you’re using one). The length of the extension cord will depend on how far away your outlet is from where you want to put the lights.

I recommend getting multiple extension cords to plug in more than one light at a time. You should get heavy-duty extension cords so they can handle the power of the lights.

A Timer

A timer is an optional but recommended piece of equipment. It automatically turns the lights on and off, so you don’t have to worry about it.

Usually, I recommend buying a timer that has a built-in outlet. That way, you can plug the lights and timer into the same outlet without worrying about an extra extension cord.

Shelving Units Or Something To Hang The Lights From

You will need something to hang the lights from. I recommend using a shelving unit because it’s cheap and easy to find. You can also use anything around the house to keep the lights up. The important thing is that the lights are not touching the plants. So you need to look at the shelf’s height and depth and ensure the plants and the light setup have enough room.

You can also create a frame with PVC pipes or other pipe material. Or buy or build a grow light stand setup or shelf to place your lights.

I found this shelving unit to be of very high quality that can stand the grow light setup.

Power Strips

A power strip is an optional but recommended piece of equipment.

A power strip will let you plug multiple lights and extension cords into one outlet. This is helpful because it saves you from finding multiple outlets to plug everything into.

I recommend this one from Belkin.

2. Understand what your plants’ needs are

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 light exposure period. 

This phenomenon is known as “Photoperiodism”. 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. Short-Day Plants. These plants can survive 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. Long-Day Plants. Plants like carnations, oat, pea, barley, lettuce, and henbane are 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. 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.

3. Choosing Your Location

You first need to find a place in your home where you would want to put your grow light setup. It’s essential to ensure the space gets enough light and ventilation.

Here are some considerations to take into account:

  • Most grow lights must be placed about 2 feet (0.6 m) away from the plants. This prevents the plants from getting too much light and becoming damaged. Make sure that your chosen space can accommodate this.
  • Some grow lights produce a lot of heat. Ensure your space has good ventilation to prevent the area from becoming too hot.
  • You will also need to have an electrical outlet nearby.

4. Select Your Grow Lights

Now that you have chosen the perfect location for your grow light, it’s time to select the right type of grow light.

Here’s a buying guide and a list of our best grow lights for herbs.

Can Any Light Source Be Used As A Grow Light?

Just about any light source can be used as a grow light. However, not all light sources will be equally effective.

Many different types of grow lights are available on the market, so choosing the one best suited for your needs is essential.

But before we start with the light type, I want first to talk about the light spectrum because this is a critical factor to consider when choosing your grow light.

What Is The Light Spectrum?

The light spectrum is the range of colors that make up visible light. Each color in the spectrum has a different wavelength.

Different plants need different wavelengths of light to grow properly.

  • For instance, red and blue lights are the best for starting seeds indoors. Under the red and blue spectrum LED grow light system, the development of the plant leaves increases. 
  • Blue grow light is excellent for starting seeds indoors.
  • Red grow light help in flowering as well as growth.
  • Some people who want to grow plants may also adopt Violet grow light. This helps enhance the plant’s aesthetic, taste, and aroma. Luckily, red and blue grow light will naturally combine to make violet.
  • Green and yellow grow lights should be avoided. But some research shows that Green grow light 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 light entirely

Now that we know about the light spectrum, let’s talk about the different types of grow lights.

What is light intensity?

The light intensity is separate from the color. It’s determined by the relative brightness of the grow LED lights and 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 if 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 grow light you should provide and how far from the plant will help your plants thrive.

Types Of Grow Lights

Now that we know all about the light spectrum, let’s talk about the different types of grow lights.

There are many different types of grow lights available on the market. The type of light you choose will depend on your budget, the size of your growing space, and the type of plants you are growing.

Here are some of the most popular types of grow lights:

Incandescent lights:

Incandescent bulbs are not as popular as fluorescent bulbs but can still be used for growing plants. They are less expensive than other types of grow lights, but they also produce more heat.

Fluorescent lights:

Fluorescent bulbs are one of the most popular types of grow lights. They are relatively inexpensive, energy-efficient, and emit very little heat. You can find these in a variety of shapes and colors.

Fluorescent lights provide a broader spectrum of light. However, they require special ballasts and can be pretty hot to the touch.

The fluorescent tube is preferred by gardeners that want to illuminate large sections. They’re also available in small fluorescent bulbs, also known as CFLs, and can be used like incandescent bulbs. 

High-intensity discharge (HID) lights:

HID lights are more expensive than other grow lights but are also the most powerful. They emit a lot of heat, so ensure you have good ventilation if you choose this type of light.

Light-emitting diode – LED grow lights:

LED grow light bulbs are becoming more popular because they are very energy-efficient and emit very little heat. However, they are also more expensive grow light.

You can find LED grow lights as LED strips, bulbs, or panel lights. You want to buy LED grow lights in place of any other light. This is for the following reasons:

They are energy efficient.

LED lights produce the least heat, which means there is 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. LED grow lights last up to 5 times longer than fluorescent bulbs.

They can calibrate for growing plants.

While most LED lights offer all colors in the same intensity, those calibrated for starting seeds indoors are a bit different.

LED grow lights offer an intense blue light to stimulate healthy root growth and starting plants.

Not all LED grow lights can be used as grow lights.

You are wrong if you think the led bulbs you have in your home will be sufficient for your indoor gardening! Not any LED light can help your plants grow healthy. You need to ensure the light has a full spectrum and is bright enough.

As we’ve mentioned before, different plants require different spectrums of light.

So, if you want to use a LED light as an indoor grow light, ensure it has a full spectrum. Otherwise, you might not provide your plant with the right light.

Here are some things to consider when choosing a grow light:

  • The type of plant you want to grow: Different plants have different light requirements. Choose a grow light that can give your plants the right amount of light.
  • The size of your growing area: Your growing area will determine how many lights you need and how much power you need.
  • The amount of light you need: The amount of light your plants need will depend on the type of plant and stage.
  • There is one crucial factor that growers look for – the DLI. The DLI, also known as the Daily Light Integral, measures 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 are still not in use. 
  • You can also try white LED grow lights, which offer the full spectrum.

5. Setup your own DIY grow light system

Now that you have gathered your material, purchased your power supplies, know your plants’ light requirements, and picked a location, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and work on rigging up your own grow light system!

You can set up your grow light system in a few different ways. The most important thing is to ensure that your lights are suspended above your plants so that they can get the light they need without being too close and burning the leaves.

Step 1:

Set up the shelving unit or the grow light stand in your chosen location.

Step 2:

Place your bulbs in their fixtures and hang them from the support structure. Make sure that they are at the correct height above your plants.

Step 3:

Set up the timer so that your lights will turn on and off automatically.

Step 4:

Connect your bulbs to the light strip. And then, plug the power strip into the timer and the timer into a wall outlet.

And that’s it! You’ve now got your own grow light setup ready to go. All you need to do now is turn it on and give your plants the light they need to grow strong and healthy.

Common mistakes you may encounter when making a DIY grow light system

Here are some common mistakes or issues that people may encounter when making a DIY grow light system:

  1. Using the wrong type of light: As mentioned in the content audit, not all light sources are suitable for plant growth. When making a DIY grow light system, it’s important to choose the right type of light, such as LED grow lights, that emit the correct spectrum of light for your plants.
  2. Not considering the light intensity: Different plants require different amounts of light, and the intensity of the light can affect plant growth as well. When setting up your DIY grow light system, be sure to consider the light intensity that your plants need and adjust the distance between the lights and the plants accordingly.
  3. Placing the lights too close or too far from the plants: Placing them too close to the plants can cause overheating and damage to the leaves while placing them too far away can result in insufficient light for proper growth. It’s important to find the right distance and height for your lights, considering the type of plants you’re growing.
  4. Not providing enough ventilation: Grow lights can produce a lot of heat, especially if they’re left on for extended periods of time. Providing adequate ventilation is crucial to prevent your plants from becoming too hot and suffering damage.
  5. Using the wrong type of timer: If you’re using a timer to control your grow lights, be sure to choose one that’s compatible with the type of lights you’re using. Some timers may not work with certain types of lights or may not be able to handle the wattage of your lights, leading to malfunction or even damage to the lights.

By avoiding these common mistakes and ensuring that your DIY grow light system is set up correctly, you can provide your plants with the light they need to thrive indoors.

Tips for using DIY grow lights

Just before you press the “on” switch, here are a few things to keep in mind to get the most out of your grow light system:

  • Make sure that your plants have enough space: Just because you have a DIY grow light doesn’t mean your plants can be placed close together. They still need to have adequate space to grow.
  • Don’t forget to water: Grow lights can dry out your plants, so water them regularly.
  • Give your plants a break: Just like humans, plants need a break occasionally. Don’t forget to turn off your grow lights daily to give your plants a chance to rest.
  • Fertilize regularly: Grow lights can deplete the nutrients in the soil, so make sure to fertilize your plants regularly.
  • Choose the right grow light: Not all grow lights are created equal. Choose a grow light setup that is right for your plants.

These tips will help you get the most out of your DIY grow light system and ensure that you have healthier plants.


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

Grow lights are needed to start seeds, plant growth, and bloom 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 always to 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 DIY grow light, you should stick to LED lights. As for the color and duration, it all depends on the species you’re trying to grow. 

Nevertheless, you can grow your plants with surety now that you’re armed with the proper knowledge. All the best!

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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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