One of the biggest misconceptions about indoor plants I’ve come across is that they don’t need much light. In actual fact, the opposite is true! To live indoors in our homes, and to keep providing us with lush and leafy growth, they’ll need all the light they can get.
At the beginning of my indoor plant journey, I really had no idea about plants. I just found one that caught my eye and stuck it in the corner. As I slowly started learning more, I realised how I was caring for them probably wasn’t what was best for their needs.
Giving plants as much light as possible can go against our plans to spruce up that bare corner or that dark room that needs some life added. What’s a plant gal (or guy) to do?
That’s when I discovered grow lights for indoor plants, and they’re an absolute game changer! If you want your plants to thrive, need a plant for that low-light corner or just want to grow plants indoors that normally wouldn’t (like herbs, veggies and flowers), a grow light can make it possible.
If grow lights are new to you, read on to learn specific advice on how to use grow lights for indoor plants.
What is a grow light (or plant light) anyway?
Plants use light differently to humans. Where we use light to see, plants use light as energy to photosynthesise and grow. A grow light is specifically designed to give plants the right type of light in the spectrum that they need for life.
Can I just use a regular light bulb as a grow light?
While some regular light bulbs may produce some of the specific light waves needed for plants, they’re mostly not effective when it comes to growing plants. This is because they’re designed to brighten our homes. With a grow light the spectrum of light they use, how powerful they are, their colours and even the design or shape of the light itself all go towards providing a plant with the maximum amount of energy they need to grow.
Some grow lights may appear to look similar to regular household globes. But keep in mind that how our eyes perceive light is very different to how plants perceive and use it.
How long should a grow light be left on?
How long a grow light should be on for really depends on a few factors. They include the particular light you’re using, the environment your plant is in and what you’re using the light for (eg, foliage growth, vegetables or flowering).
The light you use should come with specific instructions. But as a general guide, here’s a few tips.
- To be effective, grow lights really need to be on for at least 8-10 hours a day. This can vary up to 16 hours, depending on the conditions. That’s why LED grow lights are so popular – when they have to be left on all day, it’s best to use an energy efficient type!
- Always position a grow light above the plant. This replicates sunlight. Plants will naturally start to lean towards a light source, so above is always the best choice.
- If your grow light heats up, make sure it’s not touching plants or getting too close to them.
- Young or shade loving plants can get away with less powerful grow lights, whereas large plants and ones with big leaves that can absorb lots of light (eg Fiddle Leaf Figs) can love the benefits of a stronger light.
Where Should I Position My Grow Light?
Think about how a plant gets sunlight in nature – from above!
I’ve seen many people use grow lights clipped onto the base of the plant, as a substitute for their ceiling lights or even placed in a lamp with a shade next to the plant. While this can help your grow light blend into your decor, unfortunately it isn’t going to be very beneficial for the plant.
Grow lights need to be quite close and unobstructed to a plant for it to have any effect. And just like indoor plants can start to lean towards windows when looking for more light, they can lean towards grow lights too!
Which is why it’s best to position your grow light above your plant, to encourage it to grow upwards just like in nature.
What distance should a grow light be from my plants?
In general, plants will need to be within a couple feet of a grow light to get any benefits. The closer a light is to the plant, the higher the light intensity is.
The distance also really depends on the strength & type of light you’re using. If you’re worried, I would suggest starting off further away and bringing the light closer to see how your plants respond.
Generally, the closer a light is to a plant, the less width it covers. So if you’re only after lighting a single plant, you can put the light closer to the plant (which means more light for the plant).
If you’re lighting a few plants, consider the span of the bulb. You may need to have the grow light further away to cover multiple plants. Keep in mind that the further the grow light is from the plants, the less light they’ll receive.
What colour grow light is best?
You may have noticed that grow lights come in all different colours. This is because plants use different light waves for different uses, such as flowering, fruiting or general leafy growth.
If you’re looking to supplement a grow light for your indoor plants (aka leafy, green growth), I would suggest a full spectrum bulb. A full spectrum grow light will provide plants with the full range of light they need (and if you find a white one, they look much more appealing that the coloured ones)!
A full spectrum grow light is therefore great for common indoor plants such as Fiddle Leaf Figs, Philodendrons, Calatheas, Peace Lilies, Palms and more.
Other popular grow light colours are red, blue and red & blue together. Blue light is great for flowering, while red helps with vegetative growth. However if a plant gets too much of one colour, its possible they can grow a little deformed or out of shape.
Using a timer for grow lights
Seeing as grow lights need to be on for at least 8-10 hours a day, you may want to invest in an automatic timer. Using a timer will automatically turn the light on and off at whatever times you set for it.
These days, it’s even possible to get timers that are controlled by an app, making it possible to turn your grow lights on and off from wherever you are! This is helpful if you’re out and forgot to turn it off at night, or if there’s a storm on its way and you don’t want them left on.
When we bring plants into our home, they become part of our decor and part of our lives! Not only do they clean the air and provide us with joy, but in return I’ll bet you want to lavish them with care to see them thrive in your home.
There’s (almost) nothing better than seeing your plant babies grow lush, full and healthy within your care. Grow lights provide us with the ability to do just that.
Plants can often show symptoms of suffering in low light. So if you’re not sure if they indoor plants need more light, read this post on 8 signs your houseplants need more light.
Let me know if you have any questions on grow lights and I’ll be happy to help! I also share a lot of plant tips over on Instagram – come join me!