Types of Grow Lights 101 – Everything You Need to Know for Indoor Plants

Scynce Led Lights Growing Kush

Let’s face it – once you start growing it’s hard to stop. But for those who live in regions with cooler temperatures in the fall and winter, all good things must come to an end. Fortunately, if you’ve caught the itch to grow, there have never been so many types of grow lights to choose from for indoor plants. 

On the flip side, with so many types of grow lights for indoor plants, it can be hard to decide for the novice grower. That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate guide to grow light types and all the best practices you need to know for choosing and using different types of grow lights indoors. 

Sunlight vs Artificial Lights for Plants 

It should be no surprise that sunlight is required for plant growth. Way back in grade school, we all learned that the sun stimulates what’s known as photosynthesis for plants. Photosynthesis is the process of transforming light energy into chemical energy for growth. It’s required for plants and other organisms to synthesize foods properly, from carbon dioxide and water.

Of course, it’s not just natural sunlight that’ll prompt photosynthesis for plants to occur. Different types of grow lights can mimic the sun for energy. While almost any light will do – not all lights are right. Certain artificial lights can run hot when others don’t have the necessary spectrums to produce optimal growth. For instance, red light activates plant growth and reduces elongation to boost blooming and flowering. 

This information alone will help you grow indoor plants, better and healthier. So, let’s keep that momentum going and find out more about the types of grow lights you need to know when and what they’re best for. 

The Main Types of Grow Lights 

Many low-light indoor plants will grow just fine in front of a window with a little ol’ fashion sunlight. However, many indoor gardeners are expanding their horizons beyond growing just Peace Lillies or Chinese Evergreens. In light of sustainability desires, and organic practices, plant lovers are now seeking indoor grow light options for year-round crops. Including vegetables, flowers, microgreens, and other plants you can benefit from perpetual harvests. 

If you’ve been wondering what kind of lights to grow plants are best, let’s first understand the main types of grow lights available today. 

Incandescent 

While incandescent lights are by far the cheapest variety for indoor growing, they come with costly drawbacks. Incandescent bulbs output more heat than most lights and require a distance of at least two feet away from the top of the plant to avoid damage. In fact, some incandescent lights output just ten percent of their energy as actual light while the other 90% is output as heat. This level of heat can have a ‘cooking’ effect on plants and will negatively affect certain plants like tropicals, cacti, or succulents. 

Fluorescent 

Available for purchase at most gardening and home supply stores, fluorescent grow light types are the most common amongst indoor growers. However, the most common doesn’t mean the best type of grow light for optimal growth. Many standard fluorescent bulbs aren’t ideal for most plants’ blooming stages and are preferred for germination or vegetative growth only. 

In comparison to incandescent, fluorescent bulbs output less heat and are on the cheaper side with improved results. To put it in perspective, it’s estimated that fluorescent grow lights use 75% less energy than incandescents. Fluorescent types of grow lights are most ideal for plants with low to moderate light requirements. Including African violets and the beginning stages of growing veggies indoors. 

High Intensity Discharge (HID) 

When you think of professional indoor grow rooms, it’s likely you imagine High Intensity Discharge (HID) fixtures. That’s because these grow light types are most commonly used in larger spaces, as they have a wider footprint than most. The most common HID types of grow lights are Metal Halide (MH) and High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) set-ups. Metal Halides are efficient for optimal growth, with a high blue light spectrum for veg growth promotion. 

On the contrary, High Pressure Sodium setups have a better red and orange spectrum for flowering. Many indoor growers will use both together, to take advantage of their advantages during the specific growth phases. I.e. starting plants off with MH and swapping out for HPS when the plants are entering bloom. 

Light Emitting Diode (LED) 

Now, LED lights or Light Emitting Diodes are most likely what you think of when you imagine the most advanced and futuristic indoor grow rooms. That’s because they’re the latest and greatest when it comes to light technology, and are just now reaching consumer favorable costs for widespread implementation. LED’s have two key traits that make them the best type of grow light for indoor plants – they hardly emit any heat, and are highly energy efficient. 

This means, even though they’re far more expensive than the other grow light types, they’ll save you money each month on your electricity bill. Not to mention, by producing less heat you can also save on cooling your indoor grow space. Another benefit to consider is the wide range of color spectrums that LEDs can deliver, which is often controllable for varying growth stages, too. This allows LEDs to supplement the overall health of plants, for maximized yields. 

How to Buy Different Grow Lights

The best piece of advice when conducting a grow lights comparison for purchase is – not all lights can be treated the same. For instance, when buying different types of grow lights, you’ll notice one difference right off the bat. For some types of grow lights you’ll need an entire lighting system, some you’ll just need a bulb for any standard lamp or ceiling fixture. As for fluorescents, these bulbs are normally long and tubelike and come in a range of sizes like T5, T8, and T12 that you’ll need to know beforehand, too. 

So all in all, it’s best to do your research before heading out with cash in hand – or committing to clicking ‘purchase now’. Also, be aware that different types of grow lights will work better for different types of plants. That means, determining what type of plant you’ll be growing should be first on your list before shopping for lights. Most seed packs or plant tags will indicate how many hours of sun a plant should receive, which can also help you determine operating costs of electricity for light beforehand, too.  

Best Practices for Buying & Using Grow Light Types

Speaking of shopping smarter – to get the biggest bang for your buck, you’ll want to grow smarter too. And, there’s nothing like expert and insider advice to lead the way. With any type of grow light, there are a few best practices or simple rules to follow for optimal success. Here’s a list of the top tips and tricks to keep in mind for different types of growing lights, plants and grow room spaces. 

  1. Hang ‘em high – The point of artificial light is to simulate sunlight as much as possible. This means for the most part you should set up your grow room to accommodate hanging your lights from the ceiling. Of course, light placement will differ depending on the set-up of your indoor grow space for instance, in more advanced vertical farming set-ups. 
  2. Mimic day and night – Don’t forget, naturally, plants will have periods of daylight and periods of nighttime. In general, most plants benefit from  12 to 16 hours of light daily, with up to 8 hours of darkness. Using a controller, or buying a type of grow light that has automatic controls will help automate these light cycles or schedules. While shutting your lights off for designated periods of time will also help your electric bill, another pro tip is to correlate with your off-peak electricity hours for even more savings.
  3. Lights for seeds – Healthy and strong growth of any plant starts from a seed or seedling. So, you’ll want to be sure to give seeds ample levels of light to grow optimally. To do so, keep lights close to seedlings (around six inches) as they grow and raise the lights as they get taller. When you don’t give seeds sufficient levels of light, they can grow to be lanky and weak. Seedlings can also benefit from full spectrums of light, including blue and red. This makes variable LED systems even more beneficial, as you can adjust spectrums manually throughout the plant’s life cycle for optimal levels. Always keep in mind, however, incandescent lights should be kept at least 24 inches away from plants, therefore, shouldn’t be used for small, sensitive seedlings. 
  4. Map out a footprint – You’ll want to position your lights and plants appropriately so that they’re receiving the maximum exposure possible. With certain plots, and varying heights you may need more than one lighting fixture to cover the area of plants for optimal growth. Most LED lights will provide a recommended height, along with an expected footprint to help successfully plan out your indoor grow space. 
  5. Allow for adjustments – When installing your lights, it’s recommended to use an adjustable hanging system. That way you can adjust the height of your lights throughout the life cycle, and the growth of the plant. 

The Final Word on Types of Grow Lights 

Now that you have a full grasp of the different types of grow lights for indoor plants and what kind of lightbulb for growing plants indoors is ideal, you can best decide what’s right for your investment. Indoor gardening is no simple feat but can be highly rewarding, and much easier to manage with the right supplies and equipment. Especially when it comes to types of grow lights. 

You’ve also learned that LEDs can be beneficial for optimal plant growth and energy efficiency. And while we may be a bit biased, Scynce LED and our growers couldn’t agree more. Start your buying journey by browsing our full collection of premium and affordable LED grow light types to find the right model for you today. Got more questions? Ask Spectro, our helpful AI for personalized assistance. 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We see that you are browsing from Canada.
Please check our Canadian website to get the best deals in your area