Keeping plants alive and helping them flourish can be hard as is, but growing things indoors is even trickier. You have to give them enough—but not too much—water and make sure they have enough soil and a large enough pot. Aside from that, one of the most crucial factors of growing plants inside is light.
"Even though some plants can thrive and others can tolerate low light situations, adding grow lights can help your plants, especially during winter when light levels are reduced even further," says Joyce Mast, Plant Mom at Bloomscape. "Adding supplemental lighting can help your plants grow quicker." When looking for the right grow light for you, you'll want to consider things like size, type, and wattage.
Positioning your plants in front of a window where they can drink up natural sunlight is ideal. But as you probably know, this is easier said than done. Whether your window situation is less-than-sufficient for plants or you live somewhere that only gets sunny a few months of the year, a grow light is an excellent solution1.
Want to flex your green thumb inside? Here are the best grow lights to help your indoor plants live their best life.
The best overall option is the AOSBEIC LED Grow Light. Thanks to the brand's proprietary spectrum with 460 to 465 nm, 620 to 740 nm, and a 6,000 to 6,500 K waveband, it provides indoor plants with a diverse range of light. This helps promote growth and allows even the most delicate, tropical plants and flowers to not only grow but bloom year-round. You can also grow seasonal vegetables and herbs in the winter, spring, summer, or fall.
This 100-watt grow light also has an aluminum cooling plate to effectively dissipate heat, even on the highest setting. It comes with hanging brackets that you can hang just about anywhere in your home, making it a great option if you have lots of plants you want to cover.
What Testers Say?
"In our test, the grow light gave our seedlings ample nourishment early on, so they didn’t outpace themselves. The light also proved to be the perfect size for a standard seed tray. It distributes light evenly so each seedling gets an equal share of light." — Stacey L. Nash, Product Tester
What to Look for in a Grow Light
When deciding what size grow light you need, think about how many plants you'll need to cover. Also, if you’re planning to move your light from place to place, you may want something lighter and portable, whereas if you know it’s going to stay put, that may not be as much of a factor. Also, consider the space where you plan to put it and make sure there’s room for it to operate safely and not up against furniture, drapes, or other items.
There are various types of grow lights to consider, from panels to ones that hang overhead or screw into a regular light fixture. The type of plants you have, the amount of existing natural light, and where your plants are located will help you narrow down your choices. Hanging lights are typically larger, while desktop lights are smaller and easy to move around. If you want a complete system in one, consider a full garden kit that includes the planter with a built-in light.
Wattage isn't as important as you might expect when it comes to grow lights, but it's still a factor worth considering. The more important metric is actually PPFD (or photosynthetic photon flux density), which measures the specific light emission a lamp gives off. Since this is a bit complicated to figure out, wattage is a useful tool to figure out the correct fixture for your plants. The rule of thumb is that you need 32 watts per square foot, so most indoor plants (especially herbs) will do just fine with a lower-watt light.
How far should grow lights be from plants?
Though it depends on the wattage and light wavelengths, grow lights should be placed at least 2 feet away from your indoor plants to avoid overheating. Having said that, LEDs and fluorescent lights typically have lower heat outputs, so they can be placed a little closer.
How long should grow lights be on for?
To effectively mimic the sun's natural light, a grow light should be on for eight to 16 hours a day, give or take, depending on where you live, what time of year it is, and the type of plant. If your plants receive some natural light, they generally won't need as much artificial light, whereas a plant that doesn't get any natural light may need the full 16 hours.
Do you have to use LED lights?
LEDs are most often recommended for grow lights, though some fluorescent and incandescent bulbs can work. The most important thing is that the bulbs offer full-spectrum illumination and produce waves of red and blue light, which is often necessary for plants to thrive indoors.
Expert Buying Tip
"Plants 'see' light differently than us. They qualify light not by its intensity but by the required specific wavelengths in the spectrum, and a photosynthetic spectrum is key for plant growth. If you are providing the correct spectrum of light, all different types of plants should thrive from it." — Erin Marino, Editorial Lead at The Sill.