If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission.
Being stuck at home – even during the winter months – is a great opportunity to grow an indoor garden. It’s a relatively cheap hobby, even factoring in the amount of plants that might not make it, and can significantly improve the air quality in your house too.
Along with water, plant food, and the optional operatic singing (there’s still debate as to why, or if this works, but it’s worth a shot), an indoor LED grow light can be enormously helpful to kick growth into high gear. The various colors of the bulbs simulate sunlight, which plants need to capture and process, and eventually helps them grow up green and healthy just as if they’ve been outside.
How Does an Indoor Grow Light Work?
As simple as it may sound – just shining a light on a plant – the world of grow lights is a dense online jungle to navigate for someone just starting out seeding.
The biggest basic difference is in the bulbs: brightness strength is measured in lumens, which are much more powerful than wattage, and 100 lumens is equal to about 20 watts. You’ll also notice that bulbs are measured in kelvin too, which is a way of measuring a light’s temperature spectrum.
LED lights often have blue and red, and sometimes purple, often referred to as “blurple” when it’s all three. A warmer tone will be a lower kelvin, and a cooler tone will be higher. If you’re planning on growing veggies, a full spectrum light with a color temperature in the blue range (5,000 – 7,000K) is recommended, and for fruits and flowers, the red range (3,500 – 4,500K) is the guiding light. These tones boost growth and absorption more than others, but for photosynthesis, plants really still need the full color spectrum if possible.
A leaf’s chlorophyl absorbs the red and blue light extremely well, but can block that light from penetrating further into the plant below and preventing deeper growth beneath the leaf’s structural surface. White LEDs fuel growth in the mid-spectrum, bringing out the deep greens in a leaf, but often slacking on the sides of the spectrum, leaving out cool blues and intense infrareds.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Grow Light?
If you’ve got a sunlight-hungry plant and a bright spot by a big window, using a grow light may not be necessary. But during the winter months when the sun is low or obstructed, plants often don’t get enough of what they need, and an indoor LED light can fill that void, keeping them growing all year long.
Even if you do have sun-facing windows, you may be running out of windowsill real estate for new plants, and a grow light allows you to put your new additions anywhere you want, even in a small backroom with poor natural lighting.
Achieving a balance of light across the spectrum is important too, as plants tend to compensate for whatever color of the spectrum they’re lacking. For example, plants with an excess of shady blue will grow stretchy to search for the sunlight, while on the opposite end, an overdose of high-end infrareds can cause burning and bleaching.
Whatever light you grow with, it’ll need to be on for long stretches, often 12-16 hours, with at least eight hours of darkness. Keep that in mind especially if you’re getting plants for a bedroom, where you may not want a light shining all day. Also if the light doesn’t already come with a built-in timer, we suggest investing in one, to set it and forget it.
Gardening, even with just a couple small plants, is a deeply rewarding activity where you reap the benefits of a greener home, connection to nature, and get fresh fruits and veggies too. These are the best grow lights to help you get there.
1. BESTVA Dimmable Pro1000 LED Grow Light
Bestva’s 3ft x 3ft grow light is simple to use and produces some seriously impressive growth results.
The brightness is conveniently adjustable with a dimmer knob, giving you more options for control and experimentation for what works best. At under 6 pounds, it’s still a pretty lightweight light, and is efficiently bright thanks to the built-in Samsung LM301H diodes which cover a good portion of the sunlight spectrum (3000K warm white, 5000K white, 660nm deep red, and 730nm IR light). It also runs quietly, without the use of fans, instead using the large areas of aluminum as heat sinks.
The LED board is waterproof too, providing protection from accidental spills, sprays, and splashes, and the lights stay cool even after long stretches of staying on (plus they look great in any garden setup).
2. SPIDER FARMER SF-1000 LED Grow Light
Less is more with Spider Farmer’s SF-1000. The high-yielding Samsung diodes inside are extremely energy efficient, running up to 50% less power than other LEDs while achieving big results. Unlike bendable separate lights, this uniform hanging LED provides even lighting to the plants below, and is ideal for all stages across the spectrum, penetrating deep into the roots for maximum growth.
Settings are simple with a dimming function and switch control, plus, this is water resistant and can be daisy-chained to additional lights as your garden gains more and more plants.
There’s no fan here, but users say the unit doesn’t even get that hot, and if it’s still a concern, pointing a small fan at it will keep it extra cool.
3. Moya Full Spectrum Growing Light for Indoor Plants
This little LED light shines bright, emitting up to 2500lm, and a 380-780nm spectrum range that covers most small houseplants. The bulbs are also replaceable, and provide a white light for those who want to bypass “blurple.”
A wired remote is included, with capabilities to control the five settings of brightness levels along with three lighting modes, and a built-in timer too.
The base clamps steadily and securely to a table’s edge. Two different lamps, a 12-inch and 24-inch, are equipped with 360° Flexible Gooseneck capability, to get that perfect angle and give more light to plants that need it most.
4. EZORKAS Dimmable Levels Grow Light
This quad-armed grow lamp contains a total of 42 lights: 16 blue (at 460nm) for fueling growth in your stems and leaves, and 42 red (660nm) for producing flowers, fruits and veggies. Flipping to either one is easy, and there’s even the option to use both if you’re starting from seedlings.
The remote’s got a timer for three, nine or 12 hours, which simulates a sun cycle for a plant’s steady growth. There’s also a dimmer switch with nine modes, and the four arms contort to cover each plant’s needs for light, while dissipating the warmth it generates and preventing overheating.
At just over two pounds, it’s a lightweight, and a nice option for casual beginners and hobbyists.
5. PEATOP 5W Led Grow Light Bulb
This bulb is not only a surprisingly easy (and bright) option, it also works in just about any standard lamp.
There’s four adjustable brightness levels, and even the highest is plenty powerful without being blinding to look at. Wattage is low, using only five watts to simulate 40w, meaning it’s safe to leave on all day too without getting hot. For a few plants in a small space, like a sunless corner or cubicle, this bulb brings the necessary nutrients to keep plants growing for up to 50,000 hours.