Can I Use a Normal LED Light To Grow Plants?


If you have started your indoor garden, and have quite a few plants, you would need to invest in a little indoor lighting to ensure that all of your plants get an equal amount of light in order to thrive best in the environment they are in.

Yes, you can use a normal LED light to grow your indoor plants since all of the plants under this category can thrive in artificial light. However, the growth and development of your plant may not be as good as natural lighting or other artificial light sources with specific colors.

Artificial Lights and Their Types

By definition, artificial lights are any source of illumination that is produced by electricity. When you have started an indoor garden, knowing the difference between a variety of lights can definitely help you maximize your garden’s potential as a whole. Here are a few commonly used lights for plants:

  1. Fluorescent Lights
    According to various indoor gardeners, these lights are the most economical in terms of use, since they come in full spectrums that contain red and blue lights that are great for indoor plants.
  2. Incandescent Lights
    These lights are known to give off a lot of heat, therefore it should be placed far away from the plant if you plant to use this kind of light. They emit more red wavelengths and would be optimal to use along with a cool white fluorescent bulb to balance out the spectrum.
  3. Halogen Lights
    The least energy efficient but have full-spectrum colors, and like incandescents, they give off a lot of heat which is not really ideal for indoor plants. Too much heat would cause leaf curling and dehydration.
  4. Horticulture Growth Lights
    These are the most ideal for indoor plants. They contain the full-spectrum specifically needed for blooming and growth. Most seasoned indoor gardeners invest a lot in the use of these lamps to maximize their garden’s potential.
  5. LED Lights
    These are highly efficient in terms of energy consumption. LED manufacturers have been revolutionizing the gardening industry by creating specialized horticulture LED growth lights that produce the main wavelengths needed by plants.


Light Spectrum and Corresponding Function

Sunlight in particular emits all colors of the spectrum, which is why most plants thrive in direct sunlight. However, the harsh rays of the sun are not ideal for some plants which do a lot better in shady areas, or indoors. Here is a guide on the spectrum wavelengths and their functions in terms of plant growth and development.

Ultraviolet (380nm to 390nm)

Just like other living things, UV light can be harmful in large doses. In horticulture, however, UV light is needed in a way to trigger the plant to protect itself from harmful light components. Without exposure to UV light, this defense mechanism would not be activated at all. In some cases, it has been documented that UV light can prevent pest infestation and growth of pathogenic fungi and mold.

Blue Violet (400nm to 410nm)

This particular wavelength promotes green leaf growth and helps deepen the hue of the plant’s flesh.

Blue (440nm to 460nm)

Ideal for vegetative growth, this wavelength promotes the development of roots and leaves. One of the best colors for indoor plants. It is essential for the first stages of the plant’s life since it aids in chlorophyll production.

Green (515nm to 535nm)

It is said that the reason green plants are green is because  of this particular wavelength on the light spectrum. The chlorophyll, responsible for the pigment of the plant absorbs the red and blue light more and reflects the green color back. If plants were only exposed to green light, the rate of photosynthesis would be reduced greatly.

Yellow (585nm to 595nm)

Another light that plants do not absorb is yellow and it does not contribute much in photosynthesis. Exposing a plant to yellow light only would be the same as completely depriving it of any source of light.

Orange (600nm to 610nm)

Close to the red spectrum which makes a good effect on the plant during photosynthesis in spite of a low chlorophyll absorption rate.

Red (660nm to 670nm)

This wavelength is the best for flower-bearing plants, especially during expected blooms. Chlorophyll absorbs the red wavelength well and converts the light into energy needed in metabolism, therefore aiding in the whole process of photosynthesis.

What are LED Lights?

LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. LEDs are the newest technology we have in terms of lighting. Through the process of electroluminescence, the semiconductor converts electrons into photons. And because of this process, 95% of the energy is utilized in lighting and only 5% is wasted in heat, making LEDs the most energy efficient artificial light source available in the market today.

Advantages of Using LED Bulbs

Choosing LED bulbs are definitely the safest and most affordable choice when planning to install artificial lights for your indoor garden. And here’s why:

  1. Efficient
    As mentioned earlier, LED lights are much more efficient in the consumption of energy, and regardless of shape, the energy used is not affected by any means. It is quite economical in the long run.
  2. Color
    Thanks to the advancement in customization, LEDs can emit light based on a specific color that is needed. By choosing a specific color, we are also lowering costs by targeting the particular need of your plant.
  3. Size
    LEDs are quite small and are easy to attach to lamps and other light fixtures that can be situated overhead. Some LED bulbs can be used with ordinary stand lamps or desk lamps too.
  4. Cool
    Unlike halogens and incandescents, you would not need to add ventilation whenever you used them. In addition, you are not subjecting your plant to heat stress by using LED bulbs.
  5. Life
    LEDs have a longer lifespan than most of the other light sources. They can last for an approximate 15,000 to 50,000 hours depending on use, environment and other conditions. Making it cost-efficient, at the end of the day.

Would Normal LED Light Bulbs Work?

If you are starting a garden with a few indoor plants and purely for aesthetic purposes, ordinary LED light bulbs should do fine. If you are looking to grow plants from seedlings up to maturity, however, ordinary bulbs may not be enough to cover the plants’ need, you would specifically need growth lights that have red and blue wavelengths in particular.

You can read more about growing houseplants with LED lights here.

Different Type of Growth Lights

Growth lights make it much easier for plants to thrive indoors. Since the usual indoor lighting cannot provide the plant with a wide spectrum of color that sunlight can produce, growth lights have been developed.

  • Fluorescent Grow Light
    This type of fluorescent bulbs is specific for plant growth. They can come in chain strips or panels but the bulbs need to be matched to their fixtures whether they are High Outputs (HO) or Very High Output (VHO). These lights are very popular for propagating plants in early stages of vegetative growth. You can see some fluorescent grow lights of all types on Amazon.com by clicking here.
  • High-Density Discharge (HID) Grow Light
    These are the brightest among all five types. They run on 120 home voltage and require special fixtures that have electrical ballasts. There are two types of HID Lights:
  • Metal Halide (MH)
    This type is a cool white light that emits the strongest blue wavelengths, because of this, leafy growth is promoted. Metal Halide bulbs must be replaced every year. Check prices of Metal Halide grow lights on Amazon.com by clicking here.
  • High-Pressure Sodium (HPS)
    The lifespan of the HPS bulb is a bit longer than the Metal Halide. Ideally, it should be replaced every 18 to 20 months. This type of light strongly emits the red or orange wavelength which is efficient for flowering plants. However, they must be used with sunlight or cool lights to prevent a leggy growth. This grow system comes with both High-Pressure Sodum and Metal Halide bulbs.

Some Metal Halide lamps may have ultraviolet radiation that is helpful in eliminating pests and molds.

  • High-Intensity Fluorescent Grow Light
    These lights and fixtures look like HID bulb sets but are more affordable. One main advantage with these fixtures is that it can hold both warm and cool bulbs, at the same time within the same ballast, making it more cost-effective.
  • Plasma Grow Light
    This growth light technology is fairly new in the industry and is quite expensive, although they do have a higher efficiency rate compared to HIDs and last longer compared to all other bulbs.
  • Light Emitting Diode (LED) Grow Light
    LED Technology is one of the most favored due to its high efficiency in terms of usage cost. With the sudden boom in the industry with affordable LED Grow Lights, some businesses use the opportunity to market the light with monumental claims that it simply cannot uphold. With technological advancements in the field, however, we’re sure to find new innovations with this type of lighting that will promote excellent generative vegetation.

LED Grow Lights come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

I like this one, personally.

New gardeners would definitely benefit more from using growth lights, but if you’re starting out with just a few plants in your garden, and have a space that exposes it to at least 4 to 6 hours of daylight, worrying about light fixtures may be a bit too advanced. Any ordinary bulb will do fine.

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