Learning about the best grow lights for indoor plants can feel like an overwhelming topic when you’re an apartment gardener. Images of dramatic large lights, reflectors, shelves, and other equipment may come to mind, reminding us of a large grow room or an indoor greenhouse.
However, there are plenty of simple, effective, and easy grow light solutions for those with smaller spaces. Here is a list of my top choices, from most affordable, to most expensive. However, each pick is under $100, allowing for several accessible options.
- Hydrofarm Agrobrite Compact Fluorescent Spiral Grow Lamp
- Aceple Small Grow Light
- Ankace 60W Tri Head Grow Lights
- SANSI 24W Plant Light Bulb
- Torchstar LED Grow Light Kit
- Roleadro LED Grow Light
*If you’re in a hurry, I’d recommend the Ankace 60W Tri Head Grow Light as the best one. This system is the perfect compromise in size, value, and yield, and has many helpful settings that allow you to automate the growing process.
Do My Plants Need a Grow Light?
If you have an indoor plant or garden, you may need a grow light to help emulate the light conditions that your plants would have outdoors. A standard lightbulb will have an insufficient amount of brightness and the incorrect wavelengths, meaning it won’t provide your plant with a full spectrum of light.
Your plants will get the best natural light if you place them in south or west-facing windows. If you don’t have windows in these areas, you may have a hard time seeing healthy growth in your plant.
Even if you do get great indoor light, for many of us, this is dictated by the season. For example, my plants in Chicago would never receive enough light in the winter months, when days were short and the sky was cloudier.
You can tell if your plant needs additional light by looking for the following two signs: Firstly, the colors of the leaves will pale and lose their richness. Next, the plant will elongate and its stems will become “lanky”. This is because the plant is stretching and searching for a better lightsource. Not only does this make your plants less attractive, but it also weakens them. This condition of a plant’s stalk extending is known as etiolation.
Types of Indoor Grow Lights
There are two types of lights that are best for indoor succulents: light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and fluorescent grow lights. Let’s look into the details of both options:
Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
LED grow lights are an excellent choice for your indoor garden.Their blue and red lights provide a proper spectrum of lights for plants, helping them grow, flower, and seed healthily.
Since LED lights are low-intensity, they are more energy-efficient and less hot. This is ideal if you’re in a small space and need to place your lights close to your plants. A cooler light, such as an LED, will minimize the issue of “cooking” the plant by keeping it too close to hot lights.
Fluorescent lights have been a popular grow light choice for several decades. They traditionally come in a long tube shape that is either flat or coiled.
If you have a smaller home, you can get a CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulb. The lights are spiraled into a shape that is similar to a traditional bulb, and it should be able to fit a standard lamp outlet. These bulbs are perfect for a small number of plants, or for plants on a desk or bookshelf. These bulbs give off a white light, which some indoor gardeners may find more pleasant than the colored LED lights.
These lights are full-spectrum, which means they will provide your plant with lightwaves ranging from red to ultraviolet frequencies. They are high output, and can get very hot, so you will need to make sure to distance your plants far enough to avoid “cooking” them.
How to Set Up an Indoor Grow Light
The first thing to consider when setting up and using your grow light is where you’ll put it. Look for a place where there is a little more space than you think you’ll need, and where no one can easily disturb it.
Distance between your plant and your light is the next consideration. You want to make sure your light isn’t too close to your plants or it may overheat and burn them. As a general rule of thumb, make sure to space your lights at least 6” from your plants, and do not place your lights further than 30”.
Of course, the distance of your lights will affect the coverage over the total area. Lights set further away will provide a larger volume of light for your plants, making this a good option for those with many plants.
Stimulating growth with light temperature
For Fluorescent bulbs and tube lights place them 6”-12” away from your succulents.
For LED light place them 18” – 24” away from your succulents.
Another consideration you may have when using your grow light is choosing a color temperature that is best for your growing needs.
Color temperature helps us describe the quality of light and is measured in degrees of Kelvin (K) on a scale from 1,000 – 10,000. A lower kelvin number will appear more yellow, while a higher number will appear more white and blue-hued.
If you would like your plant to grow quickly, a temperature range around 6500k is great. If you would like to see flowers and blooms, you can use a 3000k light. A range of 3,000K – 6000K is healthy for your succulents.
Light Timing & Schedules
Outside plants need at least 6 hours of bright sunlight throughout the day. Since the quality of indoor light is different, they will need about twice as much light. To make this easy, you can give your plants 12 hours of light and 12 hours with them off each day. You can go up to 14 hours of light if you think your plants may need an extra boost.
Make sure to place your lights indirectly if possible, to avoid “sunburning” the plants. You may also want to regularly rotate your lights or plants to make sure any areas that are in the shadows also get exposure.
You’ll know if your plants need more light because they will lose their plump form and begin to grow long and thin, stretching and searching for light.
This Hydrofarm fluorescent bulb is as simple as it gets when it comes to grow light options, and a low price. It’s also one of the most affordable options for home grower lighting.
These bulbs fit into almost any standard base and can also easily be hung overhead as a bare bulb for the most light coverage. I recommend using a clamp lamp so that you can clip your bulb to any surface and adjust the angle of your light as needed.
These bulbs work best when placed about 8” away from your plants. Their bright blue light registers at 6500-Kelvin, which is very close to the bright sun plants are used to in outdoor environments.
Pros: Simple, Affordable, Bright, Can be put into any standard fixture
Cons: May be too small for medium to large indoor growers, not as long-lasting as other lights
This simple yet powerful clip-on grow light is one of the most affordable LED options, priced at less than $15. You can clip, screw, or stick the base of the light to various surfaces, making it ideal for many areas around the house or office.
The length of the “neck” is 15.8 inches and it’s light can cover 1.5’ x 1.5’ radiu, making it ideal for 1 medium plant or several smaller plants, such as succulents or herbs. It’s recommended to keep the light approximately 2 – 3 feet away from your plants to prevent overheating, especially if you will keep the light on for a long time.
The light functions with a simple “on/off” switch and has a standard 2-prong AC plug. The lifetime of the bulb lasts approximately 25,000 hours. That’s 2,083 days when using the light for 12 hours a day!
The Ankace Tri Head Grow Light is flexible, affordable, and perfect for house plants in tricky spaces that need accessible light. There are three rotatable sticks of light on this unit, making it easy to provide full and even light to your plants. It attaches with a sturdy metal clamp, making it great for clipping onto tables, desks, and shelves. It can be powered with a USB or wall outlet depending on your needs.
5 brightness levels and 3 light spectrum modes allow for you to control your lights based on the growth phase of your plants, or if anything goes wrong with your plants. This means that this light is ideal for germinating, rooting, flowering, and fruiting.
The timer feature takes the show with this product. It can be set to provide your plants with 3, 6, or 12 hours of light as needed. This is perfect for people with busy schedules, travelers, or people who want a simple and easy indoor growing routine.
This SANSI grow light is the perfect combination of a specialty item and a simple item. It operates like a standard lightbulb and will fit an E26 socket (the most common size), meaning that it is super easy to screw this bulb into any outlet you have available. It also doesn’t need a lampshade due to its directional light that is aimed at plants.
The coverage area of this bulb is about 4.25FT, meaning that you can use it for several plants at once. You should space this light about 18” – 24” away from your succulents for optimal conditions.
This bulb is a Ceramic LED, which in contrast to Aluminum LEDs, is non-conductive, has fewer parts, making it more efficient. This makes the SANSI bulb a great value for its cost. Because this bulb is full-spectrum, it is particularly good for rate and variegated succulents.
This light is great in almost any room in the house since it is white light, opposed to many LEDs that emit red and blue light. Although it doesn’t require a shade, using a clamp light can help you to perfectly position your bulb anywhere in the home.
This LED grow light kit is a perfect and fashionable light and container that could work perfectly in the kitchen for culinary herbs. It also works well as an office desktop unit. You can stack several on top of each other if you choose to grow additional plants as well.
These lights have a timer function with the mode of 16 hours on and 8 hours off, providing consistent and abundant light to your plants. They are 4000k and give off a cool white light that should be safe for any plant placed in the unit.
Set up is simple and fast and requires no tools, making this a great gift option for all gardening experience levels.
The Roleadro may be more heavy-duty than any indoor gardener may need, but it’s a perfect high-performing option for indoor spaces. Since it hangs from the ceiling, it may be cleverly installed to minimize taking up space in your home. This light would be great for a slightly larger set up, or for growing some larger edible plants inside, such as peppers or tomatoes. It would also compliment a hydroponic garden quite well.
This light supports plants in all stages of growth, and is a particularly good choice if you would like your plants to flower or fruit, which is the result of a strong red light in an LED system.
This light comes with a powerful heat-removal system that includes 2 high-speed cooling fans and a built-in temperature controller that can moderate the heat safely for 10 to 16 hours per day. You should place your plants 19” – 59” away from these lights to ensure they won’t overheat.
Grow lights are relatively simple, and by establishing a routine with your plants, they can be a low-maintenance addition to your indoor gardening tasks. Make sure to take some time to research the specific light needs of your plants. Do they do well in low lighting? Do they need warm lights? How many hours of light do they need each day?
When you find the right fit, your plants may grow 8 times faster than they previously had, making everyone in your home happy! Let me know what your favorite grow lights are in the comments below.