Grow Lights for Plants

Reviews of the Best Grow Lights for Tomatoes, Pepper, Lettuce, Basil, and other Plants and Herbs for Indoor Gardening

Growing plants indoors can be a delight…and a struggle.  Since the grower is responsible for providing most of the conditions instead of Mother Nature, an indoor garden does require a certain level of involvement to be successful. You must give your plants an adequate amount of water, nutrients, and light to keep your them healthy.  As far as the lighting is concerned, the amount of sunlight plants are able to receive from your windows may not be sufficient to power them through all stages of growth. The solution to this problem is supplementing – or substituting entirely – the natural sunlight with an artificial grow light that mimics the sun’s rays. Let’s review some considerations before you purchase your grow lights for plants, as well as review some of the best indoor grow lights for plants on the market today.

Grow Lights for Plants: The Requirements

Light is crucial for photosynthesis, when oxygen, carbon dioxide, water, and light combine to give plants the energy source they need for growth. If natural sunlight is inadequate in your indoor grow space, grow lights can provide the boost of light plants need to bring about photosynthesis. When you are searching for a grow light for indoor plants, consider the following:

Color: Different types of grow lights provide a varying range of energy outputs, wavelengths, and colors. For example, blue light is best for promoting foliage growth during the vegetation stage, while red light helps to promote flowering and fruiting during the later stages of growth. Blue light waves tend to be shorter and possess more energy whereas red waves have a longer reach but possess less energy output. Grow lights with a “full spectrum” possess all colors of the sun and appear white in color.

Light Intensity: The light’s brightness determines how much light energy can be absorbed by the plant.  A grow light’s intensity is measured in Lumen output. Low intensity grow lights are not optimal because plants must reach in order to find adequate light, which can result in long, leggy plants. On the other hand, high-intensity lights tend to produce more compact, dense, and higher yielding plants (a good thing). You can increase intensity by moving low intensity grow lights closer to the plants, but why not just start off with a high intensity grow light from the beginning?

If you are growing larger indoor plants, we recommend you pick a grow light that has a broad spectrum of colors and is capable of delivering the high-intensity light.

Different Types of Grow Lights for Indoor Plants

Type of Grow Light Pros Cons

Incandescent

• Inexpensive

• May be effective for low light plants

• Not powerful

• Runs Hot

• Must be kept away from plants

Fluorescent

• Cheap

• Compact

• Easy to find locally or online

• Low electricity usage and fewer heating issues

• Only useful for plants with low to medium light requirements

• Each bulb needs a socket

• Lower yields and poor efficiency compared to LED

HID

• Less expensive than LED

• Deep penetration into canopy and good coverage

• High yielding

• Runs hot (plants kept at a distance)

• Not energy effecient

• Bulbs need replacing more often

• Needs socket/reflector, ballast, and ventilation

LED

• Very efficient

• Cost pennies a day to operate

• Plug-n-play, easy to operate

• LEDs have long lifespans

• More spectra control

• Runs cool and self-vents

• Higher initial cost

• Manufacturer's wattage claims are often inaccurate

Incandescent

Only Acceptable for Indoor Plants with Low-Level Lighting Needs 

Incandescent bulbs are by far the least expensive and most widely available option. The downside is twofold: they are not very powerful as a grow light, and the heat from incandescent bulbs requires them to be placed at a 2’+ distance to the plants because their heat output can do damage to the plant if it’s placed too close. Not recommended for anything other than low-light plants like ferns, vines, and dracaenas.

Fluorescents

Good for Indoor Plants with Low to Medium Level Lighting Needs

The two types of fluorescent grow lights – CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lighting) and T5. goes, you can spot CFL lights by their twisted shape, while T5 grow lights are long and narrow.

Fluorescent bulbs are a popular choice for indoor gardens because they are versatile and budget-friendly. The colors of fluorescent grow lights can be warm, cool, or have a full spectrum. They can be used in standard light sockets, give off a non-offensive color, are budget-friendly, energy efficient,  and do not run hot like incandescent lighting. They are a good choice for plants with low to medium-level lighting needs such as African Violets, herbs, greens, carnivorous plants, and phalaenopsis orchids. For larger and more demanding plants, fluorescent lighting tends to produce smaller yields per watt vs. HID and LED and must be positioned close to the plant to be effective.

High Intensity Discharge (HID)

A Top Choice for Advanced Growers, With Some Caveats

High-Intensity Discharge (HID) grow lights are more efficient than fluorescent lighting and a much better choice for larger and more demanding indoor plants. HID lighting is recognizable by its awkward shape and often used in conjunction with a reflector hood (which redirects light downward towards the plants). One notable disadvantage to this type of lighting is their tenancy to run hot, so much so that exhaust fans are typically used to vent the heat.  They may also require ballasts to mediate the electric currents. So while LED grow lights may be more expensive, the maintenance of HID lighting can end up being more costly to operate over time. Plus, HID light bulbs need to be replaced more often than LEDs.  That said, HID lighting is capable of producing high yields because of its higher intensity.

The three types of High-Intensity Discharge lighting include Metal Halide (MH), High-Pressure Sodium (HPS), and Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH, LEC, Light Emitting Ceramic). Metal Halide’s blue hues are very beneficial to vegetative growth, while the yellowish colors of HPS yellow produce an amazing yield per watt and are great for the flowering stage. Ceramic Metal Halide lighting is made with ceramic, which makes them more efficient than standard MH lighting.

Bottom Line: HID / MH lights can produce high yields and high-quality crops. However, they do require more safeguards and upkeep to prevent overheating issues.

LED Grow Lights

Powerful, Versatile, Efficient, Easy to Use – Our Top Pick 

While HID lighting is certainly effective, the heating issues are a concern. As you may have read in our Best LED Grow Lights article, the main benefit of LED grow lights is they run cooler and consume less power than other lighting sources.  Most LED grow lights have heat sinks and built-in fans for ventilation and temperature regulation and are more energy-efficient than its competition. Yes, the initial purchase cost is higher, the efficiency of LED grow lights are a cost savings over time.

LED grow lights are great for novice growers because they are plug-n-play. Simply hang the grow light above your plants and plugged into a wall socket – and adjust the settings – and you are good to go. Quality LED grow lights are capable of producing the particular spectrum plants needs at its various stages of growth. Additionally, LEDs do need to be replaced as often as fluorescent or HID lights.

Bottom Line: LED grow lights are low maintenance, cost efficient, and possess a lifespan of several years or more. Serious growers often use both LED grow lights and High-Intensity Discharge lights together, but LEDs are capable of amazing results as a stand-alone grow light. Use them to grow herbs, greens, tomatoes, peppers, flowers, cannabis, or nearly any plant variety.

Best Grow Lights for Plants

Now that we know the types of grow lights for indoor plants,  let’s look at some your options.

LED Grow Light Bulbs, Grow Light Panels, LED Strips, and Lamps

Suitable for small plants, herbs, and greens with lower light requirements

LED grow light bulbs, grow light panels, and LED grow light strips are two inexpensive and popular options for indoor plants. We couldn’t recommend these types of lights for larger plants like cannabis and vegetables, but they may do the trick for herbs, salad greens, and other small and compact plants.

For more information about these types of grow lights for plants, see our Small Grow Lights page. Here are a few recommendations to get you on the right track.

18W Dual Head Timing Grow Lamp

The LEDs of this grow light gives off targeted wavelengths (460nm and 660nm) for all stages of growth while the dimmer function can tone down or intensify brightness. The timer feature allows you to set your lights to turn on and off after 3, 6 or 12 hours. Not a powerhouse, but this is a great grow light for small indoor plants.

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TaoTronics Full Spectrum LED Grow Light 

TaoTronics makes some the best selling grow lights on the market. This grow light bulb is comprised of 12 3W LEDs to your plants the wavelengths and even coverage they will need for all stages of growth. Designed to run cool, even after 24 hours of continuous usage.

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GrowStar UFO Grow Lights 

The GrowStar UFO grow light doesn’t just look neat, but it also performs exceptionally well for such a small light. The 3w Bridgelux/Epileds+ 30w Cree COB mixture only consumes 62 watts while running cool.

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3.5 drop rating
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Specs:

LEDs: 96 pcs. Epistar
Spectrum: 440nm, 460nm, 630nm, 660nm, 730nm (IR) 2700k-3000k
Coverage: Veg: 3.5 ft x 5.5 ft; flowering: 2 ft x 3 ft
View Angle of LED: 90-120 degrees
Lumen Output: 9040
Max Yield: 1.6g/watt
PPFD:680
Replace HID/MH: 250W
Draw Power: 110V/190W±5% / 220V/187W±5%
Life Rating: 50,000 to 100,000 hrs

Mars Hydro Reflector Series

Popular, powerful, relatively inexpensive

The Mars Hydro Reflector Series LED grow lights are one of the most popular grow lights on the market today. Recognizable by their brightly colored casements, Mars grow lights are an ideal choice for small-scale indoor growers of cannabis, vegetables, herbs, or just about any plant imaginable. They also work well in greenhouse environments. A step up from Meizhi grow lights but less expensive than some other lights on our list, Mars Hydro LED grow lights offer a compelling value proposition because of their fairly low cost and high dependability as a powerful grow light.

As far as features go, you can easily switch between grow and bloom mode depending on the phase of growth. Mars Hydro lights are easy to operate and easy to maintain. The unique design of the reflecting blades allows these lights to outperform traditional HPS/HID lights with higher wattage (the 480W is equivalent to a 650-720 HPS/HID). High-speed heat dissipating fans ensure the light runs cool, and the 3-year warranty ensures that your light will stand the test of time. Overall, a great light for seedling, vegetative growth, and flowering stages.

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4 drop rating
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Specs:

Product Dimensions: 18″ x 8.5″ x 4″
Weight: 13 lbs.
Origin: USA
Led Brand: High Power Osram LEDs (50,000 hrs)
LEDs: 171 x 3W LEDs (red, blue, white)
Actual Draw: 400 watts actual draw at full power
Par Value: High intensity PAR output of 620 μuMoles/s
Voltage: Automatic voltage regulation – 90 – 277 volts
Max Heat Output: 1200 BTU
Coverage Area:  Up to 3′ X 4′ area in bloom and up to 6′ X 8′ area in veg
Warranty: 5 year limited, local support

California LightWorks SolarSystem 550 

Advanced Design with Total Spectrum Control

California LightWorks SolarSystem 550 is an advanced grow light with an amazing array of features and capabilities to optimize light spectra. Despite its small size, this light has the functionality and intensity to rival anything on the market.

The SS 550 is great for indoor growers with limited space, or for greenhouse growers who wish to reduce their shadow effect. When used in conjunction with the controller, the California LightWorks SolarSystem 550 offers a fully automated and highly controllable grow system,  The daisy chain functionality allows for 1 to 1000 grow lights to be controlled from a single controller. These grow lights for plants are game changers for cannabis growers and indoor growers of all kinds!

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4 drop rating
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Specs:

Dimensions: 21″ x 14″ x 3″s (52 cm x 36 cm x 7.6 cm)
Weight: 22 lbs
HID equivalent: 800 – 1000 Watts
PAR Value: 1480 umol
Veg Coverage: 4′ x 5′ (122 cm x 153 cm)
Flowering Coverage: 4′ x 5′ (122 cm x 153 cm)
Power Draw: 380 Watts
Amperage: (110V) 3.3 Amp;  (240V) 1.6 Amp

600W G8LED Watt MEGA LED Grow Light 

Multiple High Times Magazine “Best LED Grow Light” Winner

The G8LED MEGA LED is a state-of-the-art grow light with simple functionality. Its advantage lies in capabilities – it has an optimal 8-Band wavelength ratio spectrum with both Infrared (IR) and Ultraviolet (UV).  G8LED has incorporated advanced heat dissipation features to make sure it never runs too hot.  Its an ideal grow light for every phase of the growing cycle  – from vegetation to flowering and fruiting.  This light also provides intense coverage for up to 18 sq ft of floor space. The increased intensity benefits from the dual 90W Red Flower Boosters which penetrates 60″ past the canopy. No wonder why High Times Magazine praises this light! But its not just for cannabis growers – the G8LED is versatile design is perfect for any type of crop you wish to grow indoors or in a greenhouse.

It took Dorm Grow/G8LED 8 years of research to perfect their MEGA LED series. Despite its power, its simple design allows even novice growers to operate this light with ease. If massive yields and high-quality results are what you are after, consider G8LED grow lights. They are manufactured in the USA include a 2-yr warranty and US-based customer service center.

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4.5 drop rating
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Specs:

Wattage (Avg): 630w
LED Wattage: 1260w
Number of LEDs: 252
Product Dimensions: 18.75″ x 18.75″ x 5.13″
Origin: USA
Max Flowering Footprint: 5′ x 5′
Max Vegetative Footprint: 6.5′ x 6.5′
Acceptable Voltage Range: AC 100V~250V
AC Frequency Range: 50~60 Hz
Operational Temperature Range: -4 ~104 °F (-20 to 40 °C)
Certifications: ETL, CE, FCC, RoHS
M.T.B.F: > 50,000 Hours
Power Factor: > 0.98
Fans: 70,000 Hour Expected Life
BTU: 2148
Warranty: 5 yr Limited Lifetime

Black Dog LED PhytoMAX-2 

High Intensity LED Grow Light – Great for Marijuana and Plants of any Kind

Black Dog LED is known to manufacture some of the most state-of-the-art and powerful LED grow lights on the market. The PhytoMAX-2 line is the Black Dog’s best series to date. This particular model (600W) has an actual wattage of 630 with a 961 μMol/s total photon flux, outperforming any single-ended 1000-Watt HPS. Here you get a reliable 365-750nm, UV to IR full spectrum which can penetrate canopies and reach the lower hanging vegetation.

As far as coverage area goes, the 600W Black Dog LED PhytoMAX-2  can cover an even 5′ X 5′ flowering footprint. Black Dog uses only the highest quality LEDs available and incorporates the best technologies. Each light comes with an amazing 5-year limited lifetime warranty. This is for the person who wants the best in grow lights for indoor plants. 

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Thanks for reading our Best Grow Lights for Plants article. We hope that you found a suitable light for your indoor grow. For more hydroponics and aquaponics articles, please see our LED Grow Light Reviews, Grow CabinetsGrow Tent Kits, Hydroponics Growing Medium, and Hydroponics System pages.