The 9 Best Grow Lights of 2021
Mimic the sun’s rays with these top picks
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Keeping plants alive and helping them flourish can be hard as is, but growing things indoors is even more tricky. 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.
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 solution.
Want to flex your green thumb inside? Here are the best grow lights to help your indoor plants live their best life.
Best Overall: Roleadro LED Full Spectrum Grow Light
The best overall option is the Roleadro 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 75-watt grow light also has an aluminum cooling plate to effectively dissipate heat, even on the highest setting. It comes with hanging brackets and is easy to set up. You can put it together in about a minute and hang it from almost anywhere in your home.
Best Bulb: GE Lighting BR30 LED Grow Light for Indoor Plants
You can also get special bulbs for growing indoor plants, like the GE BR30. This full-spectrum bulb offers high-quality lighting that encourages houseplants, indoor gardens, cacti, and flowers to flourish every month of the year. Unlike some other grow lights that produce harsh lighting, it provides soft, natural illumination and warmth.
The GE BR30 features innovative LED technology, which allows it to last for 25,000 hours (or about five years) and use only 9 watts of energy. With a balanced light spectrum designed for seeds and greens, you can grow herbs, lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, and other vegetables right in your home.
Best LED Bulb: Haus Bright LED Grow Light Bulb Original
The best LED bulb for indoor plants is the original Haus Bright LED Grow Light Bulb. Compared to others in its category, this bulb is notably bright with full-spectrum power.
Though it’s a little more expensive than the GE option, it produces 1,200 lumens of brightness and 140 micromoles per second while only using 20 watts of energy. This LED bulb provides adequate, nourishing lighting for houseplants, bamboo, cactuses, succulents, flowers, tomatoes, vegetables, and seed starts, no matter how cold or dark it is outside.
Best Mounted: Feit Electric Dual Full LED Plant Grow Tube Light
Looking for something you can mount? Your best bet is the Feit Electric Dual Grow Tube Light. This grow light is lightweight, durable, and easy to install. It arrives fully assembled and can be hung or mounted flush against your ceiling or walls. Designed to mimic natural sunlight and work as a replacement for traditional greenhouse bulbs, this product delivers.
It emits 450 nm of blue light and 655 nm of red light, the perfect combo for indoor gardening. The blue encourages the growth of tall, leafy plants and vegetables, and the red promotes budding, fruiting, and flowering. Plus, it has a low heat emission, which prevents burnt leaves and reduces your electric costs.
Best Hanging: Soltech Solutions Grow Light
The Soltech Solutions Grow Light is an aesthetically pleasing hanging lamp. It has a 15-foot fabric cord and comes with an LED bulb, three ceiling hooks, two wall fairleads, and a swag hook. Choose from either white or black, both of which offer a chic, minimalist vibe.
You can get this grow light in size small (5.8 x 3.8 inches with 2,000 lumens) or large (7 x 4 inches with 4,000 lumens). The lamp provides sufficient lighting for houseplants of all sizes and varieties, and it lasts for 15 years.
Best Desktop: TorchStar LED Indoor Garden Kit Plant Grow Light
If you’re looking for something for your desktop, check out the Indoor Garden Kit from TorchStar. It’s just under 20 inches tall and comes with a 7.3-inch glass hydroponic pot, which you’ll fill with water instead of soil. The bulb emits an ideal combo of blue and red lights to nourish orchids, tropical flowers, water lilies, tomatoes, indoor plants, seedlings, herbs, and mushrooms.
This lamp has two settings: plant mode and lamp mode. When set to plant mode, it helps your indoor flora absorb nutrients and grow, while lamp mode gives you the option to just use it as a desktop light.
Best for Herbs: TorchStar Plant LED Kit Indoor Herb Grow Light
The best option for herbs is also from TorchStar. With full-spectrum solar simulation, the LED Plant Kit provides both the right lighting and a container for growing herbs indoors. Mimicking natural sunlight, it illuminates for 16 hours a day and then turns off for 8 hours at night.
This herb grow light measures 19.9 x 2.2 x 14 inches. It’s the perfect size to place on your windowsill, desk, kitchen counter, mantle, dresser, or side table.
Best Adjustable Spectrum: iPower 10W Dual Head LED Grow Light
The iPower LED Grow Light has two flexible gooseneck arms and two light heads. But the rotatable necks aren’t the only thing that’s adjustable on this lamp. It has three light modes (red, blue, and a red/blue combo) and 11 dimmable settings. The smart timer allows you to set it to turn off after a certain amount of hours, and then turn on at the same time the next day for a 24-hour cycle.
Like the CFGROW lamp, this grow light has a large mounting clip, which you can attach to a desk, table, shelf, or any other slim ledge. It comes with a USB cable and plugs into standard outlets.
Best Desk Garden: AeroGarden Harvest Elite with Gourmet Herb Seed Pod Kit
Are you in the market for a desk garden? If so, we think you’ll love the AeroGuard Harvest Elite. The high-performance 20-watt LED light provides full-spectrum rays for growing a wide range of herbs and veggies. We’re talking mint, basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage, and dill.
With a sleek design and an LCD control panel, it looks almost like a high-end countertop kitchen appliance. The Harvest Elite comes in light green, white, black, or a stainless steel finish. At just 11 x 8 x 15 inches, it’s the perfect size for a tiny desk garden. The kit also includes seeds for six different herbs—and since they grow in water, you can get started right away.
Our top pick for grow lights is the Roleadro LED Grow Light (view at Amazon) due to its unmatched waveband emission. If you want a complete indoor garden kit, opt for the AeroGarden Harvest Elite (view at Best Buy), which comes with a starter pack of seeds.
Size 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.
Type There are various types of grow lights to consider, from panels to ones than 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.
Ease of use From installation to keeping them operating properly, some grow lights require more effort than others. Also consider how much noise a grow light makes, particularly if it’s going to be placed in a busy area.
The best grow lights will support your indoor garden to achieve maximum growth. We researched the top options for making your garden light up.
Using Indoor Grow Lights in the Greenery
LEDS Can Bring the Sun Indoors
In this blog, we’re going to explore how LEDs can grow strong and healthy plants indoors. First, it is important to understand how photosynthesis–the process plants use to convert light energy into food–works. Here’s a brief refresher on what you likely learned in high school Biology.
Photosynthesis takes light energy and converts it into potential chemical energy, which a plant stores in the form of sugar. The plant then uses this energy to grow.
The process begins in chloroplasts. Chloroplasts are parts of plant cells that contain the light-absorbing chlorophyll that gives a plant its green color. When chlorophyll is exposed to light, the cell goes through a complicated chemical reaction, converting light energy into molecules of potential chemical energy called ATP.
The plant then uses ATP and CO2 from the surrounding environment to make glucose, a simple sugar molecule. As the plant absorbs more and more light, it builds complicated glucose chains into larger compounds of cellulose and starch. The largest molecules become plant cell walls, others are used during plant metabolic functions, and the rest provide humans and animals with important food energy.
From a plant biology standpoint, the entire process can be summarized as:
Light + 6H2O (water) + 6CO2 (carbon dioxide) → C6H12O6 (glucose) + 6O2 (oxygen)
There’s a lot more to photosynthesis, but for our conversation about LEDs, this is a perfect summary. While photosynthesis originally evolved as a reaction to sunlight, the development of indoor farming has proven that indoor grow lights can be as, if not more, effective than the sun.
LED Grow Lights vs. Sunlight
While the sun is the ultimate resource, it is not infallible. The Earth’s rotation causes the sun to constantly change position, meaning most regions of the world experience days that are too short, too cold, or too hot to grow plants. When sunlight does reach plants on the ground, it is ‘white light’. This is a blend of every known light wavelength–from infra-red to ultraviolet–with green and yellow light as the most intense (520-590nm). Plants, however, only have receptors for red (635-700nm) and blue (450-490) light, so they are unable to process the rest of the spectrum effectively.
LEDs are able to counteract these inefficiencies. LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are powerful, energy-efficient and long-lasting. They also have low heat outputs, making them ideal for indoor farming. Unlike the sun, the intensity of an LED bulb doesn’t change–midday, midnight, mid-summer and mid-winter, LEDs give plants the same consistent and directional light. LEDs can also be customized to emit only select colors, such as the red and blue light plants need to grow strong. Finally, like with all other aspects of indoor farming, LEDs give farmers something they can never have with the sun: control. Using LEDs means creating 20-hour sunlit days and brightening, dimming, or changing the color of the light based on the crop.
Understanding Indoor Grow Lights
Now that we understand the benefits of using LED grow lights for indoor farming, let’s get a deeper understanding of the two main factors of light that will maximize your yields: color and power.
As we mentioned before, plants are picky about the type of light they absorb. Indoor grow lights give them the optimal red and blue wavelengths to grow big, healthy, and strong. But why red and blue specifically?
Outdoors, red light is most plentiful during summertime. When plants sense more red light using a special light receptor, they release a hormone that keeps chlorophyll from breaking down. This enables the plant to take the most advantage of the plentiful sunlight during spring and summer. For this reason, red light yields large, healthy plants, since the chlorophyll is converting plenty of light into cellulose. Additionally, red light is needed to grow flowers and seeds/fruits. Keep in mind–like every other good thing, too much red light can cause serious problems, namely lanky and spindly plants.
While red light is more prevalent in spring and summer, higher levels of blue light occur during fall and winter. The plant’s blue light receptor triggers a hormone response that slows down stem and leaf growth when it senses higher levels of blue light. For this reason, the initial reaction is to use no blue grow lights, but having some blue is important. The same blue-light hormone controls ‘apical dominance’ in plants, which is the reason a plant’s main stem is larger than any side stems. It’s common to see plants with more exposure to blue light yield a short and bushy plant with a more complex stem structure. Too much blue light, however, will result in stunted plants.
Most indoor growers recommend getting the best of both worlds using a 5:1 ratio of red to blue light. The high level of red light keeps plants in their prime growing mode while the small amount of blue encourages stem growth.
Measuring the intensity of light is complicated–there are at least half a dozen units of measurement, all meaning different things.
Watts, for example, are a measure of power that everyone is likely most familiar with. Yet, when it comes to the physics of growing plants, it’s more-or-less a useless measurement. That is because watts describe how much power a light source consumes, not what it emits. So, while it’s helpful to know the wattage of a grow light, the measurement has little to do with the plants themselves.
If you hear talk of lumens, you’re getting closer to understanding the power of a grow light. A lumen measures light based on how humans perceive it. We have what’s called “photopic vision”, which is our vision and color perception in well-lit conditions. Lumens are charted on a photopic response curve (shown above) and measure the light that humans and animals can see. As you can see, the range is mostly green light, with little of the red or blue parts of the spectrum. While calculations using lumens, like LUX (lumens/m2) or foot candle meters (lumens/ft2), are a helpful measurement for understanding humans, they also tell us little about the plants. For one, plants don’t absorb most of the green light that dominates the lumen curve. Also, you will likely be using red and blue grow lights in your farm, which will not register high for lumens. For these reasons, you should avoid using lumens to measure the power of your grow lights.
What you should be using to measure the power of your grow lights is photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD). Before we dive into the virtues of PPFD, we need to understand what it is measuring. PPFD is a measure of photosynthetic active radiation, PAR for short. PAR is not a measure of anything itself but is more of a description. PAR light is all the visible wavelengths of light which cause photosynthesis, found within the 400-700 nanometer range. PPFD is a ‘spot’ measurement that tells you how many photons from the PAR range hit a specific area of your canopy over time. It is expressed as micro moles per square meter per second (μmol/m2/s). For this reason, PPFD is the most accurate measure of light power. First, unlike other measures, it considers the entire spectrum of light that plants see. PPFD also takes into account the amount of light that will actually reach the plant instead of focusing only on the point of origin. A light source can be very bright and powerful, but if it is too away from the plant, or obstructed in some way, the plant won’t be getting all the light it needs for photosynthesis. PPFD controls for this kind of inaccuracy.
Comparing LEDs with other grow lights
LEDs aren’t the only types of grow lights. Other common variations are incandescent/halogen, fluorescent, and HID (high-intensity discharge) lamps. Here’s a general breakdown:
Our comprehensive article covers photosynthesis, types of indoor grow lights, ways of measuring power, and the effect of color on plant health to explain how LEDs can be used to replace the sun indoors.