Watts, LUX, lumens, and foot candles tell you the intensity of the light source used.
One universal truth about light and plants is that every plant needs light for survival. No plant can grow in the dark.
Artificial grow lights can be beneficial for growing any plant indoors, but not every plant responds to it the same way. Some barely survive under regular lighting.
Can Plants Grow with LED lights, or are Grow Lights a Necessity?
Plants can survive under regular LED lights, but they will only grow under LED grow lights. The difference between a standard LED light and LED grow lights is that grow lights are designed to provide Photosynthetic Active Radiation (PAR) which the plant uses for photosynthesis. Plants need a light spectrum of 400-700nm for photosynthesis to happen. This is done with a combination of blue light and red light. Hence, the regular white LEDs have little effect on a plant’s growth rate.
What exactly are LED Lights?
LED is a shortened term for Light Emitting Diode. With this technology, light is created through electro-luminescence.
The two distinct advantages they have for houseplants are lower energy consumption and less heat output.
LED alternatives lose energy to heat. When this type of light source is too close to plants, it can burn the leaves.
LEDs are always cool-the-the-touch so that they can be as close as 6 inches without increasing temperatures.
Does LED brightness affect plant growth?
LEDs are intended to be energy-efficient alternatives to incandescent light bulbs. But, the introduction of the LED bulb market changed how we shop for bulbs.
Watts are an indicator of brightness. As for color temperature, it is the Kelvin Scale.
Warm white or cool white are typical references. None of those terms tell us anything because our eyes only perceive the light’s brightness to meet the plants’ light requirements.
As for plants, they rely on it for energy.
The full sun has an estimated luminance of approximately 100,000 LUX (lumens per square meter) in brightness.
For bulbs referencing the Kelvin (K) Scale as an indicator of color temperature, between 5,600k and 6,500k is around the brightness of direct sunlight.
The difference between regular LED and LED Grow lights
The core difference between a regular LED lights and LED grow lights is the light spectrum they emit.
- Red wavelength is approx. 633 nm
- Blue wavelength is 470 nm
- Green wavelength is approx. 560 nm, but this is reflected off plants rather than absorbed, so it’s of little use.
Blue light is preferable for chlorophyll production, and red light better for blooming.
Wavelengths between the 400 nm and 700 nm range are needed for photosynthesis. This spectrum is referred to as Photosynthetically Active Radiation or PAR.
Regular white LED lights have red, blue, and green components but don’t have fixed wavelengths.
As white LED lights consist of red, green, and blue, they can help a plant survive. But lacking specific PAR light, they aren’t effective at helping a plant grow.
Do IR and UV Measurements Matter in Plant Growth?
UV light can help a plant to protect against pests and increase its overall yield. IR light is beneficial for assisting plants in bloom, but too much can be dangerous.
UV (ultraviolet) light falls under the PAR spectrum (315 nm to 400), and IR (infrared) is over 700 nm.
Over exposing plants to IR can cause discoloration of the leaves and the stems to become leggy.
It is still beneficial at certain times, though.
For example, plants need more far-red and infrared light during the vegetation phase for fruiting plants. This can also be beneficial in the blooming phase for flowering plants.
Full Spectrum Grow Lights and their Effect on Plant Growth
Due to the various light requirements plants have throughout their lifecycle, regular LED lights won’t help them grow. They can tide them over in periods of low light, but they won’t contribute to photosynthesis.
On the other hand, full-spectrum LED grow lights combine blue, white, red, and green colors to create ideal lighting conditions. This color combination is what plants need for growth and flowering.
Different models have different features. Some will have more control over the UV and IR lighting, while budget grow lights only use a blue and red LED light combination within the PAR spectrum.
The only time you’ll need to use full spectrum grow light is if you’re growing a tropical plant under artificial lighting.
Here is a list of the best houseplants for growing under artificial light.
That said, even houseplants tolerant to low-light conditions fare better when they use grow lights instead of the regular ones.
What plants grow best with Regular LED Lights?
If you’re restricted on space and lighting conditions, no need to worry. Some plants will tolerate non-specialist lighting better.
Typically, plants that do well as low-light houseplants or shade-loving plants will hold up better under regular LED lights.
Frequently Asked Questions About Grow Lights
How do you know your plants need more light?
When plants lack light, growth can stop. Or, if they’re near a light source, any growth is likely to be straggly as the plant struggles to reach towards the light. Aside from limp and straggly stems, leaves turn yellow too. Without enough light, photosynthesis can’t happen. Since that’s the process plants use to create sugars for food, a lack of light will kill a plant eventually.
Can container plants be overwintered with LED lights?
Depending on the type of plant you are overwintering and the light needs, some may do well under a LED light. Keep in mind that some plants will go into dormancy naturally. Thus, no amount of light can keep them flowering year-round.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.