Everybody knows plants require plenty of sunlight to grow and thrive. But what happens when winter approaches, the days get shorter, and your indoor plants don’t receive enough sunlight?
This is a scenario where grow lights can help. Grow lights allow you to cultivate plants indoors, even during the darkest days of winter.
Indoor grow lights can help you prepare your plants for natural conditions before moving them outdoors, and they also allow you to adjust the light cycle for your plants so that you can quickly get them to vegetate, flower, or bloom as desired.
There are various types of grow lights for indoor gardens. LED grow lamps are becoming particularly popular for indoor growing due to their high efficiency and long lifespan.
They even make clip-on grow lights for indoor plants that are perfect for illuminating dark corners of your living room or elevated, hard-to-reach spaces in your home.
LED clip-on grow lights are easy to install, and you can clamp them onto any surface in your home or office. In small spaces, they can even function as desk lamps to help smaller-sized plants, like succulents, grow optimally.
These types of grow lights provide a steady, practical light source that is perfect for growing indoor plants. Plus, they are reasonably affordable and can be found at most major retailers or online marketplaces, so reviving a struggling houseplant is a breeze.
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What Are Artificial Grow Lights?
Grow lights are electric lights that can be used indoors to grow plants and replace natural sunlight. Since the light from indoor grow lights is artificial, you can provide the optimal light conditions for your indoor plants by controlling the light’s intensity and duration.
Grow lights can either mimic the light spectrum of the sun or produce specific ranges of the light spectrum – both of which are beneficial in different scenarios.
The biggest difference between indoor grow lights and other typical indoor light bulbs is that most light bulbs emit heat, which can quickly burn your plant’s leaves if left unchecked.
Standard light bulbs also produce a very limited wavelength, which often only produces white or yellow-colored light. This narrow wavelength is insufficient for growing healthy, strong plants and can create unsuitably hot or dry ambient conditions.
Why are Grow Lights Important for Indoor Plants?
If plants do not receive enough light or the wrong kind of light, they can suffer a number of different problems. Without sufficient light, a plant’s growth pattern can become stunted, its pigment can fade, and flowering or fruit-bearing plants, such as eggplants, won’t be able to create good energy to sustain their fruits or blooms.
By using artificial lights, we can supplement natural sunlight where it is insufficient so that our plants can properly photosynthesize at any time of the year. Sufficient light is key.
What Kind of Plants Benefit from Grow Lights?
Most plants can thrive under artificial light sources. Plants like Orchids or African Violets do particularly well under grow lights because they tolerate most lighting conditions. And some species of bonsai trees need to be housed indoors over the winter months, so a grow light for bonsai can strike the perfect balance with natural lighting.
Other leafy, low-light tolerant plants can be grown long-term under artificial lights. Low-light plants include ZZ plants, Snake Plants, or Ferns, all of which pair perfectly with hanging baskets. Hanging baskets are a great option for those looking to move their indoor plants outside – or vice versa.
If you want to grow an indoor culinary herb garden (think Basil, Mint, or Parsley), grow lights can be very beneficial in keeping your herbs fresh and healthy.
Plants will benefit most from grow lights during the dark days of winter when natural sunlight becomes insufficient. If you own houseplants and want them to thrive year-round, grow lights can help you by stimulating photosynthesis, even during the dark, cold winter months!
How Do Grow Lights Work?
Understanding the different wavelengths, light colors, and intensities of grow lights isn’t as straightforward as you might think. There’s quite a bit of science behind how they work and why they are beneficial for the growth of plants.
The Light Spectrum
Plants need ample lighting to photosynthesize, which is the process that converts light energy into chemical energy, which plants need to grow.
To do this, plants use certain pigments (like chlorophyll and carotenoids) that help to absorb specific molecules from the light while reflecting others. The pigment that is reflected is the color we see.
Because plants do not use a lot of green light for photosynthesis, plants reflect the green light, which is why they appear green.
Blue Grow Lights vs. Red Grow Lights
The colors that plants use the most for photosynthesis are red wavelengths (warm tones) and blue wavelengths (cold tones). Blue light is used primarily for vegetative growth, while red spectrum light is typical for flowering or producing fruits.
There are a lot of grow lights that emit only blue and red light, which is why you see a lot of purple-colored grow lights. Blue spectrum light is largely responsible for quality plant growth.
Scientists used to believe that plants exclusively needed these two pigments to photosynthesize.
The concept was that chlorophyll was constructed of green pigments and thus would have its maximum light absorption in the red and blue bands of light.
However, recent findings have concluded that plants require a broader light spectrum to grow optimally at different growth stages.
For example, green light is useful in photosynthesis, even though it is considered the least efficient wavelength for plant growth. Plants do not absorb green light wavelengths.
This is where full-spectrum light comes in!
What is Full Spectrum Light?
Full-spectrum grow lights closely mimic natural sunlight because they emit all parts of the light spectrum.
This includes parts of the visible spectrum like red, green, blue, and yellow light, as well as infrared and ultraviolet light. Infrared and ultraviolet light isn’t visible to the human eye, but each is necessary for optimal plant development.
Using the full spectrum of colors in grow lights have been proven to be the most effective at growing plants compared to other, more minimal light sources.
Light Strength and Warmth
The brightness levels of grow lights are measured in Lumens. The more lumens, the brighter the light. For most indoor plants, choosing a grow light with many lumens is recommended for the best results.
The exact measure of lumens you need will depend on many factors, like the size of your growing space and what type of plant you are growing.
A general rule of thumb is between 300 and 800 lumens per square foot.
The color temperature, or warmth of light, is something we measure in Kelvin. A grow light mimicking the sun’s color will be around 5000 to 7000 Kelvin.
Most average house light bulbs emit a warmer temperature of light, which isn’t ideal for growing indoor plants.
We recommend choosing a light that produces between 5000 and 7000 kelvin for best results.
Different Types of Grow Lights
There are several different types of lights used for growing plants indoors, each of which can be beneficial in different scenarios and different sizes of grow spaces.
This type of light is primarily used for seedling, vegetable, or herb growing. Low-light plants like a ZZ Plant will also thrive under these bulbs, as they enjoy the indirect impact.
Fluorescent bulbs and fluorescent tubes used to be the go-to option for indoor gardening, but they have lately been replaced by more sustainable and broader applicable lights.
They are also typically the most expensive grow light option.
These grow lights mainly work by emitting heat. Many growers use incandescent bulbs because they are cheaper than other good grow light options.
Still, they are less sustainable for indoor growing and come with the risk of burning your plant’s foliage through the heat emitted.
HID stands for High-Intensity Discharge. These grow lights are used for their light intensity and brightness. The bright light from HIDs makes it easier to illuminate large, strangely constructed areas.
An HID grow light closely mimics the natural light that plants would get from the sun, making it more efficient for large-scale growers like greenhouses or farms.
However, LED lights are the most efficient for indoor and small-scale use. Even seedlings in seed trays respond well under HIDs.
LED (Light Emitting Diodes) Lights are the most cost-efficient grow light option for indoor gardeners.
LEDs have a longer lifespan than other options and consume less energy, produce less heat, and use a semiconductor chip that makes them glow when electricity runs through them.
The average LED grow light uses about 32 watts to cover 1 square foot. HID lights, by comparison, use 60 or more watts to cover the same ground. LED lights certainly help reduce the electricity bill.
One thing to know is that you can manually pick and choose the color spectrum for most LED lights. This allows you to select the optimal light spectrum for a wide variety of plants at any stage of their life!
They are also the most available option for clip-on grow lights on the market, and can be used with a ratchet hanger for those looking to hang their LEDs on a budget.
LED lights are the perfect option for many indoor vegetable gardens, particularly hydroponic lettuce systems!
Modular LED Lights
Modular LED lights are similar to regular LED lights, but differ in the way that they have individual diodes or clusters of diodes that operate independently when the power is running.
This means that if something goes wrong with the modular units, you are able to repair or replace the faulty diode without replacing the entire light. You can compare it to Christmas lights – every bulb is replaceable and can be customized with different colors.
Modular LEDs also wick heat faster than traditional LEDs – although heat production isn’t usually an issue with LED grow lights.
How to Choose the Best Grow Light for Your Plants
The best grow lights for indoor plants will depend on several important factors. It is crucial to think about your plant’s specific needs, as different plants require different care and different amounts of sunlight.
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Size of Your Plant or Indoor Garden
For small plants and gardens, there are some really great smaller clip-on grow lights available that will suit the space perfectly. Alternatively, larger plants will need a more robust light source. A good choice for larger plants would be a standing light or hanging light bulb.
You should also take into consideration how much space you have in your home. Do you have room for a 3-headed clip-on grow light? Or just for a smaller single-bulb light?
While those things are relatively easy to decide, most avid gardeners choose their grow lights based on the size of their plant or their grow space. If you are growing mammoth sunflowers indoors, for example, you may want to use a stronger grow light with a higher lumen output.
How to Calculate Grow Light Wattage for Your Plant or Space
Typically, you should aim for an indoor grow light with a total output of 30-50 watts per square foot of space. This means that if you have one or multiple plants filling out a 4-foot by 4-foot area, you should aim for a light that has an output between 480 and 800 watts.
Lower wattage is most often used for vegetative growth stages, while the higher output can be utilized for pre-harvest or flowering stages.
Growth Stage of Your Plants
Seedlings will need less intense light than mature plants, and flowering plants will need more light than those only grown for foliage! On average, a leafy plant will require about half the amount of watts that a flowering plant needs!
Another important factor to consider is propagating new plants. The proper amount of light, and intensity of light, for recently propagated plants varies with plant type and variety – so be sure to do your due diligence before blasting new cuttings with light.
Grow lights with adjustable brightness are ideal for many growers.
Type of Plants
Understanding the light needs of plants is crucial, as certain plants will require more light than others. For example, a snake plant does not need much light and will do fine in artificial grow light, whereas a variegated Monstera (like the Thai Constellation) will need up to 10 hours of bright, indirect light daily to thrive.
That means a variety of Monstera, like the adansonii, might need a grow light that produces twice as much Kelvin to meet its requirements.
The Best Clip On Grow Lights for Indoor Plants in 2023
To help you choose the very best grow light, we’ve created a list of our favorite clip-on grow lights in 2023.
All grow lights in this list are LED lights, as LEDs are the most affordable, sustainable, and efficient grow lights on the market that allow for the most optimal plant growth.
JUEYINGBAILI 80W Full Spectrum Plant Lights
This clip-on light is the best pick for people who want to grow multiple plants in a small space. This full-spectrum grow light with four adjustable heads will help your plants thrive with minimal effort.
The light has a built-in timer, so you needn’t worry about forgetting to turn on the lights. If you’re looking for a grow light worth your money, this one is your best bet out of a ton of options!
GooingTop LED Grow Light
This easy-to-install and ready-to-use grow light with full-spectrum lighting will make growing your indoor plants a breeze. It has a built-in timer setting that automatically turns the lights on and off as needed, making your plant-care life much easier.
It also comes with a flexible gooseneck arm and a strong clamp, so you can place the light exactly as needed.
AMBOR Grow Lights for Indoor Plants with Stand
While this is not technically a “clip-on” grow light, it still made our list with an honorable mention.
This efficient, high-spectrum grow light offers adjustable height and five adjustable gooseneck heads and a stand, making it a great choice for you to grow large indoor plants like Monstera, Bird of Paradise, or Fiddle Leaf Figs.
AMBOR grow lights come with dimmable levels, and you can control the system through a remote. This grow light is the best option for those wanting to grow large house plants like banana plants without worrying about light inefficiencies or heavy and unattractive light fixtures.