Say Goodbye to Sad Houseplants With the Best Grow Lights
Today’s LED options are cute, effective, and energy efficient.
Published Mar 28, 2022 8:07 PM
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Is your apartment lacking natural sunlight? Looking to get a head start on your summer vegetable garden? Perhaps you’re hoping to really lean into #JungalowStyle and fill every nook and cranny of your home with houseplants? Chances are, you’re going to need an assist. Mother Nature is great and all, but even she can’t make the light appear where the sun doesn’t shine.
Thankfully, the grow lights today come in a variety of looks, colors, and power levels, and most have done away with that garish blue/red/purplish hue in favor of an easy-on-the-eyes daylight feel. With so many options, there’s something to fit every plant lover’s style and needs. Here are some of the best grow lights.
- Best overall: Soltech Solutions Aspect LED Grow Light
- Best value: Soltech Solutions Vita Grow Light
- Best clip-on: Brite Labs Lance Trio
- Best for seedlings: GE LED Grow Light for Seeds and Greens
- Best for maximum coverage: Bloomspect Full-Spectrum LED Grow Light
- Best for shelving: Modern Sprout Smart Growbar
Best Overall: Soltech Solutions Aspect LED Grow Light
Dimensions: 4-by-4-by-7 inches | Wattage/power: 40 watts | Warranty: 5 years | Installation: Hanging | Color temperature: 3,000 Kelvin
What we like:
- LEDs are designed to last 15 years
- Made-to-last aluminum construction
- Comes with a timer and necessary mounting hardware
- Only available in black and white
- Not dimmable
Why we chose it: Looks great, plants love it, and it’s super-easy to set up. What more can you ask for?
If you think back to elementary school science class, you’ll remember that plants use sunlight to make energy, a process called photosynthesis. And certain parts of the light spectrum are more helpful than others, specifically blue and red wavelengths (blue light supports root, stem, and leaf development; red is most helpful for flowering). This is why so many grow lights are made of red and blue LEDs.
The folks at Soltech Solutions, however, were among the first in the industry to acknowledge that while those purplish lights may be fine in a commercial setting, no one wants that in their living room. To solve this, the Pennsylvania-based company designed an LED grow light that balances photosynthesis and aesthetic needs. The resulting Aspect provides a gentle, full-spectrum warm white light that keeps your plants happy without making your inner design geek cringe.
Bonus points: The Aspect is available in two sizes (large is great for most houseplants, and the smaller model is ideal for herb gardens and low-light needs) and features a classic silhouette that looks good in almost any setting. Each lamp comes with a set of swag hooks, but might we suggest pairing the stand-alone pennant with a cute wall mount, like this wood option from Terrain?
Best Value: Soltech Solutions Vita Grow Light
Dimensions: 3.75-by-3.75-by-5 inches | Wattage/power: 20 watts | Warranty: 5 years | Installation: Screws into most standard (E26) light fixtures | Color temperature: 3,000 Kelvin
What we like:
- Dimmable options available
- Comes in wide- and narrow-beam angles
- Great for recessed lighting
- Lamp stand not included (must provide your own fixture)
- Bulb is heavier than a standard lightbulb, so some fixtures might struggle to stay upright
Why we chose it: Turn your favorite lamp into a grow light with the twist of a bulb.
The Soltech Solutions Vita Grow Light provides the same golden and good-for-the-plants, full-spectrum warm white light as its older cousin, the Aspect. But unlike the Aspect, the Vita is a stand-alone bulb designed to screw into any of your existing lamps—desk lamps, floor lamps, pendant lamps—as well as places like recessed ceiling sockets. This means you can move the bulb around to different fixtures and locations in your home as your grow light (and decor) needs to change.
The Vita comes in two varieties: narrow beam, which is best for overhead lighting situations, when the plant is situated further from the lamp; and wide beam, which is better for plants that will be closer to the bulb, like in a scenario with a desk lamp. (Placement also depends on plant needs; Soltech provides guidance on this topic for many of the more common houseplants.) Both options come in a dimmable version, too, which is great for plants that have less intense light needs. Lastly, the Vita boasts Soltech’s usual 15-year life span, which is far longer than most other brands claim.
Best Clip-On: Brite Labs Lance Trio
Dimensions: 15.4-by-5.3-by-1.4 inches | Wattage/power: 10 watts | Warranty: 1 year | Installation: Clip-on | Color temperature: 3,000 Kelvin
What we like:
- Built-in timer
- Six brightness modes
- Three adjustable arms make it easy to light most small houseplants
- Can get very warm to the touch
- Clamp has a maximum mouth of 2.5 inches
Why we chose it: Great for succulents and small spaces.
Sometimes your houseplants need a bit of help to make up for what they can’t quite get indoors. This is especially true for succulents and other light-loving plants that may struggle even with some natural light. The flexible arms of Brite Labs’s Lance Trio clip-on model make it easy to direct the light exactly where needed, even in tight spaces, and the clamp means no drilling or mounting required (great for renters!).
A built-in timer and six different brightness modes make it easy to adjust the light output to your plants’ specific needs, reducing worry about overexposure, which can burn leaves and harm the plants. Each lamp emits a full-spectrum, warm white glow that supports greenery at all stages of growth, though this particular model is great for those that require more “green” support (leaves, stems, and roots).
Best for Seedlings: GE LED Grow Light for Seeds and Greens
Dimensions: 4.06-by-4.06-by-5.94 inches | Wattage/power: 9 watts | Warranty: Limited warranty | Installation: Screws into most standard (E26) light fixtures | Color temperature: N/A
What we like:
- Doesn’t get too hot to the touch
- Standard lightbulb base will fit most standard light fixtures
- Best for smaller setups
- Light is a brighter white than you might expect
- Bulb’s larger, flared shape needs to be accounted for when choosing a fixture
Why we chose it: A very affordable option for starting seeds and nurturing leafy plants.
Like other options mentioned, the GE LED Grow Light for Seeds and Greens is full spectrum, which means it contains both red and blue wavelengths (though it still puts out a pleasant white light that won’t clash with your decor). This particular light is optimized for root and leaf growth, making it perfect for seedlings and most common houseplants. To note: GE does have other options targeted at flowering and reproduction.
While this bulb has a standard E26 base that will fit North American sockets, it needs to be installed in a fixture that can accommodate its wider shape, which helps light a bigger area. That said, we had no problem using it in a variety of desk lamps. We installed this bulb on a basic pendant rope with no shade and hung it over a tray of herb seeds to promote germination and it worked great.
Best Maximum Coverage: Bloomspect Full-Spectrum LED Grow Light
Dimensions: 11.8-by-7.9-by-2.6 inches | Wattage/power: 132 watts | Warranty: 2 years | Installation: Hanging or mount | Color temperature: Not listed
What we like:
- Stays cool despite its size
- Covers up to 2.5-by-2.5 feet
- Emits infrared light, too
- Gives off tinted blue/red light
- At nearly 5 pounds, needs to be carefully mounted
Why we chose it: Covers a large area without getting too hot or making too much noise.
The Bloomspect Full-Spectrum LED light is great in instances where a large area needs to be covered and aesthetics don’t matter, like over-wintering houseplants or lengthening your outdoor growing season. Why? Unlike the other grow lights featured so far, this model does emit the classic red-blue hue associated with commercial grow lights, so we recommend using it mostly in areas less visible, like a basement or closet. For example, one of our testers lives in a small New York apartment and uses it in her building’s basement to start seeds for her summer garden. This lamp covers an area of about 2.5-by-2.5 feet, which is ideal for three to four seedling trays. More powerful options are available.
While larger grow lights like this have a reputation for getting very hot to the touch, the Bloomspect is designed to stay cool even after being run for long periods of time—and the fan is relatively quiet!
Best for Shelving: Modern Sprout Smart Growbar
Dimensions: 15-by-2.3-by-.6 inches | Wattage/power: 27 watts | Warranty: 3-year limited | Installation: Adhesive mounts | Color temperature: 4,000 Kelvin
What we like:
- App makes it easy to manage timing
- Easy to install; no drilling required
- Comes with two sets of adhesive mounts; extras need to be purchased
- Most features require use of the app
Why we chose it: Sleek, stylish, and easy to install—no tools required!
Potted plants are a great way to add character and variety to bookshelves, and Modern Sprout’s Smart Growbar makes it easy to ensure said plants thrive. The full-spectrum light emits a neutral white color that’s attractive enough to serve as mood lighting while also providing the necessary red and blue wavelengths needed to support photosynthesis. The 15-inch fixture is easy to install: Just stick the mounts to any surface and snap into place.
The light is controlled almost entirely through its accompanying smartphone app (the physical lamp includes only an on/off switch). Use the app to set up timers and adjust brightness. Those new to plants will also appreciate that the light can be programmed based on a plants’ listed light needs (low light, part shade, full sun, etc.)—it’s nearly foolproof!
How We Chose These Products
The grow lights featured here were picked based on a mix of hands-on testing and research of effectiveness, quality of construction, brand reputation, value, and ease of use. The grow-light industry has undergone a major evolution in recent years as people become more and more interested in houseplants and indoor greenery. Many of the best LED grow lights today are designed with residential applications in mind rather than commercial growing operations. In fact, many of the white-light grow lights featured here didn’t exist just five or 10 years ago. To that end, we balanced both aesthetics and functionality when making our selections. Additionally, we paid particular attention to each light’s energy use and durability—we appreciate products that are designed to last.
Our Shopping Checklist
Installation and Wiring
Most grow lights are stand-alone products that require no electrical skills to install or operate. All the choices here are either individual LED bulbs that screw into existing light fixtures with a standard E26 medium base or part of a device that plugs into any common North American 120-volt outlet.
Like any other LED lightbulb, the amount of power an LED grow light draws varies depending on its strength and specs. Like a regular lightbulb, the stronger the light, the more electricity it uses. Any reputable grow light will list its power consumption in watts on its label. LEDs are among the most energy-efficient light sources.
LED vs. Non-LED Lights
LED lightbulbs are up to 90 percent more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs and up to 80 percent more efficient than compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL). This makes them a popular choice for grow lights, which are usually in use for eight or more hours at a time. LED lights also produce far less heat than non-LED lights, making them a safer choice.
Full-Spectrum vs. Single-Color Temperature
Simply put, a full spectrum emits the full-color spectrum (red, blue, yellow, green), mimicking natural sunlight. This produces a bright white light that renders all colors without distortion. Plants rely most heavily on the red and blue spectrums (red for flowering and reproduction, blue for stem and root development), so full-spectrum light can help a plant through all life stages. That said, there are situations where a single color temperature light—meaning one that’s heavier on the blue (cool) or red (warm) wavelengths—is preferred. For example, when starting young seedlings, blue light is more helpful than red.
Ventilation and Cooling
LED lights don’t generate nearly as much heat as traditional incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, so ventilation and cooling shouldn’t be much of a concern. But as always, if a lamp seems to be emitting more heat than usual, remove it from electricity until it can be examined for safety (especially if it’s hot to the touch).
Q: How far should grow lights be from my plants?
Different plants have different light requirements, and each grow light emits light differently. Refer to the instruction manual that came with your specific grow light to better understand how to position the light in regard to your plants.
Q: What is the optimal amount of light a plant needs?
The amount of light a plant needs depends on its variety and stage of growth. Every type of plant has its own specific needs, from bright, direct light to dappled sunlight or even mostly shade/indirect light. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Q: How long should grow lights be on?
Again, this totally depends on the type of plants you’re growing and what stage of life they’re in. That said, a safe rule of thumb is to keep grow lights on, at the proper distance and brightness, for the same amount of hours as the sun shines.
Q: Can I use a regular lightbulb as a grow light?
Theoretically, yes, but the results won’t be great. Regular lightbulbs, especially incandescent ones, don’t provide the full spectrum of light needed for optimal growth. Incandescent bulbs also get far hotter than LED bulbs, which can be very harmful to your plants.
Q: How long do grow lights usually last?
This depends on the grow light’s specifications. Consult your product’s manual or packaging for more information.
Q: Can grow lights overheat my plants?
Absolutely! Too much sun can harm your plants, causing discoloration, sickness, and dehydration, among other issues. Using a grow light that’s too bright for your plants (or keeping the light on too long) can also burn their leaves.
The Last Word
The majority of today’s best grow lights are energy-efficient, full-spectrum lights that emit a white glow and support plants through all parts of their growing cycle. The Aspect from Soltech Solutions packages those traits in an elegant, durable design that will blend into any interior style. As an added bonus, the Aspect includes a timer, so you can set up a regular schedule for your plants, just like the sun provides.
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