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Let There Be Plant Light

Provide your indoor grown plants with the next best thing to full, outdoor sunlight. Here's how.

Indoor Plant LightIndoor plant lights let you shine a light where and when the sun don’t shine. They allow you to extend the growing season; have a year-round supply of fresh flowers, healthy vegetables and exotic herbs; as well as give your young seedlings a head start before you can plant them outside.

There are almost as many kinds of grow lights for sale as there are different light spectrums. Everything from a simple $5 incandescent lamp to a sophisticated commercial system using high intensity discharge (HID) lamps can help.

Here’s a rundown on what is available, how much it costs as well as the pro’s and con’s of different types of plant lighting.

At Planet Natural we offer a large selection of high-intensity discharge (HID) lights, both metal halide (MH) bulbs and high pressure sodium (HPS) lamps. All have been manufactured using the latest technology and are designed to produce stronger plants and higher yields. Need advice? Visit our Indoor Gardening Blog for the latest tips and information.


Incandescent lamps lay at the low end of the pricing spectrum for plant lights. A good 150 watt bulb will only set you back about $5. You can get such bulbs from a local hardware store or a large nursery. An incandescent lamp can keep a small house plant growing, but isn’t necessarily your best bet for starting a large garden indoors.


Until recently, fluorescent grow lights had too low an output and were too big and bulky to be of much use except as a grow light for seeds or seedlings. Generally fluorescents are a poor choice for flowering and budding plants because of their low lumen (brightness per unit of energy consumed), but they are a great source for herbs and other plants that don’t need a lot of light. Indoor gardeners most often use the four-foot size. You can purchase the two lamp “shop light” variety for under $40 at your local hardware or garden supply store.

There is big news on the fluorescent light front: new “T5 Lighting Systems” are very efficient and bright and may be better in certain circumstances than the fancier high intensity discharge (HID) lights. T5 fluorescents are more compact and efficient than older forms of fluorescent lighting which allows them to be used for all plants rather than just for seedlings. Key advantages of these high-end fluorescents include: more of their light is used by the plant, they produce less heat than incandescent and HID grow lights and consequently can be placed much closer to the plant.

High Intensity Discharge Lamps (HID)

They are the brightest bulb in the box and very efficient, but expect to pay for the advantages. One 1,000 watt HID lamp can produce the same amount of light as 50 40-watt fluorescent lights.

Within the HID category there are several types of bulbs: High Pressure Sodium, Metal Halide, Low Pressure Sodium and Mercury Vapor. The only ones that indoor gardeners need to concern themselves with are High Pressure Sodium or Metal Halide. They most commonly come in sizes such as 400 and 1,000 watt. The 400 can supply enough light for a growing area of about 15 square feet or a 4 x 4 foot garden. The 1,000 watt lamp can cover an area of about 7 x 7 foot. For fast growth, use about 25 watts of HID light per square foot.

Simply the best! Hortilux HPS Bulbs fine-tune your lighting system to provide optimum spectral energy levels (2100K) that promote vigorous plant growth and abundant yields. Provides 17% more total spectral energy and 25% more energy in the violet, blue and green spectrum than standard sodiums.

Metal Halide light is blue-white in color and is good for leafy growth and keeping plants compact. It is best used as a primary light source. A single bulb will last about 10,000 cumulative hours. (The bulb will continue to give light past 10,000 hours, but its quality of light will diminish, so it’s best to replace before it burns out.) Metal Halide bulbs are also a lumen powerhouse. They produce up to 125 lumens per watt compared to 39 lumens per watt for standard fluorescent lights and 18 lumens per watt for standard incandescent bulbs.

High Pressure Sodium light is red-orange and is best for flowering plants and as supplemental light. It’s economical since its average lifespan is twice that of Metal Halides. High Pressure Sodium lamps produce up to 140 lumens per watt. Their major disadvantage is that they don’t produce light that falls within the blue spectrum. If a High Pressure Sodium light was the sole source for a plant, the plant would grow up thin and lanky, which is not the type of plant that most gardeners want.

Regardless of what type of lights or light you go with, there is one formula for computing operational costs. Start by taking the combined wattage of all the lights you will use and divide it by 1,000 to get the kilowatts used. Multiply the kilowatts figure by the amount your electric company charges per kilowatt hour. Once you get the operating cost per hour you can multiply that by hours used per month to get your monthly operational costs.

How long grow lights should be run depend on the plant and its needs. Most plants and vegetables need about 10 to 12 hours of light per day in order to grow. Plants that produce fruit or flowers will need more: up to 16 hours a day.

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21 Responses to “Let There Be Plant Light”

  1. nelson gilbert on August 13th, 2014 at 12:04 am #

    do you have any solution to save energy for these lights?

    • E. Vinje on August 13th, 2014 at 5:12 am #

      The new LED lighting technology is the biggest advance in indoor gardening in years! These tiny, powerful grow lights have the ability to outdo fluorescent systems and give HID (High Intensity Discharge) setups a run for their money – literally – through energy savings. LEDs are estimated to be 30% or more efficient than the standard light setups.


  2. Robin on November 22nd, 2015 at 8:57 am #

    I need more light for 2 larger floor plants that are placed together in somewhat darkish room- some natural light but no direct. What kind lamp/ bulb is best for these?

  3. george on January 17th, 2016 at 3:30 am #

    What is the best light for indoor vegetation after seedling?

  4. joe obrien on February 23rd, 2016 at 10:41 am #

    Hi- am new to plants – I am trying to grow geranium seeds – i have all the necessary ingredients -pods-dirt seeds and now i purchased a 150 watt plant light – I do not know how close i need to put the light to the dirt ? right now i have it about 10 inches away – do i need it closer or further away?

    I don’t want to kill the seeds before they even get a shot at life.

    joe obrien
    staten island new york

    • Brent on April 5th, 2016 at 7:26 pm #

      Hi Joe

      Did your seeds pop? I just found your post…for future reference…

      Seeds don’t need a lot of light…until they poke up through the dirt. If anything the heat from the light would be the only benefit until they sprout.

      Hope this helps.

      Brent Douglas
      48th Street North Hydroponics

  5. Bryson Rugg on March 3rd, 2016 at 11:30 pm #

    I’ve been using LED lights for fish for years and I have a whole bunch left over, super cheap and super efficient for plants and trees.

  6. Bryson Rugg on March 3rd, 2016 at 11:31 pm #

    I put plenty of seedlings in a 10 gallon fish tank with the standard timing LED lights that come with the tank and they work great.

    • Bryson Rugg on March 3rd, 2016 at 11:32 pm #

      Perfect starter set up and cheaper than any fancy schmancy stuff you’ll find anywhere else.

  7. Win on August 12th, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

    What is the best light for indoor mango trees started from seeds?

  8. hadi on August 12th, 2016 at 8:41 pm #

    Currently, I’m trying to grow a lollo rossa lettuce with 2 CFL bulbs: a 6500K cool daylight 31W (~130W incandescent) & a 2700K warm white 24W (~125W incandescent), but the red color doesn’t seem to appear on its leaf. Any suggestion on how to arrange the bulbs combination ? The light setting works just fine with green colored veggies.

  9. Ashley on September 21st, 2016 at 10:00 pm #

    Help! I have TONS of house plants. Vines, flowering, trees etc… I moved from a house full of natural amazing light to what feels like a cave!
    All my plants look so damn sad. I don’t know what kind of light bulbs to use around the house to help the plants… All my sockets are candelabra style.

    • E. Vinje on September 22nd, 2016 at 4:10 am #

      Ashley –

      The most economical bulb to use would be our AgroSun 26W Compact Fluorescent (CFL) Bulb. It produces low heat and full spectrum lighting that plants love. However, it wouldn’t provide enough light for flowering plants — for that I would recommend a T5 Fluorescent System. Or keep checking back, later this year we will be carrying LED strips that are made specifically for this type of application.

  10. cotton on October 25th, 2016 at 8:32 am #


    I have a gorgeous potted rosemary plant on my back deck. I don’t have a spot in my apartment where she will get enough bright sunlight and I am in Montreal. I doubt she would survive the winter.

    What kind of light can I purchase to keep my rosemary happy indoors?

  11. Cassiel on July 5th, 2017 at 8:33 pm #

    Thanks for this helpful read. will use this on my succulents.

  12. Loyda on August 4th, 2017 at 10:45 am #

    Hi. I’m so grateful for all your advice. I live in a small apartment with no sunlight what so ever. I live towards the backside of my NYC building surrounded by taller ones. I’ve been trying to grow indoor plants for years, but they don’t flourish. I bought T5 lamps and some of my plants have survived but not flourished. Most of my plants don’t make it after a few months! What type of lighting would you recommend? I have African violets and vines among others.

    I’d appreciate your help.

  13. Jay on October 22nd, 2017 at 10:07 am #

    I am preparing to bring my 37 yr old – 9 ft Ficus tree indoors for the winter. I would like to prepare lighting to support its environment as it seems to stress & loose a large % of leaves during this seasonal change. The area it will be stationed has no sunshine access so would floor base lighting serve efficiently? I was researching lighting situated at the base of the tree with the light shining up thru the leaves.
    Please advise.

  14. thomas armstrong on December 9th, 2017 at 6:26 am #

    What is the best light to use to keep small trees growing in the winter months?

  15. Jennifer Nelson on August 14th, 2018 at 3:17 am #

    I have turned my master bedroom into an indoor greenhouse. However, I have over 100 small plants mostly seedlings growing and they are not getting quite enough light from the window (large windows but have awnings). I wanted to replace the bulbs in my ceiling light with ones that will be best for the plants (this room is also favorite hang out for my cats – all the plants are cat safe -). I have plants like spider plants, wandering jew, Swedish ivy — what would you recommend?

  16. joshdaniworks92 on January 15th, 2020 at 8:04 pm #

    I am fairly new to this. I’ve recently moved to a new apartment that has adequate lighting for indoor plants that’s why I’m checking if I could potentially maximize the source or I need to use some new lighting.

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