Gardeners have been trying to get their plants bigger, flowers better and fruit and veg tastier for years. If you’ve been struggling to make sure your tomatoes are ripe and red or if your orchids are looking small and sad, you might want to give up. Many people have turned to lights to give their plants a boost. But what are the best LED grow lights? And how do you choose which LED to use?
We’ve put together a great guide to give you all the information you need as well as reviews of some of the top-selling lights.
**Below, you'll find more detailed reviews, but you can also click links above to check current prices and read customer's reviews on Amazon.
Why use a LED grow light?
In layman’s terms, a grow light will help your plant life or crops thrive in a place where natural light is scarce, or give light-loving species a boost of valuable nutrients.
If you’re in a country which has lower amounts of natural light during certain parts of the year, then a grow light is absolutely essential to make sure your crops continue to develop. Vegetation needs light for photosynthesis. This is the process where a plant uses light (natural or artificial) to convert food and water into energy.
Without light, plants cannot convert these nutrients into energy and will die – no matter how much water and fertiliser it has. Growing plants under lights have been a proven method for improving your crops since 1868.
If you’re trying to get your tomatoes to grow bigger, then a boost of LED light will encourage them to expand and ripen better. Without light, you can find your fruit or veg tasting bitter and your harvest will be small.
What colour LED grow lights are best?
Depending on the type of plant, different coloured lights do differently. There is a lot of misinformation online about the best lights to use and some LED lights have unusual colour combinations or varying strengths.
The science behind using LED lights to boost your shrubs says that organic life responds best to red and blue LEDs. The three best colours are red, blue or UV LED lights and although there is a lot more information about spectrums, wavelengths and the science behind these lights, those are the three you should concentrate on for your greenhouse.
All plants with green leaves (so the majority) absorb UV, blue and red lights. The other colours in the spectrum, such as yellow and green, are not taken in as well by foliage which means as a LED grow light, they are not effective.
Some gardeners find themselves investing in expensive lights without checking the spectrum first and then don’t see the results that are expected. This is down to the wrong colour light being used.
Strengths of LED grow lights
As well as different colours, there are different sizes and strengths of LED grow lights. The choice you make depends on the type of plant, where it will be grown and the outside environment.
Some people think they can just buy a lot of lights, set them up and expect that as their crops are getting a lot of light, they should grow huge. This is just not the case, It is true, light is needed to give your foliage food but too much light and heat can actually damage leaves and in extreme cases kill your plants altogether.
To make sure you get the right growth, you need to balance the amount of light they need carefully. Tomatoes will flourish in strong light as they are adapted well to a hot climate but even they can have too much LED light. When setting up your lights position them far away to begin with and then gradually move them in closer – monitoring how your plant reacts.
If you start to see it wilting, or the leaves curling or turning yellow, this is a sign your plant has had too much heat and light and you will need to move the LEDs further away.
Common mistakes when using LED grow lights
As mentioned above, there is a lot of misinformation online about using lights to grow plants and this can lead to people making mistakes and causing damage.
One of the most commonly repeated myths is that red light is needed to make your crop flower while blue light makes the whole plant grow. This is untrue as a plant needs both colors of light to grow. Natural light is best, even if gardeners swear by LED lighting, so if there is any way you can get your plant into a natural light source you should. Even putting your plant on the windowsill for a few hours a day can really help it flourish. Direct sunlight is best so if your property only gets indirect sunlight using a LED light system is still a good idea.
Some people also forget to move the lights as the plants get bigger. What may start out as the ideal distance between the top of your shrub and the bottom of the light, will gradually shorten over time as the leaves reach upwards and the branches grow. Make sure you are measuring the plants’ growth and then adjusting your light setup accordingly.
To make it easier, invest in an adjustable growing light rig which can be moved and tweaked easily as your crops mature.
How do you use LED grow lights?
LED lights are easy to set up and usually very cheap to buy. While they’re not as powerful as your standard light bulb, groups of LEDs can be clustered together to create a strong enough light for your plants.
They will need to be closer to your plants than other growing lights which are something to bear in mind if you are replacing the lights on your current rigging system.
How long should the lights stay on?
This isn’t too hard to work out; you just need to use the artificial light to replicate what the plant would normally have in its optimal habitat. Look at the information about that plant species to understand where it will thrive. For example, roses need around five to six hours of full sunlight every day so if you are using LEDs to replicate this then they need to be on for a little longer than that as the artificial light isn’t as nourishing.
Most plants should be receiving light for around 14 to 16 hours every day but you should make sure your lighting system is switched off for at least eight hours to give your plants a chance to stop photosynthesising and to imitate the natural conditions of a day/night cycle as closely as possible.
Reviews on 5 best LED grow lights
This LED light is made by Lampat and has red and blue bulbs included giving your plants the colours they need to grow. It has a controlled method of heat dissipation and the ribbed design on the body means it stays cool even when used up to 24 hours. It is a cheap option so you won’t have to worry about spending lots of money if you’re experimenting with grow lights.
- This LED is suitable for fruit and vegetable growers
- Three band targeted spectrum
- 12 LED lights
- Red and blue lights included
- Fits a standard light bulb connector
- Polished aluminium body
- Light fitting/base not included
- Small light
- Only works up to 1.7-5 ft and 2.6-15 sq. ft.
- May need to use more than one if you have many plants
This block LED light has 100, three watt LED lights which are made up of three different colours. There are red, blue and white LEDs in this unit which are the three main colours needed by your plants. It can be used up to 18 hours per day without overheating and has built in fans. The three-year warranty means you can have it repaired or replaced if anything goes wrong.
- 100 LED lights in one unit
- 3-watt power of each LED bulb
- Includes two fans to keep the lights cool
- 70 red light LEDs
- 12 blue light LEDs
- 18 white light LEDs
- Range of 380nm to 800nm
- LED output power 300 watt
- Actual power 120 watt
- Weighs five pounds
- Fans can be noisy when running
- Will need to be hooked up to a support system
- More expensive than some lights
- Is not waterproof
- Does not specify if it can be used outdoors
This LED light is made by Kiartten and is a smaller model designed to be used for one or two small plants. It is 12 watt and has 12 LED lights which are a mixture of red and blue. The light fits into a standard fixture so it can easily be slotted into a desk lamp or any existing base. The three-metre long power cord means you don’t have to run and extension cable or relocate your plants to use this system.
- Red and blue LED lights combined in one unit
- 12 watt light
- 9 red LED lights
- 3 blue LED lights
- Comes with a three-metre power cord
- Can only be used indoors
- Small number of lights
- Will not cover a large area
- Actual light fitting is bright green in colour
This Elflight LED grow strip is in a long, thin design which differs from most models which are shaped like a light bulb. It fits into a strip light so can be run along the top of a shelf or in a greenhouse above a tray of seedlings to help them germinate. Users of this light report it has boosted their plants’ growth and it is good value for money. It can be used indoors or outdoors so you can move the light as your plants mature and go outside.
- Superbright 5050 SMD LED for high-intensity light
- 60 LEDs per metre
- Red and blue LED lights
- Includes power adaptor
- Will not fit into a standard light bulb fixture
- Needs specialist fittings
- No warranty mentioned
The innovative Aokey Profession Plant Lamp is designed to be easily adjustable. The light itself sits on top of a flexible base so it can be moved closer or further away quickly. For this reason, it is best suited for young sprouts and seedlings which will need to be monitored often and will grow fast. The clamp holds the lamp to the edge of a table or shelf and it can easily be unclamped and moved as needed.
- Lamp clips to the edge of a table or desk
- Adjustable and flexible design
- Uses targeted wavelengths
- 78 LED lights
- Red LED light
- Blue LED light
- IR, UV and white LED light
- Lamp is 20.75 inches high
- 57-inch cord
- Rocker on/off switch
- Aluminium body means it cools down quicker
- Includes user manual
- No internal cooling fans
- Need to have something to clamp it to
- Only 78 LED lights
- Has some plastic parts which may wear down with use
So if you’re thinking about getting some LED grow lights to boost your plants, then we hope to have given you some valuable information. We recommend using the Lampat grow light. Not only does this light have red and blue LEDs which are crucial for good growth, but this model also fits right into a standard light bulb fitting. It is cheap, comes with a 12-month warranty and will run for 50,000 hours before it needs replacing. It can also operate for up to 24 hours per day so it will suit any types of vegetation.
Remember to check the colour of your LED lights, make sure they are the right strength and are positioned as close to the plants as they need to be and monitor them regularly as the crops grow. Switch your lights off overnight to give the plants a rest and you will soon see your foliage flourishing.