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A Beginner's Guide to Grow Lights

A Beginner's Guide to Grow Lights

Let's talk grow lights. If you don't understand them, Grow Lights can seem an unnecessary and intimidating piece of equipment to add to your indoor jungle. You might not think you need them, or perhaps you haven't found something that suits your aesthetic and don't want to throw the vibe off. Traditionally, grow lights have been limited to the red/blue/purple glows that can change the feel of your space from cosy to rave at the flip of a switch. 

But the grow light game has grown tremendously over the last couple of years, and manufacturers have realised that the discerning plant parent wants options, both in price point and style. 

With Winter just around the corner for those of us down in Australia (shout out to our Northern Hemisphere's readers coming into Summer!), now is the time to think about grow lights if you're keen to keep your plant fam cranking through the colder months. 

So why use them? 

The number one reason is lack of or insufficient light. Perhaps you live in an apartment with south facing windows, or have one dark room that you really want to add a few plants too. Sometimes a bright room might change completely over winter and suddenly all that summer light disappears. Or maybe, you keep forgetting to open your curtains in the morning!

Another common reason people choose to invest in grow lights is to increase plant growth. it's not uncommon to have plants in the home that are surviving, just not thriving. They look fine but you haven't seen much (if any) new growth and while the room might receive natural light, it might just not be enough for that particular plant. Adding a grow light will supplement any light deficiencies and help keep your plant looking its full-foliage best. 

Finally, grow lights are often used in 'urban farming'. Basically, small scale indoor production for the home. The technology has caught up with the demands of small space and apartment living, so now it is possible to literally grow fresh herbs and veggies inside the home. This might be a large set up in a garage or basement but there are many options for smaller more subtle setups. 

How they work

We know that plants need light. This is how they perform photosynthesis (the process in which they convert light energy into sugars...aka food). Thing is though, plants perceive light in a different way to us humans. While we look at sunshine and see 'white/yellow' light, that is actually a combination of a multitude of colours - a 'full-spectrum' if you will. Most common household light bulbs, while producing a light that seems similar to the light we receive from the sun, are actually producing a light that is not full-spectrum.

Light strength for plants is measured in Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density (it's a mouthful, so let's call it PPFD). This is different to how we measure light for humans (in Lux). Lux is basically the yellow light we get from most light sources, and the more intense that light means the higher the Lux. Plants, however, are all about those reds and blues - in fact, they don't use much yellow or green light at all. The blue encourages vegetative growth like foliage and roots, while the red pushes for flowers and fruit.

Grow lights therefore mimic the same light waves that the sun emits, making them super beneficial to plants. This is why you can't choose any old light to act as a grow light. At the very least, you need to make sure those red and blue light waves are present.

LED grow lights offer a number of benefits that regular halogen and incandescent lights don't. They don't give off any heat, they are far more energy efficient and have a longer lifespan than fluorescents. But most importantly, LED grow lights use specific wavelengths of the light spectrum that are beneficial to plant growth, so you know your plants are only getting the good stuff!

What light is for you?

Go ahead and google 'grow lights'. There are a tonne of different options, for everyone from hardcore growers and cultivators to the brand new plant parent. You can spend as much or as little as you'd like, all with varying results. But this doesn't mean you need to drop a heap of cash on the latest high-tech commercial gear. You just need to know your plants and what they need. We've tried to keep things simple with the range of grow lights we offer in store - all tried and tested by us!

Most of you will be busy working on your indoor jungle with foliage plants, so look for a light spectrum around 6500K. (Flowering or fruiting plants, by contrast, need around 2500K). 'K' stands for Kelvin, which measures light temperature. As the number of Kelvins get lower, the light gets warmer. 

Some of the typical options for grow lights include:

High Intensity Discharge Lights (HID)

Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL)

LED Lights (Light Emitting Diodes)

LEDs are more energy efficient, produce little heat and can be plugged into standard outlets - so we love them! The only negatives are that they can have higher initial costs (but their lifespan is massive).

Our Recommendations for...

Home Owners: Aspect Grow Lights

Statement Plants: Aspect Grow Lights, Plant Spectrum32

Renters: Plant Spectrum32, Plant Spectrum16MicroFarm

Desktop Plants: Vita Grow Light

Budget Conscious: Breezygro LED Grow Light, Easygro LED Grow Light

Urban Farmers: Indoor Smart Kitchen, MicroFarm

Tips and Tricks

Whenever possible, place your grow light above the plants, If this isn't doable, consider rotating the plant on a regular basis so it doesn't lean out to one side as it grows towards the light. 

Don't leave your grow light on 24/7. Plants, like humans, need a break too. They photosynthesise during the day then respire overnight. Try to provide your plants with a break of about 6-8hrs over a 24hr period.

Whenever possible, try to get a grow light with a timer or consider adding one. This saves you the trouble of having to remember when to turn you light on and off. They're also great if you don't like the light spectrum colours so you can time it for when you're not home or in bed asleep!

Technical Terms

You might come across these terms as you start to learn more about grow lights:

PAR - Photosynthetically Active Radiation: Measurement on the quality of Light. The range of light used by plants.

PPF - Photosynthetic Photon Flux: Amount of PAR being used by Lighting system each second. How much PAR produced by the light.

PPFD - Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density: How much PAR is hitting the plant

K - Kelvin. Measurement for light temperature.