8 Best Grow Lights for a Greenhouse
Whether you're setting up a traditional greenhouse or something customized for your specific needs, grow lights may be your key to success.
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Buying Grow Lights for Your Greenhouse
Many greenhouses can benefit from supplemental lighting, especially at certain times of year. If you’re trying to grow vegetables in Minnesota in the winter, sprout delicate seedlings in the spring or control the sensitive blooms of orchids, grow lights in your greenhouse can help.
If you have an indoor greenhouse, grow-tent or grow-room, you’ll need good lights. But trying to figure out the best ones for you can be overly confusing. We talked to Puneet Sabharawl, author, CEO and co-founder of plant subscription service Horti and Andy Russo, a year-round greenhouse expert at Bootstrap Farmer, to learn everything there is to know about grow lights.
Here are a few initial things to keep in mind:
- Type of light: The main types for residential use are LED (the most common and energy efficient) and fluorescent (great for starting seeds and greens). In large grow areas and really cold climates, high-intensity discharge (HID) lights can also be a good choice, but come with a higher electricity bill.
- Type of crop: In general, you’ll need more intense light for vegetables than for greens and herbs. Light intensity (quantity) is measured in PAR (photosynthetic active radiation), while light spectrum is measured in Kelvin (K). It can all get pretty scientific, depending on how deep you want to dive in. “Research shows that the direction of light and length of exposure can make a substantial difference in the growth, fragrance and, when applicable, taste of plants,” says Sabharawl.
- Configuration: This will depend on how much growing space you have and whether you’ll need to light your beds overhead, horizontally or vertically. With higher intensity lights, plan for extra ventilation and space between the ceiling and your lights as well as between your lights and the plants. Depending on the fixture, you may also need 220-volt electrical service.
- Quality: With grow lights, you get what you pay for. “As a general rule, price does indicate quality with LED grow lights,” says Russo. To further ensure you’re buying a quality product, look for UL and ETL certified products.
Here are some suggestions, depending on your setup.
Best Grow Lights Overall
For versatility in grow configurations and flexibility to expand, Bootstrap Farmer’s 48-inch LED Strip Grow Lights are a reliable choice for power and quality. They can be mounted overhead, vertically or horizontally depending on your setup, and you can daisy-chain up to seven together through a single power cord.
They give off a cool white, 6400K (blue) spectrum light, which mimics bright daylight and is especially good for the plants’ seedling stage. These also have a NanoTech T5 reflector that captures 99.9 percent of lost light. A reflective shield makes them splash and dust-resistant. Plus, they’re rated for 50,000 hours.
Best Grow Lights for No-Brainer Setup
Bestva’s LED panels are easy to install, put off minimal heat and are a good price for the quality. For light, they use nine bands of LEDs, which makes a comprehensive full-spectrum light for all growing stages. There are also two cultivation modes, so you can switch from “veg” to “bloom.”
A system of efficient, quiet cooling fans makes them particularly good for rooms and greenhouses otherwise too warm for growing. They come in lots of sizes and wattages.
Best T5 Fluorescent Grow Lights
Fluorescents are effective for starting seedlings and greens; they’re great for shelving with limited vertical space. Hydrofarm’s Agrobrite FLT24 fluorescents. known for reliability and quality, come with 6400K, energy-efficient, high-output tubes. This setup comes in seven sizes (two to 12-foot tubes). It can hang overhead, vertically or horizontally. It’s rated to 18,000 lumens.
“Fluorescents need to be close to the crop in order for effective illumination and to reduce the stretching of plants,” says Russo.
Best Budget HID Grow Lights
High-intensity discharge (HID) lights are typically for larger areas and hang higher over crops. They consume more energy and produce more heat than other types of bulbs, which can be problematic in tight and warm growing situations.
But in cooler climates, Russo says the extra heat can be beneficial, especially when coupled with circulation fans. iPower’s 600 watt system is a comprehensive kit with a timer, wing reflector set, hanger rope and 2100K and 6000K bulbs.
Note: Because of the heat, HID systems require adequate ventilation. Also, don’t touch bulbs with bare fingers; the oils may cause damage when hot.
Best DE HID Grow Lights
Dual-ended, high-intensity discharge fixtures (DE HID) are higher energy than standard HID fixtures, so Russo says they produce even more intense light. This makes them a good choice for larger fruiting crops, but they can also be used on greens if they have more vertical space.
Yield Lab’s Pro Series 1000W HPS+MH Double Ended Wing Reflector Complete Grow Light Kit includes the bulbs, a dimmable ballast, hanging ratchet kit, timer and a 12-week grow guide.
Best Single Grow Light
If you’re just growing a few pots of basil or some year-round flowers, a small arrangement of single lamps might be all you need. GE’s PAR28 Grow Light LED works for seeds and greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and herbs.
“At the showroom we are simply using these grow light bulbs combined with a clamp lamp,” says Sabharawl. This light uses a balanced spectrum to encourage growth but appears white to our eyes, adding a natural and aesthetically pleasing look to living areas.
Best Tabletop Grow Light
Brite Labs LED Grow Light clamps onto the corner of a table. Then you can move around its three flexible gooseneck arms to focus their light at your plants. That makes it ideal for quick setups, like moving a tray of plants indoors because of a storm.
It comes with a built-in timer and dimmer. It can switch between red lights (to trigger flowering) and blue lights (for photosynthesis). The light appears purple, so set it up somewhere where that won’t bother you.
Best Designer Grow Lights
If fashion is as important as function and price is not a concern, then try a single grow light from Soltech Solutions or Rousseau Plant Care. They’re made to blend in with discerning interior decors.