The One Thing You’re Probably Doing Wrong with Your Grow Lights

published Oct 14, 2022
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window sil full of fake plants
Credit: Sarah Crowley

Now that the days are getting shorter, natural light can be harder to come by — for you, and your plants. While you may be thinking that the best solution is to pile your plants in the one section of your home that’s always sunny, there’s an easier and less crowded solution to embrace: grow lights.

If you’re unfamiliar with them, these lights mimic sunshine by providing a full spectrum of bright to not-so-bright settings. So, depending on the type of sunlight your plant needs to thrive, a grow light can take care of it. But there is one caveat to remember, and it’s probably the one thing you’re doing wrong if you have a grow light but haven’t yet had success: Putting a grow light too close to a plant can be harmful, not helpful.

Most grow lights need to be within a certain distance to be effective, and generally, you want smaller lights to be within 12 inches of your pot. Be sure to read the directions of your exact grow light to get it right!

Take note of your light conditions as the year progresses to see where you might need a grow light or two, and read on for three other tips to remember.

The Best Type of Grow Light to Buy

Full-spectrum lights are best because they’re also going to be a little easier on your eyes. Red and blue lights will have a purple hue and can feel strange to have lit for long periods of time. However, if your light seems to be too similar to a regular reading lamp, you might be tempted to point it where it’s convenient for you instead of your plant. So be sure to point it back at your plant when you’re done. 

How Long to Leave It On

Now that your grow light is close enough, bright enough, and pointed at your plant, you’re probably wondering if you need to leave it on 24/7. The answer is no! Plants need at least six hours of darkness to complete photosynthesis. Getting a light with a built-in timer, or using a timed power strip, can make this necessity automated.

There’s Stylish Ones Out There

Not all grow lights have to look like something out of a sci-fi movie. There are grow light bulbs you can find for regular light fixtures, like this one from Soltech, and other sleek standalone ones that won’t clash with your decor. If you like your grow light’s look, then you’ll be more likely to use it. It’s worth choosing one that you really enjoy, because happy plants make for a cozier space.