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Growing houseplants should be a snap—after all, you don’t have to battle drought or frost. But you may have one big limiting factor: lack of quality light sunlight. Fortunately, adding a few grow lights to your indoor plants can solve this problem, allowing plants to flourish even in darker corners of your home.
If you’re wondering how to use grow lights for indoor plants, you’re in the right place. We’re shedding light on how to maximize plant health and productivity indoors for flourishing, vibrant at-home greenery. We have ten easy tips & tricks for you to follow to make sure you and your plants are getting the most out of your grow lights.
1. Understand Your Indoor Plant’s Needs
Of all the factors that go into growing healthy houseplants, light is the ingredient that can be the hardest to provide.1 Except for a few deep-shade-loving species, most plants have adapted to receive hours of full-spectrum, intense light from the sun:2
- Full sun plants require a minimum of 6 hours of full sunlight
- Medium light plants, or plants that thrive in indirect light, including most common houseplant species, require 3 or 4 hours of bright light
- Most shade plants still need about 2 hours of sun per day
In order to best provide for your plant, it is first important to research the plant’s unique light requirements. Once you have an understanding, you can set up your space in a way that is optimal to provide for these needs. If your environment does not match the level of required light, it may be beneficial to incorporate grow lights, which are an important tool for houseplant enthusiasts. LED grow lights are the most efficient type of grow light on the market today in terms of energy use, and also allow for great versatility in light intensity and color spectrum.
Pro Tip: To best support your plant’s growth, use the AeroGarden app to adjust your grow light’s brightness (intensity) while maintaining an active plant light spectrum.
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2. Match Your Plant’s Size
One core component of a plant’s lighting needs is the size of the plant. A bigger plant will require more light, thus warranting a larger grow light for proper exposure.
Maximize your AeroGarden LED grow light’s potential by matching it with the right size potted plant. Use the AeroGarden Stem for 4” to 6” diameter potted plants. The AeroGarden tabletop is best for multiple 4” potted plants or potted plants with diameters of 6 or 8 inches. Use the AeroGarden Trio with plants up to 12” tall - hint: use the height of your plant to help decide whether the Trio is the right size for your needs!
3. Allow for Proper Light Spacing
When setting up grow lights for indoor plants, it’s important to consider the location and spacing. A general rule of thumb is to maintain a minimum distance of 3.5-4” of space between your Grow light’s bulb/hood and the plant’s top leaves - also known as the canopy!
To help achieve this, there are a few different options of light fixtures to choose from that may work best based on your indoor plant location.
- Adjustable-Neck Grow Light: This style of light fixture, featured via the AeroGarden Trio Light, allows for easy adjustment based on your plants ongoing needs and response to light. Adjustable lights like the AeroGarden Trio also allow you to group several plants together and ensure each one receives as much light as it needs.
- Post-Mounted Grow Light: A newer fixture style that’s extremely easy to set up and highly versatile are grow lights that are “planted” right in the plant’s container. Post-mounted grow lights like the AeroGarden Stem Grow Light travel with your plant, allowing you to move it to different locations with the light source conveniently attached.
- Tabletop Grow Light: Another more versatile option is a table lamp-style grow light. Change your mind about where you want your plant to live? Simply move both the lamp and the plant to its new space. The AeroGarden Tabletop Light offers a smart design that makes moving your plant easy. The base fits neatly under the pot and the light has both an adjustable neck & dimmable light to alter intensity.
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4. Don’t Forget to Water!
In addition to energy from proper light, a crucial factor to effectively growing plants is properly watering them. Maintaining a consistent and healthy moisture level for your plant can help maximize its health overall.
As your plant’s roots and soil dry and then are moisturized via watering, the amount of oxygen around the root system fluctuates. Keeping consistent moisture in your root zone - without overwatering - helps to maintain a constant oxygen supply. Overwatering your plants and saturating your root zone causes a massive drop-off in oxygen around the roots, causing your plants to suffocate. Soil with good drainage and airflow helps to prevent this. Underwatering causes a plant to enter a state of wilt and may even cause the plant to lose color, looking gray.
Indoor grow lights provide a great benefit to plants through consistent light. However, the increased amount of light may make your plants thirstier than you expect, so remember to regularly check that your plants are properly hydrated.
5. Use Light Scheduling to Your Advantage
You now have your indoor grow light setup, with proper spacing for your plant and a consistent watering schedule. Your plant is thriving…but wait, you’re going on vacation.
Another key to maintaining plant health is consistent care of the plant. If you are going out of town or worried about your plant’s care, take advantage of the AeroGarden Grow Light’s scheduling feature via the AeroGarden app. Schedule your light to be on for the right amount of time in the day to meet your plant’s needs.
Pro Tip: Reducing the amount of light a plant receives will often cause it to need less water, allowing you the freedom to increase the amount of time between waterings!
Growing indoors with a busy schedule is even easier with the “light schedule” feature in the AeroGarden app. Download the app to set your light schedule and help ensure your grow lights are providing the optimal lighting type and intensity for your plant babies.
6. Alter Light Intensity
Finding the right balance of light exposure and intensity (brightness) can be tricky with indoor plants.
Can plants get too much light? Definitely! Both sunlight and grow lights can cause problems if plants receive too much high intensity exposure. Here are some common signs that your plant isn’t happy with the amount of light it's getting:
- Burned, bleached, or brown leaves – These can all be signs of too much light exposure. If you see these signs on a plant placed near a window, it’s getting too much direct sun. If they occur on a plant under a grow light, it means the grow light should be moved further from the foliage.
- Thin, weak growth – When a plant isn’t receiving enough light, stems will become long and thin as the plant stretches toward the light. Leaves will be few and far between on the overgrown stems. Gardeners refer to this as “leggy” growth.
- Sickly or faded color – When some plants don’t receive enough light, they can produce less chlorophyll, the substance that gives leaves their green hue. This causes green leaves to become pale green, yellow, or white.
7. Become an Expert in the Light Spectrum
Picture a rainbow arcing across the sky—that’s the visible light spectrum on display. Each colorful stripe is a different wavelength of visible light.
Any light source which contains all wavelengths of light is known as full spectrum. And this is what sets a grow light apart from the typical light bulb—it’s full of every color, just like the sunlight plants naturally get their energy from.
Here’s a quick overview of how the light spectrum affects your plants:3
- Plants use a specific part of the spectrum for photosynthesis, known as photosynthetically active radiation (PAR)
- Well-designed LED grow lights produce 100% of light within (PAR), while standard LEDs and fluorescents don't
- Providing more blue or red light can help with specific stages of growth, such as sprouting, foliage growth, or flowering
AeroGarden Grow Lights have different color modes to help enhance certain features of your plants. There are four distinct color modes that can be used for different reasons. For example, the Cool mode - which is on the blue end of the PAR spectrum - may help to increase branching and desirable traits like variegation (that is the white speckling you see on Marble Queen pothos, on high value Thai Constellation Monsteras, and others).
Experiment and have fun with the color temperature when growing plants indoors to help boost your plant’s health even further.
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8. Alter Light Schedules in Different Seasons
During the summer, sunny windows can become increasingly hot as the day’s light increases. Much like us when we’re in the sun too long, our plants can get sunburn, too!
On the other side of the seasonal spectrum, plant conditions shift amidst the winter months. Potential air leaks and shorter days mean your plant that was once too hot is now too cold in the same window. With a combination of less overall daylight, less light intensity, and cold temperatures, plants will often go into dormancy.
The new AeroGarden Grow Lights - the Stem, Tabletop, and Trio - help houseplants grow, even with no natural light present. In the winter, as days begin to shorten, use AeroGarden Grow Lights to extend the amount of time your plants receive light. Adjusting the distance between the light and your plant’s canopy, as well as the light’s intensity via the dim function, can helpkeep your plant happy and healthy.
9. Complement Light with Proper Nutrients
While watering helps keep your plants alive, they also require nutrients and minerals to thrive. This is one of the most overlooked parts of owning plants - particularly in indoor plants that use grow lights.
As you continue to use your grow light, your plant will use more and more nutrients from its soil. Additionally, it is normal that when deeply watering (meaning, proper watering) your plant nutrients may be pushed out of the soil over time. With this in mind, it’s important to plan for proper nutrition to keep your plant satiated.
AeroGarden or Miracle-Gro plant fertilizer can help to keep your plants thriving throughout the year!
10. Keep Your Plants Clean
Getting to know your plant and how it feels is just as important as learning about your plant’s needs. Interact with your plant - its foliage and soil - to get to know how the leaves feel when it’s happy and healthy. Familiarizing yourself in this way can help you identify if something is wrong as time passes.
To further improve your plants’ well-being, don’t forget to give them a good cleaning! Dust and other debris can clog the pores on your plant’s leaves, which can reduce the plant's growth potential. If you spot this on leaves under the grow light, try cleaning your plants with a soft, microfiber rag so they are clean and primed for optimal growth.
Grow Smarter With AeroGarden
If you find your indoor plants becoming pale and straggly over time, it could be a sign that they’re light-deprived. Luckily, it’s an easy fix with the addition of a grow light. Once your plant is receiving enough light, vibrant new growth should appear quickly.
For versatility, lifespan, and energy efficiency, LED grow lights are the best solution to give your plants the light they require to thrive.
AeroGarden Indoor Grow Lights provide stylish design along with customizable intensity and color settings, so you can choose from warmer or cooler light to suit your mood and your plant’s needs. Use the built-in timer for set-it-and-forget-it ease, or install the AeroGarden app (Android & iOS) for even more custom timing options and color settings.
Let your plants see the light with AeroGarden.
1, 3 Oklahoma State University. LED grow lights for plant production. https://extension.okstate.edu/fact-sheets/led-grow-lights-for-plant-production.html
2 SF Gate. Do plants really need 6 hours of sun per day? https://homeguides.sfgate.com/plants-really-need-6-hours-sun-per-day-71804.html
Better Homes and Gardens. How to use grow lights for a healthy indoor garden. https://www.bhg.com/gardening/houseplants/care/indoor-plant-lights/
University of Minnesota Extension. Lighting for indoor plants and starting seeds. https://extension.umn.edu/planting-and-growing-guides/lighting-indoor-plants