Growing Plants In Artificial Light: Can You Do That?

Growing plants in artificial light, is it possible? The short answer is YES! The long answer requires us to get familiar with photosynthesis, what grow lights are available, and a few other essential aspects you need to understand.

Luckily, we’ll look at each of those aspects today. So we can better understand that growing plants under artificial light is something we can do without trouble.

We all know the basics: plants need light (which doesn’t have to be natural) to live and grow. In fact, we humans need sunlight because of its vitamin D more than plants do.

Indoor grow lights are even better for houseplants and with the right system you’ll be able to grow any kind of plant at home. Grow lights encourage photosynthesis, a process that requires air, water, light, temperature, and humidity. These indoor systems help control all these elements – temperature, humidity, and light.

Do you want to read more about growing with artificial light? Check out our article – Full Spectrum Led Grow Lights – The No. 1 Grow Light Solution.

Growing Plants In Artificial Light

Understanding It

There are three “dimensions” in light, and it’s affected by temperature, another critical factor in plant growth and health. If you want to start indoor gardening, you need to understand these four things so you can grow plants with artificial light.

As we know, plants need warmth and during winter, we can compensate for the lack of it by moving our plants to a warmer room.

Encouraging Photosynthesis: How Does It Work?

Let’s review what we learned in biology class ages ago. The reason why leaves are green is a chemical called Chlorophyll. On leaves, you’ll find teeny tiny holes known as Chloroplasts that allow light to reach into the stem of the plant.

If you’re curious, go check out your closest plant. You’ll notice that there are small veins on the leaves, which actually work like our veins. But instead of transporting blood, these veins carry water and glucose through the entire organism.

Now, when light hits the leaves, Chlorophyll gets a shock of energy, which leads the plant to produce glucose with the help of air and water.


When you water your plants, the roots soak up all the nutrients. They also absorb carbon dioxide from the air through the leaves, and it reaches the stems. Then the light comes and activates Chlorophyll, thus producing glucose or sugar. Understanding this process is helpful when you want to grow healthy indoor plants.

All you need to know is that for photosynthesis to occur, your plants need air, light, and water. This leads to the creation of glucose and oxygen, which is what they need to grow. So, in theory, you can grow any plant indoors. But, there are two issues here: temperature and humidity. The higher the temperature, the more water your plants need.

That’s why the type of system is one of the most critical decisions because it will affect temperature and humidity levels. Plants can burn, after all, even outdoors under direct sunlight.

What burns them is the heat, so choosing the appropriate system prevents this from happening. And creates the right environment for photosynthesis.

But why do plants need water in the first place? Check out our article – Why Do Plants Need Water? A Simple Guide to This Wet Wonder and find out!

Growing Plants In Artificial Light (Photosynthesis)

You already know all this from the biology class but it’s always good to repeat. So, if you want to know everything about photosynthesis, check out this article on Wikipedia.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you click on the link and buy the product, we’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Affiliate links are one of the ways that keep alive.

Types of Indoor Light Systems to Grow Plants

Now that we’ve established how important it is to have the right indoor light system to grow healthy plants let’s take a look at all the types of methods available and what they’re suitable for.

1. High-Intensity-Discharge (HID) System

High-Intensity-Discharge systems are powerful, but they’re also expensive. Garages and other areas with no sunlight exposure are excellent places for them. And they are great for growing plants that need low to medium light intensity.

They work with the use of tubes that have gas inside, and there are two different types of HID lights:

High-Pressure-Sodium (HPS)

HPS bulbs are warmer, with red and orange hues, and they’re more appropriate for flowering plants. HPS systems use an igniter.

Metal-Halide (MH)

MH bulbs are cooler, with white and blue hues, they promote growth and don’t need an igniter.

Each HID type offers the most intense light, and you won’t be able to alternate between the two different kinds of HID systems.

In other words, you won’t be able to use both systems unless you install both, which is quite pricey. Otherwise, you’ll have to use HPS for flowering plants and MH for foliage growth.

Because they are so intense, they produce tons of heat, so keeping the bulbs too close the plants will burn them. What’s more, if you keep this system in a compact space, your energy costs will increase because you’ll need to keep the AC on to fend off the heat. This system is only a good idea if you have a large home and you’re growing tropical plants.

You can get grow lights like these ones with HPS and MH features from online and one of them is the 75W grow light by YGROW. This version is equal to a traditional 150W HPS or MH and the best part is that it only consumes 30W. This kit has all the materials you need, which are:

  • A hanging kit
  • A power cord
  • The user manual
  • A 75W grow light
  • A stable power supply

You can find a product like this from HERE.

2. Fluorescent Light System

Fluorescent systems are a decent choice for a few great reasons:

  1. The first one being that this kind of lighting is more energy-efficient, it lasts longer and isn’t as expensive as other options.
  2. The second reason is that fluorescent lighting offers less heat output, so burning your plants is not a significant concern. In fact, you can keep the light as close as 6 inches from the plants.

As mentioned, fluorescent systems are pretty affordable, and I found a suitable product that I dare to include.

This is the option to consider if you want to take your growing to a more professional level. This fluorescent system is by Hydrofarm, and the product has over a thousand positive reviews.

Get The Light From HERE.

3. Induction Light System

Induction lighting is better than fluorescent because it produces the same kind of light, but doesn’t need warming up.

The difference is that there are no electricals involved, it functions with gases, that activate with an electromagnetic field. The drawback here is that they’re inconvenient to use at home because it will affect your Wi-Fi signal and cell service.

They also make some noise. That’s because the lights are for industrial and commercial use, which is why they last thousands of hours.

4. LED Light System

Growing Plants In Artificial Light LED Grow Light

LED is the cheapest option in the long run but unfortunately, they’re not cheap to buy. This will depend on how many bulbs you need, of course.

You’ll want to stick with reputable brands because there are many knock-offs out there. This will be a bit more expensive, but they’ll be worth it in the long run.

When it comes to growth, the wavelength required ranges between 300 nanometers to 700. The lower end of the scale is blue, and the higher end is red. As we saw before with HID lighting, blue is good for growth and red is suitable for flowering plants.

LED’s sweet spot is between 630 to 660 nm for the red wavelength, and 460 nm for the blue one.

What Else?

You’ll also want your LED light system to have integrated cooling fans because some parts of the bulb can heat up. Cooling fans will allow the system to last longer.

LED is the most popular lamp in most households these days. They are a great choice as a growing light because they consume such a little amount of electricity. I was able to find two products that you should consider if LED’s are the ones you want to get:

  1. This 600W grow light system with all the materials you need to start growing by KingLED. To get this great product, you need to navigate to HERE.
  2. This 40W version by Ankace is an excellent choice because of its versatility to suit your home or even your office. Thanks for its timer that turns the light off after 3, 6 or 12 hours depending on the one you choose. You can get this product from HERE.

5. Halogen Light System

Halogen only emits red light, so you’ll need a source of blue one to ensure plant growth.

The biggest drawback here is that running costs are almost the same as incandescent bulbs, so it gets expensive. Moreover, it’s not the most efficient system for plant growth.

The halogens are rare these days and they consume much more electricity than LEDs. Because of this, I don’t want to include a product here and if I were you, I would go with the LED.

6. Incandescent Light System

Incandescent systems will increase your electric bill through the roof. They produce tons of heat, making the temperature hard to control and burning your plants more likely.

I was able to find a light bulb by GE Lighting from HERE. This 50 or 65-Watt bulb lasts almost two years based on the assumption that it’s on for three hours a day.

Which System Is Best For You?

Which One Is The Best?

In short, the best and most efficient system for growing plants using artificial light is fluorescent lighting. It’s cost-effective and efficient. But, you get more growth and flowering from LED or HID lighting. These are the most popular options, after all.

Understanding Wavelengths

When we discussed the different systems for growing plants indoors under artificial light, we mentioned wavelengths, reds, and blues quite often. So, let’s go through how this works.

For plants to thrive, there needs to be a balance of blue and red wavelengths. This is beneficial and necessary if you want them to succeed. And this is why creating a balance with your lighting system is vital.

Full-spectrum bulbs mimic sunlight at peak times such as noon. You can control Indoor light systems with timers to imitate seasonal lighting.

Summer Vs. Winter

During the summer there’s more light than in winter, so using a timer to control how many hours your plants get is recommendable.

For example, if you’re growing succulents, then you need to understand that they are dormant during winter. So, to grow them in artificial light, you need to create that dormant period and mimic winter.

This is possible by controlling light hours and keeping it at 20 hours a day during summer and then lower this amount to 16 hours a day for winter. When it’s time for summer again, increase the amount of light, they get.

Summer Vs Winter

The Distance Between Them?

Growing in artificial light means that you need to understand how far you need to keep the light from the plants and how long you should leave them on.

These two factors are tricky to determine. Why? Because if you keep the light too close to your plants, you can burn them. But if you keep them too far away, your plants will use their energy to grow instead of using it for flowering. This means you’ll have frail, unhealthy plants.

When it comes to determining your lighting system’s distance, the thing you need to figure out is heat, not the light itself. To do this, use your hands! If you put your hand over the plant and you find that it’s too hot for you, then it’s too hot for the plants also.

This, of course, varies depending on the plant in question. Some plants need higher temperatures, and others lower temps.

Another aspect to consider is the fact that the more heat they receive, the more water they’ll need.

So What Is The Right Distance?

So, the distance of your lighting system will actually depend on the one you’re using!

  • LED bulbs need to be kept 6 inches (about 15 cm) away from the plant.
  • Fluorescent and HID bulbs should be held 6 to 12 inches (about 15 to 30 cm) away.
  • Incandescent or halogen bulbs need to be kept 24 inches (about 61 cm) away from the plant.

As for how long you should provide light, it depends. Almost all plants need at least 12 hours of light a day. You can extend that to 18 hours or even 24 hours for succulents for example.

Flowering plants need 16 hours of light each day, but all plants also need downtime, so you need to provide that.

Plants create energy during photosynthesis, but downtime is necessary so they can use that energy for respiration. So, rest is essential as well!

Does Artificial Light Help Photosynthesis And Am I Able To Grow My Plants With It?

Yes, and YES, it’s possible to grow plants with only artificial light if you want. Although the sun is always the most efficient way to grow your plants, and the best part is that sunlight is completely free.

What Grow Light Types Are Best For Growing Plants?

  1. Fluorescent lights are the easiest and the cheapest choice.
  2. Incandescent lights are a bit costly to use and you shouldn’t use them as your main grow lights.
  3. LEDs are the best choice but make sure that the one(s) you buy produce blue and red colors that plants need to grow and thrive.

How Much Artificial Light Do Plants Need?

If your plants aren’t receiving any sunlight, 12 to 14 hours a day should be fine. The general rule is that plants get darkness about 8 hours a day.

Can I Also Grow Vegetables Under Artificial Light?

Yes, you can, and grow lights are great for this, especially when you’re growing your veggies from the seeds because light helps the seeds to sprout well, and that’s when you start to see many green seedlings. If you are wondering what vegetables grow well under grow lights, take a look at the list below:

  • Kale
  • Thyme
  • Radishes
  • Rosemary
  • Spearmint
  • Peppermint
  • Swiss chard
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Sprouts and microgreens
  • Carrots (Not very big, though because it’s a root vegetable)

…To name a few.

Final Words

It’s possible to grow plants in artificial light, and it’s something that you should think about when the amount of light your plants receive is too low. As we covered, fluorescent lighting is the most popular form used. But HID and especially LED are excellent solutions as well. Best of all, the LED system isn’t going to add many dollars to your electric bill. Growing plants in artificial light isn’t very popular in small apartments. but it’s a good option to consider if you want to grow some vegetables like lettuce or fruit like tomatoes indoors.

I hope you liked the article because this stuff might sound confusing to some people. But when you get to the point where you are ready to buy some growing light system, I hope that you make sure that its the one that suits your needs. It’s always good to double-check by reading the product description and if you’re still on doubt, by contacting the manufacturer to explain the stuff to you in plain English. Thank you for reading!

Featured image credit – © andreysha74 –

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