When it comes to growing marijuana, you need a lot of different external factors that help the plant grow really well and to produce buds and flowers to its maximum possible capacity. Sunlight, air, water, nutrients, soil, humidity, temperature are all key factors that help affect the growth of the marijuana plant when it is growing outdoors. However, when you are growing your weed indoors, you need to factor in several changes as you will be creating artificial conditions for growth, sunlight being the key element. When it comes to indoor lighting, can any LED light be used as a grow light? Or do you need a specific kind of lighting? This is the question we will attempt to answer in our article.
We shall begin this article by first taking a closer and detailed look at what is the role that lighting plays when it comes to growing plants, and specifically the marijuana plant. We shall be talking about the different kinds of lights that are used and what their advantages and disadvantages are. We shall also be taking a closer and detailed look at what is it about LED lights which makes them so special and then we answer the question at hand – can any LED light be used as a grow light or do you have to use a specific kind of a lighting system.
There are many questions that will be answered over the course of this article, ranging from the kind of lighting the plants need to the lighting during different phases. We will also provide some interesting lighting tips and tricks as well as a buyer’s guide to grow lights so that the growers can know exactly what kind of light are they getting when they buy the grow lights of their choice. Let us begin by addressing the basics first:
Why Do Marijuana Plants Need Grow Lights?
Before we begin addressing why grow lights are important, you will need to know why lighting is essential. When it comes to marijuana plants (or for most other plants for that matter) lighting is of prime importance. Plants need light because this light is converted into energy as it helps break down sugars and supply ‘food’ to various parts of the plant’s body. Sunlight is also a catalyst when it comes to the process of photosynthesis and for the generation of chlorophyll in plants. Light is so important that a number of plants actually grow in the direction of the sunlight. The light also helps open the stomata of the plants and helps them respire. Sunlight is critical for the growth of marijuana plants because of all these reasons.
When plants are growing outside, their lighting needs are met by the sun which is the largest natural source of lighting. Sunlight, which usually appears white or yellow to us, is actually made up of a spectrum of lights of different wavelengths (largely divided between the warm reds and the cool blues) which make up the sunlight. Lights of all different wavelengths are needed for a well-rounded growth of the plant. When you grow your plants indoors, you substitute sunlight with grow lights.
Growing your plants indoors means you have to use grow lights because the sun cannot be present inside the grow tent. Most growers either try to get hold of a full-spectrum grow light or a combination of two grow lights where one offers the red lights and the other offers blue lighting. This is the reason why grow lights are critical for the growth of your indoor marijuana plants.
Can I use Any Bulb To Grow Plants?
When you talk about “any bulb” or “any light”, you are most likely referring to regular lighting that we use at home. While we will answer the question of can any LED light be used as a grow light a little later in the article, you need to first know about the most basic form of lighting – incandescent bulbs.
These are the most common types of bulbs that you find in the average household. These are usually the cheapest kind of lighting solution that you can find in the markets. If you want to grow regular house plants or ornamental plants which do not have high lighting needs, these bulbs (if placed at an appropriate height from the plant) should be fine enough. However, if you are growing plants that have high lighting needs such as the marijuana plant, you will need something stronger than an incandescent bulb – you will need something that has the right kind of wavelengths and color temperatures. Here’s a look at the different kind of grow lights that are needed when you want to grow a marijuana plant:
Different Kind of Grow Lights for Growing Marijuana Plants
When you are growing a plant like marijuana which has special lighting needs, you need special grow lights. We shall be giving a closer and detailed look to three different kinds of grow lights here:
1. Fluorescent Grow Lights
These are the first of the three. Fluorescent lights are among the most basic lighting solutions which are often used for non-gardening purposes as well. They were quite a sensation in the past but people realized that they don’t really last as long as LED grow lights and are also prone to quite a bit of damage. However, the biggest advantage of using such a lighting system is that it will provide your lights with great lighting without the risk of increasing the temperature. T5 and T8 lights are two of the most common forms of lighting options you get here.
Furthermore, when it comes to the spectrum setup, there are two kinds of fluorescent grow lights that you can make use of – the first being regular white lights which offer the cooler end of the lighting spectrum while the second of these is the warmer spectrum – where you need warm white lights which offer yellowish hues.
2. High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Grow Lights
HID grow lights were among the most popular lighting solutions till LED grow lights came around. There are two types of HID grow lights that you can commonly find: the High-Pressure Sodium grow lights (HPS lights) and the Metal Halides (MH lights). The HPS grow lights provide the warmer red spectrum of lighting which is useful during the flowering and pre-flowering stages of the marijuana plant’s growth cycle while the Metal Halides provide the cool blue light which is useful during the early phase. These bulbs are considerably hotter when compared to LED and Fluorescent lights, and are also a little complex to operate due to the ballasts that they come with. However, these older lighting systems are still pretty popular can be seen being used by many small-scale growers.
3. LED Grow Lights
Cutting straight to the latest and the most popular lighting system of modern times – LED grow lights have been around for quite a few years now and have gone through a fair bit of evolution. These lights are easier to use, consume lesser electricity, and last for the longest time out of all the previous types of grow lights. They also emit very little to no heat and do not pose any threat to the plants. They can also be disposed of quite easily and are easy to use as there is no need for any ballasts. They can easily be programmed with dimmers or timers and can be set to perform in any way you want them to!
LED lights can come in two variants – spectrum-focused LED grow lights (which provide either the red or the blue spectrum of lighting) or full-spectrum lighting (which contains both red and blue lights). The latter is the most popular kind of lights for marijuana growers. However, there’s a third variety here too: the ones that you use at your home.
Can Any LED Light Be Used as a Grow Light?
The answer to this question honestly depends upon the kind of plants that you are growing. If you are growing a regular indoor plant, your LED light can be used as a grow light. However, the answer to “can any LED light be used as a grow light” is very ambiguous because if you are growing marijuana (or any other kind of a plant which needs a specific spectrum and wavelength), you will require the kind of light which emits that specific wavelength of light.
Getting the right color spectrum is crucial. When you look at the overall lighting spectrum, it begins from 0nm and goes to 1mm. The early stages leading to 280nm are harmful UVC rays which are absorbed by the ozone layer of our atmosphere. This is followed by the 280-315nm UVB lights which are what give us sunburns. Then there’s the UVA light (blacklight) from 315nm to 380nm. From 380nm to 740nm is what we call the visible light spectrum – this is the most important of it all and is needed by the plants for their growth. This is the light that we see and call “sunlight”. From 740nm to 1mm is then infrared light.
A full spectrum grow light is one that carries the entire 380nm-740nm range. The lower end of the spectrum (380 to 500nm) carries the cool blue lights while the higher end of this spectrum (620 to 780nm) carries the warm red lights. So to answer your question of can any LED light be used as a grow light, the answer is yes, as long as the wavelength falls in these ranges.
Plant Lighting: What Kind of Lights Do Marijuana Plants Require?
Based on what phase of growth they are, the marijuana plants require different kinds of lighting. There are seven stages of growth that these plants go through. The first stage is the seed stage and the second stage is the germination stage – both of these phases do not require any kind of lighting. Coming straight to the third and the fourth stages, these are the seedling and the vegetative phase – here, the plants need a lot of light! When your plant is in a seedling stage, it could take upto 22 hours of light (from an appropriate distance). The kind of lighting at this stage needs to be the cool blue shade of the lighting spectrum.
When the seedling grows into a vegetative phase plant, it still needs close to 18 to 20 hours of light every day – so much light is not possible even in an outdoor setting in most cases and hence even some outdoor growers rely on grow lights for that. Then comes the pre-flowering phase where red lights begin to take over and the plant needs about 16 to 14 hours of lighting, and when the flowering begins only about 12 hours of lighting will be enough. The final stage is the harvest and post-harvest phase which again does not require lighting.
Buyer’s Guide for LED Grow Lights
Here’s everything that you must keep in mind while you order an LED grow light for growing indoor marijuana plants:
Coverage matters a lot. Always make sure that you are measuring the space that your plants occupy first before you buy your grow light. The calculation should always be a little larger than the area your plants actually occupy. If your plants occupy a 3×3 space, make sure your grow light covers at least about 4.5 x 4.5 because when you move the light up and down during the different phases of the plant’s growth cycle, the coverage range changes.
2. Power Consumption
Always check how much power your grow light consumes from the wall socket. Don’t look at the wattage that the product’s name has, look for the power consumption (which is almost always much lower than the wattage shown on the product name). This will give you a fair idea of your electricity bills when you use this grow light.
3. Cooling Mechanism
Grow lights need to be cooled so that the heat they emit does not damage the plants or their own delicate parts. There are either fans attached to the back of the grow light’s panel or there are heat vents and heat sinks which will ensure that the heat gets dissipated from the grow light. These are essential for any light to function smoothly for a long period of time. Make sure that the heat dissipation arrangements are in place.
4. Spectrum Details
Always check for the spectral range of the grow light – to make sure you are getting both red and blue spectrums in the same light. The cherry on top here would be if your grow light supports dimming which way you could change the intensity of the light over different times of the day to give your plants a more “natural” environment indoors.
5. Warranty, Cost, Lifespan
Lastly, you need to check the warranty that the manufacturer is offering. Most grow lights offer at least 2 to 3 years, especially when it comes to LED grow lights. The cost too matters a lot because that is the make or break factor in most cases. Finally, look for the lifespan that the seller is promising. Most LED lights will last you anywhere between 50,000 to 100,000 hours which is quite impressive!
Frequently Asked Questions About LED Grow Lights
Here are the answers to some of the most common and frequently asked questions about LED grow lights:
1. Can any LED light be used as a grow light?
Yes, any LED light can be used as a grow light as long as it falls in the 380 to 740nm spectrum, which is understood as the visible light spectrum. However, those having 400-500nm and 600-740nm in them will be the most beneficial. Nevertheless, if you want to grow marijuana plants please try and use specialized grow lights which will help your plants grow the right way with the right wavelength of lighting.
2. Why are LED lights better than other older lights?
LED lights are preferred over other and older forms of grow lights because they offer the growers with a better cost to performance ratio. They consume very little electricity and don’t heat up, as well as last for a really long time when compared to older lights. Moreover, LED lights aren’t really dependent upon a single bulb and have multiple diodes in them – which means that even if a couple of them stop working the others won’t really be affected. LED lights are also easy to operate and safer when compared to other grow lights as there are no chemicals involved.
3. Where can I buy LED grow lights?
All gardening stores or multi-specialty stores near your home are likely to sell grow lights. However, for those who don’t want to step out and want to order LED grow lights online, you can check out Amazon as you will get many grow lights there. We also review a number of grow lights on our website which you can read and know which is the best grow light for your marijuana plants.
4. How long do LED grow lights generally last?
Most LED grow lights last for about 50,000 to 100,000 hours which is close to 5.5 to 11 years depending on the brand and the build. These lights last much longer than HPS or fluorescent grow lights.
Growers often wonder about which is the grow light that will help their plants grow to their maximum possible potential. It is not always about what grow light you use, but also about how you are using those grow lights. We hope that by reading this article you got a better insight into the world of LED grow lights and have found the answer to the basic question of “can any LED light be used as a grow light”. If there are still any questions that persist, do let us know in the comments below or drop us a mail and we shall get back to you as soon as we can. Till then…
…Happy Growing! 🙂