Using a grow light to start seeds or grow houseplants, microgreens, and herbs inside your home is an efficient way to promote healthy plant growth. LED grow lights have become the standard for indoor gardeners for their energy efficiency and long life. Yet with so many options available you might be wondering how to choose the best LED grow lights. Over the years I’ve used many LED light systems to grow all types of indoor plants. Below I share my top choices for LED spotlights, tabletop models, and multi-tier grow stands. Keep reading to learn more.
What are LED grow lights?
First up, let me tell you more about LED grow lights and the many benefits of using them to grow plants indoors. LEDs, which stands for light-emitting diodes, are lights that are energy efficient, have low power consumption, are long-lasting, and produce less heat than fluorescent bulbs. In fact the heat output is a big selling point for LEDs as the low heat reduces energy costs and can improve plant health. Fluorescent lights emit a lot of heat. That can prompt leggy or spindly seedlings or burn the foliage of sensitive houseplants.
LED grow lights are very efficient at converting energy into PAR, photosynthetic active radiation, the spectrum of light plants use. Most gardeners buy a full-spectrum light because the light looks like natural light and they’re effective for the different stages of plant growth.
However, not all LED’s look like white lights. Some produce wavelengths in the blue and red light spectrums, the spectrums that support photosynthesis. Red and blue lights create purple which isn’t ideal inside a home. Who wants purple light in their living space? But purple light is fine in a basement or inside a grow tent.
The main downside to LED fixtures is that they initially cost more than florescent lights. But prices have been going down in recent years and they are now more affordable than ever. There are a lot of LED grow light options available from online sources as well as garden centers, hardware stores, and other suppliers.
The best LED grow lights
There are many types of LED grow lights available and you’ll want to make sure you get good quality and value for your money. With that in mind, below I share the best LED grow lights highlighting small fixtures, tabletop models, and grow light stands.
The best LED grow lights for small spaces or individual plants
It’s not always easy to find space for a grow light, especially the sizeable multi-tier stands. However, there are many ultra compact models now available. They provide supplemental lighting to houseplants when there isn’t enough natural light or create the perfect growing conditions for a tray of seedlings. Here are some of the best LED grow lights for small spaces.
To learn more about the best LED grow lights, watch this video:
Sunblaster NanoDome LED Mini Greenhouse
For gardeners with little room, there is the Sunblaster NanoDome LED Mini Greenhouse. This compact kit contains a 1020 double thick black plastic tray, a 7 inch tall clear plastic NanoDome, a T5HO Strip Light, a NanoTech Reflector, and a 6 foot long power cord. This kit takes just minutes to set up and it can be placed wherever you’ve got grow space. I often keep mine on my kitchen counter and have even tucked it on a bookshelf.
I’ve used this to start seedlings, microgreens, and pea shoots with good success. My only criticism is that because the dome supports the grow light, it must be left in place as the plants grow. This restricts air circulation around the seedlings. There are vents on top of the dome to improve air flow, but ideally, a plastic dome is removed when the seeds sprout. There is an option to buy a Sunblaster Strip Light Stand to use the fixture without the dome.
GooingTop LED Grow Light
A few years ago I bought this clip-on, dual fixture grow light for my niece who was struggling to grow plants in her dorm room. It did the trick and soon her succulent collection was thriving. This economical LED grow light has two lamps you can arrange in a number of ways. They’ll provide light to a medium to large-sized houseplant or a group of small plants. Or, place the lights over a tray of seedlings. Clip the lamp to a desk, table, or the side of a pot.
Agrobrite Floor LED Plant Lamp
I’ve got a corner of my living room where I’m planning to put a big houseplant. However, little to no sunlight reaches that spot. What to do? Add a grow light! A floor lamp is a great way to ensure your favorite big houseplants are getting the light intensity they need. The Agrobrite Floor LED Plant Lamp is a high-quality option with a full-spectrum bulb that mimics natural light. The head of the lamp measures 10 by 6 inches and is attached to the stand with a flexible neck. That makes it easy to bend to direct the light exactly where it’s needed. You can also adjust the height of the fixture as your plants grow. The lamp expands from 48 inches to 61 inches so the plant canopy is getting consistent light.
The best LED grow lights for a tabletop
Tabletop LED grow light fixtures are great for starting a single tray of seeds or microgreens, or growing a handful of houseplants or kitchen herbs. Their compact size means they can be used in a kitchen, home office, or other living areas with limited room.
Oslo 1-Tier Grow Light Garden
I have two tabletop LED grow light fixtures in my home. The first is the Oslo 1-Tier LED Grow Light Garden. It’s easy to set up, very stylish, and fits beneath most kitchen cabinets. You can also set it up on a table, dresser, or on the floor. The heavy-duty frame is made from powder coated steel and the LED fixture attaches to the frame with magnetic clips. I use this high-output LED light to start vegetable, flower, and herb seeds. It’s also high enough to accommodate many types of succulent plants and other small houseplants. I like the Oslo 1-Tier LED Grow Light so much, I added the 4-tier model to my light collection. More on that below.
Jiffy Hydro Grow Light
Budget-minded growers will appreciate the Jiffy Hydro Grow Light. I bought one two years ago with the thought of placing it on my kitchen counter for microgreens. The fixture measures 24 inches long and 11 inches tall and is supported on wire legs. It has a full spectrum LED light strip with 48 diodes. It’s not a heavy-duty grow light, but I’ve found this inexpensive fixture does a good job growing seedlings, kitchen herbs, and pea shoots.
The best LED grow light stands
A grow light stand is an effective way to start a large number of seeds or grow other types of plants. Over the years I’ve built several DIY stands and also purchased two models from garden supply stores. Grow light stands generally have two, three, or four tiers of lights and can be between 24 and 48 inches wide. I currently have two LED grow light stands; a Oslo 4-Tier LED Grow Light Garden and a Floralight T5 LED Full Spectrum 3-Tier Grow Light Stand.
Oslo 4-Tier Grow Light Garden
The Oslo 4-Tier LED Grow Light Garden is a versatile stand that is both stylish and functional. This isn’t a light stand to hide away in a basement or grow room. It makes an eye-catching focal point in a family room, home office, or other indoor space. Like the tabletop model, the Oslo 4-Tier Grow Light Garden is made from powder coated steel so it’s very durable. When set up, the stand measures 26 inches wide by 13 inches deep by 61 inches tall. Each tier perfectly fits a 1020 seeding tray for starting flower, vegetable, and herbs seeds, or a number of potted houseplants or herbs.
I like the compact width of this LED grow light stand as well as its versatility. You can flip up a tier to accommodate tall houseplants or bulbs like amaryllis and paperwhites. It comes with four high-output LED fixtures, but you can also purchase additional fixtures if you wish to provide more light. I use one fixture for most types of houseplants, but when starting seeds I use two fixtures to increase the amount of light and encourage strong, stocky growth. The fixtures are magnetic and snap on and off the stand as needed.
Finally, I recommend getting the optional powder-coated matching trays to catch water and soil spills. They’re leakproof, easy to clean, and look great.
Floralight T5 LED Full-Spectrum 3-Tier Grow Light Stand
About five years ago I decided to buy a non-DIY’d grow light stand. After comparing many models, I settled on the Floralight 3-Tier Grow Light Stand. One of the reasons for this was that my first grow light (over 30 years ago!) was a Floralight tabletop model. It was a great light and lasted for many years. I therefore trusted the quality of the brand. I also like the size of the multi-tier stand which measures 50 inches wide, 19 inches deep, and 65 inches tall. It includes six 46 inch long full spectrum LED tubes, two per level.
I also appreciate how easy it is to move the tiers up and down to accommodate growing seedlings and other types of plants. And, unlike the Oslo stand, this unit comes with trays to contain spills. The 20 inch by 16 inch removable trays are made from rigid plastic and make clean up quick and easy. When they get dirty, I just wipe them down or take them outdoors and hose them off.
How to choose the best LED grow lights for you
Now that we know the options, I’ve got more advice on choosing the best LED grow light for your indoor garden. The two main considerations are 1) How much indoor space do you have to accommodate grow lights and 2) What types of plants do you wish to grow? You’ll need to select fixtures that fit your space and suit the plants.
Light coverage area is also something to keep in mind. For example, an LED floor lamp provides a different sized coverage area than a tabletop model. Read product descriptions carefully to learn more about the light, its dimensions, and that you’re getting the square foot coverage you need. Also check to see if there is a warranty for the fixture.
I also recommend thinking about grow light features like built-in trays and fixtures that are adjustable so they’re easily moved up and down to accommodate growing plants. Certain products have a built-in timer so you don’t need to remember to turn the light on and off. That’s also a nice feature.
If you’re only using grow lights for seed starting and don’t plan on leaving them set up year round, you may want an LED grow light system that folds flat for storage.
Tips on using LED grow lights
To help you be most effective using your LED grow lights, below you’ll find common questions and answers.
- How long should you leave them turned on? You may be tempted to leave your grow lights turned on for 24 hours a day, but that’s not a good idea as plants need a rest cycle. Learn more about the specific types of plants you’re growing to figure out how long your lights should be left on. Certain plants are low light plants and don’t need high levels of light. For these types of plants you can leave them on for 10 to 12 hours a day. For high light plants, to initiate bloom, or for seed starting, leave grow lights turned on for 16 to 18 hours each day.
- How high should the light be above the plants? Fluorescent light fixtures need to be very close to the tops of growing plants. Otherwise, they will stretch as they reach towards the light. Suspend LED lights higher; about 12 to 18 inches above plants.
- How often do you need to change LED light bulbs? Fluorescent lights last for around 10,000 hours, but an LED grow light bulb lasts about 30,000 to 50,000 hours. That’s a lot of seed starting!
Final thoughts on grow lights
As you read and research the best LED grow lights you’ll likely encounter terms like high-pressure sodium (HPS), quantum boards, and daisy chaining. These don’t really apply to home gardeners, but it is good to understand some of the language you may see. High-pressure sodium lights are used by commercial growers, quantum boards are fixtures that use large circuit boards lined with strips of LED’s, and daisy changing lets you connect numerous LED fixtures to the same circuit.
For more information on indoor gardening, be sure to check out these articles: