Mastering the Art of Cultivation: 6 Grow Light Usage Mistakes to Avoid

Individuals often assume successful gardening requires a great deal of knowledge and skill. However, many plants thrive when only the basic environmental conditions are met. Choose high-quality seeds, ensure the soil is appropriate for those seeds, and you already have a head start. Nevertheless, all plants need light to thrive. The light requirements of plants vary by species, so get this information before proceeding. When gardeners ensure the exposure remains consistent and significant, plant yield increases. For this reason, individuals must take care when purchasing grow lights.

HID or LED Lights?

When learning about grow lights, gardeners must first determine if they need HID lights or LED lights. HID lights come in two varieties. Metal halide or MH lights work best during the early stages of plant growth, as the light produced by the bulbs looks more natural to the eye. It comes closer in the spectrum to sunlight observed during the middle portion of the day. In contrast, high pressure sodium or HPS lights emit a light that sits within the reddish/yellow color spectrum. Plants prefer this light during the later stages of growth, as they produce flowers and fruits at this time and desire red-spectrum light when doing so.

However, many growers now purchase LED lights for a variety of reasons. LED lights require less electricity, allowing the gardener to save money while minimizing their carbon footprint. The lights produce less heat, of great importance in small grow spaces, so take this into consideration. Other options include incandescent and fluorescent lights, but most growers find these products don’t meet their needs or produce the desired results.

Nevertheless, growers must avoid making certain mistakes commonly seen in gardens or grow spaces. The following summarizes six mistakes seen when gardeners use grow lights in their gardening setup.


Gardeners cannot place grow lights anywhere in the grow space and expect great results. Thanks to the heat emitted by HID lights, men and women new to using LED lights often place them too far away from the plants. On the other hand, growers familiar with the benefits of these lights often place them in proximity to the plants, and this can also be harmful.

Plants over-stretch when the light is too far away to meet their needs. When the lights are too close, the plants become stressed and the foliage may burn or bleach. However, there is no single formula gardeners may use to determine where to place the grow lights. This depends on the LED grow light being used, as each style varies slightly. Read the manual that accompanied the LED lights for more information on where to place the lamps. If the information isn’t present in the manual, visit the manufacturer’s website to learn what they recommend. What happens if the website and manual fail to share this information?

If specific information isn’t provided regarding placement of the lamps, growers benefit from the use of a general rule of thumb. Begin by placing the lamps roughly 30 to 45 centimeters from the canopy. During the early stages of plant growth, 45 cm is best. As the plants enter the flowering stage, move the lights closer. Pay attention to the height of the LEDs as well. If bleached, brown, curled, or dry leaves are observed, move the lights. Raise them higher to prevent additional harm to the plants.


HID lights emit more heat than their LED counterparts, leading to the loss of water in the soil. To account for dryer soil, growers must water the plants more frequently. When a change has been made to LED lights, alter the watering schedule to account for the change in lights. Many growers neglect this step and drench the plants. Submerging the plants may appear to be a minor issue, but too much water harms plants by encouraging pests and disease to take hold in the grow space. Many beginning gardeners lack this knowledge and do significant harm to their crop before they learn of the mistake. If any doubt remains whether to add more water, allow the soil to dry out before introducing more to the plants.

LED Light Options

Beginner gardeners must recognize LED lights come in many varieties. Full-spectrum lights work for both the vegging and flowering stage, but certain bulbs come with a switch that allows you to change the light spectrum as needed. Another option involves purchasing specific bulbs for the various stages, such as an LED blue that emits a bluish light for fast and vigorous growth. Lights intended for use during the bloom stage emit a reddish light designed to support the development of flowers. Many growers find they benefit from the purchase of a full-spectrum LED until they gain more experience. Growers then feel more confident experimenting with different lighting setups.


The price of high-quality LED lights discourages many gardeners. Take care when purchasing the lights, however, as low-quality LEDs flood the market. These products cannot produce the amount of light they are capable of and won’t provide the desired results in terms of the plant yield. In fact, certain bulbs produced overseas offer so little light they only allow one plant to grow. Additionally, these bulbs pose a safety risk when manufactured in a country that doesn’t prioritize electrical safety. Spend more to get a quality product that produces the expected results.

Furthermore, bulbs produced overseas rarely work properly, and the purchaser finds returning the bulb or having it replaced under warranty takes too much time and effort. The money spent on the bulb is lost forever, and the grower must spend additional funds to replace it. Spend more upfront for a quality bulb and avoid these issues. Keep in mind the bulbs use less energy, so you will recoup the money spent at the time of purchase in your energy bills.

Insufficient Light

Look at several LED bulbs and you’ll question which one to buy. The problem beginners encounter is the manufacturers provide information on the package that truly doesn’t mean much to the grower. Wattage serves as a good example of this. It doesn’t provide information about the amount of light emitted from the bulb. Rather, wattage tells the purchaser how much energy they will need to produce light. Look at lumens, as this tells you how much light the bulb actually emits. Wattage also fails to provide information about the spread of the light or the canopy penetration. Research before making a purchase, so you know what you are getting.

Gardeners typically grow more than one plant, and providing multiple plants with adequate light often becomes a challenge. One 300W LED light might provide sufficient light for one or two plants, but no more. Read product information from the manufacturer or vendor to determine the amount of light needed for the intended grow space. Reviews and user reports become of great help at this time, too. The more one knows, the easier it becomes to choose the right product for the specific situation.

If other lighting options are selected, read the information provided by the manufacturer for those bulbs. A lack of sufficient lighting dooms many crops, and no grower wants this. Photosynthesis allows the plant to live, and plants need light to carry out this process. The plant takes this light in before converting it into a chemical capable of providing the plant with the food and water it needs. Photosynthesis likewise produces oxygen as a byproduct. This benefits the planet when the carbon dioxide converts back to oxygen as the process moves forward.

Establishing a Light Schedule

Individuals often wonder how long they should leave the lights on their plants. A straightforward answer to this question exists. Imagine growing the plant outdoors in natural sunlight. How much light would the plant need under these circumstances? Once this information has been determined, leave the lights on the plants for this time period. Many plants require 14 to 16 hours of light each day to thrive, so strive for this amount with your plants. However, keep in mind plants need darkness too, and eight hours should be appropriate for most species you choose to grow.

However, the time the light remains on the plants serves as only part of the equation. Growers also need to consider the distance of the light from the plant, as mentioned above. Lights need to be adjustable so they can be moved as the plants grow. Moving the lights ensures the plants always get the same amount of light. Consistency remains of great importance when growing plants indoors with the help of grow lights.

LED lights remain the preferred choice of many growers thanks to the benefits they offer. Nevertheless, other factors play a role in the success or failure of a crop. For instance, an advanced lighting system cannot produce an excellent crop unless other environmental conditions are met. Ensure the plants receive the nutrients they need to grow and three, adequate water, healthy soil, and more. When all come together, they produce a harvest you will be proud of and want to share with others.

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