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What Type Of Grow Light Do I Need? Understanding the different types of grow lights.

Growing plants with grow lights can be greatly rewarding. Grow lights can provide a good solution to real problems getting in the way of growing your plants successfully, such as the weather, a lack of space outdoors or maybe your plants could just do with a boost of light to flourish.


With the right setup you'll be able to grow your current plants a lot faster, larger and produce more fruit, or you can even start growing plants that you couldn't have grown before with the climate. You'll have total control of the whole process, from the amount of light to the length of time they are on (effectively creating your own seasons) and this can be a lot of fun - especially knowing that you have produced that bumper harvest by using plant lighting effectively.


Growing plants with grow lights isn't as hard as you may have first thought. On a side note, often you'll find that many growers will also use hydroponics systems in addition to grow lights (which is basically a mixture of grow lighting, water containining nutrients instead of the soil and ventilation) however in this article, we'll concentrate on the grow lights themselves. You can achieve great results without the need for growing hydroponically.


There can be an overwhelming amount of information about growing with plant lighting, but we'll try to simplify things as best as possible First, a little background...


Let there be light. But what type of light?

You may have heard the terms red and blue spectrum light being dotted around the internet and across the forums, but what does this all mean?


Quite simply, plants use different wavelengths of light naturally from the sun to grow in different ways.


White /blue light for propagating


For example, when a plant is in the propagating phase, where it is doing a lot of vegetative growth in the early parts of the growing season, then your plants will be craving for lots of white/blue spectrum light. Kind of like the bluey type light you'll see in the winter. You'll also notice certain numbers referring to the exact wavelength of light that a grow bulb produces and the white/blue spectrum light is about 865 on the light spectrum.


Red light for flowering


When a plant is coming into the flowering and fruiting phase during the summer months, they will require lots more red light than blue light for this, just like the colours you see more of in the summer. This red light is often referred to in the approximate region of 830 on the light spectrum.


So, for best results when using a grow light, it is best to change bulbs from a progating bulb (sometimes called a grow bulb) to a flowering bulb (sometimes called a bloom bulb) at the appropriate time. You can also get dual spectrum bulbs that do a bit of both, which can also be very effective, but using dedicated bulbs can give you an edge if you really want to get into it.


Types of grow lights

Now you know the different colour spectrums of bulbs available, we will go into a bit more detail about the actual technologies you could use to achieve this. We have already talked about growing plants with fluorescent grow lights and LED grow lights, so you may want to have a read of that article to learn more about those 2 types of grow light in more detail, but here's a brief overview of the type of grow lights available.


Fluorescent grow lights / tubes / compact fluorescents (CFLs)

These type of grow lights, such as the LightWave T5 grow light are energy efficient, run relatively cool, are very affordable to run and you can easily change bulbs - a good choice for starting out growing plants with grow lights. You can buy blue, red and dual spectrum tubes for these and they are usually self contained units.


HID grow lights such as Metal Halide (MH) and High Pressure Sodium (HPS)

HID grow lights are a great choice for growing large amount of plants (or small amounts of plants) as they often have very high wattages compared to fluorescent grow lights. They are fairly power hungry and generate quite a bit of heat. In return, you'll have lots of growing light that can cover a large area. You can buy blue (Metal Halide bulb) and red (High Pressure Sodium bulb) and also dual spectrum bulbs.


These setups can be purchased as kits or separately in their individual components, but whatever way you decide to go for, the setup will comprise of a HID ballast, a reflector and the HID bulb of your choice (either Metal Halide or High Pressure Sodium). A great choice for serious or commercial growers and can be a lot of fun choosing the setup you want, with the high degree of flexibility and choice you will have.


LED grow lights

A fairly new technology, but one that is very promising. LED grow lights can achieve very accurate reconstruction of the required wavelength of light because they generate light by vibrating various substrates. With the scientific rant over, because of this, LEDs can product large amounts of light with little heat, at a very closely matched wavelength to what a plant needs to grow - therefore being very efficient.


The drawbacks are currently the cost of the unit required to produce the amounts of light required for larger applications, but for smaller applications they can be a really good alternative because of their high efficiency and low heat output. You can buy blue or red LED panels or even mixed clusters containing a good balance of the 2, such as the "crop circle" type setup.


LED grow lights are perfect for a small growing space in the home, but larger units are constantly being developed, so there is promise for larger scale applications too.




In our experience, fluorescent grow lights can be used for small - medium setups along with LED grow lights and HID grow lights are more for medium to large setups and commercial growing.


Whatever you choose, you'll find a great range of plant lighting available in our store and help is always on hand with any questions you may have. We'll keep you growing all year round!

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