Many people tend to get it twisted between regular LED lights and LED grow lights as far as they role they play in the growth of indoor plants is concerned. When it comes to growing indoor vegetation, the regular LED lights we use in our homes for illumination may not be the most suitable choice, simply because they are plant-optimized.
Normal LED lights only emit a limited spectrum of light, which is not sufficient for normal plant growth. That is why we, instead, turn to specialized grow lights for the full spectrum.
Understanding the Role of Light in Plant Growth
All green plants need light to process food in a process known as photosynthesis. Special cells in the plant leaves convert the energy in the light into sugars, while giving off oxygen as a by-product. No wonder it’s so refreshing to sit in a room full of green vegetation.
Generally, plants vary in terms of the amount of light they require to thrive. Houseplants such as dracaenas will do well in relatively low-light situations. On the other hand, fruiting edibles like tomatoes need much brighter light to grow appropriately.
There are numerous types of lights that fall into the “LED” spectrum, including LED aquarium lights, LED spotlights, LED light bars, LED grow lights, etc. The thing is all of these serve a unique purpose and not all of them can be used indoor growing.
You need to understand that not all of these light sources contain the full spectrum of colors, some lights can only some of the colors. In comparison, sunlight contains the full spectrum of colors and this is what plants use in different metabolic reactions to sustain their growth.
When it comes to LED lights varying color chips put inside the light result in different kinds of responses from plants. Generally, it is believed that if you want a plant to grow tall, increase the amount of yellow, far-red, green, and orange chips inside the luminaire.
Meanwhile, if you want a plant to be compact, increase the blue/UV colored chips. You can say that these responses have been encoded in the DNA of plants and this is what manufacturers base on when designing LED lamps.
Which Light Colors are Essential to Plants?
Two very important light colors that are placed in LED lamps are blue and red. Red is the key component that plants need to photosynthesize and inhibit stem elongation. Furthermore, it alerts the plant to the absence of plants above it so that it can have unlimited development.
Blue light, on the other hand, stimulates stomatal opening for breathing, leaf expansion, curvature towards light, stem elongation inhibition, and photoperiodic flowering. The combination of the red and blue lights is optimal for plant seeds to get to their vegetative stage and finally to flowering.
The addition of other light colors like green could facilitate stem elongation and the rate of leaf expansion, which in turn ends up in higher biomass accumulation. Addition of a UV wavelength affects the buildup of compounds like phenolics which may enhance the flavor of the final product and its health advantages to people.
Why Regular LED Lights are not Suitable for Indoor Growing
The normal LED lights we use in our households are ideal for illumination. They emit less energy and little heat and are the closest thing to natural light among all the available light sources. However, when it comes to growing plants, they are recommended.
There are three different reasons why using LED light, which are not plant-optimized, may limit or even halt the healthy growth of some indoor plants.
They Give Off a Poor Light Spectrum
Generally, indoor plants specifically require two types of light wavelengths during photosynthesis. The blue light is needed for the vegetative stage whereas the red light is required for the flowering stage. Obviously, these plants need the entire spectrum of light when you consider that the main aim of an indoor cultivator is to mimic the natural growing conditions.
Nevertheless, these wavelengths exist in distinct ratios, which, in plant-optimized LEDs grow lights, are ideally balanced to provide the needs of the plant. The problem with regular LEDs is that they mostly emit green and yellow wavelengths that most indoor plants make little use of in the production of energy.
At the end of the day, a meager two-thirds, if not less, of the spectrum emitted by household LEDs is used by the plant. This only ends up in an extended growing period that produces smaller and low-quality yields.
They can end Hurting Crops Instead
Given that most of the household LED is not utilized by the plants, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is reflected. In fact, the indoor crops actually absorb these wavelengths, but since they can only two-thirds, the rest is converted to heat, which increases the leaf surface temperature.
What you may not know is that some biological processes in plants can only happen when the leaf surface temperature is optimal. If the temperatures don’t meet a certain threshold, the plant may become stressed and end up experiencing “light burn”.
Most people usually assume this is a nutritional deficiency although it’s not. Plants that have been stressed will eventually produce low-quality yields, which can discourage you from continuing with your indoor planting venture.
They are Just Inefficient
Many people are quick to run for the household LED lights because of their low cost compared to 600W LED grow lights. But don’t be misled by this initial cost, they may be cheap, but they were meant for indoor planting.
Not only do they produce a short-handed spectrum that ends up in the eventual increase of leaf surface temperature but also emits more heat in the growing area, which is not ideal for plant growth.
In a nutshell, using normal LED lights to grow indoor plants may require that you spend more funds on the cooling system. And you have to consider that these bulbs are less durable compared to dedicated LED grow lights.
Indoor plant growers who are tempted to go the easy way and plant cheap will be forced to keep on replacing their regular LED bulbs because their lifespan can’t match that of specialized LED grow lights.
Considering all the disadvantages that have been listed above, it is clear that using regular LED lights to grow indoor vegetation is not conceivable. If you want to make the most of this exciting technology, you shouldn’t take short-cuts. Instead, invest in a good-quality LED grow light that is not beyond your means and see your indoor crops thrive.