I absolutely love shopping online for succulents and gardening supplies. If you aren't already saving money by comparing prices online, give it a try! Here are six of my favorite things that I have purchased online as I build my own succulent oasis:
- Serene Succulent Coloring Book for Adults
- Half-moon plant shelves
- Hexagonal wall shelves
- Succulent fertilizer
- Soil moisture meter
- Bright white grow lights
- Terracotta pots
While succulents are widely sold as indoor plants, it can actually be difficult to keep them alive in the home. Most of these desert plants need more light than we can offer from a windowsill, leading to them languishing and stretching. No wonder so many beginning succulent lovers end up thinking they have a black thumb!
There is a solution, though. Grow lights for succulents are a great option to supplement the sun and keep your collection looking its best. Join me in understanding why grow lights are so great for succulents, and we’ll also cover the details of five of my favorite lighting options.
What Are Grow Lights?
A succulent grow light is different from a normal lamp. You usually can’t just point an old desk light at your succulents and be done with it. Though, technically, the desk light would help a little bit. In fact, some normal lamps (ones with fluorescent tubes) are sometimes used as grow lights for succulents and other houseplants.
The main problems with most of the lamps we use to light our home, however, are their limited spectrum and lack of intensity. This means that they’re just not optimal to promote plant growth.
Basically, our home lighting doesn’t emit a wide enough range of light color to properly imitate the sun, as we want their output to be a cozy yellow for our comfort rather than a harsh white or even purple that plants need.
Grow lights, on the other hand, are generally “full-spectrum”. This means they emit almost all the light wavelengths that are useful for plants, thereby pretty effectively replacing the sun.
Grow lights are usually significantly brighter than our normal bulbs. After all, the sun is blindingly bright, meaning grow lights have to be quite powerful to supplement it. An alternative would be a glass or plastic succulent greenhouse that lets in all the natural light. For obvious practicality and expense reasons that alternative is not viable for most plant enthusiasts.
Why Should You Use Grow Lights for Succulents?
If you’re used to growing houseplants, you’ll have noticed that they tend to struggle if you put them even a few feet away from a window. In fact, some species will stretch and reach for more light even if they’re right on a windowsill.
Unfortunately, succulents tend to be among those species that struggle indoors. Keeping in mind that many of them have evolved to grow in extremely sunny (semi-)desert environments with little to no cover, that’s actually not too surprising. Compare the bare Arizona desert with your Northern exposure windows during winter – not exactly the same amount of light coming in.
Growing succulents outdoors during summer can be very helpful in getting them all that delicious light they need to thrive. However, not all climates permit them to stay outdoors year-round; and what if you just want to enjoy them in the home?
That’s when you turn to grow lights for a little assistance or even to substitute the sun entirely. It’ll help keep your succulents from stretching, promote healthy growth and flowering, and even keep their colors from fading. You’ll want to keep grow lights on for around 12 hours a day in most cases.
How to Choose Grow Lights for Succulents
Okay, so it’s clear that succulents tend to appreciate a little extra light indoors. But there are endless brands and types of grow lights out there. How do you choose the right ones for your succulents?
Every grower has their own preferences, but there are some factors that can help guide you. The process is quite simple, but it’s not one to gloss over when making your decision.
Types of Light
There are various different types of lights out there that you can use to grow succulents and other plants. I won’t spend too much time discussing all of them because most growers these days simply opt for LEDs.
The reasons for the current LED preference are mainly their low power consumption (no more huge electricity bills) and the fact that they don’t get very hot. LED grow lights are a little expensive to buy, but that’s made up for by their long lifespan.
Other light types that you could look into if you’re interested include:
- Metal halide lamps (MH)
- High-pressure sodium lamps (HPS)
- Fluorescent lamps
A grow light needs to emit light that is similar to the sun in order to be able to replace it fully. If your plants also get some natural light, this is less crucial, but it’s still worth paying attention to.
The simplest solution is to just go for white full-spectrum lights. They’re easy on the eyes and reminiscent of sunlight. In cases where your succulents are already by a window, you could also choose blue and purple (also called blurple) lights, as those are the colors in the light spectrum that need to be supplemented most. It makes for a bit of a funky look in your home, though.
Succulents require lots and lots of sunlight. That means that grow lights for succulents need to be pretty powerful, especially if there’s no supplemental sunlight. Luckily, light manufacturers will generally list the output of their products for you to compare.
The easiest way to measure how much a lamp can offer your plant is in foot-candles. A foot-candle is a measurement of light intensity. One foot-candle saturates one square foot with one lumen of light. A lumen is the total quantity of visible light emitted by a source per unit of time.
Succulents like to receive around 5,000-6,000 foot-candles (a sunny summer afternoon will be up to 10,000 FC), although they will survive with a bit less. To illustrate, I just pointed my foot-candle meter at my window, and it was only 400. This amount of light is fine for some tropical houseplants, but not for our desert friends! If I wanted to set some succulents here, I would need to go for a light that offers at least a couple thousand foot-candles.
You can easily measure foot-candles yourself using a cheap light meter or a phone app like Lux Light Meter. They’re oft-overlooked tools, but very helpful for us hobbyist succulent growers.
By the way, don’t get confused if you see sellers mention Lux instead of foot-candles. It’s the same measurement, but for the Metric system. Just multiply lux by 0.093 to convert to foot-candles, or divide by 10 for a rough estimate.
Tip: Don’t forget that light isn’t actually useful if it just shines into the distance without hitting your plant. That’s why, to make sure all of those Lumens go right on our leafy friends and aren’t wasted, it can be useful to use reflectors or mirrors.
The wattage of a lamp represents the amount of power it uses. This isn’t necessarily important for your plant, but it is for your wallet! After all, you pay for all those Watts on your electricity bill. As such, the “holy grail” of lamps will have a high amount of foot-candles or Lumens per watt. Otherwise, you’re paying more for electricity for the same amount of light.
This is also the reason why LEDs are so popular now. Their wattage/light output ratio is great, so they won’t put as much strain on your monthly bill as something like a fluorescent light.
Tip: Sometimes you’ll see LED lights list the “Watt equivalent”. This is because the wattage of lights was long used as an easy way to gauge their output. But because LEDs use so much less energy, their wattage is way lower for the same output, meaning the old rule of thumb is not accurate anymore. That’s solved by listing the Watt equivalent as well as the actual wattage.
My Favorite Grow Lights for Succulents
Hopefully, the explanation above has made you a little more comfortable when it comes to choosing grow lights for your succulents. You now know what to look for.
To narrow it down even more for you, let me also highlight a few of my own favorite succulent grow lights.
1. Barrina T8 Full Spectrum LEDs
These Barrina tubes may look like typical fluorescent lights, but they’re actually LEDs. As such, they only consume 94W to produce the same amount of light that would take traditional lights a whopping 600W. They’re powerful enough to keep my succulents looking great. They also help me propagate new succulents quickly!
The light packs consist of four 24W tubes of 2 feet each in length. These can easily be mounted to plant stands or hung above them. The light is full-spectrum and a pleasant pinkish-white in color, which isn’t bothersome to use indoors.
As an added bonus, reflectors are included to help make sure all the light reaches your succulents. You’ll also receive everything needed to install the lamps. I just used the included zip ties to fix them to my wire shelving unit.
2. BESTVA BP2000 LED Grow Light
If the aforementioned Barrina lights don’t quite cut it for you, check out BESTVA’s LED light panels. Its BP2000 grow light consumes 205W and gives you great bang for your buck if you have a good few plants that need a lot of light. It covers an area of around 4 x 4 ft and produces enough bright white light to not have to supplement with sunlight.
These are pretty heavy-duty lights and even have a dimmer knob, which comes in especially handy when acclimating your succulents to higher brightness. The seller also provides 3 years of after-purchase service.
3. GHodec Clip Plant Lights
Obviously, not everyone is going to need a gigantic LED cannon with hundreds of light diodes. Sometimes you just want to provide your succulents with that little extra boost if you have them indoors by a window for winter.
This is where simple gooseneck lights like this triple-lamp number by GHodec come in. They don’t break the bank, and they emit pleasant white light at a 75W equivalent (real wattage is about 10W). Not nearly enough to use exclusively, but your plants will definitely appreciate it.
I purchased a similar grow light only with blue and red light emissions. I had to move that light fixture into a room that I didn’t visit often because the purple hue was a bit too unnatural for me. I definitely recommend the full-spectrum white lights instead!
4. SANSI Grow Light Bulb
If you already have a lampshade lying around that’s suitable for growing plants, like an old aluminum terrarium lamp, that’s all you’ll need. All you have to do to provide your succulents with some extra light is to buy a grow light bulb to screw into it.
Just make sure to check the maximum wattage (which will usually be more than enough) and the size of the screw base that it accepts (usually E26, which is the standard). You can also use bulbs without a shade, but their reflective properties do help in making sure the light ends up where it’s supposed to.
There are loads of sellers out there offering loose LED grow bulbs, but I particularly like this one by SANSI. It’s full-spectrum with a pleasant yellowish-white light output. It draws 24W (300W equivalent), which should be plenty to cheer up those succulents during winter.
5. LORDEM Mini LED panel
Like the idea of a LED light panel but don’t feel like you need something big? Luckily, there are plenty of smaller options on the market, like this mini panel by LORDEM. At 10W, these are not going to raise your succulents from the dead or make your home look like a beach in July, but they’re a great addition to natural sunlight for those plants that just need a little bit more.
These lamps are simple and attractively priced. They come with a dimmer and are adjustable in height as well as rotatable. The light is a soft, pinkish white.
Final Tips on Choosing a Grow Light for Succulents
When it comes to choosing the right grow light for your succulents, it can be tough to know where to start. With so many options available, how do you know which one is best for your plants? Here are a few final tips to keep in mind when choosing a grow light for succulents:
- Make sure the light is bright enough. Succulents need lots of light to stay healthy, so make sure the light you choose is bright enough.
- Consider the size of your plants. The light should be large enough to cover the entire plant (or group of plants), so make sure to measure before you buy.
- Choose a light with a good spectrum. Succulents need both blue and red light to stay healthy, so make sure your light has a good spectrum.
- Think about your budget. Grow lights can range from very affordable to quite expensive, so choose one that fits your budget. But also keep in mind that the cheaper options usually lead to lower quality of light output.
Once you’ve considered these four factors, it will be much easier to choose the right grow light for your succulents to keep them thriving indoors even during the dreariest of seasons.