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Plants That Thrive in Artificial Light (And the Best Type to Use)

Plants That Thrive in Artificial Light (And the Best Type to Use)

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For people who enjoy indoor gardening, having enough light for all your houseplants is probably the biggest challenge.

Even those who get plenty of natural light throughout the day sometimes need lamps or other artificial light. It’s just part of the houseplant game.

However, managing artificial light for your plants isn’t just about turning on the lights in your room. There’s a lot more to it. 

Not all plants benefit from the same artificial light. Each plant needs a certain type to thrive. So let’s go over the different types of artificial lights and how to use them to help your plant grow. 

Different Types of Artificial Light for Optimal Plant Growth

While the idea that there are different types of light might be surprising to some people, it’s important to understand which light you should use to help your plant thrive. 

Light is a combination of wavelengths that represent the seven colors of the rainbow. When you combine all colors, you’ll get the bright white light that you’re used to. 

Sometimes, your plant will need only one of these seven colors. So turning on a white light lamp over your plant might not be as effective as a designated one. We’re not talking about putting up your Christmas lights though. Those are just regular white light bulbs with colored glass.

You’ll need a monochromatic light bulb that emits light at a certain wavelength to give you the right color and the desired outcome. 

The most popular light wavelengths are blue and red — also referred to as cool and warm. Red or warm light is typically used to encourage plants to flower or produce fruit, while cool blue light boosts leaves and foliage growth.

Your typical light bulb balances between warm and cool tones, which is why it’s known as full-spectrum light. When in doubt, or if you are trying to accommodate multiple plants with one light, use your regular light bulb.

Different Types of Light Bulbs

Various Light Bulbs

These days, you have quite a selection of light bulb types, and each one serves a different purpose.


Incandescent bulbs are the OG light bulbs that we all grew up with. These bulbs have a fine wire filament in the center that heats up to emit light. Their cheap price makes them a popular option, but they don’t stick around for long before burning out.

They’re also known to generate heat, which could affect the temperature of your plant. Place it too close and it might even burn its leaves. Luckily, we now have plenty of more durable options to choose from! 


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve surely heard about LED lights. LEDs took the market by storm because they use very little energy to emit bright light and they last for years. 

However, they don’t come cheap. LED lights are quite expensive, especially if you are used to buying a pack of bulbs for a dollar or two. So before you invest in LED lights for your plants, make sure your budget allows it. 


When you’re looking at fluorescent lights for plants, you’ll find a handful of options. There are the usual long rod-shaped bulbs that you use in offices, or the newer spiral-shaped bulb.

Fluorescent bulbs offer you plenty of options from the color spectrum. It all comes down to the way fluorescent light bulbs work


Halogen lights are less common than the other types of lights. They shine bright and would last for a long time, but they’re not the best option for your indoor plant’s general needs. 

They’re more on the warm side of the spectrum, which would be a great supplemental lighting option for your flowering plants along with natural sunlight, for example. However, they can be the only option of lighting for your indoor plant. 


Indoor Plant Lights

As the name implies, grow lights help your indoor plants grow. This means that these plants are more on the cool blue side of the spectrum. In other words, they’re the opposite of halogen light bulbs. 

Grow lights are typically within the wavelength that boosts photosynthesis and encourages chlorophyll absorption — so are most blue and violet fluorescent lights.

Which Type of Light Bulb Is the Best? 


You’ve decided on color and bulb, so now what? How do you use your artificial light bulbs for your indoor plants?

If your plants are in a room that stays lit all day long, like a living room or a business office, you may not need any extra lights at all. The room light alone may be enough for low-light plants.

For plants that do need a little more than natural sunlight, you’ll want to have your lamps set up closer to the plants to get that extra intensity. When using a bulb type that doesn’t generate any heat (fluorescent or LED), you can set up your lights quite close to the plants.

Plants that prefer bright light, like African violets, are happy with lights set about 10 inches away.

Don’t forget that using artificial light isn’t an all-or-nothing technique. You can take advantage of natural sunlight through the spring or summer months, and then just supplement with additional light during the winter when the sun isn’t around as much.

Feel free to mix and match window light and artificial light in whatever way works best for your space. The point is to just provide enough light for your indoor plant to help it grow and thrive. 

How Much Light Is Optimal?

A timer, like this one, is an excellent, low-cost investment and can keep your plants well-lit without you having to worry about anything. 

This is especially handy when you are trying to maximize your lighting hours and want the lights to turn on automatically before you’re up in the morning.

Now, although you won’t need to worry about being there to turn the lights on and off, you still need to plan for timing. Not all plants require the same amounts of light, so a little research can help with this.

Geraniums, begonias, chrysanthemums, and coleus plants will do just nicely with 8 to 10 hours of light. On the other hand, vegetable seedlings can require 12 or more hours.

Additionally, some plants would need to have the light adjusted throughout the year to simulate the dormant period of winter. 

Without it, many flowering plants won’t enter their bloom cycle in time. For these plants, you’ll need to bring down the light for a few months before turning it back up.

If you’re thinking about raising a batch of super plants by leaving the lights on for 24 hours a day, think again. 

Sure, plants need light to grow and thrive, but they also need that period of darkness to rest and focus on respiration instead of photosynthesis (read about that in my post about the necessity of darkness for plants).

Leaving the lights on more than they can handle is doing more harm than good. Imagine yourself working all day without getting any time to rest. The same applies to your plant.

Is Artificial Light Better than Natural Light for Indoor Plants? 

Although you can control almost every aspect of artificial light, nothing beats natural sunlight. If you’re able to provide natural sunlight for your indoor plants, that would be amazing! 

However, not all of us are blessed with a well-lit home or office. That doesn’t mean that we give up on greenery altogether. That is exactly what artificial lighting is made for. 

In other words, think of artificial lights as a complementary supplement to your plant, not a replacement for natural sunlight. 

Plants that Thrive in Artificial Light


In general, plants that do well in low-light situations are the ones that will thrive the most under artificial lights. Some suggestions are:

  • Pothos
  • Peace lily
  • Cast iron plant
  • Peacock plant
  • Snake plant
  • Sword fern
  • Philodendrons
  • Peperomia
  • Spider plant

You may notice that these low-light plants are also pretty well-known as indoor air cleaners, so there is even more added benefit to your space to have them.

So whichever plant you choose to grow in your space, make sure you do your research and understand their needs. The better you understand your plants, the easier it’ll be to help them thrive! 

Choose the right lights, shine them on your plant just enough to get their photosynthesis working, and never forget to let them get enough rest. 

Pros and Cons of Using Artificial Light

The main benefit of using artificial light is to provide your plants with enough light to let them grow and thrive indoors. It allows you to control the type of light your plant is exposed to, how much light it gets, and when to turn it all off and leave your plants to rest. 

For example, if you want to encourage your plant to bloom indoors, you’ll be able to do so by adding a red light lamp next to it. For plants that need some extra warmth, you could use the good old incandescent bulb to benefit from the heat.

Depending on how reliant you are on lamps, one drawback can be the cost. Modern LED or CFL bulbs don’t use all that much power so this isn’t as much of a problem as it once was.

Still, a whole lot of electric lights can have an impact on your power bill, especially if you are still using the “old-fashioned” incandescent bulbs. Bulbs like LED will have a significant up-front cost too, sometimes more than $10 per bulb.

Being dependent on electric light can also be a bit of a risk if you have a power failure. Granted, your plants will be fine for a few hours without their lamps but if it were to go on for too long, you can end up with stunted or dying plants.

There is also a bit of a risk of having too many lamps set up around when it comes to watering time. For the serious indoor gardener, it would be a smart move to install some GFCI outlets in your plant area. A simple mishap with a watering can around a rack of electric lights can be a serious shock risk.

So if you are struggling to manage your collection of indoor plants because you just don’t have enough windows, you can use these tips to add some artificial light to your growing space.

Final Thoughts 

Artificial lighting is a great way to help your indoor plants reach their maximum growth potential. With the right light, you’ll have green, luscious plants that bloom with every blooming season.

So if you want to liven up your gray, dull office with some greenery, you don’t have to worry about enough natural sunlight for your plants to thrive. Artificial lighting is your go-to. 

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