Choosing the Right Grow Light – Do you need a grow light?

Using grow lights during the winter can help keep your succulents looking their best. Find out what you need!

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I've received several emails lately asking about using grow lights with succulents. It turns out I've been looking into this very thing for my indoor succulents. I've found a lot of information but had a hard time determining what it all means and what I need.

My goal with this post is to answer the questions of “do I need grow lights?” and “what grow lights should I buy?” as simply as possible.

To make things even easier, you can download a free cheat sheet that shows at-a-glance what grow lights work best for succulents. Click here to get it. It will be super helpful.

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Crassula ovata ‘Gollum' Jade, Portulacaria afra “Elephant Bush”

Do succulents need grow lights indoors during the winter?

The short answer is, not necessarily – but it can be a good idea. If you have a window that gets bright light all day your succulents will likely survive just fine over the winter. However, the days do get shorter so they won't get as much light as they did in the summer.

If succulents don't get enough light they start to stretch out and lose their bright colors and compact shape. They are still alive, and otherwise healthy, they'd just like more light. Often the shorter days in the winter will cause succulents to stretch.

A grow light can be a great way to keep your succulents colorful and compact. It helps add more bright light during the day. I've had succulents indoors for several winters without a grow light and they've been ok. By the time spring rolls around many of the succulents are really elongated, but I trim them up and plant them before moving them outside.

I have decided though that I want to prevent my succulents from stretching out this year so I decided to invest in some grow lights.

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Crassula perforata “String of Buttons,” Haworthia variety, Crassula ovata ‘Gollum' Jade,

How long should I leave grow lights on in the winter?

Succulents have growing and dormant periods, just like other plants. Winter is often the dormant season for most succulents, and therefore require less light, but indoors they will still generally take as much as they can get.

Succulents won’t go through a true dormancy when growing indoors unless you force it with changes in temperature and light.

All succulents need darkness each day to maintain a healthy growing cycle, but need at least six hours of sunlight a day to stay thriving. When using grow lights for my indoor succulents, I'll leave them on for about 12-14 hours, mimicking the natural daylight plus a few hours.

This post can help you know which of your plants will need less or more water based on the time of year.

What grow lights should I buy?

There is a lot of information about what type of grow lights to use, how much light you need, what color the light should be, how far away should the light be, etc. I had a hard time figuring out what everything meant and how to know what it meant for me.

Remember you can also grab your free cheat sheet with an overview of what grow lights work well.

Based on some helpful articles herehere and here, along with input from succulent growing friends, here is what I've determined:

  • What type of light: Fluorescent or LEDs — see my personal recommendations and examples on Amazon here
    These do NOT need to be labeled as a “grow light” — they can simply be regular fluorescent or LED bulbs
  • What color of light: “Daylight” spectrum – preferably a color temp of 5000 – 6500K
  • How far away should the light be: about 12″ from the top of the succulents
  • How many lights: depends on the number of plants, this may require some trial and error

These suggestions are based on two goals: inexpensive and efficient. There are other more expensive options, some of which are more effective and some are less. The fluorescent lights are easy to find and do a great job.

I've put together a grow light going over these details and how simple your grow light setup can be:

I think the most confusing two questions I faced were what color of light and how many lights (or how much light). There's a lot of talk about red light and blue light. The 6500K daylight temperature is mostly blue light. It provides light as close as possible to natural daylight. If you'd like your succulents to flower under grow lights you'll also want to use a 3000K bulb.

For a great resource on grow lights, be sure to check out Epic Grow Lights. He has a huge amount of information available and explains grow lights very well.

The amount of light you'll need is a little trickier. Basically, it's a good idea to get as much as you can. Having light shining directly above all your plants is ideal. If you are in a small space that may not be possible. But the idea would be if you have plants in a 1 foot by 4 foot space, you'll want to use a light that takes up about 1 foot by 4 feet.

I have most of my plants on my dresser in my bedroom right now. It's about the size mentioned above, 1×4′. I opted to get a hanging light fixture that holds 4 T8 bulbs, 4 feet in length that are 32 watts each. This area also gets some natural daylight and has a mirror behind it that helps to provide more light. We'll see how it does! I've been assured by fellow succulent fanatics that it will do the trick.

I bought my lights locally because I wanted to set them up right away. If you have time to wait, ordering online can be a cheaper option. Here is something similar to what I bought. T5 bulbs are more efficient than T8, but I found that they weren't available locally. The T8s will still do the job though.

If you are growing in a smaller space, the CFL lights are going to be a better option than the long tubes. These are the spiral shaped bulbs that fit in a normal light fixture. Here are some great deals I found for the bulbs and a reflector (fixture) that you can get on Amazon.

How much does it cost to use grow lights?

I love the walnut grow light plant stand that my husband built for me! The biggest question I'm always asked about it is - how expensive is it to have grow lights on all the time? I run my grow lights for 13 hours a day, every day of the year. In this video, I walk you through just how much it costs to run my grow lights.

Grow lights are a great way to supplement the natural light your succulents are already getting, especially in the winter. Getting enough light for succulents indoors is one of the biggest challenges. Fortunately grow lights (as long as you opt for fluorescent) are pretty inexpensive and can make a big difference for your succulents!

Again, for a great resource on grow lights, be sure to check out Epic Grow Lights. And don't forget to grab your free grow light cheat sheet too.