What Grow Light Should I Use: Indoor Seed Starting


If you are a home gardener and are wondering what grow light should I use for my indoor seed starting, then you aren’t alone.

seed starting station with metal shelves and chains holding led shop lights or led grow lights

So you are on your journey of growing seedlings indoors and have begun to look for the best grow lights for your plants. Maybe you don’t have a south facing window or need supplemental light.

If you are like me, then finding the right grow light seemed daunting and needed more than a little research to get an answer.

The last thing that we need is an overflow of information that gives us analysis paralysis. I hope to clear things up for you so that you can get to growing your own seedlings during the winter months or spring months.

Why do I need to start seeds indoors

If you are going to plant a tomato plant for instance, and notice on the seed packet that it states how many days it takes for that plant to grow to maturity. Well most often, that plant takes longer to mature than you have days in your growing season.

seed packets on a table.
I start all of these plants indoors except carrots. Most root vegetables should be directly sewn outside.

The only way to get past this is to provide your plants with artificial lights (unless you have a heated greenhouse or high tunnel). And even then, the days may be too short to provide enough light for some plants to thrive.

Anyway, using grow lights will extend your growing season, allowing you to plant things like tomatoes or peppers from seed indoors. I started growing my seedlings in small places in front of my south facing windows.

This worked until I started growing more seedlings and I didn’t have enough space in front of my window. The seedling trays in the back wouldn’t receive as much light as the ones in the front and I would have to switch the seed trays around every few days.

seedlings inside soil blocks on a table in front of a south facing window.

It wasn’t the most efficient option. I decided to get a seed starting station and was appalled at the price of the marketed grow lights out there. I would find a website that would suggest grow lights that they were obviously getting a commission from and NOT actually what they used.

And these lights were expensive. BUT I have found a better option than those overpriced grow lights and I am SO EXCITED to share that with you.

LED vs Florescent grow lights

florescent grow light sitting on a wooden floor


  • require less energy
  • less heat given off
  • used to be more expensive, but now can be found and same or cheaper price
  • good quality light
  • high light intensity options

Florescent lights

  • warm lights
  • can sometimes be cheaper
  • require more energy to run

What size grow light should I get?

seed starting station on a wire shelf with led shop lights or led grow lights hanging from chains from home depot.

Are you using your grow light to start seeds or just adding supplemental light to house plants? The light fixture you choose will largely depend on the needs of your plants.

If you have a shelving unit like say a three-shelf unit, then you will want to get lights for each shelf and you will want to make sure that you get lights that are as close as you can to the length of your shelf.

In many cases you will want two lights per shelf. For my light set up I have two long shop lights per shelf because my shelf is deep and one grow light won’t give enough light for proper plant growth.

What is my favorite grow light to use?

My favorite grow lights that I am currently using for my indoor seed starting are LED shop lights. They are by far the best option and can be purchased in a light kit that will give you multiple lights and connecting cords that come with it.

These tube lights can be purchased at your local hardware store such as home depot or Lowes. I found mine online because I needed ones that were the length of my shelf and Home Depot had ones that were too long. But I did purchase metal chains from there to hang my lights.

The chains make it super simple to raise the lights as your plants grow. I bought a pack of 6 lights for under 50 dollars. If I was to go out and but a specific marketed grow light, it would be around 100 dollars for ONE light.

So when you are shopping for grow lights, don’t search “GROW LIGHT” search LED SHOP LIGHTS. They work great and are a fraction of the cost.

Where to position my grow light

seed starting station with led shop lights of led grow lights hovering over onion seedlings.
Onion seedlings. I plant them close together indoors and then plant them with more room outside.

For best results you will want to place your light fixture a few inches above your seedling trays. Once your trays have some plant growth you will want to raise the lights.

DON’T let the lights touch your plants. If you are noticing that the plants look burned then you may need to raise the LED lights a little more.

When designing your grow light system, make sure to create a situation where your LED light bulb can be raised as your plant grows.

Why do I have leggy seedlings?

Leggy seedlings is where your little plant has a very long skinny stem and may start to fall over. This just means that your plant isn’t getting the right amount of light.

Healthy plants need adequate light from their light source in order to become healthy garden plants. If your grow lights are too far away from your plants, then you will have leggy seedlings.

It is SO IMPORTANT that your grow lights have the ability to be lowered down to a few inches above your seedlings. Then raise as your indoor plants grow.

How long do I leave the grow lights on?

timer plugged into an outlet behind the seed starting station.

Plants need at least 12 hours of light. This is the base amount of light. You can go to up to 14 hours of light but I wouldn’t suggest longer than that.

Indoor plants need some time without light in order to thrive. Just like we need sleep, so do our little indoor plants! I am HORRIBLE at being consistent at turning on and off my grow lights. Consistent light = healthy seedlings.

I have since purchased a timer that I plug into the outlet. I plug my grow lights into the timer.

GAME CHANGER. The timer that I purchased was less than 10 dollars and works perfectly, so you don’t need to spend big bucks on a fancy timer. The cheaper ones will do just fine.

Tell me about your seed starting set up. Share what you are planning on growing this year in the comments below!

This post contains affiliate links and I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.


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