Can You Use LED Strips To Grow Plants?

Outdoor plants have access to an abundance of sunlight, essential for their healthy growth. If you’re growing plants indoors, you need to recreate this sunlight, and plants can’t always get everything they need through the filter of a glass window.

It might surprise you to learn that plants benefit from lights of all different wavelengths. White light covers all the bases, but more intense colors can help plants to thrive in the absence of natural light.

To encourage your indoor plants’ growth, it is best to have both red and blue lights shining on them.

How can you help plants to grow indoors without access to sunlight? Can strip lights do a good enough job?

LED strip lights can assist in the successful growth of indoor plants and are good for controlling the color of lights for your plant, but alone they won’t usually be bright enough to encourage most seedlings to develop. In most cases, LED strips should be used alongside other brighter and larger bulbs.

To learn more about LED strip lights for plant growth, I’ll address the following things to consider:

  • Are LED strips powerful enough for plant photosynthesis?
  • The color spectrum capacity of LED strips
  • Whether or not strip lights are a practical solution for plant growth

Do LED Strip Lights Emit Enough Light For Photosynthesis?

led strip

As living things, plants rely on several different things to grow and thrive. They need a source of nutrients, like soil around their roots, and need water and light.

In nature, plants rely on sunlight to grow and photosynthesize. When they’re grown indoors, plants need to be kept in something close to their natural environment.

To thrive and grow at a good pace, most plants need artificial replication of natural sunlight. The light they receive should be bright, and this is particularly important for seedlings and younger plants.

Many mature plants can cope with a little less light, as they don’t need that strong initial sunlight that would trigger a seedling to start growing. Most plants, if already mature, can comfortably survive with dimmer lighting.

To see a plant through the whole of its growing cycle, it’s a good idea to have lighting at a level of around 2,000 lumens per square foot at least. However, lumen measurements are not as important as you’d think.

Lumen measurements are based on light’s human perceptions, heavily weighted towards yellow light, which isn’t needed for efficient plant growth. It’s better to make sure that the full-color spectrum is covered than to focus too much on lumen measurements.

There are some benefits to using LED lights for plants. LED lights don’t emit a lot of heat, so they won’t cause plants to dry out or suffer from burns.

However, most standard LED strips only emit around 450 lumens per foot. Unless you are purchasing brighter LED strips, you might want to use your LED strips to supplement other lighting forms.

For upwards of 2,000 lumens, you will need brighter strips of 5050 or above.

The 5050 LED strips have 5.0mm x 5.0mm dimensions with three LED chips in one, so they’re much brighter than standard LED strips and are better suited to plant growth.

Can LED Strips Emit Required Color Spectrum?

spectrum of growing light

Plants rely on the full-color spectrum to thrive when they’re growing indoors. Natural daylight provides this, but your indoor lights will also need a variety of colors.

Plants require blue light to grow, with red light stimulating flower production.

If you do not provide both blue and red light wavelengths, you can expect your indoor plants, not to flower (and some types might not grow at all).

Intense blue light is vital during the early stages of growth to encourage a seedling to develop.

For optimal growth, plants should receive light around 6500K as it is closest to daylight. For budding, flowering, and fruit production, lights around 3000K are required.

Most plant growth lights are full-color spectrum lights, with the red and blue lights required to see a plant through every stage of growth.

LED strips can emit the required red and blue light wavelengths. Still, you must make sure that the strip lights you purchase emit the specific wavelengths you need – any white strips should advertise this on the packaging or in the specification if you’re buying online.

If they don’t, avoid as you might waste your money.

Single color strips will typically emit white light with a range of 2200K to 6500K, ideal for all plant growth stages.

You could also choose a dynamic tunable LED strip light, setting it for both high and low wavelengths simultaneously.

Other options include purchasing multiple separate strip lights, some red and some blue, or choosing an RGB strip light and alternating between blue and red settings.

For obvious reasons, the first of these options will be much more convenient than the latter.

How Practical It Is To Use LED Strip Lights As Grow Lights?

LED strip light

The successful growth of a plant depends not so much on the brightness of light but on the wavelengths of color it receives. For this reason, LED lights are increasing in popularity as growing lights.

LED strip lights are energy efficient. They can cover a full-color spectrum. They don’t emit excessive heat that can burn or dehydrate plants.

It is possible to grow plants with strip lights, but you must be careful to buy the right lights to maximize your chance of success.

Single color strips are best because they contain the entire spectrum.

Otherwise, you will need lights to cover both red and blue wavelengths.

If you use a single RGB strip, make sure you buy 5050 strip lights, which are brighter than the standard LED strips, and set them to purple, containing the right mix of blue and red. 

This will encourage early seedling development and flowering. You can set an RGB light to white, but it’s not completely white, so it makes sense to instead focus on the more critical blue and red.

Of course, some plants will not survive and thrive with LED lighting alone. LED strips do not give off much heat, and some plants rely on heat and light for their successful growth.

You shouldn’t expect to create a thriving tomato plant under LED strips. However, most plants that don’t require a lot of heat should successfully grow under 5050 full-spectrum LED strips if they’re close.

Final Words

LED strip lights can be used as your sole growing lights or part of a more complex setup.

Their flexibility can be highly beneficial, allowing you more accurate control of your growth lighting position. With a full-color spectrum, you can be confident that plants will get everything they need.

To maximize your chances of success, you will want to purchase brighter 5050 strip lights. These will cost more but have a higher output in lumens for successful seedling germination.

What plants have you successfully grown under LED strip lights? Do you prefer to use a full-color spectrum or separate RGB strips?

Comment below to share your indoor growing tips and gardening successes.