How to Set Up Grow Lights


Grow lights allow you to start plants indoors even if you do not have a well-lit window to place the seedlings in. Some lower-light plants, such as leaf lettuce and spinach, can be grown to maturity indoors under lights if you don't have a suitable garden space. Grow lights are available in adjustable stand fixtures or in standard fluorescent fixtures that you affix to the wall, under a cabinet or hang from the ceiling. Setting the lights up so they provide the maximum benefit to your plant is vital for any grow light system to work.

Step 1

Place the grow light fluorescent tubes into your fixture. Use either lights labeled as grow lights or substitute one warm white and one cool white fluorescent tube in a dual-tube fixture.

Step 2

Adjust a stand light fixture so it sits 4 to 6 inches above the top of the plants, moving the fluorescent tubes either up or down in the fixture arm brackets. For mounted, non-adjustable lights, place a stack of newspaper or wooden planks under the plant pots to elevate them to the proper distance from the grow light. Adjust the length of the chain to the correct height if you have a hanging fixture. The chain attaches to the ends of the fixture.

Step 3

Plug the grow lights into an automatic timer, then plug the timer into a wall. Set the timer so it comes on for approximately 14 to 16 hours each day, then automatically turns off for eight to 10 hours. Most plants require twice as much artificial light as they do natural sunlight.

Step 4

Adjust the height of the lights as the plants grow to maintain the 4 to 6 inch height difference between the lights and the plants. Adjust lights on their stands or chains or remove newspapers or planks from the stack to lower the plant pots.

Tips and Warnings

  • Fluorescent tubes only have a lifespan of approximately two years before they lose their intensity and no longer provide benefits to the plant. Replace the lights at regular intervals to prevent this issue.

Things You'll Need

  • Fluorescent tubes
  • Automatic timer
  • Newspaper or planks


  • Purdue Cooperative Extension: Starting Seeds Indoors
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension: Indoor Gardening Under Lights
Keywords: using grow lights, growing plants indoors, grow light setup

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Dollar Stretcher." Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.