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LED Vs. Fluorescent Grow Lights

By Jack Burton ; Updated September 21, 2017
All commercial grow lights work--some better than others.

Indoor gardeners and those who start seedlings inside have long known the advantage of bringing extra lighting to the plants. Traditionally, gardeners considered the fluorescent grow lights as the superior source of indoor light. However, new technology is bringing LED lights to the front. Each works well to extend the growing season and boost growth, but when tested head to head one is a clear winner.

Advantages of LED lights

LED lights are have low energy requirements and produce little heat. Their spectrum can be tuned for just the frequencies most needed by plants. They are mercury-free and easy to recycle.

Disadvantages of LED Lights

LED lights are costly to buy and install. When they fail it may prove difficult to replace just a light, which means the whole installation may need to be replaced.

Advantages of Fluorescent Lights

Fluorescent grow lights have been available for many years and experienced growers know what to expect from them. They are inexpensive, low-heat, energy-efficient and easy to replace. The T-5 full-spectrum fluorescent lamps work even better than a normal fluorescent grow lamp.

Disadvantages of Fluorescent Lights

Fluorescent lights need to be put almost directly on top of plants to work. This may create problems with placing the plants and lights together in one area. The tubes are fragile and clean-up is messy.

Testing Results

In an almost three-month trial, expert bonsai grower Jerry Meislik matched several plants under otherwise identical growing situations to see which performed best: under LED or fluorescent lights. His conclusion: "Fluorescent lights proved superior to the LED light bar.”


About the Author


Jack Burton started writing professionally in 1980 with articles in "Word from Jerusalem," "ICEJ Daily News" and Tagalong Garden News. He has managed radio stations, TV studios and newspapers, and was the chief fundraiser for Taltree Arboretum. Burton holds a B.S. in broadcasting from John Brown University. He is a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Navy/Navy Reserves and the Navy Seabees.