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Have you ever wondered if a regular light bulb could be used to grow plants? Or maybe you have heard of people using light bulbs as a cheap alternative to grow lights for their indoor plants.

Plants are a beautiful addition to any home or garden. They can provide a touch of greenery, improve air quality and provide oxygen. In return, they need care and light to grow.

Light is essential for photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight into food that can be used for growth. Without proper lighting, plants will struggle to survive in any environment.

If you are like me and enjoy indoor gardening, you may ask can a regular light bulb help plants grow?

Few factors are more important in the plant’s growth than light and understanding how different types of light affect plant growth is necessary.

But not all light sources are created equal.

This post will explore whether regular indoor light bulbs can provide enough intensity and spectrums to help plants grow and flourish. We’ll look at the effects of incandescent and LED bulbs on various types of plants, as well as the benefits of supplementing natural sunlight with artificial lighting.

Can A Regular Light Bulb Help Plants Grow?

While regular light bulbs can provide some light for indoor plants, they are not the best option for healthy growth and may not be sufficient in certain cases.

Plants require a specific range of light wavelengths for optimal growth, which regular bulbs do not emit. Regular light bulbs may not produce the blue and red light that plants need.

Light intensity also diminishes as the distance between the light source and the plant increases. A regular light bulb’s spectrum of light may be too weak if it is placed too far away from the plant, making it difficult for plants to receive enough light.

The duration of light that plant needs also varies and while regular light bulbs can remain on for as long as you need them to, again, they may not provide enough light or the right spectrum of light to support plant growth.

Simply put, the type and intensity of light that a regular bulb emits cannot match what natural sunlight can provide.

However, there are many types of ways to supplement light for indoor plants and we will discuss more about using light bulbs for plant growth.

can a regular light bulb help plants grow? a photo showing plants near a lamp with regular light bulb indoors

Why Light Light Matters To Plants

I don’t want to get too technical here, but light plays a vital role in the process of photosynthesis. The photosynthesis process converts light energy to chemical energy to produce glucose, which is the primary source of energy for the plant.

Without sufficient light, plants will struggle to create energy. Too much or too little light will limit the production of glucose and negatively impact your plant.

Your plant needs air and water for photosynthesis as well, but light is a driving factor of the process.

These factors are important when selecting a light source for your plant: the source and color spectrum, required intensity, and duration of light exposure.

Different types of light sources plans can use include: sunlight, fluorescent lights, or LED lights. We will cover the types of light more in-depth a little later on.

The color spectrum of light is important to the growth of plants. Blue light promotes vegetative growth. Red light promotes flowering or fruiting. White light is great for overall plant growth and can be used as a primary source of light.

Light intensity is measured in lux or foot-candles. The amount of light a plant needs depends on what kind of plant it is, how old it is, and how close it is to the light source. Plants usually need between 1000 and 50,000 lux of light.

The duration of light is also important. The amount of light different plants need depends on the type of plant and how old it is. For example, seedlings and young plants usually need 12-16 hours, while mature plants only need 6-8 hours.

Clearly, there is a need to provide the right type of light conditions. We are about to get the types of lights you can use for your plant.

Types Of Light

Natural Light

Sunlight is the form of natural light that plants use for photosynthesis. It provides UV rays, which can be beneficial to some plants. If you are growing a plant indoors, it is always best to provide them with the best light source available – in this case, natural sunlight.

If your house does not get enough sunlight, then you may need to supplement by using artificial lighting.

Artificial Light

Fluorescent Lights

Fluorescent lights are an affordable option suitable for growing seedlings, herbs, and leafy greens. They emit a cool or warm light, depending on the type of fluorescent bulb used. Cool white bulbs promote vegetative growth, while warm white bulbs promote flowering and fruiting. Be aware that fluorescent lights do not provide sufficient light intensity for plants that require high levels of light to grow, such as fruiting vegetables.

LED Grow Lights

LED grow lights are a popular option for indoor plant growth, offering an efficient and customizable solution. LED lights are energy efficient, have a long lifespan, and emit a high level of red and blue light, providing optimal conditions for photosynthesis. They come in different spectrums depending on the plant’s growth stage, and some can be controlled via an app, allowing for precise light settings to support plant growth.

Incandescent Lights

Incandescent lights are inexpensive and readily available in hardware stores. However, they are not suitable for providing optimal light for plant growth. The reason is that incandescent bulbs emit light in the red and yellow spectrum, which is not ideal for plant growth. Plants require light in the blue and red spectrum, which is why most grow lights have a combination of blue and red LEDs. Incandescent bulbs also produce a lot of heat, which can burn plants if placed too close to them.

Halogen Bulbs

Halogen bulbs are a form of incandescent bulbs that produce light by heating a filament to a high temperature. They are energy-efficient and emit a bright white light, making them popular for home and office use. Halogen bulbs have a higher color temperature than other incandescent bulbs and can be dimmed to alter their light intensity levels. However, halogen bulbs emit a limited spectrum of light, which does not encourage plant growth. Again, they also produce a high level of heat that can burn or dehydrate plants.

Can a Regular Light Bulb Replace LED Grow Lights?

No, while regular light bulbs may be okay for some plants, LED grow lights are the best option for providing plants with the correct spectrum, intensity, and duration of light required for growing plants.

Regular light bulbs will only emit a limited spectrum of light, they are not designed to provide the proper wavelengths of light that plants need for photosynthesis.

In contrast, grow lights are designed to produce a full spectrum of light that closely matches natural sunlight. LED grow lights are also specifically designed to provide this full spectrum light even at a close distance, reducing the risk of plant damage.

a photo of a regular lamp and light bulb over a plant, showing concept of light bulb helping plant to grow

Can Plants Photosynthesize With Normal Light Bulbs?

While it is possible for plants to photosynthesize with normal light bulbs, the process will not be as efficient as with natural sunlight or grow lights.

While humans can see visible light, plants use a wider range of light waves, including ultraviolet and infrared light, for photosynthesis. Regular light bulbs simply don’t provide the preferred amount of spectrum light needed and may limit effective photosynthesis.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Grow Light VS Regular LED Light

Cost and Environmental Impact

LED grow lights can be more expensive to purchase than regular light bulbs. While regular light bulbs are more affordable initially. However, grow lights do tend to be more energy efficient, durable and long lasting. Which can make them a more cost effective option in the long run.

LED grow lights also release less heat into the surrounding environment.

Energy Efficiency and Heat Output

LED grow lights are designed to emit light in the spectrum that plants need for photosynthesis. They can do this without creating excessive and unnecessary heat. Regular light bulbs emit both light and heat, which consequently can cause the temperature to rise in the surrounding area. This can contribute to increased dehydration and evaporation in your indoor plants.


A LED grow light can last up to 50,000 hours. A regular light bulb may need to be replaced every 1,000 to 2,000 hours.

Types of Plants That May Benefit From Each Type of Light

Plants like lettuce, leafy greens, succulents, and herbs that require full spectrum light may benefit from grow lights.

Low-light plants or plants adapted to low-light environments like cacti, ferns, etc may benefit from regular led lights.

Tips For Growing Plants Under Indoor Light Bulbs

First, choose a plant that can thrive in indoor lighting conditions. Examples of these include pothos, spider plants, and philodendrons.

Once you have selected a plant, be sure to place the plant as close to the light source as possible without the plant getting overheated or burnt.

Leave the lights on for 12-16 hours per day, to mimic the natural sun or daylight.

You may need to use a light meter to measure the intensity of the light your plant is receiving. Keep in mind that plants require different intensities at different stages of growth.


How close should I place the regular light bulb to my plants?

The bulb should be placed no more than 6 inches away from your plants, but be sure to monitor the temperature to prevent your plants from getting too hot.

Can a regular light bulb be the sole source of light for my plants?

No, regular light bulbs should be used as supplemental light and not as the sole source of light for your plants.

Can a regular light bulb be used to grow any type of plant?

While a regular light bulb can be used to grow some types of plants, it is not the best option for all plants. Plants that require a lot of light, such as tomatoes and peppers, are better grown under LED grow lights.

Can I use a lamp without a reflective shade to grow plants?

While a reflective shade is not necessary, it will help direct more light toward your plants and improve their growth.

How long should I leave the regular light bulb on for my plants?

Plants require at least 12-16 hours of light per day, so you should leave the bulb on for this amount of time. There’s no need to leave the light on 24/7 because even under natural conditions there would be a period of darkness an rest, i.e. night or dark period.

Can Christmas lights help plants grow?

Christmas lights do come in all types and colors, including white, red, green, and blue lights. But while they make a pretty holiday display, they will not provide the full spectrum of light that plants need. Additionally, Christmas lights may lack the intensity of light that some plants need. Finally, distance can make it harder for the plant to produce enough energy for photosynthesis.

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