Are White LED Grow Lights Good for Growing?

For people who love to grow indoor plants, there are always continuous debates on the best grow light that gets the best results for growth. One of the most recent debates is the effect of white LED lights on indoor plant growth.

A study at Chiba University measured the effects of supplemental lighting with LEDs on tomato yield, which included white LEDs.¹

Based on the unit photons emitted, the white LEDs showed as high efficiency as the red LEDs in increasing tomato yield, followed by the blue ones.

This is quite an interesting result because not many grow lights include white spectrum, although some of the higher end models have started to include it. 

The study found that tomato yields increased 12 to 16% when white LED lights were included with a mix of red and blue lights to grow tomatoes. Even though the red and blue lights contributed to the result, the study’s authors concluded that “The results were probably due to the white LEDs that contained more than 50% of green light characterized by high penetration into the canopy.”

A second study observed lettuce grown using only red blue spectrum compared to lettuce grown using red blue plus white spectrum.² The study found soluble sugar and nitrate contents in the lettuce grown with added white spectrum was significantly higher and lower, respectively. If you’re wondering – that’s exactly the result you’d want. Researchers also observed higher shoot and root fresh and dry weights as well as higher crispness, sweetness, and better plant shape for the lettuce grown using white light.

What is White Light Specifically?

Are White LED Lights Good for Growing?

While most indoor growers are familiar with the benefits of using purple growing lights, white LED lights are a newer consideration. Almost all growers have previously considered white light to have little or no value for plant growth. However, this is not actually true with white LED Lights, as seen in the studies cited earlier.

The white light spectrum includes a few colors currently included in all LED grow lights, like blue and red. But it also comprises of a few wavelengths not included in significant intensity in most LED grow lights today. The full white light spectrum can be seen in the table below:

Color:Wavelength:
Violet
380-450nm
Blue450-495nm
Green495-570nm
Yellow570-590nm
Orange590-620nm
Red620-750nm

Most LED grow light spectrum charts will already show these wavelengths, but the intensity of the wavelengths other than red & blue is weak. Below we linked to a brand of more modern grow lights that includes a full white spectrum, including the all important red and blue as well.

White LED lights are also great lighting to help enjoy the plants as they grow, and they provide a 40% light absorption rate. Additionally, because they are LED, these lights will not burn or over chafe the leaves, ground or soil with a drying light.

Should Grow Lights Include White Spectrum?

While there are a host of different grow lights produced, there has not been enough discussion of the benefits of using white LED grow lights for plants. Traditional plant growing lamps are usually not LED lights, and usually come in several varying colors which are traditionally darker color tones.

The use of darker color light for growing, can create a room environment that is good for plants but not useful for much else. This has often been a significant complaint for indoor plant growers. Because of this, an increase in plant light analysis was done that included the use of white LED lights. Part of the desire to compare white LED lighting for plant growth came from their low energy use and ability to stay in use for longer periods of time safely.

Based on the studies above, we conclude that more high quality grow lights should include white spectrum. In fact, many are starting to do so.

Which grow lights include White LEDs in their product?

best led grow lights

The HLG 300 V2 emits a full spectrum that also includes a hefty amount of white. It’s the most modern LED grow light currently on the market, and will cover a 3’x3′ space with ease.

Many COB LED grow lights also include full spectrum white LED light integrated into the LED chips.

You still need other color wavelengths

White LED lights do not offer enough of nutrient rich output to be a sufficient light source for growing when used solely by themselves. So if you aren’t using a COB grow light or the HLG 550 V2 mentioned above, then conversion of solely white light to energy in the plant growth cycle is not enough to sustain plant growth with only white LED lights.

Since most white LED lights run at a lower light absorption rate, and are not comparable to natural sunlight, the use of red, purple, blue or green LED lights are often used in combination with white lights. When red and white, purple and white, blue and white or green and white LED lights are used in combination, the outcome of light absorption is much better.

Using white LED lights with other primary color LED lights offer the added benefits of visibility and better room atmosphere. This allows plant growth to occur in any room of a home versus a specified plant room. In some cases, people have used a combination of red, white and blue LED lights to give the plants their much-needed light combinations while enriching the room with a patriotic glow. When it comes to indoor plant growing, studies have shown the use of LED lights has been found superior to traditional plant growing lights. Using LED lights significantly reduces energy consumption and does not create overheating or the hazards of higher heat risks from ongoing daily usage.

In Conclusion

Are White LED lights good for growing cannabis or other plants? The answer is “yes.” They play an important role in being one part of the absorbable spectrum, but it’s not enough to fully nurture your plants on its own. This is why white LEDs are usually mixed in along with other colors. In addition, you still need white LED grow lights as part of a safe grow space. You’ll need them to keep your room safely lit while you let your colored grow lights rest. Fortunately, you won’t need nearly as many white LED lights for your room. You also won’t need such high intensity ones compared to your cannabis grow lights.

Sources:

1. MARUO, Toru, et al. “Effects of Supplemental Lighting with Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) on Tomato Yield and Quality of Single-Truss Tomato Plants Grown at High Planting Density.” Environmental Control in Biology, Japanese Society of Agricultural, Biological and Environmental Engineers and Scientists, 11 June 2012, https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/ecb/50/1/50_63/_article.

2. Lin, K., Huang, M., Huang, W., Hsu, M., Yang, Z. and Yang, C. (2013). The effects of red, blue, and white light-emitting diodes on the growth, development, and edible quality of hydroponically grown lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. var. capitata). Scientia Horticulturae, 150, pp.86-91.

Other Sources: Platinum Grow Lights


  • Nick
  • Updated May 17, 2019