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Full Spectrum LED Grow Lights: The Truth You Need to Know

Many LED lighting suppliers will say that full-spectrum LED grow lights are the best option for growing plants because they mimic the natural light from the sun. The argument goes:

“Plants have grown under sunlight for millions of years. Why would we want to change what mother nature knows is best?”

Well, we want to let you know that there is no such thing as a full-spectrum LED grow light.

There, we said it.

But before we get a flood of messages from concerned growers wondering what all the confusion is about, let’s first uncover what full spectrum means. Then we’ll let you in on the truth about full-spectrum LED grow lights so you can make the best grow light choice for your facility.

What is a Full-Spectrum LED Grow Light?

A full-spectrum LED grow light is simply a marketing term that implies that your grow light closely resembles light from the sun. This marketing term comes from the concept of “full-spectrum light,” which in recent years has been used to refer to electromagnetic radiation from the UV to infrared wavebands.

The History of the Full-Spectrum LED Grow Light

The full-spectrum commercial LED grow light is the newest evolution of an already confusing term. Originally, full-spectrum light described the only real full-spectrum light source, the sun.

Over time, the term began to take on other characteristics of sunlight. The commercial lighting industry began using the name “full-spectrum” to sell lights that produced a Color Rendering Index (CRI) over 90. Humans perceive colors more accurately under light sources with a CRI over 90, much like how we see colors in our natural world under daylight. This was a beneficial feature for human environments such as offices, outdoor spaces, and others.

With the advent of horticultural lighting, companies once again began to borrow the term. Only this time, they claimed that full-spectrum LEDs could reproduce the effects of sunlight for plants.

Thus, the full-spectrum LED grow light was born. Unfortunately, lighting for plants is not quite that simple.

Problems with Full-Spectrum LED Grow Lights

There are many issues with the concept of full-spectrum LED grow lights. For starters, just because you name something, doesn’t make it true. This rhetoric may have made sense for lighting designers interested in selling lights so humans could see, but plants require light to feed, grow, and live.

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