Best Grow Lights for Seed Starting in 2023

Once seedlings break the soil surface, they need light immediately. High quality light is essential. We’ll explain why you need to use the best grow lights for seed starting.

Our Favorite LED Panel
best grow lights for seed starting


If you’re a serious gardener, this is the fixture for you. Viparspectra just keeps on impressing us. We love the dimmable feature which enables you to start seedlings with this grow light. At 100% brightness you can even take plants to full size indoors. Uses top of the line Samsung LED diodes. They even include two easy to raise/lower ratcheting pulley straps for hanging. Light output from this grow light is blinding at full power.

Dimensions12″ x 11″
Light colorFull spectrum, uses LED of 3000K warm white, 5000K white, 660nm deep red, and 730nm IR light (appears white)
Coverage Area36″ x 36″
Type of LightLED


  • Completely silent (no fans)
  • Full spectrum light
  • High output Samsung LM301B diodes
  • Dimmable
  • Includes hanging hardware
  • Solid construction


  • Brighter in center of lighted area

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Using the Best Grow Lights for Seed Starting is Essential

We have a lot of experience starting seeds indoors and know how important it is to provide the right amount of light intensity. Without it, your seedlings will suffer.

We’ve seen it time and time again on gardening forums. A new gardener puts their seed trays on a windowsill. Soon after the seeds sprout, they ask why the seedlings are so stretched out and lean toward the window. Let’s just get this out of the way, light from the window will never be sufficient, even a south facing window.

Providing the proper amount of light will produce shorter stockier seedlings with strong stems. This will be especially important when it’s time to put them in the garden outdoors. If the plants aren’t sturdy, they’ll fall over, require staking, and will be more likely to succumb to heavy wind or pests.

Summary of the Best Grow Lights for Seed Starting

Best OverallViparspectra P1000 LED Grow Light

Best T5 Fixture (With Bulbs)Durolux T5 Grow Light

Best Bang for the BuckBLOOM PLUS LED Grow Light

Best LED Strip LightBarrina 4FT LED Grow Lights – 4 Pack

Best FloodlightsGE LED Lighting Grow Light Bulbs – 2 Pack

Pepper seedlings under T5 Grow Lights

Important Features of the Best Grow Lights for Seed Starting

Type of Grow Light

The best grow lights for seed starting will be either T5 fluorescent or LED. While it is possible to start seedlings with LED shop lights, you won’t get ideal growth. On top of the growth limitations of shop lights, the cost difference is negligible from a LED panel fixture like the Bloom Plus.

T5 Fluorescent

Until recently, we used 5/8″ dia. T5 grow light fixtures (photo above) with excellent results. They are many times brighter than the T8 bulbs and more compact. A T5 fixture with 4-8 bulbs can easily grow plants to several feet tall. The T5 bulbs do need replacing periodically since they lose intensity over time. If your goal, like many gardeners, is to grow your pepper and tomato plants more than 6″ tall indoors you’ll benefit from T5 lighting.


We recently switched over to using LED lights for our grows. A quality LED panel has much more intensity and is more energy efficient than T5 lights. Top quality LED fixtures usually cost a little more than T5’s upfront but can be used for everything from starting seeds to growing full sized plants. Couple the energy efficiency with the fact you don’t need to replace bulbs and the LED lights pay for themselves over time. If you want to invest in an excellent LED fixture, consider the Viparspectra P1000 for seedlings or full-size plants. Its big brother, the Viparspectra XS2000, will brightly light the entire footprint of a 2’x4′ grow tent.

Light Color Temperature

Light color temperature is rated in “K”. The light from the sun at high noon is 6500k. Numbers higher than 6500k will start to appear bluer. The light will appear redder for numbers less than 6500k. You may also see lights called “warm white” or “cool white”. For starting seeds indoors, a light color temperature between 5000k-6500k (cool light) is ideal.

Intensity of the Best Grow Lights for Seed Starting

Light intensity is rated in PPFD (photosynthetic photon flux density). I know, it sounds complicated. Just keep in mind that seedlings require about 100-300 PPFD. Most grow lights will tell you the PPFD rating of the light but the PPFD drops the further the light is from the plants. So, pay attention to the distance which vendors make about the PPFD rating. For instance, the light may be rated at 200 PPFD at 12″. If your plants are 8″ tall and the light is hung 12″ above your plants, the lower leaves of the plants may only be getting 100 PPFD.

If you’re looking for an in-depth explanation of the light requirements of plants, then check out this video by Apogee Instruments.

Optional Features

Depending on the type of fixture you buy, it may have some additional features. For instance, a T5 fixture may have two power switches so you can use half of the bulbs while your seedlings are just getting started. When talking LED grow lights, having a dimmer switch is a nice feature.

Another nice feature is the ability to daisy chain light fixtures. This is when you plug one light fixture into the next and they all turn on and off together from one power source or timer. Many T5 fixtures have a plug to accommodate daisy chaining.

While you’ll rarely see it with fluorescents, some LED fixtures may include a built-in timer.


We like it when manufacturers include ratcheting pulleys. These mechanisms make it simple to raise and lower the lights over your seed starting trays.

How We Evaluate the Best Grow Lights for Seed Starting

The most important factors we consider to make it on our list of the best grow lights for seed starting are color temperature and light intensity. We also consider cost, efficiency, durability, features, and any accessories included. You’ll notice that we listed the grow lights by best-in-class, everything from best value to best quality. This way we can ensure that everyone can find the best grow light to fit their budget and suit their specific needs.

Durolux T5 Grow Light

Best T5 Fixture
best grow lights for seed starting t5 fixtures

We’ve used these T5 fixtures for years. They include four 24″ bulbs with a 6500k spectrum. The lightweight aluminum hood is highly reflective and does a great job directing light down towards your plants. Low heat output so you can keep the bulbs close to your plants without burning them. Two switches allow you to run either 2 or 4 bulbs. Included accessories are hanging hooks and chains.

Dimensions23.5″W x 12.5″L x 4″T
Light colorComes with full spectrum 6500k bulbs
Coverage area24″ x 24″
Type of lightT5 Fluorescent


  • Lightweight reflective aluminum hood
  • Bulbs lock solidly into place
  • Ability to turn on 2 or 4 bulbs
  • Can use mix of bulbs for different spectrum
  • 8′ long power cord


  • Need to replace bulbs periodically


Best Bang for the Buck
best grow lights for seed starting led

For those wanting to dip your feet into the LED scene, we recommend this fixture. We had excellent results when starting seedlings and even growing some plants to full size. It comes with all the necessary hardware for hanging the fixture.

Dimensions11.6″W x 10.8″L x 2.2″T
Light colorFull spectrum (appears white)
Coverage area24″ x 24″
Type of lightLED


  • Solid construction
  • Uses Samsung LED diodes
  • Aluminum heat sink
  • Includes IR diodes


  • Brighter in center of lighted area
  • Not dimmable

Barrina 4FT LED Grow Lights – 4 Pack

Best LED Strip Lights
best grow lights for seedlings barrina

Barrina has quite a few nice grow lights on the market but we like these strip lights the best. Very low heat output from these lights so they can be placed very close to the plants. They can be daisy chained so you only need one power outlet. The fixtures come with a lot of accessories for mounting and linking the lights together. Use for seedlings only, not full-size plants.

Dimensions47.1″L x 1.3″W x 1.38″T
Light colorRed/Blue (appears pink)
Coverage area48″ x 8″ per strip
Type of lightLED


  • Low heat output
  • Excellent energy efficiency
  • Can be mounted in many configurations
  • Light hood constructed of aluminum


  • Only good for seedlings, not full size plants

GE LED Lighting Grow Light Bulbs – 2 Pack

Best LED Floodlights
ge led bulbs best grow lights for seed starting

If you’re only starting a small number of seedlings, you could consider these bulbs. While the light output from these bulbs is good, the coverage area is small. We had good results with growing seedlings with these bulbs in close proximity. The convenience of the bulbs is that they can be screwed into any light fixture or clamp light hood.

Dimensions4.06″L x 4.06″W x 5.94″T
Light colorFull spectrum (appears white)
Coverage area12″ diameter per bulb
Type of lightLED


  • Low heat output
  • Energy efficiency
  • Can be used in any standard light fixture
  • Inexpensive


  • Only covers a small footprint
  • Only good for small amount of seedlings

Final Thoughts

If you’re serious about gardening and plan on starting your seeds every year, we recommend investing the money in a Viparspectra P1000 or XS2000. These LED fixtures both cover a large area and are extremely bright. If you’re looking for something a little more budget friendly the BLOOM PLUS LED Grow Light is a great choice. With the Viparspectra or Bloom Plus, you’ll not only be able to start seeds but grow plants to several feet tall. For those on a tight budget and only starting a small tray of seedlings the GE LED floodlights will be sufficient, but you may need to pick up some clamp lights to mount them.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of grow light is best for seed starting?

There isn’t really a type of grow light fixture that’s best, it’s the color temperature and intensity that matters. The best grow lights for seed starting will be full spectrum, ideally 6500k. However, 5000k-6500k is adequate. The intensity should be between 100-300 PPFD to ensure strong growth.

Are LEDs the best grow lights for seed starting?

In a word, yes. LED grow lights have come a long way in the last few years. Just be mindful that there are a lot of junk LED grow lights on the market, many fall short of their big claims. Do your research, don’t just rely on manufacturers’ claims. The lights we recommend here have all had their claims verified.

Should seedlings get 24 hours of light?

The recommended amount of light for seedlings is between 14-16 hours per day. While the seedlings would grow continually if provided light 24 hours a day, it is unnecessary. Anything beyond 18 hours of light per day is just a waste of electricity.

How far should seedlings be from a grow light?

Fluorescent fixtures using T5 bulbs put out a bit of heat, they are generally kept about 4-12″ from the seedlings. Powerful LED lights may be anywhere from 18-24″ from the seedlings. The intensity required by seedlings is 100-300 PPFD. Consult the manufacturer’s manual to determine the distance from the seedlings your light should be to achieve that number.

How do you know if grow light is strong enough?

If your seedlings are getting excessively tall (leggy) then your grow light is not strong enough. The reason the seedlings stretch is because they are trying to get closer to the light.

How do you know if seedlings are too close to light?

If your lights are too close to the seedlings, you’ll see signs of burning. This is where the leaves start getting yellow or even brown, starting on the tips and edges of the leaves. The veins of the leaf will usually still be green.

Do grow lights help seeds germinate?

Most vegetable seeds do not need light to germinate. If the seeds are required to be buried below the soil surface, they will not benefit from the light being turned on. That said, it doesn’t harm anything by leaving on the lights before germination. In fact, leaving the lights on before germination will ensure the seedlings get light immediately once they pop up above the soil.


I hope this review has been helpful in finding the best grow lights for starting your seeds. If you are looking for seeds to fill your trays, please feel free to visit our seed store.

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