Does Natural Sunlight Effect LED Grow Lights?

Indoor and outdoor cultivation were once considered two separate worlds in the gardening community, but now the lines between the two are becoming increasingly blurred.

High-tech, year-round greenhouses are at the forefront of this convergence, as they utilize the best practices of both methods in a creative compromise.

Providing adequate sunlight is an ongoing challenge for gardeners, especially during the winter months. While sunlight has always been the preferred way to grow plants, technological advances have led to a powerful alternative: grow lights, particularly the most advanced LED grow lights.

These greenhouses harness solar energy to power the basic functions of plants while using indoor cultivation techniques such as light sensors, shade cloth systems, dehumidifiers, and industrial heaters to simulate indoor environmental control in an outdoor environment.

But how do these lights compare to natural sunlight? Does natural sunlight affect LED grow lights?

All-rounded Comparison between LED Grow Lights vs. Sunlight

One of the standout features of LED plant growth lights is the customizable light duration they offer.

The availability of sunlight, on the other hand, is dependent on geographical and seasonal factors. Even in the sun-rich equatorial regions, it is typically only available for about 10-12 hours per day.

This number decreases significantly as you move towards the poles. At night, due to insufficient light, plant growth almost comes to a standstill. Conversely, LED plant growth lights allow you to control the photoperiod of your plants around the clock.

Intensity and Wavelength

The maturity of plants is intrinsically linked to light intensity. Under natural light, you get what you get; there is no dial to turn up or turn down the light intensity according to the plant’s needs.

In contrast, the level of customization offered by LED plant growth lights is unmatched by sunlight. By adjusting the height of the LED lights or using built-in reflectors, you can direct and amplify the light intensity to meet the specific needs of your plants.


Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert light into energy. It can only take place under specific light color and intensity conditions.

Sunlight can provide a broad spectrum of light, but it does not guarantee the precise blue and red wavelengths that plants prefer for optimal photosynthesis. It is not available at night, and photosynthesis stops, which slows down plant growth.

LED grow lights can be used to overcome these limitations. They can be programmed to provide the specific light colors and intensities that plants need for optimal photosynthesis. Additionally, they can be used to provide light during the night, which can help to accelerate plant growth.

LED plant lights offer an excellent solution to this problem. They can not only work around the clock, but they can also provide the precise blue and red light spectrum that plants need for maximum photosynthesis.

This means that your plants can continuously produce food, resulting in healthier yields and faster maturity.

Temperature and Heat Control

Temperature is a critical factor for plant growth. While sunlight provides a one-size-fits-all heat, some plants thrive in cooler conditions.

LED grow lights produce minimal heat and often come with ventilation systems, allowing you to maintain an ideal growing environment. This precise control can greatly improve yield quality and save you time and investment.

Spectrum Customization

One undeniable advantage of LED plant grow lights is the ability to customize the growth light spectrum according to the needs of the plants.

The spectrum provided by sunlight is fixed, leaving you powerless to make any adjustments. In contrast, LED technology allows you to fine-tune the colors and spectrum, thereby promoting healthy and thriving plant growth.

Can You Use LED Grow Lights and Sunlight Together?

I don’t like being asked the question: do plants grow better in sunlight or in LED grow lights?

If you’re after the most natural, eco-friendly option and have access to abundant sunlight, then natural light is better. However, if you need better control over growth conditions or face geographical or seasonal limitations, LED plant lights can provide benefits that sunlight can’t match.

Ideally, a combination of both light sources would be the best choice to maximize plant health and yield. Some commercial operations use natural light supplemented with artificial plant growth lights to achieve the best results.

Modern greenhouses incorporate the best practices of both indoor and outdoor cultivation. In terms of lighting, this means carefully balancing natural sunlight with supplemental light. It’s revolutionizing how people grow crops outdoors.

Here, we’ll share some professional insights on greenhouse supplemental lighting applications from Brendan Strath, the Advanced Solutions Director, and Plant Ninja:

How important is supplemental lighting in greenhouse cultivation and what are its main benefits?

Stability in Crop Production: Greenhouse supplemental lighting has become a vital component of outdoor agriculture. By providing a consistent light source in the greenhouse, growers can maintain crop production during short winter days and adverse weather conditions.

Cost Reduction: Combining natural sunlight with supplemental lighting significantly lowers production costs. Unlike indoor cultivation where each light may need to run at full capacity all day (especially during peak sunlight hours), greenhouse lighting is often more dispersed.

As a result, the lights operate for shorter durations, cover larger areas, and greatly reduce the cost per square foot of canopy compared to indoor setups.

What do you believe is the most significant benefit of supplemental lighting in greenhouse cultivation?

For me, the primary impact of using supplemental lighting in greenhouse cultivation lies in its effect on the carbon footprint.

Utilizing the world’s most potent light source—the sun—to carry out the heavy lifting and supplementing with just a few hours of light each day when sunlight intensity is low is a more environmentally friendly method of crop production compared to cultivating directly indoors.

Additionally, employing this approach allows for year-round production of high-quality crops, leading to cost savings in the production process.

Is the use of supplemental lighting more prominent among growers in some parts of the U.S. than others? If so, why?

That’s a great question and often overlooked. Yes, at first glance, some regions are more conducive to greenhouse cultivation than others.

Any area with extreme weather conditions (such as cold temperatures, strong winds, snow, etc.) is highly suitable for greenhouses; they provide environmental protection for crops while harnessing sunlight.

In regions with limited sunlight, supplemental lighting also proves beneficial for crops. However, with careful planning and ingenuity, greenhouse cultivation can be effectively employed in almost any location on Earth.


Source: Maximum Yield 01/18/19. “Combining Sunlight and Grow Lights: Supplemental Greenhouse Lighting”

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