diy grow light stand

The Cheapest DIY LED Grow Lights for Houseplants

Running out of window space for your plants?  Let me show you how to make a budget-friendly DIY grow light stand with LEDs that your plants will love!


Any plant lover knows the internal struggle of wanting more plants but not having enough well-lit space to keep them.  Whether it’s succulents, African violets orchids, or starting seedlings, there is something about houseplants that is truly addictive.  It is impossible to have just one!

My addiction to plants started about 10 ago as I was in awe of how easy they were to grow indoors.  But inevitably, the thrill of getting more plants was brought to an abrupt halt when I ran out of window space. 

Fortunately, I found an easy way to give my plants more well-lit space that also compliments the look of my home décor.  I’ve used this same LED system for years with African Violets and succulents and have had great success as I can customize the dimmable lights on a timer to meet the needs of different plant varieties all on one shelf.

With this step-by-step tutorial and video, I’ll show you how to turn any open bookshelf into an LED lighted-plant stand that you can be proud of!

LET ME SHOW YOU:

  • How to build your own custom LED grow light stand
  • Why LED lights are great for house plants and what kind to buy
  • How to add LED lights to any bookshelf that compliments your home’s decor
  • A video tutorial and printable pdf of the step-by-step instructions
  • Encouragement in how to have more faith in this week’s Renovate Your Faith Devotional a the end of this post
diy grow light stand

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The Cheapest LED DIY Grow Lights

☑️ If you are curious or in a hurry, here is a quick link to the same LED light tape I have used for years with great success: The Best Led Lights for Plants

What Are The Cheapest Grow Lights?

The term ‘grow light’ can be deceptive because houseplants do not have to be grown under dedicated ‘grow lights’ in order to thrive. They do need lights that provide the correct intensity of light, which is determined by either the brightness of the light source or the distance from the bulb. Indoor plants also need a varied color spectrum from lights that do not get hot as to cause leaf burn. Fortunately, most basic LED lights contain the full spectrum of blue and red lights that plants love without producing much heat.

The initial cost of LEDs can be more than fluorescent bulbs and fixtures but long term, LEDs are much cheaper because the bulbs never need to be replaced. Also, fluorescent bulbs often need to be replaced before they go out because their intensity lessens over time. LEDs stay the same intensity for years and the bulbs never need replacing. LED light tape is the cheapest DIY LED grow light because it is inexpensive to make and there are no bulbs to change.

Do Indoor Plants Grow Under LED Lights?

Plants grow incredibly well under LED lights. I know of several succulent and African violet sellers that propagate and grow all of their plants under LED lights. I have grown African violets and succulents under the same LED light tape for years and have consistently had great results. I have propagated and grown hundreds of African violets under these lights when I was a seller. I found that young plants love the cool light source but the LED lights still give them the intensity they need to grow into sturdy plants.

diy grow light stand

LED vs. Fluorescent Grow Lights

I originally had a 4 ft grow light stand with T-12 lights and I also experimented with T-5’s. Fluorescent lights put out a lot of heat, which can cause leaf burn to plants if water droplets are left on the leaves. LED lights do not get very hot at all. In fact, I often get water on the leaves of African violets and it never harms them since the LED lights aren’t hot enough to cause a burn. Also, LED’s are a safer option opposed to having hot fluorescent bulbs burning for long hours in your home. Fluorescent bulbs can be a fire hazard if they overheat.

In addition, the only way to change the intensity of fluorescent lights is by changing their distance from the plants. That means that you either have to take that into consideration when building your stand or make the height of your lights adjustable. Fluorescent lights on chains waste a lot of vertical space that could be better used for more plants.

I love that LED these lights are dimmable so their distance from the plants is irrelevant. On my DIY grow light stand, I’ll show you how to set different shelves to varying light strengths to fit the light needs of various houseplants. You can also build your light stand set-up with as many rows of LED’s as you’d like.

Since the LED light tape is flush against the underside of each shelf, it doesn’t take up any extra vertical space. The small size of LED light tape allows it to be almost hidden which is so much more attractive than the metal housing of traditional fluorescent lights.

What Is The Best Color for Grow Lights?

One question that plant growers often have is regarding the best color spectrum for their houseplants. Research has been done with plants under the extremes of both the cool and warm lights to find that plants like a combination of red and blue color spectrums but not so much green or yellow. Fortunately, all basic LED’s (like the light tape I use here) have the red and blue spectrums and more advanced bulbs have more green and yellow. I’ve grown succulents, African violets and orchids under this daylight LED light tape (5000-6000K) for years and they have all thrived. You could also use this setup for seed starting or indoor growing of garden plants.

What Are The Best Shelves for Growing Plants?

Any shelves can work for growing plants but I especially like open shelves to increase air flow. Also, for plants that like humidity, mold isn’t a concern with open shelves as it would be with closed shelves. Fortunately, industrial shelves work so well for any decor style including modern farmhouse, coastal decor or traditional styles. Here are some stunning, low-cost options here: Industrial Pipe Shelves

My industrial shelves are actually a wire shelving rack that I customized to have the style of industrial pipe shelves but still have the strength of a wire rack. You can also use this budget-friendly option to turn any wire rack into a stunning industrial shelf unit here: DIY Industrial Shelves (Wire Shelving Hack)

Supplies Needed For Your DIY LED Grow Light Kit

 

Printable Step-by-Step Instructions – If you want a printable version of the instructions below (with no ads), you can subscribe to my weekly email where you will get access to this printable and the rest of my free library.  See the form at the end of this post.

Plant Stand – You can use any open shelf to make your LED-lighted plant stand.  For my 5-shelf plant stand (64″x14″x30″), I gave a wire shelf unit an industrial pipe look on a budget here:  DIY Industrial Shelves(Wire Shelving Hack)  You can also find lots of low-cost open shelf options here:  Industrial Pipe Shelves

2 Rolls of 16.4 ft. LED Light Tape with Included Dimmer and Power Strip – I have used this LED light tape for years and my plants love them!

Wire

Soldering Iron, Solder and Wire Stippers – I like using this kit as everything is included and it’s low-cost: Soldering Kit  (I was really intimidated about soldering at first, but it is SO easy and I’m glad I went this route.  If you don’t want to solder there are quick connectors online, but I don’t have experience with them:  8mm LED Quick Connectors

 

Coroplast – Check your local home improvement store for the best prices.

Scissors – I love these for everything!  I have three pairs of them.

Clear Gorilla Tape

Black Duct Tape

Wire Strippers*

White Zip Ties OR Hot Glue – If you are using a stand with wire shelves, get the zip ties.  If you are using a stand with solid shelves, use hot glue.

1 Power Strip

2 Digital Timers (Optional) 

Light Meter (Optional) or use one on your iPhone.

LED Dimmer (If you need extras) 

Power Supply (If you need extras)

 

How to Build a DIY Grow Light Shelf With LED’s (Video Tutorial)

Don’t forget to check out the video that goes with this post! It should pop up on your screen but itf it doesn’t, you can access the YouTube version at the bottom of this post.

Step 1: Make a Plan for Your LED DIY Grow Light Stand

Don’t forget to download and print your free pdf instructions for your led plant light stand by filling out the short form at the end of this post.

Pick out any open bookshelf or wire rack for your DIY grow light shelf.  Check the supply list above for some low-cost wood and metal shelf options.  You can also convert a wire shelf to an industrial shelf by clicking here: DIY Wire Shelf Hack  

My plant stand has 5 shelves and measures 30” x 14” x 64”. This shelf unit has two rows of light tape per shelf but you could also have three rows like I did on my old 4ft grow light stand for African Violets.

Spend some time planning out your grow light stand setup.  Be sure to configure your layout so the power adaptor wire and the wire connecting one shelf to another is on the back side of your shelf. That way they will be easier to hide.

Each roll of light tape comes with 16.4 feet of LED light ribbon, 1 dimmer and one power adaptor.

The great thing about these light strips is that they are dimmable and can be easily adjusted for your plants’ light needs.  For my light stand, I wanted two options of light strength so plants that needed more light could be on the top two shelves and lower-light plants could be on the lower two shelves.  To do this, you need two power strips and two dimmers.  Since one power strip and dimmer is included with each roll of light tape, I got two rolls of light tape (click here for the current price).

Plan out your diagram on paper because it is so much easier to make corrections when they are written down versus when the lights are already on your stand.

Here’s the diagram I made:

diy grow light stand

Renovated Faith: What’s in a Name?

So many of my DIY projects remind me of God’s capacity to transform our brokenness and renew our hearts.  If you are a work-in-progress, just like I am, check out the Renovate Your Faith Devotional at the bottom of each DIY and home décor post.   Click here to get a weekly reminder of new posts by adding your email address.


Step 2: Prep Your Grow Light Setup

My initial African violet light stand didn’t have the addition of the coroplast, which not only covers the wires but helps to direct the light downwards to the plants. This was an idea I got from Bill Gauthier who is an excellent resource on lighting setups for houseplants. If you have any questions I can’t answer, I’ll be sure to get you in touch with him.

As shown in the video, cut the Coroplast to size so it is large enough to cover the underside of each shelf.  The coroplast gives you a surface to attach the lights and also helps to reflect the light downward toward your plants.

diy grow light stand

If you are on a tight budget, you can skip the coroplast by attaching the lights directly to be bottom of the shelves or use thick white poster board. 

diy grow light stand

Step 3: Wiring Grow Lights

Start with the power adapter end of the roll of LED light tape.  Cut the lengths of light tape to the desired length with scissors.  Be sure to cut only along one of the dotted lines.

diy grow light stand
You’ll notice my tape is slightly different than the tape I recommend. That’s because the tape I’m using is 10mm tape but the whole light strip industry has sense shifted to only using 8mm tape. The kind I recommend is the same kind I have used on my shelves, just slightly smaller. Click here for the light tape I recommend: 8mm Led Daylight Lighting Strips

I soldered my wires together and was so intimidated at first. But with the soldering kit and this video (How to Solder), it was so easy! There are also some quick connectors that could work instead, but honestly, I’m glad I soldered the wire to the light strips. Here are the quick connectors that should work for the 8mm light strips but I don’t have any experience with them: 8mm Quick Connectors

diy grow light stand

Below is the cut list for my 5-shelf DIY grow light stand:

5-Shelf Lighted Plant Stand Cut List:

4 – 8 inch pieces of wire, stripped 1/2 inch on each end. Click here to see how to strip a wire.

2 – 22-inch lengths of light tape that have the power adaptor connected*

6 – 22-inch lengths of light tape

2 – Longer lengths of wire. – The length will depend on your light stand size.

*Each roll of light tape comes with a power adaptor end and that’s why I got two rolls.  The 22-inch length of the power adaptor lengths of tape is the measurement of just the tape without the adaptor. 

diy grow light stand
Strip the ends of each of your wires before soldering.

Soldering Your LED Grow Light Circuit

If you are new to soldering as I was, I highly recommend this video: How To Solder One concern I had was the safety of soldering my own wiring but because of the AC adaptor this is a very low voltage. If you make a mistake and solder a negative side to a positive side, you will not electrocute yourself. I know, because I accidentally did this a few times. All that happens is that the light strip won’t turn on. With that said, I never use your lighting with the AC power adaptor, and be careful of the soldering iron as it is extremely hot.

My video will show me soldering but this video (How to Solder) explains it so much better than I do. I like putting my soldering iron in a mug as a holder because it’s less likely to tip over.

diy grow light stand

Start with the light tape with the attached power adaptor cord and solder one of the stripped wire pieces to the copper tabs on the tape, making sure to always connect positive to positive and negative to negative.  Then solder the wire to the next piece of wire and so forth. Always make sure you are soldering positive to positive and negative to negative.

diy grow light stand
I used a box and scotch tape to keep my wire and light strip in place while soldering.
Here is the same connection after the solder has been applied.

Once everything in soldered together, plug each power adaptor cable into each dimmer and plug them into the wall to make sure they are working.

Step 4: Attach The Connected LED Grow Light Parts To The Coroplast

As shown in the video, attach the lights to the coroplast before attaching the coroplast to the shelves.

Pull the backing off one piece of tape at a time and attach it to the coroplast.  The adhesive on the light strips is very weak, which is why we will need the clear gorilla tape to hold the light tape in place. 

diy grow light stand

Once your lighting is attached, add a piece of clear gorilla tape to the tape every 4-6 inches.

Step 5: Attach Your DIY LED Lighting To Your Shelves

If you have wire shelves, stab sets of 2 holes on each side of the coroplast and also one set in the center.  Thread the white twist ties through each set of holes and use them to attach the coroplast and lights to the wire.

diy grow light stand

If your shelf doesn’t have wire, you can use command strips or some dabs of hot glue to attach the coroplast to the underside of each shelf.   The nice thing about hot glue is that it is strong but it’s not really permanent.  If you want to repurpose the shelf later, it’s easy to peel off the glue.

You can also add a digital wall timer(I love these) to your light stand so that your lighting is completely automated.  I love these timers because they are not mechanical and you don’t have to hear them ticking constantly. Adjust the lights to your plants needs. 

diy grow light stand

How to Adjust The Lighting on Your DIY Plant Stand

As I mentioned before, my light stand has two complete strings of lifts with two power supplies and two dimmers. The first string of lights is on the top two plant shelves and I like to put plants that need a lot of light here. The second string of lights is on the bottom two plant shelves and I adjusted the intensity to better suit lower-light plants. I use my light meter to record the light level on each shelf.

As time passes, I pay attention to each of my plants. Every type of plant – whether you’re starting seeds for a vegetable garden, African violets and even succulents – will show signs if they are not getting enough light or if they are getting too much. I watch for signs and adjust accordingly. For example, if a succulent on the bottom shelf is starting to show signs of etiolation, I’ll move it to one of the top shelves to get more light. Then, I wait a couple of weeks to see if it is still showing signs of needing light.

diy grow light stand

If a large portion of the plants on the top shelf are showing signs of needing more light, I adjust the dimmer for the whole shelf to be brighter. Then, I watch those plants for a couple of weeks before making any further adjustments. It is important to wait to see how your plants react to culture changes and this can take some time.

diy grow light stand

Here is the light reading for my shelves at the moment by positioning the light meter level just over the top of the middle plant:

Shelf 1&2 (top):       330 fc (foot-candles)

Shelf 3&4:                  260 fc

diy grow light stand

Step 6: Final Steps on Your DIY Indoor Plant Stand with Grow Lights

Last, hide any cords with duct tape the same color as your shelf so your light stand has a clean look, free of hanging cords..

Stop! Don’t forget to take a pic.  When you are done, post the pic on Instagram and tag me @renovatedfaith! ❤️

diy grow light stand

diy grow light stand

RENOVATE YOUR FAITH: How To Better Trust God

I’ve always been a worrier and unfortunately, the worries of my mind would often run faster than it seemed my faith could keep up.

If you have been in this world any amount of time, you know that hard things happen.  I have suffered my own struggles through my daughter’s rare autoimmune disease and mom’s breast cancer.  (Both are in remission!)  I have had health issues of my own as well.  So, like you, I am fully aware that bad things can and do happen.

Sometimes when I look around at other women going through hard times, I question if I could actually have the same faith to endure the same hard circumstance.  I have assumed that surely, their experiences and faithfulness had qualified them to be able to trust Christ in even the most difficult circumstances, thinking to myself:

“But what about me?  How can I possibly have the same faith as they do?  What if the same horrible situation happens to me and I fall apart?”

Fortunately, the parable of the mustard seed shows up that faith doesn’t work that way.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.  Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32

Faith is not something that needs to be earned or stored up.  If you have had enough faith to accept Christ as your Savior, He tells us that we have enough faith to endure life’s trials.  

Faith is a choice, not an emotion.  Sometimes we just have to choose to believe something even though our emotions don’t back up that choice.  I’ve seen this in my own life and at first, I felt like I was ‘faking it’.  Choosing to believe something that my emotions didn’t “feel” seemed inauthentic.  But the more I choose to have faith in a given situation, the more my emotions began to line up with my faith.

Emotions are God-given and they are important indicators.  But God calls us not to set our mind on how we feel, but on what we KNOW about Christ through His Word.

Our Heavenly Father is outrageously gentle and tenderhearted.  Whatever you are struggling with, take some time to pray and confide in Him.  Don’t insist on a feeling as proof that God has heard you and is working in your situation.  He is trustworthy and He is caring for us regardless of what our emotions tell us.  

The beautiful thing about faith is that its not determined by our feelings but it’s object.  If the object of your faith is God, you can rest knowing that the author of all creation who is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient and is always on your side.  This is how even the smallest faith can move mountains.  Because faith is not something contingent on us in any way, we can trust God to take care of whatever hardships come and be confident that He will work things for His Good which is also for our good.

God never leaves a project half-done…He continually works on each one of us, as a lavish expression of His amazing love and grace.  So many of my DIY projects remind me of how God renovates our hearts.  If you are a work-in-progress, just like I am, check out the Renovate Your Faith Devotional at the bottom of this post.  Click here to get a weekly reminder of new posts by email.

For more spiritual encouragement, click here for the rest of my project posts that also include Renovate Your Faith devotionals.

diy grow light stand
diy grow light stand

FREE DIY LED Grow Light Printable Instructions

Here’s where you can subscribe to my weekly email list to get a free PDF printable of these instructions that are ad-free.  Get the password for the free printable library that includes this printable, wall art downloads, checklists, and templates by filling out this short form:

diy grow light stand

Below are some of my favorite African violets: LE-Vzbitie Slivki Sport, Mandan Dandy by Stork, Ness’ Ruffled Skies and LE-Leto Krasnoe.

FAQ’s: DIY Grow Light Stand with LED’s

What are the best grow lights for indoor plants?

LED plants are the best grow lights for indoor houseplants because they don’t get as hot as fluorescent T-12 or T-5 lights where heat on leaves can cause leaf burn. Also, LED lights can be dimmed to customize the intensity of the light to your plants’ needs.

Can any LED be used as a grow light?

While I haven’t tested every LED light, I know that the light tape (Daylight, 6000K) used in this tutorial is great for plants. Plants love red and blue in the light spectrum and most basic LED’s have this combination already. I have used this light tape with hundreds of plants for 5 years and have had excellent results.

How far should LED grow lights be from plants? How do you tell if grow lights are too close?

My LED light tape is approximately 7 inches from the tops of my plants. Since LED plants are dimmable, you can easily control the brightness and set a different brightness for each shelf.

Here are some helpful articles to better understand the light needs of different indoor plants:

Light Needs of African Violets

Succulents and Sunlight

Can Too Much Sunlight Hurt Orchids?

How many hours a day should plants be under a grow light?

Because indoor plants need more light that outdoor plants, it best for them to get 12-16 hours of light a day.

Can you leave grow lights on 24 hours a day?

LED grow lights can be left on for 24 hours a day but your plants need a 6-8 hour break from light every 24 hours. A plant will actually die over time if it doesn’t get a break from sunlight.

Is it cheaper to build an LED grow light?

It is much cheaper to build an LED grow light stand than to buy one online. When you build your own, you not only save a ton of money but can build it to your exact specifications and your plants’ needs.

What lights do professional growers use?

Professional growers who traditionally used fluroescent lighting are switching to LED’s because of the mix of red and blue spectrum in most LED lights. Also, there are no bulbs to replace and they are much safer in a humid environment.

Can you use this setup for a PVC or wood DIY grow light stand?

This setup can be used on any plant stand whether it’s a bookshelf or a pre-built plant stand made of pvc or wood. There are no limits to the options with LED light tapes and more rows of lights can be added to increase intensity.

diy grow light stand
diy grow light stand

More Posts Related to DIY Grow Light Shelves On A Budget

African Violet Grow Light Stand With LED Lights

How to Propagate African Violets From Leaf Cuttings

How To Transform Wire Shelving into DIY Industrial Shelves

Easy Farmhouse Light Fixture Makeovers on a Budget

Easy Two-Toned China Cabinet Makeover

How To Build A LED Grow Light Stand, YouTube Video

Final Thoughts on Building an Indoor Plant Stand with Grow Lights

Don’t forget to download your printable light stand instructions by filling out the short form above. With this easy tutorial, you can know use LED light tape to customize a light stand that will look beautiful with your home decor and also will various lighting needs of several different houseplants. Now that you aren’t limited to window space, you have every excuse you need to go out and buy more plants!

I love to hear your thoughts and questions!  Scroll down to leave a comment and I WILL reply! ❤️

Blessings,

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Karen,
    Your new light stand design looks great! I’m happy you liked my idea of using coroplast for the LED strip backing. I built my light stand based on your original design, but thought the coroplast and zip ties made a neater appearance. Now thanks to your video, a lot of people can benefit.
    Bob G

  2. Found this article on the shelf and light project very interesting. I wondered if this can be done without soldering, so I can make a choice either way. I have several shelving possibilities even a 5ft. Indoor greenhouse that has always been a challenge with lighting. I never knew these strips could work for plants 🤗 Every year my husband asks me to start his hot pepper garden seeds but they always get so leggy waiting to be planted. I’m hoping this will work out.

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