Getty / RoBeDeRo

Whether your outdoor space lacks the room you need to grow everything on your list, or you simply prefer to bring a bit of the outdoors in, one of the most important parts of maintaining an indoor garden comes down to lighting. Frank Petricoin, Gardyn’s lead grower, shares everything you need to know about picking the right light system for your interior growing space.

Related: Secrets to Starting Seeds Indoors

First, understand your plants’ needs.

Indoor gardening gives us the ultimate control over our plants, explains Petricoin, which means it becomes our responsibility to provide them with everything they need. That includes soil, hydration, and even lighting. “When considering any light for your indoor garden, the three most important things are spectrum, intensity, and efficiency,” he says. “Typically, full-spectrum lighting produces the best growth and is most identical to natural sunlight.”

Since indoor gardeners can manipulate light intensities, spectrums, and photoperiods to control the shape and stage of their plants, they need to first understand what their particular varieties need. “For example, light intensities can be increased for shorter, squatter plants or dialed back for new seedlings or to slow growth on mature plants,” he says. “Increasing photoperiods past 16 hours generally keep short-day plants in a vegetative state and encourages flowering in long-day plants.” If you shorten them to 12 hours you run the risk of reversing that effect, he adds, so choose your lights (and their settings) accordingly.

Use LED lights correctly.

When using LED lighting, it’s important to make sure the intensity and spacing is set up in such a way that no “hotspots” form, notes Petricoin. These put your plants at risk—in these zones, the light is too intense for them to handle. This is also why “efficiency is so important,” he says, “because lighting and cooling are the most energy-intensive aspects of indoor gardening, and inefficient lights turn electricity into heat instead of light.”

Invest wisely.

Petricoin says a lot of people have sticker shock when they first see the price of high-grade LED lights. “Indeed, it is the most expensive light most of us will ever purchase, so many try to cut corners by buying a cheaper model for a lower cost,” he says. “However, cheaper LED lights often do not produce spectrums, coverages, and intensities for plants to thrive happily.” Think of it this way: Since light sources are a part of your plants’ food, it’s important to be sure you’re feeding them the best “ingredients” possible.

Don’t sacrifice form for function.

Additionally, Petricoin points out that many indoor garden setups can be aesthetically displeasing. “People are typically forced to choose between dedicating an entire room to their garden, installing a big ugly grow tent in their living room, or dealing with intense light that can be annoying and burdensome,” he explains. However, companies like his have developed non-intrusive systems that look great anywhere in the home, without sacrificing the horticultural quality of the system—giving you the opportunity to buy an LED grow system that not only produces healthy and productive plants, but also looks great in your living space.