The Daily Light Integral Chart: Understanding Your Plants' PPFD & Photoperiod Requirements

By Max Hallberg
Published: September 18, 2019 | Last updated: May 26, 2021 05:40:44
Presented by LEDTonic
Key Takeaways

Understanding the effect of intense light (PPFD) is essential for successful growth. Whether you have a full grow tent with LED lights or a single basil plant on your windowsill, it's important to keep the Daily Light Integral (DLI) chart in mind.


Light intensity, or rather, how densely packed light is with photons, is measured in micromoles per meter squared per second, umol/m2/s. This is called PPFD (Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density). Intense light has high PPFD and low-intense light has low PPFD. During bright daylight in a warm and sunny place, the sun's PPFD level hitting the earth is around 2000. During the evening, before sundown, it's down to 500-1000. During dark nights, close to zero.


light intensity greenhouse

Some plants thrive in warm climates while others do better in cold and shaded places. This means that some plants prefer intense sunlight (high PPFD) while others prefer less intense (low PPFD). Same goes for our everyday vegetables, herbs, fruits, houseplants, and flowers.


Time is also a factor. Low intense light but over a long period results in the same number of photons as twice the light intensity but only during half as long period of time. This is especially important to indoor grows where the light output of a grow light and its photoperiod (how long the light is on) can easily be regulated.

Understanding PPFD and DLI is essential to successfully setup an efficient grow. Whether it's a small grow with a single basil plant in the window sill, a grow tent with LED grow lights and various vegetables, or a greenhouse illuminated by the sun, DLI should be accounted for. Too high DLI numbers will burn a plant while too low numbers will hinder its growth potential.

growtent ppfd dli

We've made it easy for you to calculate the DLI exposure your plants are receiving based on PPFD levels and photoperiod. The PPFD levels produced by your grow light should be supplied by the manufacturer. Adjust the lamp height-wise from the plant to achieve desired PPFD levels, then set how long period of time the lamp should be operational for, each day.

Find the DLI recommendations for common plants below. Supplied kindly by Erik Runkle (professor and floriculture Extension specialist in the department of horticulture at Michigan State University) and Dr. Lynette Morgan (B. Hort. Tech. degree and a PhD in hydroponic greenhouse production from Massey University, New Zealand. Lynette is a partner with Suntec International Hydroponic Consultants and has authored several hydroponic technical books. Visit for more information). Full credit and many thanks to both of these scientists.

Daily light integral (DLI) describes the number of photosynthetically active photons (individual particles of light in the 400-700 nm range) that are delivered to a specific area (1m2) over a 24-hour period.


The formula for calculating DLI is: μmol m-2s-1 (or PPFD) x (3600 x photoperiod) / 1,000,000 = DLI (or moles/m2/day)
PPFD is the number of photons that arrive at a specific area (m2) every second, measured in micromoles (μmol m-2s-1).
1.000.000 micromoles = 1 mole
3600 seconds = 1 hour

The number of moles per hour, per m2, multiplied with photoperiod (the number of hours with that intensity) = DLI, Daily Light Integral

Photoperiod chart

Erin Runkle:

Vegetative cuttings (liners) - early
Vegetative cuttings (liners) - late
Seedlings (plugs) - early
Seedlings (plugs) - late
Shade plants (annuals andperennials)
Foliage plants
Potted bulbs
Stock plants (for cuttings)
Annual bedding plants
Leafy greens and herbs
Potted flowering plants
Cut flowers
Fruiting vegetables

Dr, Lynette Morgan:

Violets, orchids, ferns
Small herbs
Butterhead lettuce

You are growing cucumbers and want to give them around 25 DLI.
Your grow light produces 500 PPFD at 18" from the plant according to your grow light PPFD chart/light footprint.
If the lamp's distance is increased to 20" from the plant, it produces 400 PPFD at the canopy.
If the lamp is lowered to 15", it's producing 700 PPFD.

By looking at the chart we see that ~25 DLI is achieved by exposing the plant to 500 PPFD over 14 hours but also when exposing the plant to 400 DLI over 17 hours or 700 PPFD over 10 hours.

Choose a combination that fits both your grow set up but also your plant's minimum and maximum PPFD limits. Very high PPFD levels over a short duration of time or very low PPFD levels over a long duration of time are rarely ideal for good growth.

Cucumber plant in grow tent

This piece was originally published at It has been republished here with permission.


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Written by Max Hallberg | Lead Product Developer at LEDTonic

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Max Hallberg is the lead product developer and indoor growing enthusiast at LEDTonic. Max has tested, modified, and improved LED grow lights to achieve ideal growth and fantastic harvests for all types of indoor gardens. Knowing both hardware and plant biology, Max helps people get the most out of their grow.

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