Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) based on excitonic material systems, in which tightly bound photoexcited electron–hole pairs migrate together rather than as individual charge carriers, offer an attractive route to developing solution-processed, high-performance light emitters. Here, we demonstrate bright, efficient, excitonic infrared LEDs through the incorporation of quantum dots (QDs)1 into a low-dimensional perovskite matrix. We program the surface of the QDs to trigger fast perovskite nucleation to achieve homogeneous incorporation of QDs into the matrix without detrimental QD aggregation, as verified by in situ grazing incidence wide-angle X-ray spectroscopy. We tailor the distribution of the perovskites to drive balanced ultrafast excitonic energy transfer to the QDs. The resulting LEDs operate in the short-wavelength infrared region, an important regime for imaging and sensing applications, and exhibit a high external quantum efficiency of 8.1% at 980 nm at a radiance of up to 7.4 W Sr−1 m−2.