Guide to Lighting Your Garden

My Garden Life
August 30, 2018
Table of Contents

One of summer’s great joys are the long days leading to lazy evenings out relaxing in your garden. But even as autumn approaches and days get shorter, there’s no reason you can’t keep enjoying your outdoor spaces. There are a range of options for lighting your garden, all of which will give you more hours to experience your plantings.

Landscape Lighting

Though technically any light features you choose to add to your garden can be referred to as landscape lighting, usually when the term is used, it means the formal lights that illuminate special trees, plantings, or other features. Examples of landscape lighting include: Canopied lights on one to two-foot (30 to 60 cm) posts softly illuminating a low garden bed or set at intervals to mark a garden path; a spotlight throwing a wide beam at a tree; or two spotlights crossed to highlight a feature like a fountain or ornamental swing.

Garden Landscape Lights_Illuminated Night Garden

Pros of landscape lighting:

  • Long lasting.
  • Makes a dramatic statement.
  • Showcases prized garden features.

Cons of landscape lighting:

  • Can be expensive, especially if professionally installed.
  • Better for lighting the garden, less effective at lighting spaces (decks, patios) where people congregate.


String Lights

Hanging lights outdoors brings to mind decorating for the holidays, but with a whole host of affordable LED string light options coming on the market, you should consider these sparkling beauties for every day. Available in sizes from the tiniest fairy lights to softball-shaped globes to full-blown Chinese lanterns, string lights are a great way to provide illumination and a festive air to your deck or patio. Crisscross them over your deck or apartment balcony to provide funky, diffused overhead lighting; run them along a banister to help brighten stairways; or weave them around window boxes to create a fairyland feel.

Pergola with Roses, Fabric and a String of Lights, Night Garden

Pros of string lights:

  • Inexpensive.
  • Easy to install
  • Great for lighting small spaces.
  • Simple to change up design.

Cons of string lights:

  • Need to be close to a power source (if not using solar or battery).
  • Best not to use on wet lawns or garden beds.
  • Expensive for lighting large spaces.
  • Need posts, walls, or fences to secure them.


Garden Lanterns

Garden lanterns are individual lights, usually electric but can also be solar or candle, that hang from hooks, posts, or even strings, as in the case of some Chinese lanterns. They often have unique designs that match the feature they are intended to light.

Garden Lights Lanterns

Pros of garden lanterns:

  • Can be pieces of art in themselves, adding to the garden design rather than just illuminating it.
  • Casts soft light in a specific area.

Cons of garden lanterns:

  • Individually, rarely throw enough light to be useful as a path marker or a light for a gathering space.
  • Need poles or hooks on which to hang.



Torches around a deck, pool, or other outdoor entertaining spaces lend an air of the exotic to your lighting design. Most garden torches burn a specially formulated oil, with flames that can keep going through the night.

Torches Along a Path, Night Garden Lights

Pros of garden torches:

  • Dramatic, festive, good light for entertaining spaces.
  • Easy to rearrange.

Cons of garden torches:

  • Needs constant supervision to avoid fire (so not a long-term lighting solution).
  • Important to place securely away from dry brush or other flammable materials.
  • Dangerous around small children and rambunctious pets.


Solar Lights

Except for torches, most types of garden lights have a solar version. Solar canopy lights are great for beds or along paths, for example. But it’s important to note, their efficacy will depend on the amount of sun your garden receives and the quality of the lighting fixture you purchase.

Solar Garden Lights Along Walkway, Stairs

Choosing the right lighting for your garden is one more way to maximize your enjoyment of outdoor areas. What you end up with will depend on the size of your deck, porch, balcony or garden, your budget, and what you want to get out of your outdoor living spaces at night.

Looking for more ideas to enhance your outdoor areas? Check out these Outdoor Room Design Ideas!

1 Comment

  1. Eli Richardson

    It’s great that you described the different types of lighting fixtures we’d add to our garden. Next weekend, we’re focusing on renovating our backyard, and we’d love to add cozy lights to it, so we’ll read your tips before choosing them. Thank you for the advice on string lights and garden lanterns.


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