Your outdoor areas should be as flexible and transformative as your interiors. Clever use of garden lighting ideas will create a space that’s useful year round, regardless of sunlight.
There are all manner of lighting designs to work into your garden ideas – some that can be added ad hoc and some which require a bit of planning. If you’re currently landscaping, then be sure to work integrated garden lighting into your design with smart spotlights in walls and pathways to light your way and up-lighters to accentuate beautiful architecture, water features and sculptural planting. Light a pathway to give your garden design structure.
For an easier addition, look to solar powered lighting, wireless lamps, festoon lamps and the prettiest of lanterns. ‘As an easy quick-fix, lanterns and candles are your go-to,’ adds Jo Plant, Head of Design, Pooky (opens in new tab). ‘They have such a warming and welcoming effect and can easily transform a tired, unused outdoor area. The more candles the merrier, scattered in every corner, across your dining table, as a runner.’
Garden lighting ideas
‘When it comes to your garden, you want to create a layered lighting scheme with different sources at various heights just as you would in your interiors, to help ensure there is good lighting and you can change the mood and feel of the space,’ advises Reilly Gray, Founder, SUNS Lifestyle (opens in new tab).
‘By planning your garden lighting ideas and ensuring you have multiple sources, you will be able to create ambience whilst ensuring there’s ample lighting for however you’re using the space, be it socialising with family and friends, alfresco feasts or relaxing with a drink and a good book.’
1. Don’t underestimate wall lights
Outdoor wall lighting is a great starting point for garden lighting ideas. Not only will they provide a layer of security, but they’ll add an extra layer of style.
‘Outdoor lighting can also be highly effective at creating something from nothing. A wall that you might not think twice about during the day can become a dramatic feature at night with clever lighting,’ explains Piero de Marchis, Director, Detail Lighting (opens in new tab). ‘By aiming a wide beam of light from below or above, a wall can be washed with light and bring its warm tones to life.’
‘Alternatively, positioning the beam closer to the wall can catch and accentuate the natural texture of the wall itself using light and shadow. However, if you have a modern home with a “perfect” finish, any slight imperfections and undulations would be exposed by positioning the light close to the wall. So, consider the position of your exterior lighting carefully – possibly even experiment at night using a wide beamed torch to see how light affects the surface.’
2. Illuminate a small space
Thoughtful lighting is important when working within small garden ideas. In a cosy courtyard or petite patio, add in subtle and small spotlights. Raised up high, you won’t be losing any of the footprint for dining or planting.
Choosing a style and tone that blends in also means they won’t act as a visual distraction when not in use.
3. Add atmosphere to al fresco dining
Mix and match garden lighting ideas to add depth and atmosphere to dining spaces. Start by using wall lights to zone the space and add in hurricane lamps, lanterns and candles to finish the look to perfection.
‘Entertaining outdoors has become increasingly popular and with that, more attention is being paid to the ambience of our external living spaces such as patios, dining and cooking areas,’ says Piero from Detail Lighting. ‘Patio lighting ideas should be subtle and intimate lighting that relaxes guests and encourages conversation. Consider soft indirect lighting and use surfaces to absorb and diffuse light.’
‘Strategically situated dimmable LED linear lighting and inground lighting can create a feel of floating whilst thoughtful pendant lights and ceiling lighting can illuminate faces and table settings.’
4. Highlight thoughtful planting
‘It’s important to study how light falls on your outdoor spaces and understand what it looks like as daylight fades,’ advises Piero from Detail Lighting. ‘Then you can decide what needs garden lighting ideas and how. Also, you may have trees or shrubs that would add drama with carefully placed lighting.’
5. Take it to the trees
To really make a statement, add in outdoor tree light ideas to illuminate your pathways. Alternatively, you could wrap around fairy lights. Since these will be at and above the eyeline, take the time to choose the tight warmth of light.
‘For external lighting, it can be too hard on the eyes which is why we always recommend using warm white LED lighting for outdoor spaces – something with a colour temperature in the region of 2700K -3000K,’ advises Piero from Detail Lighting. ‘This bathes areas in a wonderfully golden light that feels cosy and comforting.’
6. Be inspired by your interiors
Take your interior style into your garden lighting ideas for true indoor-outdoor living. ‘Gone are the days when the choices for garden lighting were limited to plain, uninteresting white security type lighting; today’s modern designs are just as stylish and varied as those you would find inside the home,’ notes Marketa Rypacek, Managing Director, Industville Ltd (opens in new tab).
‘We have seen an emerging shift to take the industrial, rustic, and stylish look from inside the home, out into garden spaces. Add atmospheric lighting such as stylish metallic wall and pendant lights, to set the ultimate ambience for your friends and family to enjoy.’
Don’t be shy about it, either, make a statement with an oversized pendant like the Brooklyn 13 inch pendant, £169, Industvill (opens in new tab)e.
7. Hang solar powered bulbs
Effective outdoor lighting ideas don’t always have to shout about their presence. Individual light bulbs strung from trees and shrubs are nearly unnoticeable during the day, but add a pretty glow come evening.
Oft for solar powered versions like the MorNon Garden Hanging Light Bulbs, £12.59, Amazon (opens in new tab), so you don’t have to worry about charging,
8. Add interest to a trellis
Combine your garden trellis ideas with your lighting for a two-in-one win. Empty tin cans, painted and will holes punched through become the perfect setting for candles to sit, casting pretty shadows when lit and looking pretty during the day.
Do stick to battery powered tealights, from £7.99, Amazon (opens in new tab), to stop any dry wood or foliage from catching a spark.
9. Get flexible with a rechargeable lamp
Make your garden lighting ideas flexible so you can illuminate where and when you need to. The latest trend is for rechargeable lamps. ‘They are ideal for taking outdoors when the occasion calls,’ says Jo from Pooky. ‘A little piece of lighting that will bring a warm twinkle to your patio and pergola areas once restrained by lack of power outlets or cord lengths. They can be taken anywhere, particularly helpful as evenings draw in or to your garden to bring the party outside.’
10. Create a simple centrepiece
Fill terracotta pots with sand and push in some dinner candles, to make a simple centrepiece to place on your table outside. Odd numbers of candles feel visually balanced, so use three standard-size candles or try seven or nine skinny tapers.
Use citronella candles to deter pesky mosquitoes and midges from nibbling on your guests when hosting garden parties and and place all around the patio to create a cosy glow while eating.
11. Make a (water) feature of lighting
How’s this for a nifty garden lighting idea? A beautiful water feature that also lights up like this Filigree light up water feature, £375, Cox & Cox (opens in new tab) which was inspired by the riads of Morocco and will bring an exotic feel to your garden.
LED lights will bring water features to life and prevent them from only being enjoyed in the daytime.
12. Opt for a mini lamp post
An elegant option for garden lighting ideas is to choose a lamp post style design. Ideal for the both the front and back garden, many designs rely on solar power to light them, so won’t need to be attached to the mains in order to light up your garden.
Lamp post lights work wonderfully in symmetry so opt for one either side of a patio or one either side of a front gate.
13. Light up your balcony
A balcony may be small, but it’s perfectly formed and would still benefit hugely from some garden lighting ideas. Festoon lighting works wonderfully hung along a wall or railings and can be plugged in inside, then looped around your outside space.
Candles in glass lanterns will help to create pockets of soft, flickering light in darker corners and on table tops.
14. Mix and match styles
Don’t feel like you have to choose just one style of lighting for your garden, opt for several at different levels to create an ambient glow. A string of mini paper lanterns will look lovely strung along a garden fence above seating, while lanterns of different shapes and sizes work perfectly doted around the floor. Festoon lights will work well drapped over and around trees and branches, or could even by gathered into a pool and sat in a shallow pot.
15. Dress a pergola to set the scene
Use the timber frame of a garden pergola as a canvas to perfectly place a string of outdoor lights. This sturdy wooden structure is ideal to provide a framework for hanging lights with ease. It’s the perfect place as it will commonly be placed above a social area of the garden that benefits most from illumination after dark.
16. Use uplighters to highlight zones
Clever lighting is the key ingredient for bringing wow-factor to your garden at night. Don’t be afraid to mix and match styles, using uplighters to enhance planting, walls and hanging pendants in covered areas to create cosiness. The use of uplighters draws the eye up, creating depth to a garden landscape. This can help to clearly define each zone of your garden layout ideas, from a vegetable plot to a dining spot.
17. Wall mount lighting
Use the exterior walls to put in place permanent lights on a patio area. Specialist lighting enables you to use the space all year round, whatever the weather. Choosing stylish wall lighting also helps to add a decorative touch, making the outdoor space feel like an extension of the indoor at the flick of a switch. Fixed lighting on the patio is also helpful for security and checking on the backyard, making it well-lit.
18. Line the decking with spotlights
Sink spotlights into a decking area to highlight the edging and cast a warm glow to ensure all levels and steps are clear to make out when walking around the space. Choose low light emitting bulbs for your deck lighting ideas to ensure they don’t shine too bright, so not to shine directly into the eyes.
19. Mix and match lanterns
Decorative metal lanterns are going from strength to strength as the must-have modern room accessory. From living rooms with a Scandi feel to the centrepiece on an industrial-chic dining table, these adaptable place-anywhere mood setters are at home in any scheme. Remember their origins as the earliest way of lighting up Victorian streets and herald them as the perfect indoor/outdoor accessory.
The sheer joy of these contemporary beauties comes from the colour choices and shapes – there is one to suit every garden and every design personality.
20. Stake out a path of solar light
Solar-powered stake lights are one of the most affordable and effortless means of lighting for a garden. You simply peg the stake into the lawn, along a garden path or in flower bed borders to secure the design in place. they are moveable and therefore allow a layout to be changed, or even take them with you should you move.
21. Utilise low level lighting
Ensure your garden, roof terrace or courtyard is a safe space to navigate after dark by placing low level lights. Place lighting a short distance off the ground, directly on the surrounding walls or garden borders to shine a light at ground level. Avoid making the bulbs too bright, you don’t want this to be the main lighting – merely there for creating awareness and ambience.
22. Hang fairy lights for a magical touch
Add some sparkle to your home, inside and out, with a set of unique fairy light designs. Fairy light ideas bring a magical quality to any garden: this simple strip of fairy lights interwoven inside a parasol are the perfect touch for an ambient social spot. A little light goes a long way at night. Use lighting selectively and remember that darkness can be used to conceal areas.
23. Connect zones with festoon lighting
While the trend for creating garden zones is hugely popular for dedicating area to a garden layout, you can use lighting to unify the spaces from above. Hang lengths of fashionable festoon lights to create a seamless flow of lighting throughout the different areas.
24. Make pretty DIY paper lanterns
Nothing makes a bigger garden lighting impact than the repetition of lights on a darkened path – for both striking simplicity and after-dark safety. With a garden party in mind, these steps are smartly lit with decorative paper bags, which can be bought with a pretty punched design or create it yourself with a hole-punch and a few minutes of your time.
Try our simple homemade lanterns for your next garden party, made with a paper bag weighted down with gravel, a hole punch and an LED tealight. Placed either side of garden steps, they’ll light your guests’ way and look totally charming.
25. Add playful touches to dark corners
The humble paper lantern takes position as party-perfect centrepiece when clustered in an array of colours. In a mix of sizes and hung at various heights, they transform this covered garden nook from plain to playful and balance out the darker, heavy garden furniture and the intensity of a fireplace. Truly a light and bright way to have fun with garden lighting.
26. Go for colour-coordinating lanterns
If you are fortunate enough to have a garden in full bloom, light up your flora and fauna with lanterns. Especially now, with LED battery-powered candles at their most efficient and cost-effective, you can avoid any risks involved with real candles while still providing a striking glow. The gentle pinks and red of these silk and paper lanterns are just perfect for enhancing the natural palette of the rhododendrons. Just beautiful.
How do you illuminate a garden?
‘Approach your outdoor lighting design in the same way you would your interior lighting scheme,’ advises Marketa from Industville Ltd. ‘To accomplish a well-thought-out, welcoming space, you need to embrace the complete range of lighting sources available and vary the lighting sources to create little pockets and pools of illumination.’
‘Work out which elements of your outdoor space you wish to highlight, both for practical and aesthetic reasons. Layer your exterior lighting and use multiple sources of light, including small lights to guide walkways, up-lighting for highlighting beautiful plants and trees, low lighting for ambiance and wall lights and pendants in areas for eating and socialising.’
‘It is also important to ensure the lights are independently controlled, as well as installing dimmer switches for each light source, if possible, to allow for a wide variety of moods to be created throughout the evening.’
How can I light my garden without electricity?
Whether it’s the eco-friendly aspect, the freedom that comes from being wireless or the sleek, industrial look, a solar-powered light is the simplest option for hassle-free garden lighting.
‘To save energy and money, solar powered lights are highly efficient and can light up your garden without using any electricity,’ agrees Paul Collins, Head of Technical Services, NICEIC (opens in new tab). ‘Solar lanterns can also be a good choice, providing a portable warm glow that can be positioned wherever you need it around the garden.’
‘Fairy lights are also a popular choice, with their smaller LED lamps (bulbs) needing only a small amount of sunlight, enabling them to work even following the gloomiest of days. Emitting an ambient but dim glow, they have the benefit of less environmental impact and light pollution yet serve as a pretty backdrop for seasonal get-togethers.’
As solar technology advances, so do the choices for creating a number of looks in your outdoor space – from putting them deep within the foliage for an internal glow to lining them up loud and proud along a path.
What type of lighting is best for outdoors?
The best type of garden lighting ideas are those that are outdoor specific, weather-proof and will create an ambient glow.
‘When choosing light fittings for your garden, consider LED and compact fluorescents, which produce light more efficiently, last longer and create zero toxic elements,’ advises Michael Meiser, Lighting Expert, Lumilum (opens in new tab). ‘Opt for warm-white light bulbs of around 2700K in colour temperature. These aren’t too harsh but create enough light to illuminate outdoor areas when it gets dark.’
‘Also, consider the brightness – 50 lumens is plenty for low background lighting, 100-200 lumens to light up a path and up to 700 lumens is enough for a small patio. And rather than going for brighter if you have a bigger space, look to distribute light instead.’
Where should garden lights be placed?
Just as important as the styles of garden lighting ideas themselves are the positioning. This will usually depend on the layout of your garden and what you are hoping to illuminate.
‘Think about the direction of each light to ensure you are highlighting areas of your garden that you wish to draw attention to,’ advises Marketa from Industville Ltd. ‘Exterior lighting can accentuate the architecture, colours and textures of your property for an outdoor living space to be proud of.’
‘Make sure you experiment with different positions before you decide on a final placement. You can use a large torch in varying angles to see where it is likely to provide light. For glow without glare, opt for downward facing wall-mounted lights that create a relaxing atmosphere to be enjoyed by all.’