We typically think about being out in the garden when the sun is out, but if you don’t have any lighting in your garden you’re missing out. Garden lighting is practical, allows you to use your garden for longer, and helps you create a better sense of space when you’re inside looking out at night.
Whether you have acres outside your backdoor or you’re trying to make the most of your courtyard space, we’ve got plenty of lighting ideas you can incorporate into your garden design that will turn your friends and neighbours green with envy.
How can I light my garden?
You have a few different options when it comes to the how of lighting your garden, and the different ways will affect the results you get, too. Generally, you have 3 options:
- Mains-powered: this is by far the most practical and versatile option, but may be costly to install if you don’t have any power in your garden or easily accessed from the house. However, it’s well worth doing so if you can, especially if you have a shed or outbuilding as you can run the power up to that and install a plug and light inside, as well as light the garden. These lights can have whatever strength of light you like since there aren’t any power limitations.
- Battery-powered: Another option is battery-powered lighting. This is a good choice for string lights and small lights and will give reliable, though often soft, lighting. You’ll need to change the batteries a few times a year if the lighting turns off and on automatically.
- Solar-powered: Solar power is often the lowest cost option and is easy to set up, but the results are hit-and-miss and often not all that reliable. This is a good option if you just want a little soft lighting in the early evening, or for just an hour or two after the sunsets.
There are 4 different “types” of lighting you can use in your garden:
- Uplighting – where you light up an object or plant from the ground level
- Downlighting – where you illuminate something from above
- Backlighting – lighting something from behind to cast it in shadow
- Spotlighting – draws attention to one area, usually from above
23 Ways to Incorporate Lighting into Garden Design
1. Use Pendant Lighting Under Pergolas & Gazebos
Pergolas and gazebos create the perfect cosy spot to dine, relax with friends and a bottle of wine, or with a good book. Overhead pendant lights don’t just look good inside – take them outside, and they’ll wow you with the atmosphere they create. This idea can be used to create any style – go for art decor, mid-century modern, or even a luxurious chandelier. Just be aware that you may need to bring it in or secure it during bad weather.
2. Drape Fairy lights Around Your Seating Area
This is a simple and easy way to add a little light to your seating area and is a good option if you don’t want to commit to a garden redesign yet without seeing if you’ll enjoy using your garden more or like the look of it from inside your home. Drape them over the back of your seating, along hedges and fences, or on plants around your seating area.
3. Use a Fire Pit
For those evenings and nights when it’s not quite as warm outside as you’d like, a fire pit can keep you warm and provide you with plenty of light. If you’re redesigning your garden, you can get a fire pit built-in (just make sure you use fire-proof concrete), but if that’s not possible you can buy fire pits in a huge range of styles.
4. Light the Way with Candles and Lanterns
Lighting your garden doesn’t have to be permanent – using lanterns and candles is an easy thing to do when good weather arrives and to bring in as the weather changes. Fill lanterns with candles (real or electric) or small fairy lights, and line your path or seating area.
5. Tuck Lighting Just Inside Hedges
Mixing lighting with foliage offers a dreamy, soft feel to your garden lighting. Try tucking small lights under bushes for an atmospheric glow, or use lights of varying heights in front–or nestled within–hedges. This is particularly beautiful with bamboo and other plants with tall stems.
6. Try Light Up Planters
Did you know light-up planters exist? They do, and they look far from cheap or tacky. You can add discreet soft lighting with “Smart” planters that light up and are controlled remotely.
7. Use Festoon Lights Over Your Dining Area
We talked about pendant lights in idea #1, but another option that is a timeless classic is to use festoon lights instead. They’re like fairy lights but large strings of full-size light bulbs that emit a soft, gold-toned light (unless you go for white or colored, though the latter can produce more of a fairground effect!).
8. Build-in Lighting “Below” Your Path
If you’re going to be redesigning your garden, consider building in lighting “below” your path. This can be simply done if your path will be raised a few inches above the surrounding path. You can then add LED strips or spotlights below the path to flood light out around the path at night – subtle, practical, and beautiful!
9. Add Lighting to Ponds, Streams, and Fountains
If you have a water feature in your garden, beneath-the-water lighting adds subtle lighting and, as a plus, makes sure no visitor forgets what should be stepped on and what shouldn’t at night. You can also angle lights up a waterfall to highlight the running water.
10. Add Lighting Beside Water Features
Similarly, adding lighting by water so the light reflects off the surface is another way to add more light to your garden and highlight a pond or stream. Look for dandelion-style lighting, another enchanting shape, or cover a nearby tree or bush in lights.
11. Bounce Light Off Feature Plants
Try using small spotlights to bounce light off feature plants in your garden – this could be the base of a large tree, small topiary bushes, or even flowers like rose bushes or tulips.
12. Bounce Light Off Your Home
If you’re lucky enough to live in a larger home that’s as beautiful to look at as its surroundings are, consider bouncing lights off the exterior walls. Not only does this make your home look grander, but it gives off plenty of diffused light for those relaxing in the garden after dark. Just make sure the lights aren’t pointed directly into any windows.
You can get a softer, less grand look by using fixed lights on the wall of your home. This is a good option if you live in an urban area and don’t have enough space to light up the entire house.
13. Hang Tea-Light Holders
Returning to the more whimsical side of things, you can buy metal tea light holders online or at garden centres you can hang from your porch, garden structures, tree branches, or hanging basket hangers. Fill the spaces with lit or electric tea lights and for special occasions, weave flowers from around your garden through the chain.
14. Add Flower-Shaped Lights to Containers
If the majority of your plants are in pots, you can “plant” small flower-shaped lights within the pots for small spots of lighting. These small lights are usually small LEDs that are on flexible wires, so you can bend and style them to look more natural.
15. Use Net Lighting Over Hedges
If you have large hedges around the boundary of your garden, try net lighting. These are essentially “sheets” of fairy lights you can hang on hedges so the entire hedge is covered in little lights like fireflies. This is a great way to light up the length of your garden and produce a sense of depth and height at night.
16. Weave Fairy Lights Around Trellis
Buy trellis and some fairy lights and weave them around the trellis, then fix the trellis to a wall or fence. This alone is pretty, but the addition of climbing plants or even some artificial Ivy will soften the look even further.
17. Weave Fairy Lights Around Branches
Fairy lights in trees aren’t just for Christmas! Petite fairy lights in small trees, such as bay trees, olive trees, and apple trees look just as good and not-at-all wintery.
18. Build Floor Lights Into Patios and Decks
Floor spotlights can add additional light to small spaces without being another thing taking up space when you recess them in the patio or decking itself. If you’re short on space, place lights close to a wall and add artificial (or real) green wall panels to bring greenery and foliage without bulk.
19. Hang Lights from Overhead Trees
Large overhead trees can feel like a burden on any day you don’t need the shade, but you can take advantage of the natural canopy to create a private space with hanging lights from the branches over a seating area. If the branches are too low – say 4-5 feet off the ground, you can still hang lights from the branches and it will create a romantic feel that lights up the garden.
20. Try Novelty/Sculptural Lighting
So not all novelty lighting you find online or in garden centres will be to your taste, but there are stylish pieces out there – think monkeys swinging from string lights or parrots holding a light. The right pieces look high-end and playful.
21. Globe or “Moon” Lighting
Eye-catching globes sometimes called “Moons” gives a spherical glow and look like stone during the day. These look just as good on paving as they do placed between plants in a flowerbed.
22. Wrap Lights Up Tree Trunks
If your garden has large trees, use their trunks as a base for your lighting. Wind fairy lights up the tree trunk to illuminate dark areas and add height to areas that may feel cramped under the canopy.
23. Illuminate Stairs with Recessed Lights
If you’re planning to give your garden a makeover and there will be at least 2 levels, we recommend adding recessed lighting into the steps. You add these lights below each step or recess them into the wall on either side of the staircase. If you already have stairs but no lighting, you can add small lights, provided they don’t stick out too far.
Garden Lighting FAQs
How much outdoor lighting is too much?
It’s best to strategically place your garden lighting to add emphasis and draw attention to major features, where it’s necessary to make it safe to navigate and in sitting areas, and then leave the remaining areas unlit. This ensures your garden has a relaxing feel, rather than feeling like a lit-up sports pitch.
Can I add garden lighting myself?
You can add any battery- and solar-powered lighting to your garden, but you should work with a qualified electrician and likely a landscaping company to install mains lighting. Your lighting needs to be suitable for outside use – an IP43 rating will ensure it is weatherproof.
How do I decide which lighting ideas to use?
If you’re landscaping your garden, it’s best to work with garden design professionals who can help you incorporate your garden lighting ideas into the design, so you won’t end up with lights spotted all over the place with no cohesion. A garden designer will also be able to consider your ideas, garden, and needs all in one to produce a show-stopping result.
If you don’t have the resources to work with a professional, add one idea at a time and live with it for a while, viewing it from each room of the house to ensure you love it.
Adding lighting to your garden is the very best way to make the most of your garden, both when you’re outside relaxing and when you’re inside. Most of us have glazed windows which reflect the inside light back at us, and so exterior lighting prevents that mirrored-wall effect and makes spaces feel more expansive.
If you’re planning to redesign your Essex garden to create an exciting and practical space that gives you plenty of room for entertaining, playing, and gardening, we’d love to help. Our Garden Design Team can work with you to bring your ideas into reality. To learn more about our garden design services click here, or if you’re not quite ready for that yet, grab our free eBook that provides you with everything you need to consider before you start redesigning your garden.