Outdoor lighting ideas: 32 ways to create a cozy glow in your yard after dark
These outdoor lighting ideas will inspire you to illuminate your space in style – from ambiance-boosting designs to practical solutions
These outdoor lighting ideas are just what you need to add that all-important glow at dusk. It's not one to overlook, as it can really transform your backyard – in terms of both practicality and style.
There are so many lighting possibilities to choose from, it can be hard to know where to begin. With the right designs, you can quickly add interest to a patio space, highlight key features such as your favorite plants, draw attention to a garden pergola that's set up for alfresco dining, or even create warmth in a shadowy corner. Experiment with different lights for different areas and don't be afraid to layer them up: think spotlights on steps, uplighting on trees, or cozy lanterns around outdoor seating, for example.
To help you narrow down your options and elevate your space once the sun sets, we've rounded up the best outdoor lighting ideas, from on-trend festoon lights and pretty fairy lights to more practical designs to light pathways and doors. It's amazing what the best outdoor lights can do to make a plot look magical.
Beautiful outdoor lighting ideas to illuminate your space
Garden lighting is one of the easiest ways to create drama and ambiance after dark. These beautiful schemes are sure to get you inspired.
1. Light up zones of activity
A long, narrow blank slate of a backyard in Celina, Texas, needed depth and a unique design. Lights by Signature teamed with Aquaterra Outdoors to bring elegance and fun to this yard, which now features several zones for relaxing and entertaining family and friends.
Signature used Techlight LEDs for tree lighting and SPJ Lighting LEDs on the back pathway to give the yard a soft and luminous glow, giving the space the ambiance of a serene getaway. Working with a narrow space around the fire pit, Signature installed customizable tape lighting (strip lighting) for a clean, modern look. This technique takes the focus off the narrow space, creating an optical illusion of depth, according to Signature owner Scott Beverly.
Directional path lights were installed along the walkway and edges of the sitting area. The path lights guide the homeowners and their guests to the other side of the pool, where an inset grill and bar area anchor the space. Downlights in the outdoor kitchen keep the space illuminated for the chef or for anyone who swims up to the bar. More tape lighting was added around the countertops and steps.
Uplights keep the edges of the yard lit. And we love the pool lighting here too: another line of customizable tape lighting that emits a colorful glow and can be changed with a smartphone app.
2. Add twinkling festoons above a hammock
Consider festoon light ideas for setting a laid-back tone for your garden's chill-out zone. They tend to be affordable, as well as easy to install.
String them up around a covered deck or patio and you'll be tempted to use the area well into the evening – especially if you've added in plenty of comfy seating and chic accessories. And, if your structure overhead is strong enough, why not bring in a hammock as a fun addition?
3. Go for modern wall lights for your front door
All front gardens need illuminating when night falls, especially around the front door. But why go for one light when you can have two? Symmetry always looks smart, after all.
These modern black wall lights make a stylish statement against white cladded walls, and complement the door's design to a tee. Exposed bulbs add a sense of industrial-chic, whilst pretty pink roses bring an element of softness to the scene. It's a lovely way to welcome both you and your guests to your home.
4. Layer lights at different heights
As a child, Pragya Mishra spent time in the jungles of Nepal for her father’s job. At night, workers delivered lanterns. 'It brought me such incredible joy to see the lights disperse, and joy still washes over me when I think about it,' says Pragya, the owner of Artscapes Living. 'Lighting is a big part of my design process because I want to recreate that joy for my clients.'
Pragya layered outdoor lighting at different heights for this large backyard project in McLean, Virginia. 'It's important to consider what attracts your eyes,' she explains. 'You can use lighting to define outdoor rooms and pathways in your space.'
The extensive project was a complete backyard overhaul that added a pool, a second-floor deck, a covered patio, an outdoor dining and entertainment area, and a few seating spaces to admire the landscape. Pragya used CAST lighting because she believes the fixtures are sleek, durable, and cohesive with the yard's design. She opts for LED bulbs, which don't overheat, and are crucial for down-lighting.
Safety was also a significant consideration, and the designers needed to illuminate the pool and multiple garden steps. Pragya considers placement crucial in highlighting focal points and creating separation between various outdoor rooms. 'There is nothing more off-putting than a bright bulb shining in your eyes as you walk through a yard, and I can’t stand a runway of lawn lights flanking a sidewalk,' she says.
5. Position lighting near water for a magical view
Soft light reflecting off of water will always look magical. So, if you've got a garden pond, think about how you can combine it with your lighting for an awe-inspiring scene.
These dandelion clock designs look utterly enchanting on a gently sloping bank nearby, creating an other-worldly view from the far side of the water. If you're looking for an alternative option, think about installing pond lights beneath the water – they'll offer a bewitching glow and, when positioned carefully, will help to highlight pretty aquatic plants, too.
6. Hang statement pendants from a sturdy structure
Does your outdoor space include a sturdy patio cover such as a pergola or gazebo? As well as keeping your seating sheltered, they're perfect for hanging statement pendants from.
Architectural patio lighting designs like these are a fantastic way to elevate a contemporary plot. Crafted from durable, painted aluminum, they bring an industrial tone to this dining scene, especially in conjunction with the black table.
Meanwhile, plenty of climbing foliage adds a textural element to the setup and offers a soothing dose of green.
7. Dress up a small urban deck
Deck lighting is an important factor in illuminating a garden, and this is a gorgeous example.
The owners of a 15-x-30-foot urban deck and garden in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada, hired Craig Threndyle of Echo Beach Construction to illuminate the space and install lights that would complement the yard’s features at night but not overwhelm or standout. 'We wanted to keep the vibe nice and mellow,' says Craig.
Using low-voltage outdoor lighting, Craig installed sconces on the fence and uplights for the garden bed and to backlight the wooden bench. He credits the homeowners – an architect and designer – for designing the project.
Craig found the fixtures easy to install and work with. He built a floating step that comes off the landing, with under-mounted Hyve 22s, two per step. Halo downlights were used for the wall sconces, while the garden features three mini-scope uplights.
'The homeowners were a dream to work with,' says Craig. 'Since they are downtown, they didn’t want it to stick out like a nightclub but they still made sure to highlight some of the striking features.'
8. Shine light on major focal points
How do you create a private garden in a city of nine million? Plant lots of tall trees to obscure surrounding skyscrapers. Here, key plantings include field maples (Acer campestre) and yews (Taxus baccatta). The trees' feathered foliage allows light to wash into each area of the garden while concealing the towering buildings.
Created by Osada Design, with illumination by John Cullen Lighting, the extensive city garden features Kew 60 spotlights and directional Hampton 60 floodlights. These LED fixtures come on spikes, making them easy to move around the garden during the changing seasons.
Like many water features, the rill looks beautiful when illuminated in the evening, as movement and refraction create patterns that reflect on the surrounding space. Overall, it's a perfect example of how landscaping with lights can add drama and impact.
9. Kick back, El Paso style
In hot and dry El Paso, Texas – which borders Mexico – a low-maintenance backyard looks beautiful without lots of plant life. Go Designs owner George Ocampo created a linear design for a small backyard that makes innovative use of space with hardscape features. These include concrete rocksalt deck pads, horizontal cedar privacy fencing, and a raised platform patio with built-in limestone benches.
The focal point is a sleek, modern fire pit made of raw steel veneer, limestone, and stainless steel fire fixtures. Concrete platforms feature step and path lights that beam upward and accentuate the fire pit patio.
Around the corner is another privacy fence, and faux turf to practice yoga, have a picnic, or enjoy watching movies or sports projected on a wall. George used Volt and YardBright up lights, flood lights, step lights, and accent minis. When the yard is lit up at night, 'it almost feels like you’re in a downtown urban park,' he says.
10. Go for soft solar lighting in sleek styles
LEDs are an easy choice when it comes to backyard lighting ideas. There's none of the hassle with plug sockets, nor the dangers of open flames. Futuristic designs like these are ideal for casting a dreamy glow across your garden at dusk, and can be moved around the space to suit you.
Invest in more than one in different sizes for a sculptural look. Then, pair with minimal, low-level furniture and natural stone paving for a soothing oasis of calm. Don't forget a neutral outdoor rug underfoot for extra comfort – our best outdoor rugs buying guide has lots of lovely picks.
11. Try a contemporary beam design over a dining area
Ensure your outdoor dining ideas can be enjoyed well into the evening come rain or shine with the help of a slimline hanging light like this. Not only does it have a built-in heater for keeping the ambiance toasty, but there is also a dimmer to switch up the mood whenever you like.
Its sleek lines and charcoal hue look wonderful against the dark wooden cladding of a veranda, offering a grown-up vibe. A smart table and chic chairs make the perfect match for the style.
12. Add feature lighting to a fireplace
This uber-contemporary plot has got us falling heads over heels thanks to its considered design and bold sweeps of stone. Uplights draw the eye around the space, catching the elegant branches of small trees and showcasing subtly textured materials.
The real show-stopper, however, has to be the generously-sized outdoor fireplace at the heart of the garden. Our favorite part? The staggered and recessed light fixtures that adorn it – which also double up as a climbing wall for the homeowner.
13. Wrap string lights around a pergola to create a twinkling canopy
Pergola lighting always looks magical and transforms these sheltered spaces into inviting places to gather with friends after dark.
We love how this one has been used to create a twinkling canopy with layers of string lights. Lots of comfy cushions and throws add to the cozy vibe.
14. Accentuate the beams of a covered patio
Olson Weaver Lighting Design custom-built linear LED cove lighting to bounce light off this striking pergola's cathedral ceiling.
The fixture uses a 4.5-watt-per-foot, 2700k linear tap light with a 120-degree beam angle to achieve this, according to Tony Weaver of Olson Weaver. He's happy with how the ceiling glows. 'Indirect lighting is hands-down my favorite light layer,' he says.
When using reflected light in a landscape setting, it's always a challenge to specify the right amount of light output for a fixture, says Tony. 'The color of the material lit will impact the total amount of light that gets reflected. As a result, you must adjust the fixtures' light output so that space is neither over nor under lit,' he adds.
The light fixture has both warm white and color-changing options. 'On a day-to-day basis, warm white is the norm, but it's fun to use colors for special occasions.'
15. Go for a trio of complementary pendants
If you're looking for something a little different for your garden lighting ideas, designs like these might be just the ticket. They're crafted from knitted, weather-resistant rope, which gives them a unique aesthetic that fits perfectly into boho or tropical schemes. What's more, the intricate design will cast beautiful shadows across your patio or terrace, and the brightness can be dimmed to suit the mood.
We love how a set of three has been used for greater impact in this display above. Hung from a leafy branch overhead, they certainly elevate the scene, but could be suspended from a pergola, too.
16. Cozy up a courtyard
Good lighting is important in gardens of all shapes and sizes, and courtyard gardens are no exception. These boxed-in plots with high walls and plenty of paving can feel cold and uninviting, but even a minimal setup can be given a boost of warmth with lovely lights.
Take this scene, for instance, which sports a duo of fuss-free wall lights and spotlights for a subtle yet stylish glow. Flickering candles in amber-hued jars add to the atmosphere and offer a form of organic movement.
17. Embrace a whimsical look
If you're planning a special get-together this season, why not take a cue from this pretty tealight holder above? With the addition of fresh blooms, it feels extra magical. We think it would make a gorgeous centerpiece above a table laden with cupcakes, neatly-cut sandwiches, and bowls of fruit punch.
Of course, you wouldn't need to wait for a particular occasion to enjoy a backyard party lighting look like this – there's no reason you can't add a sense of whimsical grandeur to any meal spent alfresco.
18. Introduce flower-shaped lights to your containers
If you want to take your window box ideas up a notch, then something like this is a failsafe approach. They're fun, they're pretty, and you can bet that they'll bring a smile to both children and adults alike.
Look for garden solar light options like these for a super-easy update. Then, tuck them amongst your favorite blooms for an enchanting view from both indoors and out.
We love how these contrast against the deep red tones of heucheras, but they'd look just as lovely amongst cosmos, dahlias, or even lime-green alchemilla mollis.
19. Add a woven style to your enclosed patio
Enclosed patios are a real extension of the home, offering you shelter from the elements all year round. They can be styled similarly to an indoor room too – with the likes of comfy sofas, outdoor rugs, a coffee table, and of course, stylish outdoor lighting ideas.
To keep the vibe harmonious, stick with a limited range of colors or textural finishes, such as neutral hues or – like in this scene – woven rattan details. The eye-catching, oversized pendant here works fantastically alongside the furniture and cover overhead, for instance. We also like how the nearby potted plant adds to a subtly tropical tone with its architectural foliage.
20. Weave fairy lights around a trellis
Trellises for gardens are brilliant features. Not only are they stylish, but they are also super versatile: you use them as a screen between garden zones, to pep up blank walls with clambering climbers, or to top existing walls for an extra boost of height and privacy.
Whichever option you've gone for, try winding a string of pretty, outdoor-friendly fairy lights around the structure. It will only up the overall effect and bring the best climbing plants to life at nighttime. If you're looking for a super low maintenance option, look for a design that already has lights attached, like this faux ivy display.
21. Make a feature of your hedges
Add interest to your landscaping with hedges by using LED net lights. They create a twinkling border and help to soften the dense look of hardy planting.
The nets are so fine that you won't be able to tell they're there, even in daylight – so all you'll notice is the gentle shine of the LED bulbs come evening.
22. Light up your tree for a magical effect
Trees are a valuable part of any garden, providing structure and a focal point around which planting schemes are designed.
Make the most of yours by trying out some outdoor tree lighting ideas. These fairy lights create a magical scene at night when the leaves and branches come to life in the glow.
23. Group together designs for added impact
Lanterns give off such a lovely soft glow and you can rest assured you won’t need to keep rebuying pillar candles if you go for LED versions.
These designs above each come with an LED candle that runs off batteries, plus there's a six-hour timer so you can set them to come on just as dusk falls. Perfect.
24. Add structural lighting with posts
If you have a long or wide walkway that could do with some lighting – whether that's because it's a key part of the space or because it leads to a living or dining area – consider adding statement path lighting with some posts.
These designs have a sleek, modern look that will complement structured gardens perfectly.
25. Keep it subtle with stakes
Smaller, more slimline stakes are also a great choice for outdoor lighting for paths. And, they can also be used to great effect between planting to highlight favorite flowers or bring attention to a container garden.
These ones are solar-powered, so they can be placed anywhere in the garden without the worry of having to switch them on and off each night.
26. Try globe lights for an architectural effect
Want to make a feature of your outdoor lighting ideas? These dome-shaped designs look like a spherical stone sculpture by day, but by night they light up with a warm glow for an eye-catching architectural display.
27. Bring the indoors out with a floor lamp
We've already sung the praises of using 'indoor' lighting in the form of pendant lights outside, but it doesn't stop there: you can even buy floor lamps designed for outdoor use.
Go for a slimline design so it'll slot into even a very small garden, and if you choose a solar-powered design, it won't need to be connected to your mains supply.
28. Light up pathways with flush-to-the-floor lights
On a practical level, you might need outdoor lighting ideas to help you and your guests make their way around your garden. If you're not keen on posts or stake lights, consider using lights that sit flush to the floor for a more subtle option.
They'll also help to highlight plants along your border, adding an extra architectural element to your space.
29. Hang outdoor lighting from a parasol for a chandelier effect
If you use one of the best garden parasols for shade in a dining area, consider keeping it up at night and using it as a base from which to hang pendants.
These solar pendant lights create a chandelier effect above this dining set, but fairy or festoon lights wrapped around the pole will look equally effective.
30. Up the drama with light-up planters
Discreet lighting can create a welcoming ambiance for the evening garden at any time of year. Plants take on architectural qualities when uplit, with the angled lights enhancing the shape of leaves.
Choose uplights that are either recessed into the ground or set on moveable spikes for illuminating plants and the trunks of potted trees, as they can be shifted to suit the mood. Or, choose modern garden planters with built-in LED lighting that can be controlled with a phone app.
31. Integrate lighting into your furniture to elevate a piece
Make even more of a feature of the garden furniture in your outside space by framing it with fairy or festoon lights and creating a nighttime focal point; like this inviting and romantic setup.
This works best for more permanent pieces like outdoor sofas and benches. Try wrapping small LED lights around the back of a newly painted bench for instant charm.
32. Combine light and warmth with a patio heater
If you're looking for outdoor lighting, chances are you're planning on spending a decent amount of time in your garden in the summer evenings – and you'll need a heating source to stay comfortable as the temperature drops.
One of the best patio heaters can do two jobs at once, keeping you warm and emitting a cozy glow that will see you through plenty of barbecues and alfresco dinner parties.
How do you choose a garden light?
When you start to plan your outdoor lighting design, choose which areas of the garden you would like to illuminate, and think about why. Perhaps you'd like to add something twinkly to a particularly attractive tree for an added dose of atmosphere. Or, maybe you're on the lookout for something more practical to line your pathways.
Although not always essential, you may decide to stick with a theme that complements already-existing features. For example, if you have a lot of traditional metal fixtures and cottage garden ideas in your plot, you may wish to pick antique-style lighting that blends in with the environment.
When choosing your garden lights, Lights4fun suggests considering how you would like to power them. 'If there isn't access to power, battery and solar lights are great alternatives,' they say.
'Battery lights are perfect for popping in flower beds and greenery. Solar lights are even easier; simply place them in a sunny spot and they'll automatically illuminate each evening,' the team continues. 'If you have access to outdoor power, this lends perfectly to big and bright festoons swagged around your outdoor space.'
Think about your budget, too – our guide on how much does garden lighting cost is full of helpful advice to help you plan your scheme.
If you live within five miles of the coast or an estuary, Jamie Moxey, Design Consultant at Dusk Lighting, suggests choosing coastal lighting. This is built to withstand the salty air and won’t corrode. 'Apart from that, choosing lighting is a personal preference and dependent on what you want to achieve,' he says.
How bright should outdoor lights be?
The brightness of garden lights is determined by personal choice, as says Jamie Moxey of Dusk Lighting. However, it can be influenced by the objective – whether you want it for decorative, functional, or security purposes, he adds.
'For security lighting, you would be looking for brighter lights than if you were looking to add decorative lighting for an alfresco dining area for summer evenings. Brightness is determined by the lumen value – higher lumen results in a brighter light which is important for goals such as deterring intruders and illuminating pathways.
'These choices will also be determined by the size of the outdoor space,' Jamie continues. When illuminating a larger space, you would benefit from brighter lights.
Pathway lighting of 100-200 lumens is suitable. For more atmospheric lighting, a range of 50-300 lumens will work well to create attractive interest whilst avoiding glare. Floodlights used for security should be much higher, at around 700 lumens. Why not double it up with one of the best security cameras for even more peace of mind?
Should all exterior lights match?
'For exterior lighting, the key to a cohesive-style finish is a design flow rather than a strict matching policy,' says Jamie Moxey.
One common method to achieve this sense of flow is to select a color finish or texture which will unite the exterior lighting on the property, Jamie explains. This may also be used when choosing key garden furniture pieces. 'For example,' Jamie continues, 'you may decide that all of the exterior lights will be selected in black with an element of copper.' You could then mirror this palette for your outdoor seating ideas, or accessories.
'The most important aspect of exterior lighting that should match is the color of the light emitted,' Jamie adds. 'This is called Kelvin and it will be specified in the product details when you are browsing.'
The team at Lights4fun favor warm white lights. 'Hang fairy lights up high, line your dining table with candles, and place stake lights in your shrubs,' they recommend. 'The warm glow is sure to create a cozy space to host friends and family over the summer months.'
The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.
- Ellen Finch
- Lisa Hallett TaylorFreelancer writer
Take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2023 to save our feathered friends
Gardens Watching garden visitors for just one hour in the Big Garden Birdwatch 2023 could help provide vital data to protect birds from the effects of climate change
By Jayne Dowle • Published
Do you need to chit potatoes? Find out what the experts say
Grow Your Own Learn how to chit potatoes before planting them in the ground and you’ll be on your way to getting an earlier and bigger harvest
By Drew Swainston • Published