25 brilliant garden lighting ideas to brighten your back yard

Use these pretty garden lighting ideas to bring out the best in your outdoor space after dark

Garden lighting ideas
(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

Our roundup of stunning garden lighting ideas is exactly what your outdoor space needs, especially at this time of year! There's nothing like well-thought out garden lighting to instantly illuminate your space, whether you've a small garden, enormous garden, tiny courtyard or even just a balcony to work with. And, whether you're planning on sitting and dining outside on balmy evenings, or hoping to admire how the lighting highlights your planting from indoors (or both), it's really worth investing a little time and effort into getting your garden lighting design scheme right.

Whether you like a bohemian, relaxed vibe with lots of fairy lights (classic), an ultra-modern lighting scheme, or a completely solar light-fuelled display, we have a look for you. 

From gorgeous ideas to recreate, to advice from garden expert Matt James on lighting a garden, keep scrolling for everything you need to know and you can look forward to a glorious summer in your own backyard. 

You can find more garden ideas and inspiration on our dedicated page.

1. Use pendant lights to add volume to a dining area

Acid drop light by Curiosa & Curiosa

(Image credit: Curiosa & Curiosa)

To instantly update a garden dining area, or to turn your pergola into a chic al fresco dining spot, add pendant lights. The hand-blown Acid Drop pendants by Curiosa & Curiosa add both colour and a chic Art Deco vibe to this garden dining area.  

Find out more about how to create an outdoor dining area in our guide.

2. Create bohemian charm with candles and lanterns

Storage jars used as garden lighting

(Image credit: The White Company )

Lighting a garden with temporary lights such as lanterns and candles couldn't be easier. Wrap twinkly lights around arches and arbours, or drape them through trees or even pots and baskets. A warning, however: although some party lights can be left outside all the time, others need to be brought in when it starts raining.

Improvised lights can also look far better than you might think, and what’s more they cost mere pennies and are very environmentally friendly. Tealights in old baked-bean cans or jars look great when used en masse. You can even paint the outside of jars with special glass paints for a stained-glass effect if you wish, and DIY stores stock bags of 100 tealights for less than £10, making them an easy and affordable way to enjoy your outdoor space throughout the winter months. For a smart look that doesn't look too formal, mix and match lanterns in a variety of shapes and materials. This contemporary garden gets a bohemian update courtesy of The White Company. You can use large storage jars to create a similar candlelit look.

We have more brilliantly boho design ideas for you to explore.

3. Suspend festoon lights above your dinner table

Alfresco festoon garden lights canopy by Lights4fun

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

Festoon lights are a timeless classic for a reason: there's not an outdoor space out there you can't instantly transform into a romantic nook with this garden lighting idea. Our all-time favourite look is strings of festoon lights suspended above a dining area. 

The festoon garden lights are from Lights4fun. 

4. Create an outdoor room with a garden floor lamp

Garden standing lamp Cox & Cox

(Image credit: Cox & Cox)

Already have all the festoon lights you'll ever need, or want to try something a bit different? Creating an outdoor room is a recent trend that allows you to blend indoor and outdoor decor – and is very effective for making your garden cosy come autumn. Use outdoor lighting that looks like it's for indoors to achieve this effect. 

The Elsa outdoor floor lamp is from Cox & Cox. 

5. Add interest to a container garden with LED sticks

LED Pathway Light Set by House Additions

(Image credit: Wayfair/House Additions)

If you want to draw more attention to planting in a container garden after it gets dark, but are bored of spotlights/flood lights, try this garden lighting idea: sticking LED path lights into your containers. They'll add a subtle glow and won't look too shabby during the day, either. 

The LED Pathway Light Set by House Additions is available from Wayfair. 

Read more about container gardening for small spaces in our guide.

6. Create a contrast with monochrome lighting

John Lewis & Partners Festoon Outdoor Line Lights

(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

Monochrome never goes out of fashion for gardens. Lighting a garden with shades of white and cream are the failsafe option for creating an opulent contemporary design scheme – they look amazing as a decking idea, too. To break up the neutral space, add some graphic black lanterns and pendants. 

7. Create a garden lighting scheme with paper lanterns

Outdoor pendant lights from Ikea

(Image credit: Ikea)

If you're on a budget but want a big-impact garden lighting scheme, go for paper lanterns. Cheap and cheerful, they look great when clustered together, both during the day and at night. These paper lamp shades are from Ikea. 

8. Emphasise height with a cascade of string lights

10m 100 Warm White LED Connectable Fairy Lights Clear Cable Core Series Lights4fun

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

Blessed with a large garden and a tall canopy? Make the most of your garden's spaciousness by hanging not just one string of lights, but lots of them, for a shimmering, cascading effect. 

The Warm White LED Connectable Fairy Lights are from Lights4fun. 

9. Experiment with unusual path lights

Halbert Solar Powered Ice Cube 1-Light LED Deck Light by Sol72 Outdoor

(Image credit: Wayfair)

Newsflash: path lights don't have to be non-descript and boring. To add more character to your garden path, choose novelty designs that'll draw attention to your borders. The Halbert Solar Powered Ice Cube lights add warmth and texture to this garden path, and are available from Wayfair. This garden lighting idea could also illuminate your deck. 

10. Add garden lighting to a water feature

Frog LED Decorative Lighting Set by Hokku Designs

(Image credit: Wayfair)

Proud owner of a garden pond? Few things in the garden are as enchanting as a beautifully lit water feature. Some will come with their own lighting, but if you have a natural pond, you can get water-safe lights designed especially for them. We really like the soft, otherworldly effect created by the LED decorative frogs by Hokku Designs. The lights come attached to the artificial lily pads.  

Find out everything you need to know about garden water features in our guide. 

11. Moroccan garden lanterns add an exotic vibe

Almeida Moroccan Candle Lantern Duo from Lights4fun

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

There are so many different looks you can achieve with lanterns, depending on what style they are. Nautical lanterns are a classic choice, but for a warmer look, choose Moroccan-inspired ones. They'll cast beautiful shadows on your patio or deck, creating a mysterious and intimate atmosphere. 

The Almeida Moroccan Candle Lantern Duo is from Lights4fun.

12. Add ultra-modern globe path lights for a contemporary look

Toula Pathway Lighting from Wayfair

(Image credit: Wayfair)

Path lights are probably the easiest way to update your garden lighting. You just stick them in, and they run off either batteries or solar energy. For contemporary gardens, matt globe path lights are a great way to create accents on a lawn; in a sloped garden, they'll emphasise the different levels. 

The Toula Pathway lights come in a variety of colours and are available from Wayfair. 

13. Adorn your favourite garden tree with string lights

5m 50 Traditional Warm White LED Connectable String Lights from Lights4fun

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

It may seem like it's ages away, but autumn and winter are just round the corner, and soon enough there won't be any leaves left on your favourite garden tree. Create a joyful winter accent in your garden by wrapping fairy lights all around its trunk and thicker branches. This look is especially suited to front gardens. 

The Traditional Warm White LED string lights are from Lights4fun. 

14. Liven up a garden fence with colourful festoon lights

Beer Garden Party LED Festoon Light from Wayfair

(Image credit: Wayfair)

Garden fences can be weak links in your garden design, especially if yours is plain. There's an easy way to give your fence a bit of oomph, though – by adding colourful festoon lights. 

The strong, primary colours of these festoon lights from Wayfair counterbalance the plain colour of the fence. This is also a great garden lighting idea for small balconies

15. Illuminate beautiful foliage 

Neal 10 Light Festoon Lights from Wayfair

(Image credit: Wayfair)

Got a beautiful tree with interesting foliage? Make the most of your tree or maple with a colourful web of festoon or fairy lights. These bright festoon lights are from Seasonal Aisle. 

16. Add fairytale magic with nature-inspired path lights

12 Mini Mushroom Solar Stake Lights from Lights4fun

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

Take inspiration from nature and choose garden lights that have organic shapes and a gentle glow. From bees to pineapples, there are lots of flora- and fauna-inspired designs that'll help you create an organic look. 

This garden border has been decorated with Mini Mushroom Solar Stake Lights from Lights4fun. Great as a garden lighting idea for kids to enjoy. 

17. Add stone-effect path lights in traditional gardens

Stone Globe Lights path lighting

(Image credit: Stone Globe Lights)

Traditional, cottage, or country gardens need garden lighting that's sympathetic to their style and materials. The more natural-looking the material and light colour, the better it will fit in with your overall garden design scheme. These stone-effect globe path lights are actually made from polyethylene, but it's impossible to tell they're not real stone.  

18. Uplight trees for dramatic landscaping

garden lighting in a contemporary settig

(Image credit: John Cullen)

'Try uplighting trees, especially those with interesting bark, like the Tibetan cherry and silver birch. To create maximum impact, position a 50-watt spotlight close to the base of the trunk so the beam creates a play of shifting light and shadow up through the branches of the tree.'

19. Use LED outdoor lights for longer-lasting spot lighting

LED garden lights

LED lights, Cox & Cox

(Image credit: Cox & Cox)

LEDs (light emitting diodes) are popular as they are particularly useful for long cable runs, and can be used almost anywhere: in step lights, as recessed spots in paving and decking, even under water spouts and fountains. Some LEDs come in different colours and there are others where you can programme the colour to suit the mood. You will pay more for LED lights than standard fittings, but the bulbs last a lot longer and the fittings are more discreet. Permanently coloured lights are best used in moderation and specifically in areas where a distinct focus or style is required.

20. Invest in solar-powered garden lighting for an eco conscious garden setting

Cambridge Solar Stake Lights

(Image credit: Lights4Fun)

Solar-powered lights are good for the planet and they won’t require any electrical skills to install them – perfect if you want to create an eco-friendly garden. Solar lighting offers great versatility and cost effective illumination. In terms of performance, they used to lose out to more powerful, traditional options, but this is quickly changing. 

Chris Beardshaw says: 'LED and solar powered lights are creating a revolution in garden lighting as both are increasingly becoming available in hugely diverse styles, economically and with low maintenance requirements. Of course both are also efficient in light production, with solar lights now offering up to six hours of illumination.'

21. Pick lights that are as good as your garden furniture

Manutti Flame LED lights from Go Modern

(Image credit: Go Modern)

In a contemporary garden or patio, it's worth considering investing into well-designed lights that are portable, but will give permanent lighting fixtures a run for their money. We think that the Flame LED lanterns by Manutti used in this contemporary garden setting create a wonderfully formal look that's still easy to reconfigure. They're not cheap – find more affordable alternatives at Lights4fun.

22. Integrate stylish security lighting into your garden 

Security lights, such as porch lights, offer a high intensity flood light effect that is unflattering for a garden and those using or viewing it. However, careful positioning of security lighting combined with the use of more ornamental lights throughout the garden creates not only a more aesthetically rewarding effect, but also aids the security by illuminating the whole garden in a variety of ways.

23. Use soft zoned lighting in a roof garden

Roof garden lighting by John Cullen Lighting

(Image credit: John Cullen Lighting)

Lighting a garden that's on top of a roof presents lots of opportunities for clever outdoor lighting design. Think of a rooftop garden as a stage of sorts: the more different types of garden lighting it uses, the prettier it will look. This rooftop garden by John Cullen Lighting uses spot lights, deck lights, tabletop lanterns, and an outdoor fireplace to create multiple sources of light. 

24. Small balcony lighting: make the most of pendants

Soleron armchair from Ikea

(Image credit: Ikea)

If your garden is, in fact, a tiny balcony, you'll want to make the most use of vertical lighting opportunities. Fairy lights suspended along the top of the perimeter are an obvious choice, but you can also try decorating a tree with lanterns.

These garden lanterns are from Ikea.

25. Choose pendant lights with soft shades

Tribu Monsieur Tricot garden lamps

(Image credit: Go Modern Furniture)

The indoor-outdoor garden trend is hot right now, and that includes garden lighting design. If you're choosing garden pendant lights, for example, think softer shades that wouldn't be out of place in your living room; they also work really well in outdoor kitchens or dining areas. 

The stunning Tribu Monsieur Tricot garden lamps are from Go Modern Furniture

How to plan your garden lighting design

When thinking about where to start with garden lighting, remember that you can use lighting to better focus attention on plants and sculptures, while help mellow out unsightly sheds or the family trampoline (that you may only just manage to ignore during the day!). The secret, is not to overdo it – only illuminate your garden's best bits, as a little light goes a long way in the dark. Consider the following when lighting a garden:

Zone your garden

Garden designer and TV presenter Chris Beardshaw advises, 'Consider the many different forms of light at your disposal and break the garden down into areas. For instance, access paths, major routes, secluded areas and decorative features and statement plants all require the most illumination, but will need different treatment for the best results.'

Experiment with a torch

Garden design expert Matt James recommends: 'To work out which areas of your garden will look best lit up, take a torch out at night and experiment by shining it on different features, such as trelliswork, statues, pots and plants with an architectural form. All of these will look different when lit from various angles.'

Use spotlights to highlight features

'For another novel lighting idea, try positioning a spotlight at the base of an old brick or stone wall and see how the light grazes the wall above and throws the texture into sharp relief.' Try a similar trick with wall lights at shoulder height (above) to highlight a contemporary space and to provide practical illumination from one part of the garden to another at night.

Create drama with a projector

'A plain wall at the back of a border can be transformed into an outdoor projector screen by positioning a spotlight in front of big architectural plants like New Zealand flax or tall ornamental grasses, such as Miscanthus Flamingo. When the wind makes their silhouettes shimmy against the wall, you’ll have your own black-and-white movie.'

For a relaxed ambiance: fibre-optic outdoor lights will create a soft glow

Fibre-optic lights for gardens are fairly new and cast a soft ambient glow, making them perfect for highlighting steps or decking. DIY kits are relatively cheap, though if you opt for a professional to fit them, it will cost more compared to installing LEDs or conventional fluorescent lights.

Fluorescent outdoor lights: for flood lighting and security

Fluorescent lights are the most common lights for lighting a garden. Most designs have 12-volt halogen reflector lamps that use less energy and are therefore more environmentally friendly. For flood lighting and security, choose large halogen beam spreads, but go for one with a PIR (passive infrared) sensor that can be turned off manually so that it doesn’t waste energy or ruin garden get-togethers.

How to install garden lighting

Garden lights either work directly from the mains or through a transformer that provides a 12 or 24 low-voltage current. Both will need a qualified electrician to install them, but it is possible to fit some of the smaller low-voltage sets yourself once the power supply, usually a waterproof socket with an RCD (residual current device), has been fixed outside by a professional. Of the two, low-voltage lighting is best: it’s far safer, there are more fittings to choose from, it’s easier to install, and you can move the fittings around more readily. 

Working out the size of the transformer you’ll need to install is easy. Simply multiply the wattage and number of individual lights (bulbs) you want to use in your new lighting scheme. For example, four 30-watt lamps will require a 120-watt transformer. However, it’s always a good idea to go for a transformer that is larger than you think you’ll need, so in the future you can add more lights or up the brightness of the bulbs without the hassle of upgrading the transformer.

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