If you want to enjoy your front or backyard, there are only so many hours in the day to do it. After night falls, if you don’t have the right lighting, it’s hard to take in your yard and all the hard work you’ve put into it. Thankfully, there are plenty of outdoor landscape lighting ideas to light up the night.
When it comes to outdoor lighting, there are a myriad of choices, and it can be tough to decide which to incorporate into your outdoor space. This handy guide will help you pick out some lighting ideas and take out some of the headache.
- 1. String lights
- 2. Stake lights
- 3. Outdoor wall lamps
- 4. Natural lighting
- 5. Step lights
- 6. Uplights and downlights
- 7. Hanging lanterns
- 8. Pool lights
- 9. Hardscape lights
- 10. Well lights
- 11. Strip lights
- 12. Light bars
- 13. Lighted planters
- 14. Luminary bags
- 15. Recessed lighting
- 16. Electric lamp posts
- 17. Homemade lights
- FAQ about outdoor landscape lighting
- When to call a professional
1. String lights
One option to help light up your yard is string lights, also known as fairy lights or holiday lights. These lights can be hung just about anywhere in your yard, wrapped around trees and posts, or strung above features like backyard patios.
String lights can make your yard feel like something straight out of a fairy tale and are great for downlighting. They come in LED and incandescent varieties, but LED is the sustainable option.
Pros of string lights:
- Easily customizable. String lights can be moved and rearranged however you like. Try making nice shapes and patterns, or use colored lights for added flair.
- Easy to install and maintain. All you have to do is hang up your lights and you’re done. Just make sure to use hooks instead of staples or tacks.
- Good for highlighting paths and focal points, such as flower beds and prized plants.
- They are good for moon lighting. String lights can help mimic natural moonlight with soft light bulbs and the right placement.
Cons of string lights:
- String lights need to be hung from something, and you may have to put up a post if there’s nothing suitable to use where you want to put them.
- They can be a fire hazard, especially with multiple lengths of lights.
2. Stake lights
Another good landscape lighting idea is stake lights, also called path lights. Stake lights are driven into the ground and provide lighting at ground level. Many are solar lights, requiring only sunlight to work, so you don’t need to use batteries or plug them into an outdoor electric socket. They make for good garden lights and can be moved and removed to your liking.
Pros of stake lights
- Easy to install. All you have to do is put them in the ground and watch them light up the night.
- Low cost. Stake lights are relatively cheap and won’t hike up your electric bill.
- Good for path lighting and highlighting focal points, just like string lights, and can provide a nice uplighting effect.
- Different varieties. There are various kinds of stake lights, from the standard lamp design to bollard lights, globes, and more.
Cons of stake lights
- They’re tripping hazards, especially for small children and those with mobility or vision issues.
- Can damage grass and lawns due to the holes left after removal.
3. Outdoor wall lamps
Another option is to install lamps on your home’s exterior. These require more work to install than other light fixtures but are worth the effort. They make for good accent lighting and downlighting and are a good start for a yard-wide lighting system.
Pros of wall lamps
- Provide lots of bright light. Outdoor wall lights are bright and can provide enough light to make your yard look like noon at nighttime.
- Add value to your home. Outdoor wall lamps add to a house’s curb appeal and can add a little extra to the listing if you decide to sell.
- Makes your home safer. Ne’er-do-wells and would-be burglars will think twice about targeting a house that’s all lit up.
- Different varieties. Outdoor wall lights come in a few different kinds, from sconces and lamps to spotlights and floodlights.
- Additional features. Many permanent light fixtures have features like dimmers, remote controls, and automatic shut-off, giving you more control over the lighting in your backyard landscaping.
Cons of wall lamps
- Difficult to install. Unless you’re an electrician, it’s best to hire someone to install these lights for you, as it’s complicated and mistakes with DIY can be costly.
- Limited illumination. Some wall lights will only provide light close to your house, or certain spots where they’re aimed at. Additional light sources might be needed for full yard coverage.
4. Natural lighting
If you want something a little less electric for your lighting needs, there are natural landscape lighting options. Seeing shadows dance from a natural light source is magical, and you won’t need to rely on electricity, solar power, or batteries.
Types of natural lighting ideas
- Outdoor fire pits
- Gas lanterns
Pros of natural outdoor lighting
- Cozy. Natural light sources can provide a homey and relaxing atmosphere.
- A centerpiece. If you use an outdoor fire pit, you have an automatic gathering place for when you have a group over to enjoy your yard, as well as a source of warmth on cold nights.
- Adds value. A permanent outdoor fire pit can greatly add to a home’s value.
Cons of natural outdoor lighting
- Difficult to install. You likely won’t be able to install a permanent outdoor fire pit by yourself, and will need to hire a professional.
- Fire hazards. Unfortunately, many natural lighting sources can start fires or burn people if you’re not careful.
- Limited illumination. As pretty as the lighting is, natural light sources don’t provide as much illumination as electric sources do.
5. Step lights
If you have steps in your yard, whether they’re part of a path or on your patio, they could probably do with some lights. Illuminating your steps accents them and can help make one of the most drab aspects of your backyard more attractive. Put lights on every other step to avoid the light being too bright and making the steps hard to see.
Pros of step lights
- Eliminate a tripping hazard. Tripping over a stair in the dark is never fun, especially when it leads to a hard fall. Installing step lighting can prevent trips and falls while enjoying your backyard at night.
- Options. Step lights can either be a temporary or permanent fixture.
- Easy to install. Many varieties of step lights are solar or battery-powered and can be attached with tape or bonding strips.
Cons of step lights
- Hard to install. Permanent step lights can be difficult to install and may be best left to a professional if you’re not handy with DIY.
6. Uplights and downlights
Uplights are any lights that are placed on the ground and point upwards. Downlights on the other hand are hung up from something or installed in a wall or ceiling, and point downwards.
Pros of uplights and downlights
- Easy to install. Most uplights and downlights are small and portable, so you can place them anywhere in your yard you like without trouble.
- Affordable. Uplights and downlights come in solar and battery-powered varieties, so they won’t add on to your electric bill.
- Good for highlighting focal points. Uplights and downlights are great for highlighting the best areas of your yard. For example, any large trees you’re fond of, or a prize-winning plant.
Cons of uplights and downlights
- Tripping hazard. Take care not to put your uplights too close to paths, as you or someone else may trip over them.
- Limited illumination. Since uplights and downlights are designed to highlight certain things, they won’t provide much light to your yard as a whole.
7. Hanging lanterns
If you want to add a rustic charm to your yard, lanterns are the way to go. These can be hung up in trees or set on a table, and are lit up with either an electric candle or a regular one. Paper lanterns can also be used if you don’t like the look of ones made of glass and metal.
Pros of hanging lanterns
- Easy to install. Just place a light source in your lanterns, put them where you want, and you’re done.
- Affordable. Many lanterns are available at a reasonable cost, especially paper lanterns.
Cons of hanging lanterns
- Fire hazard. Paper lanterns can easily catch fire, so electric candles are recommended in them.
- Limited illumination. Lanterns unfortunately aren’t very bright. You may need several of them to provide any significant amount of illumination to your yard.
8. Pool lights
If you’re lucky enough to have a swimming pool, adding some light fixtures to it can enhance it greatly. Swimming in a lit-up pool at night with the stars overhead is a magical experience rivaled by few others.
Pros of pool lights
- Eliminate a hazard. If an in-ground pool isn’t lit, it may be hard to see at night, and therefore easier to fall in by accident. Adding pool lights can prevent wet clothes, ruined electronics, or even worse.
- You can use your pool after dark. Swimming in the dark can be scary, but when it’s all lit up, you can enjoy your pool no matter what time of day it is.
- Easy to install. Many lighting options for above-ground pools (and some for in-ground pools) are portable and easy to attach to the walls or rim of your pool.
Cons of pool lights
- Difficult to install. Installing any lighting in the walls of in-ground pools is a great deal of work, and will most likely require hiring a professional.
- Electrocution hazard. Having lights underwater introduces the risk of electrocution. Low-voltage LED lights can help reduce this risk, as can installing any pool lighting above the surface of the water.
9. Hardscape lights
Hardscape lights are lights installed in the hardscape areas of your backyard, such as walls, paths, and stones. Patios, decks, and driveways are also considered hardscape. Adding lighting to them can help enhance some of the more frequently-traveled areas of your yard. These can be either a permanent or temporary fixture.
Pros of hardscape lighting
- Highlight textures in your hardscape.
- Make your home more secure. Criminals will think twice about targeting a house with well-lit paths, driveways, and patios.
Cons of hardscape lighting
- Difficult to install. Especially in the case of concrete paths or other hard materials like stone, installing hardscape lighting will likely require a hired professional.
10. Well lights
Well lights are lights that are buried in the ground, with only a small portion above the surface. They’re a good way to light up your yard without needing a visible light source, so if you want light but don’t want to look at light fixtures, these might be right for you.
Pros of well lights
- No tripping hazard. Unlike other ground-level lights, well lights don’t present a tripping hazard.
- Discreet. Since they’re concealed underground, well lights are good for creating fancy and mysterious lighting effects.
- Good for highlighting prominent features. Well lights make for good uplighting and can cast light on almost any favored area of your yard without the need for more prominent light fixtures.
Cons of well lights
- Difficult to install. If installed in a hard surface such as a concrete path, you may need to hire a professional to install well lights.
- Damage to your lawn. If installed in grass, well lights leave a space that will need to be filled after removal.
11. Strip lights
Strip lights are similar to string lights, but have smaller lights that are attached directly to the strips instead of hanging from them like string lights do. They look cleaner than string lights and fit better into small spaces and corners while still being able to wrap around things. They create the effect of a solid string of light.
Pros of strip lights
- Easy to install. Strip lights are attached to surfaces with adhesive, so they’re easy to put up.
- Easily customizable. Like string lights, strip lights can be hung almost anywhere you like. If you want to move them, you can use double-sided tape to stick them back up somewhere else. Unlike string lights, some can also be cut to fit different lengths.
- Different varieties. Strip lights come in many fun colors and can even be color-changing, making them great for nighttime pool parties and outdoor dinner parties.
Cons of strip lights
- Cannot attach everywhere. Since strip lights use adhesive, they don’t attach very well to rough surfaces.
- Replacing individual lights on strip lights is tricky, and may be necessary if some lights go out before the rest.
12. Light bars
Light bars are exactly what they sound like, bars of lights. They can either sit on the ground or be attached to walls. Light bars can easily wash walls or other surfaces with light and add a modern touch to any backyard.
Pros of light bars
- Good for uplighting. Ground-level light bars are great for accenting walls and other flat surfaces from below.
- Easy to install. Light bars can be installed almost anywhere and at any angle with relative ease.
Cons of light bars
- Tripping hazard. Ground-level light bars present a tripping hazard, especially considering their length.
- Limited illumination. Light bars aren’t designed to light up large portions of the yard.
13. Lighted planters
If you pride yourself on your green thumb, then a good outdoor landscape lighting idea might be lighted plant pots. These can double as both a light source and a beautiful new home for your favorite plants. Many planters come with lights preinstalled, but there’s nothing stopping you from putting your own lights on your favorite planters as well.
Pros of lighted plant pots
- Good for highlighting your favorite plants. If you have a prize-winning rose or any other plant you’re particularly proud of, a lighted pot can turn it into a centerpiece.
- Easy to install. Lighted pots require no more effort than a regular plant pot.
- Easily customizable. You can rearrange your lighted pots any way you wish.
Cons of lighted plant pots
- Expensive. Lighted plant pots can be quite pricey without DIY.
14. Luminary bags
If you want something unique, then luminary bags might be the right light source for your yard. Luminary bags are small paper bags with candles in them, and typically have small holes or designs cut out. They’re typically used around the holiday season, but there’s nothing stopping you from putting them out year-round. Luminaries can also be made out of clay or, if you live in an area with freezing temperatures, ice.
Pros of luminary bags
- Beautiful. Luminary bags look magical, and can help your lawn feel like something out of a fantasy world.
- Affordable. Luminaries are cheap and easy to make, as all you need is a paper bag, some sand to weigh it down with, and an electric or regular candle.
- Easily customizable. You can cut any design you like into a luminary bag.
- Easy to install. Luminary bags are incredibly easy to place and move throughout your yard.
Cons of luminary bags
- Fire hazard. The paper bag presents a fire hazard, so electric candles should be used in them.
15. Recessed lighting
Recessed lighting sources are unobtrusive lights set in walls or ceilings. They’re permanent fixtures that are wired into your home, and are rather similar to well lights. Consider installing these in places such as your porch or deck ceiling if you want to light up your outdoor spaces without having to look at light fixtures.
Pros of recessed lighting
- Good for lighting patios and decks. Recessed lights can easily light up your outdoor gathering spaces.
- Good for downlighting. Recessed lights are great for creating downlighting effects.
- Discreet. Due to their unobtrusive design, recessed lights are good for creating discreet lighting effects such as moon lighting.
- Add value to your home. Recessed lighting in your outdoor spaces can add to the value of your home.
Cons of recessed lighting
- Difficult to install. Recessed lighting will likely require the help of a hired professional to install and wire them.
- Limited illumination. Recessed lighting is limited to walls and ceilings, so it’s not good for lighting up the yard as a whole.
16. Electric lamp posts
If you want a light source with some class, consider an electric lamp post. These are permanent installations that are wired into your home and set in concrete. Lamp posts can take up quite a bit of space and are better for larger yards. They’re great for adding a nice atmosphere while lighting up your yard.
Pros of lamp posts
- Beautiful. Lamp posts look very nice, and can make your yard feel classy and refined.
- Add value to your home. Lamp posts are a unique feature that can add on to the value of a home.
- Good for lining paths. Lamp posts along a path can highlight and illuminate it.
Cons of lamp posts
- Difficult to install. Between wiring and pouring concrete, you may need the help of a professional to install lamp posts.
- Expensive. Lamp posts can be quite pricey.
- Damage to your yard. Digging out the hole, pouring in the concrete, and running the wires can leave unsightly holes in your grass that you’ll need to fill if the light posts are removed.
17. Homemade lights
If you just can’t find anything you like to light your yard with, then making your own light source could be the way to go. Filling a mason jar with string lights can create a beautiful glow that looks like fireflies in a jar. A tea light in a tin can with a design cut out of it can make for an attractive rustic feature. There are countless ways to make your own outdoor landscape lighting features at home.
Pros of DIY lights
- Affordable. Materials for DIY lights are inexpensive, and assembling them costs you nothing but time.
- Easy to install. Many DIY lights are small and portable, so they can be moved and placed with ease.
- Easily customizable. Your DIY lights can be anything you want them to be.
- Unique. Making your own light sources ensures that each one is one of a kind.
Cons of DIY lights
- More work than traditional lights. Homemade light sources may be pretty, but you’ll need to put in a bit more elbow grease to make them happen.
- Limited illumination. Many DIY light sources aren’t very bright, and unless you’re using something with some serious lumens, you’re likely to need another light source to fully illuminate your yard.
FAQ about outdoor landscape lighting
It can be, yes. Some lighting features are pricey, especially if you hire a professional to install permanent ones, and if they’re plugged or wired into your home, the cost goes up over time.
Fuel for non-electric sources and batteries for wireless ones will also incur some amount of cost.
Thankfully, lights are available in a wide variety of price ranges, so you should be able to find something within your budget without too many problems. Just keep in mind that you often get what you pay for.
A good way to save on your lighting is to pick LED lights instead of incandescent ones. They have a number of benefits over other types of lighting, including cost.
Reasons to use LED lights:
• Use less electricity. LED lights are low voltage, which uses less powerthan incandescent lights and saves you on your electric bill.
• Less heat. LED lights don’t get as hot as incandescent or halogen ones, so you won’t burn yourself if you touch one by accident.
• Safety. LED lights are safer than incandescent and can have more consecutive strings attached without creating a fire hazard.
• More light. LED bulbs produce more light than incandescent ones.
• Longer lasting. LED lights last longer than incandescent ones.
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing what kind of landscape lighting to install. Two big ones are size and frequency of use. If all you like to do is sit on the porch and relax, some nice wall lights should be all you need. If you camp out in the backyard, on the other hand, or frequently host social gatherings, you’ll want something to illuminate more surface area.
Try looking out at your yard at night and identifying which areas need light the most and which ones you want lit up the most, then picking lights that will help you illuminate them. Another good way to decide is to pick lights that match your area and maintenance needs. For example, if you don’t want to change batteries, pick solar or hardwired lights. If you don’t get enough sun for solar lights, however, pick battery-powered or hardwired lights.
All lighting ideas carry dangers. It all depends on what kind you’re using. Here are a few dangers to look out for when using or installing outdoor landscape lighting:
• Electrocution. This is most common in lights hardwired to your house, while solar and battery-operated lights carry less risk. Low voltage lights are still dangerous, so be careful around them.
• Fire. Any electric or natural light source can start a fire, so make sure any outdoor outlets are protected from the elements and all wires are properly insulated. In addition, be very careful around sources of open flame, and have a fire extinguisher ready.
• Tripping hazards. Any light source that’s placed at ground level is a tripping hazard, so take care with them.
When to call a professional
If you want to create a gorgeous outdoor space with plenty of light but just can’t seem to figure out what to do, it might be time to hire a professional. Connect with a local landscaping professional to help you meet your lighting needs.
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