The logo for

With all the love and care we put into our gardens, we absolutely deserve to show them off. But while it’s easy to have a garden on display during the day, nighttime only serves to cover our pretty flowers and pathways.

There is, however, a very aesthetic way to bring life to your garden and illuminate your beautiful plants. Garden lights make for additional decoration while lighting up an outdoor space. But how to choose them, and where do they go? Here’s a quick guide to choosing outdoor lighting fixtures for your garden.


Why Install Garden Lighting?

Outdoor garden lighting has different purposes depending on where you place your fixtures. These include:

  • Security: outdoor lights discourage would-be intruders from targeting your home since they increase the risk of getting caught
  • Safety: lights around paths, gates, and steps allow you to see where you’re going, preventing accidents
  • Nighttime events: have dinner in the garden, or have a romantic picnic under the stars, under the lights of your outdoor fixtures
  • Landscape lighting: incorporate lighting fixtures into your trees, shrubs, and groundcover to make the most of your foliage

The type of light you install will depend on the location and function. Survey your garden and decide where you want to install any outdoor lighting, and how you would like it to look. If you’re uncertain, feel free to consult a local gardening professional or landscape designer – you can even have your garden fixed up before decking it out!


Types of Garden Lights

There are several types of garden lights depending on form and function. You could stick to just one if you only need a specific type, or mix and match what you install for each garden area. Some examples of outdoor garden lights include:

1. Path Lights

These illuminate pathways, steps, and other walkways frequently traversed so people can see where they’re going at night. They can also add some dramatic ambience to your garden, especially if you have guests. There are several designs, such as downlights, bollards, flush lights, or stake lights.


2. Spotlights and Floodlights

If you want a large space lit up in one go, spotlights and floodlights are a good choice. Floodlights cover a much larger area, and are best positioned higher up. These are particularly effective for outdoor events, providing plenty of light no matter how late the time. There are also automated ones that turn on when motion-activated, as a security feature!

On the other hand, spotlights are good for highlighting specific sections of your garden, such as clusters of flowering shrubs or garden beds. Stake these in the ground and point them at the relevant plants to show off nature’s beautiful handiwork.


3. Wall Lights

Line your fence, patio, or climbing trellis to help illuminate the spaces around it and add some decoration. Just make sure the fixtures are securely mounted, and keep your wall lights protected from the elements. Pick whatever design fits the look of your house best – you won’t lack options!


4. Deck Lights

These fixtures are good for softer lighting options, since they provide moderate illumination without being overly bright. You can install them around a deck, alongside stairs, or around a gazebo. There are several kinds, including ones that turn on automatically or change colour!


5. Ground Lights

Choose ground lights for a softer lighting option in garden beds or landscaped areas. These recessed lights offer mild illumination directed upwards, highlighting low plants or outdoor house features. Ground lights are best for those who want a subtle effect, since these sit mostly below the surface and can blend in with groundcover.


6. Hanging Lights

These are an aesthetic choice, meant to add ambience to an outdoor area. Also known as fairy lights, they can come in a number of shapes, such as small light bulbs or little stars. String them across an open space, or hang them up on a trellis to add some Instagram-worthy lighting to your garden and home.


Outdoor Lighting Power Sources

Generally, there are two ways to power an outdoor light – electric and solar. Each has its pros and cons, with different types of installation. Carefully weigh which option is best to light up your garden.


Electric Lights

These are generally brighter due to their direct power source, and come with various automations such as motion sensors, timers, switches, and colour or brightness changes. There’s a wide variety of types available for many different lighting purposes. 

They do need to be hard-wired, though, and they won’t function if your power gets cut. It’s best to get a professional to install these so they can hide any wires and make sure everything is connected properly.

The most popular choice for outdoor electric lights are 12V or low voltage lighting systems. There are two bulbs available:

1. Halogen Lights

The biggest advantage of halogen bulbs is their lower cost upfront, both for the bulbs themselves and their installation. They generally provide higher light intensity, and last longer than their incandescent counterparts. They heat up fairly easily, though, and will need to be regularly replaced; the average lifespan of a halogen bulb is around 2,000–5,000 hours.

2. LED Lights

LED garden lights have very long lifespans, stretching up to 40,000 hours. These are the most energy efficient outdoor lights, since they last long and use less power. In the long run, LED garden lights are lower maintenance, since LED bulbs need less frequent replacement and produce less heat. They cost more to install, however, which is something for homeowners to consider.


Solar Lights

If you’ve ever wanted to take advantage of the burning Aussie sun, then solar powered lights are the way to go. These most often come in a setup with a single-cell panel that absorbs sunlight throughout the day, converting it into solar energy to power the lightbulb.

The biggest advantages of solar lights are the cost and ease of installation, and environmental impact. They’re frequently designed as ‘spike lights’ – meaning they have a stake that you drive into the soil, so installation is entirely wireless. Because of this, they’re easy to DIY. And since they take their energy from the sun, they don’t drive up electricity costs and have a much lower carbon footprint. They also won’t lose power if the electricity goes out.

On the other hand, their power source is unreliable – if it’s cloudy out, they won’t charge as efficiently. They’re also less bright than their electric counterparts, so they have limited purpose – mostly as path or decorative lighting. Larger solar lights will require solar panels, which can have prohibitive costs.


Factors for Choosing Garden Lights

Some things you should consider when choosing your outdoor lights include:

  • Colour: White light is much more intense and bright, while warm white light is softer and offers a better accent.
  • Location: Plan ahead so you know where to place any lights you need to install. Consider creating a lighting scheme so you’ll have pre-assigned placements for different types of garden lights, making installation easier.
  • Position: Do you want these pointing towards plants? A water feature? Your garage or house? Consider where the direction of the light source will be, since it can cause glare or blind people while they pass your home. Space out lights so they’re not all concentrated on one focal point.
  • Protection: Since these lights are outdoors, they’ll be exposed to the elements. Make sure they’re adequately shielded from rain and wind.
  • Power sources: If you’re using 12V/electric bulbs, ensure any wiring is hidden and not where people or pets can trip over them. For solar powered lights, place them somewhere with plenty of sunlight.
  • Accessories: Optional features like a motion sensor, light sensor, or aesthetic housing can provide extra functionality to your garden lights.


Light It Up!

Once you have this guide to garden lights, your lighting ideas, and a plan in place for illuminating your backyard, it’s time to get your lights and get creative. Just don’t go overboard and brighten up the entire space – with outdoor lighting, a little can go a long way!


About Author

Jamie Donovan

Jamie is an Australian horticulturalist and landscape designer. He enjoys writing about landscape architecture, garden design and lifestyle topics.


About Author

Jamie Donovan

Jamie is an Australian horticulturalist and landscape designer. He enjoys writing about landscape architecture, garden design and lifestyle topics.