Want to make full use of your outdoor space after dark but need some lighting inspiration for your deck or patio? Try out these beautiful patio lighting ideas.
It’s no secret that I love my garden. There’s something relaxing about just being out there…even if it is just to pull some weeds.
I have to admit, though, that there is something I love even more than my garden during the day.
And that is my garden in the evening.
Partly because it’s cooler and partly because I can go out there without seeing all of the things that need to be done 🙂
But to make a garden really usable after dark, lighting is a necessity. (Beautiful outdoor lighting makes it impossible to resist going out there.)
However, it seems like a lot of people have trouble coming up with a plan to add outdoor lighting, or think it’s too hard (or too expensive) for them to do themselves.
I’m here to tell you that it really isn’t any of those things, and I’m going to show you how.
This is the first of a 3 part series on outdoor lighting, that will have you well on your way to creating your own evening garden retreat.
This week’s topic is all about different ways you can add lighting to your garden.
Be sure to check out all of the posts in the series…but for now, keep reading to see our patio lighting ideas.
Low Voltage Landscape Lighting
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Low voltage landscape lighting is the traditional way to add light to your garden.
It uses various types of light fixtures to showcase garden’s plants, structures and pathways.
Low voltage landscape lights can make a house look magical at night, via diynetwork.com
When you see a house that almost looks magical at night because of the lighting, chances are this is the lighting system that they have installed.
There are so many different types of light fixtures available that it can be a little daunting to know what you need.
But we’ll help you figure it out! Click HERE to read about how to create different outdoor lighting effects.
Low voltage lighting is powered by a transformer* that is plugged into a regular electrical outlet. It normally comes with a sensor that turns the lights on at dusk and off at dawn. It may also have the option to keep the lights on for a certain number of hours.
The lights themselves are attached to a low voltage wire* that runs through the garden. Because it is low voltage, it doesn’t carry enough electricity to shock or hurt anyone, so it does not fall under the same building codes as a standard electrical installation would.
That is good news for DIYers since it means you can install your own low voltage lighting, and it’s really not as hard as it looks!
Low voltage lighting is a very reliable light source that can be installed anywhere that you can run a wire to.
Solar Landscape Lighting
Solar landscape lights are a newer form of outdoor lighting that perform many of the same functions as low voltage landscape lighting. Since they don’t require any cords, there’s no need to worry about hooking about a transformer and wires like you do with traditional low voltage lighting…which makes them really easy to install!
Solar lights contain re-chargeable batteries that are charged during the day by the solar panel that is attached to the light. Each one has its own sensor that turns the light on at dusk…and the light will stay on for as long as the batteries still have a charge. The more sun and the newer the batteries, the longer the light will stay on and the brighter it will be.
If you have solar lights that aren’t working as well as they used to, try cleaning the solar pad and changing out the batteries for newer ones. You have no idea how many solar lights I threw out because they stopped working before I learned you could do this!
When it comes to batteries, you get what you pay for. The more expensive Nickel-metal hydride batteries (NiMH)* will have up to three times more capacity as the same size Nickel-cadmium (NiCd) battery, meaning they last longer and are more reliable.
As you can see, solar lights are generally not as bright as similar low voltage lights (although this has improved over the years), but their ease of installation makes them perfect for hard-to-wire spots that get some sun. And they will still work if the power goes out.
If you have a patio or deck, chances are you have a table with an umbrella that helps keep the sun off during the day.
But what about entertaining in the evening? That’s where umbrella lights come in handy! Some umbrellas come with lights already installed so you just have to turn them on!
I have these lighted LED umbrellas that need to be plugged in* on my deck…and I love them! The warm yellow-ish light is great because it doesn’t attract bugs.
However, I have a deck at the back of my yard which doesn’t have a power outlet close by. So I purchased a solar-powered version* of the same thing.
As long as it has enough sun during the day, the light it provides is just as good as the plugged in kind, which is awesome!
If you already have an umbrella and just need to add some lights, try retrofitting it using a patio umbrella light kit* that fits over the pole.
String lights are an easy way to provide light over a larger area, such as all the way around a patio or deck.
They come in many shapes and sizes so you can get something to suit your style. I use party string lights like these* around the edge of my gazebo.
And these edison-style string lights* work great hanging along the fence at the back of the yard.
For parties, lighted paper lantern string lights make a festive display.
A lot of people are used to flood lights being used as security lighting (outside the garage with a movement sensor…and they do work well for that). But they can also be a great way to add general lighting to your yard.
I am a big fan of these little LED Flood Lights* that come with a remote.
It allows you to control the color of the light, and turn them on and off from a distance.
I install them pointing down from the top of the gazebo.
Which provides great mood lighting for parties.
Just change the color of the light to change the mood!
They also work well for more traditional spot light applications, like providing colored lighting at the front of the house for your Christmas or Halloween decorations.
Torches* are a great way to add light in open areas (where the flame won’t be a problem).
And they have the added benefit that they can burn Citronella fuel* which helps to keep the bugs away.
DIY Outdoor Torch, via designsponge.com
Of course, if you prefer to make your own torches, it’s a great way to re-use wine bottles. Get the instructions at designsponge.com.
Just like in the house, candles add ambiance to any backyard scene, and come in many forms.
Candle chandeliers* are a pretty addition to your gazebo.
Wrought iron ones can be used outside, although they may rust over time.
Or you could always make your own like this one from sunset.com. Click here to get the tutorial.
And the traditional candle lantern* always looks classy.
Flame-less candles are another way to provide ambiance that is a little less risky than using open flame. They come in many different colors (like the red, white and blue ones I used for my 4th of July party).
They also are available in many sizes, including tea lights* (like the ones pictured above), and pillar candles* (like the ones pictured below). And many of them have timers or remote controls that makes them easy to turn on and off.
These flameless pillar candles are made of real wax and have a remote which lets you turn them on and off easily!
I haven’t tried these illuminated planters* yet, but as soon as I find a spot for them, they’ll be in my garden!
They are a great unexpected splash of color in your landscape when they are lit.
And look like white planters when they are not.
They are also solar-powered, so you can put them anywhere that gets some sun.
Outdoor Light Fixtures and Lamps
If you really want to create the look of an outdoor room, go for some outdoor lamps* or pendant lights that look like they could be indoors.
They provide a lot of light and make the area feel like an outdoor living room.
Just be sure to buy ones that are rated for outdoor use.
Hopefully you have found some ideas for adding lighting to your own garden.
Now go use that inspiration to create your own beautiful evening retreat 🙂
Comments or questions on our patio lighting ideas? Tell us in the section below.
This post was originally published on July 27, 2016 but was updated with new content on November 20, 2021.