5 Tips for Outdoor Lighting for a Perfect Garden at Night

Adding some outdoor lighting to your garden can make a huge difference to the ambience during the evening and all the things you can do there.

While many of us will enjoy spending time outside during the day when there’s plenty of sunlight to go around, the backyard can often become ‘off limits’ when darkness falls and you’re no longer able to see what you’re doing.

Add a bit of outdoor lighting though and you suddenly have a space where you can read, chat or enjoy a nice meal long into the small hours. Not only that but the right lighting can make a garden area look much more romantic, atmospheric and all-round pleasant to spend time in.

To make the most of this though, you need to know how to design your garden lighting for maximum effect. Here are some tips that we’ve learned through 30 years of experience working with homeowners at Transfer Electric.

Light Your Features

While there’s nothing to stop you dotting lights around your garden at random, you’ll create a much more pleasant effect if you apply a little strategy. In particular, this might mean thinking about how you can light specific elements or features. Think about the way that landmarks will often be lit up from underneath in big cities – you can create the same effect with a potted plant, a pond, a garden ornament or even a small tree. Lit trees are particularly beautiful, as the light will break through the branches and leaves to create more drama and dynamism.

Likewise, lighting a pond or a fountain from underneath will have the effect of refracting the light. This will then create dancing shadows in the garden in time with the trickling of the water. It’s a highly soporific effect and one that has helped many a garden to really stand out.

Think too about the shadows that certain objects in the garden will cast and how they can be used to play with the overall effect.

Spacing vs Atmosphere

Lighting certain areas more than others will instantly create more atmosphere thanks to the contrast of light and dark. This also avoids flatter lighting which can be duller to look at.

That said though, you should try and keep your lit areas fairly well spaced across the whole of your garden. Not only does this create balance but it also prevents there from being any ominous-looking dark corners in your garden.

Think About Use

If you’re struggling to think of where your lights should go, then think about how you actually want to use your garden. If you have a garden path for instance, then lighting that path will help you to navigate in the dark while creating a visual focal point that will really look the part.

Likewise, if you plan on spending evenings eating outside then you need to ensure you have enough light around the table and on the route to the table from the house. For reading, you’ll want to create an oasis of light somewhere that is bright enough to read by.


The best garden lighting is subtle and not ostentatious. This means that the lights should not be too bright (keeping to a lower wattage of around 20W-50W) and it also keeps the lighting set-up safer. At the same time, it is also important to make sure you conceal the lights themselves and the leads that lead up to them. You don’t want big, ugly cables and plugs being visible; rather you want to create the illusion that the features themselves are emitting light.

Options and Control

Also important is to give yourself plenty of options. While it’s nice to have an atmospherically-lit garden, this might be less welcome if you plan to spend an evening stargazing. Conversely, if you’re having a garden party then you might decide you want to increase your lighting.

While features like security lights and solar lamps can be very useful, they need to have an option for easily disabling them when you prefer.

Better yet, some lights will give you the option for more advanced settings. This might mean controlling lights from the comfort of your couch, or it might mean being able to turn the lights up and down for even more options. Some even let you program specific behaviors, or even alter the color of your lights!

These are just a few tips to help you come up with a plan for your garden lighting. Of course the best option for you will depend on your personal preferences as well as the layout of your space. Speak with your electrician and experiment with a few options to see what works for you!

About the author:  Nelson is the owner of Transfer Electric, an electrical services firm in Toronto, Ontario.  He especially has a passion for using lighting to create beautiful environments both indoors and outdoors.