10 Garden Lighting Tips: #3 – How To Best Use Spotlights In The Landscape

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Summary: Here are 10 garden lighting tips for the do-it-yourself gardener and landscaper. Even though outdoor landscape lighting is easy to install, it is always best to have some tips and ideas when going through the process of your garden lighting design.

Question: Thank you for answering my question… I read the article on “Lighting the Garden” which did help but… do you have any other garden lighting tips to share, as we want the landscape lighting to be efficient and look like no other in the neighborhood. Jenn, Atlanta, Georgia

Answer: Jenn, glad to help. Your question on “Lighting the Garden” got me thinking more about the topic of garden lighting and what other tips would be helpful when installing outdoor lighting in the landscape garden. So here are a few more garden lighting tips.

In addition to using all possible skill in concealing your sources of illumination as we discussed in “Lighting the Garden”, there are other principles of good design for setting up your garden lighting.

While not inflexible or all-inclusive, here are the more important lighting tips to be observed and consider in achieving an enchanted garden of lights together with a wide range of options.

Garden Lighting Tips For Executing Your Lighting Plan


  • Since natural light almost always comes from above, the bulk of your exterior lighting whether it is outdoor solar lights, solar garden lights or electric garden lights, should come from the same direction – from overhead – and the higher the better.
  • Use comparatively low wattage flood lights for most of this, never any outdoor lights or light bulbs larger than 100 watts. Consider low-voltage lighting as well.
  • Garden spotlights should be used sparingly in the landscape and for accent lighting only. Use them to highlight an otherwise evenly illuminated scene, or to point out an interesting landscape detail or feature like a pool.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s specifications as to the maximum wattage bulb to be used in any light fixtures. But remember, a smaller bulb will often be adequate for lighting fixtures, and with surprisingly pleasing results. LED garden lights or LED lights put out a lot of light and are efficient.
  • Besides making certain that your landscape lights do not shine into your eyes, courtesy also requires that they do not shine into your neighbor’s eyes. One way to check this is to take a walk around the garden at night while the lights are on… or ask your neighbor!
  • When lighting a large flower bed or other planting area in the garden, it is better to use a number of smaller lights rather than a single large unit. This creates a series of softly overlapping pools of light that are free of harsh glare in the center.
  • Very little of your landscape lighting should be front lighting. Regardless of whether the light comes from above or below, most of the light should come from the sides. Try to have more coming from one side than the other. This results in better modeling, and will give a more interesting shadow effect. Experiment with back lighting also for interesting silhouette effects.
  • Comparatively solid objects will be illuminated more effectively than thin skeleton-like structures. Avoid bare trees, open trellises, and the like.
  • Select a focal point or center of attraction for each lighted area, and highlight this by emphasizing it with additional brightness, point out its most attractive features with one or two spotlights, or with a light coming from an unusual angle, such as straight up.
  • Make full use of light-colored reflective surfaces as wall lights in your lighting scheme. Light-colored walls and fences often can be used to advantage to extend the source of illumination by reflecting and diffusing the rays of light over a wide area.

All that is left to do now is to start making your outdoor space plan and get started transforming your day garden to a night-time garden.

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