Outdoor Lighting



Here are the facts. Planning outdoor lighting allows you to explore many potential lighting ideas, from the types of lighting fixtures and choices – malibu, solar powered, low-voltage, LED garden lights and landscape lighting kits on the market to get the most “garden light” for your dollar and enjoyment.

We receive lighting questions like the one below all the time:

We plan on adding outdoor lighting to our garden and landscape but need some help with planning some of the lighting requirements. Can you give us a little “lighting design” direction please?

Answer: Outdoor lighting design like any other well-organized project, needs proper planning to receive the greatest possible enjoyment and satisfaction from it.

Only in this way can you eliminate, wasted effort and wasted money. You want to make certain you take advantage of the landscape possibilities inherent in your home grounds, and this includes landscape lighting which improves curb appeal.

Though you may not be able to complete the whole plan for your outdoor space in one season, at least you will be working toward a definite lighting solution and goal.


Each Lighting Fixture Must Have A Purpose

If you want maximum effectiveness, each light placed in the garden landscape must be planned for and installed to fulfill a particular function in the overall landscape lighting scheme. In general, your lights serve one of the following five purposes:

  • To light up attractive portions of your garden to enjoy its beauty by night as well as by day
  • To adequately illuminate your terrace, patio, barbecue, or other recreational areas for real outdoor space living and entertaining after dark.
  • To light up entryways, walkways, driveways, and service areas for your nighttime safety and convenience
  • To provide you with a movable source of plentiful overhead light for working around the home exterior or for playing games on the lawn
  • To provide safety and security lighting for guest who visit or lighting to discourage potential intruders
  • In many cases, by proper outdoor plant lights planning, you can often make the same lightfixtures serve more than one purpose.

A wisely located spotlight or flood lights, for example, will not only light up an attractive large shrub but can also spill enough additional side light intensity for safe walking along a nearby garden path.

Planning On Paper For Lighting The Outdoor Garden Areas

The first step in planning your outdoor exterior lighting is to make a simple scale drawing of your home grounds and landscape. This is best drawn on graph paper, allowing each square to represent 2 or 3 feet, depending on the relative size of your graph paper.

Using a ruler, draw in the outlines of your house, garage, driveways, and patios or terraces. Indicate the location of picture windows and entrances. Also sketch in all water features, pools, flower beds, large trees, shrubs, and other principal features of your home landscaping.

Accurate scale measurements are not essential, but try to keep the various elements in approximately correct proportions, so you will not have a distorted diagram. When completed, ink it in so that you can erase later without smudging the basic outlines.

Keeping in mind the five principal purposes for outdoor lighting (as above), indicate these areas on your plan. Don’t try to figure out where each light will go at this point.

Now you merely want to indicate approximately the areas to be illuminated and the number of outlets required (if needed). Use a different colored pencil for each type of lighting, outlining the area with a roughly drawn circle or ellipse.

Location And Purpose Of Garden Lighting

Since the principal purpose of garden lighting is for the enjoyment of your garden after dark, concern yourself with the view your garden lighting will provide. This applies only to the parts of your garden visible from your principal living areas at night.

There is of course little sense in lighting up a flower bed located in a non-visible area unseen from nighttime outdoor or indoor living areas.

Start by roughly outlining with a colored pencil the trees, shrubs, or other plantings to be lighted. Consider the views from your terrace or patio, from your barbecue or outdoor areas, and also from indoors through the large window areas of your living room, dining room, or playroom.

We’ll talk in future articles how to decide on the specific plants to be lighted, and how best to light each of them. At this point, just sketch in the overall area to be treated.

Patio, Terrace and Deck Lighting

Patio, terrace and deck lighting should provide you with a true outdoor living area in which you can enjoy the same family and social times.


Lighting On Entrances, Driveways and Walkways

For safety and convenience, walks and driveways need well-planned lighting. Except for garden – path lights, most of this illumination should be located as high overhead as possible to avoid any blinding glare.

Most homes will have some of this lighting already built-in if only a light over the front door. But for now, ignore this fact.

Use a third colored pencil to outline roughly the driveways, walks, entrances (front and back), and other service areas requiring lighting. Remember that the entire driveway or walk may not require light. A driveway, for example, needs path lights only on the portion near the garage or parking area.

Don’t worry if some of the rough circles you draw overlap each other. In many cases, this is desirable, since it will indicate locations where one light might perform a dual function.

Hopefully, this “planning outline” will give some place to start and begin to formulate your outdoor lighting perspectives and get them on paper to get the lighting design details worked out.

Below you’ll find links to many articles on our site which we constantly update. We’ve tried to organize them into sections by topic.

Landscape Lighting Tips & Techniques

Outdoor Lighting Ideas

Low-Voltage Garden Lighting

Mason Jar Lights

Fiber Optic


Solar Lights Don’t Charge Anymore? Try This To Rejuvenate The Lights [Video]

8 Solar Landscape Lighting Tips


Rope Lights

11 Creative Ideas For Using Rope Lighting In Your Garden


A Look Ahead Into Tomorrow… Plants And Artificial Lights

How Light or Lack of It Effects Plants

Understanding the Effects of Light on Plant Growth

7 Best Grow Lights Known As T5

Growing Plants Indoors Under Artificial Light

Understanding Natural Light for House Plants: Which Window?


7 reasons to install landscape lighting

Pathway Lighting

Deck Patio

Dress Up Your Deck Or Pool With Fiber Optic Pool Lighting

Lighting The Barbecue Area

Outdoor Garden Lighting: General Principles, Tips and Ideas

Highlight Accent

Landscape Lighting – Add Security and Accents to Your Home and Garden

4 Tips On Lighting Flower And Landscape Beds

How To Light Trees, Palms and Large Shrubs In The Landscape