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The 13 Very Best Garden Lights

Photo: Retailer

As the days get shorter, garden lights are a great option to extend your outdoors hours well past sunset. They come in a range of styles, sizes, and brightnesses and can provide soft, ambient illumination for a late-night glass of wine or emit bright enough light for a party. We spoke to seven expert gardeners about their favorites, which range from versatile, affordable rope lights to an ingenious string of LEDs that mounts along the ribs of an umbrella.

Best overall | Best string for large areas | Best incandescent string | Best solar-powered string | Best solar-powered rope | Best pathway | Best flush pathway | Best wall mounted | Best security | Best faux paper lantern | Best portable | Best fairy | Best umbrella

What we’re looking for

Light type and brightness: In general, garden lights are dimmer than indoor lights, and most options on our list fall somewhere between the brightness of a battery-powered candle and a medium-strength bike light. Both LEDs and incandescent bulbs appear on this list: LED lights burn brighter for longer and come in a wider range of colors, but some prefer the aesthetic and warmth of incandescents. Where possible, we’re providing specifications in lumens, which is a more direct measure of brightness than wattage.

Installation style: There are many styles of garden lights, from portable battery-powered lanterns to LED sconces designed to be installed along a fence. Two of the most common styles are string lights, which can be hung, draped, or wrapped around structures, and stake lights, which are anchored into the ground. Both are versatile and easy to move around or reinstall; in general, stake lights are most useful for illuminating pathways, and string lights provide ambient overhead light (this includes rope lights, which are similar to string lights but are covered in a protective PVC tube).

Solar powered versus electric: Many garden lights are solar powered, which has several benefits: They’re low maintenance, don’t run up your electrical bill, and can be installed anywhere — plus the same sunny conditions that keep your plants happy are also ideal for charging solar batteries. Still, some of our experts prefer lights that plug into an electrical outlet, which tend to be brighter and more reliable, especially during the winter. Gardener Katie Parks says that, although “lots of solar lights throughout can be really magical and soft … if you need to really light up an area, I would go for electric.” Ecologist, botanist, and home grower Becky Searle gives the caveat that solar lights “don’t work as well in the dark months, when you need them the most.”

Best overall

30 lumens, LED | String light | Electric

This strand of LED lights, recommended by garden blogger CaliKim, the author of Organic Gardening for Everyone, check all our boxes: They’re durable — with shatterproof bulbs and an IP45 waterproof rating, making them safe to keep outdoors in wet conditions — and versatile enough to work well in any space, whether a backyard or an apartment balcony. They’re also fairly affordable and come in several lengths, from 25 feet to 100 feet, which makes it easier to buy exactly what you need without spending extra for surplus footage. (You can also add up to seven more strands if you move or need to buy extra lights for an event.) At 30 lumens, they’re on the brighter side, but are dimmable if you prefer a moodier garden.

Best electric string lights for large areas

1 watt per light, LED | String light | Electric

Another string-light option, recommended by Searle, Feit Electric’s LEDs are a bit more expensive than the Svater option. They have a thick, heavy-duty cable and a warm white glow — and, especially useful for those hosting events, can be combined with as many as 44 other strands of lights for an incredible 2,160 feet of length. There’s also a small loop at the top of each socket, which facilitates easy hanging.

Best incandescent string lights

5 watts, incandescent | String light | Electric

With 25 lights spread out over a 25-foot cord, these incandescent string lights are the favorite of Brooklyn terrace gardener Marie Viljoen. She wraps them around a wrought-iron railing to create a “simple, old-school ambience” for outdoor meals. For larger spaces, you can connect up to two strands.

Best solar-powered string lights

$45

100 lumens | String light | Solar powered

Strategist staff writer Jeremy Rellosa included Mpowerd’s solar string lights in his ranking of the best camping lanterns. The 18-foot cord is connected to a solar battery that can provide up to 20 hours of illumination at the dimmest setting. Plus, it’s portable, with a built-in storage system: The lights can “wrap around the unit and store neatly inside of it,” Rellosa says.

Best solar-powered rope lights

LED | Rope light | Solar powered

For highlighting structures in your garden, these affordable 72-foot rope lights can work similarly to an indoor LED light strip and are a favorite of Florida garden influencer Corey Paul of Gardening With Goo, who uses them to outline his garden beds. (He originally recommended a now-discontinued product by Opolemin, which has many of the same specifications as this Brightown option). They’re solar-powered, with a panel that adjusts up to 120 degrees to catch sun, and the tube contains copper wire with a thin waterproof coating, which makes the lights more easily posable.

Best pathway lights

2 lumens, LED | Stake | Solar powered 

Amber Grossman, the founder of BlackGirlsGardening, and Paul both recommend these solar-powered stake lights by Maggift, which can be driven into the ground to help you find your footing along a garden path at night. They are on the dimmer side, but come in a pack of eight to create a soft glow along your garden walkways.

Best flush pathway lights

Solpex Solar Ground Lights
From $32
From $32

5 lumens, LED | Stake | Solar-powered

Grossman also recommends these pathway lights by Solpex, which are brighter than the Maggift lights. They come in a pack of eight or 12 in either white or warm white. They’re installed flush with the ground, which creates a streamlined look and avoids the risk of tripping or tangling up a hose or leash in the stakes.

Best wall-mounted garden lights

10 lumens, LED | Wall-mounted | Solar-powered

This set of eight weatherproof lights, recommended by CaliKim, are solar powered and can be mounted on walls, fences, or other surfaces. (Installation requires two screws, so you’ll need a power drill to hang them.) They have a warm white hue, and if you’re having a party, there’s a setting to cycle through rainbow colors.

Best wall-mounted security light

2,500 lumens, 300 LEDs | Wall-mounted | Solar-powered

CaliKim uses a variety of both solar and electric lights in her garden depending on the situation. For security, she likes this superbright Litom Solar Motion-Sensor light, which she says is “great for the side of the house and fits nicely under eaves or hard-to-reach places.” It has three modes (dim, medium, and high) and has a waterproof rating of IP67, which means it can handle wet conditions and could even be submerged in shallow water.

Best faux paper lantern

Photo: Retailer

3–4 lumens, LED | Hanging | Solar powered

Paper lanterns are beautiful, but will turn to pulp in the rain. If you’ve ever rushed lanterns indoors at the first sign of drizzle, consider these ingenious outdoors-friendly faux paper lanterns made by garden-light company Allsop. They have a stainless-steel frame covered in perforated Tyvek fabric, a waterproof and UV-resistant synthetic textile used in construction. The lanterns come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and patterns, from a lemon-printed globe to a navy-blue bell-shaped light. Lauri Kranz, a co-author of A Garden Can Be Anywhere and the founder of the garden-planning and organic-food-delivery service Edible Gardens LA, describes them as “both useful and beautiful.”

Best portable garden light

LED | Tabletop | Solar powered

If you want your light to travel around the garden with you, CaliKim recommends these portable faux candles that sit in durable metal lanterns. (The candles are solar-powered, with batteries that recharge via panels on the lanterns’ top.) They’re rain resistant, but don’t leave them out in extreme weather, which could damage the glass panes.

Best fairy lights

LED | String light | Electric

Fairy lights are low-voltage lights wired to flicker irregularly, mimicking “the movement of fireflies, randomly flashing, flickering, and fading for viewing fun on warm summer evenings,” says CaliKim. This strand from Firefly Magic, which can be connected with up to nine other light strands, are her favorite for decorating trees and shrubs with a whimsical touch.

Best umbrella light

5 watts, LED | Connected string lights | Battery-powered

If you’re looking for a clever way to light a patio table covered by an umbrella, CaliKim recommends these low-voltage, battery-powered, remote-controlled lights that come with eight strands that can be anchored via cable ties to the umbrella’s ribs. The design also works well for tents, if you need some extra illumination on a camping trip.

Some more lights we’ve written about

Our experts

CaliKim, garden blogger and YouTuber
• Amber Grossman, founder of BlackGirlsGardening
• Lauri Kranz, co-author of A Garden Can Be Anywhere and founder of Edible Gardens LA
Katie Parks, homesteader and content creator
• Corey Paul (Gardening With Goo), gardener and content creator
Becky Searle, botanist, ecologist, and kitchen gardener
• Jeremy Rellosa, Strategist staff writer
Marie Viljoen, forager and urban gardener

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The 13 Best Garden Lights