Illuminate your outdoor space with our pick of the best decorative lights
Whether you have a sizeable garden, a modest balcony or a petite patio, the best outdoor lights can really transform your exterior space. As well as creating instant ambience, outdoor lights can help you make the most of your garden all year round, allowing you to linger longer when the sun goes down. And, just as you might choose to add a statement light to your lounge or use spotlights to highlight particular design features in your home, there are outdoor lighting options to create all sorts of decorative effects.
To figure out which outdoor lights to spend your money on, consider how you currently use (or intend to use) your space. Are you looking to illuminate a specific area for drinking and dining? Do you want to highlight a water feature or a particularly handsome tree? Do you need to light up steps, paths, and ponds to avoid alfresco accidents? Do you just want to hang some colourful string lights to beautify your balcony? What about motion-detection lights for improved home security? We’ve outlined the main types of lights available below, followed by a selection of the best outdoor lights to buy for spaces of all sizes.
Best outdoor lights: At a glance
- Best outdoor wall light: Nordlux Vejers Outdoor Wall Lantern | £45
- Best outdoor spike lights: Signature Garden Premium Solar Lights | £13
- Best outdoor sconce light: Sebson Outdoor Wall Light | £28
- Best outdoor floodlight: CLY 25W Security Light | £21
- Best outdoor smart light: Philips Hue Impress Wall Lantern | £126
How to choose the best outdoor lights for your garden
What type of outdoor lights should I buy?
Wall-mounted lamps: Great for illuminating a specific spot such as a seating area or flower bed. They tend to run off an interior or exterior mains supply. Best to go for a fixture with an anti-rust coating.
Security lights: Designed to deter intruders and help you move around safely in the dark. Most are fitted with a PIR (passive infrared sensor) that’s activated when motion is detected and is a great energy-saving feature. Some lights allow you to programme how long the light stays on for and at what distance the sensor detects movement.
Spike lamps: An easy way to light up pathways, borders and edges. Most commonly solar-powered so you can just push them in the ground without having to deal with any wiring. If you’re looking for a brighter effect, consider a mains-powered spike light.
Lanterns: An atmospheric and portable option that adds a warm glow to wherever you choose to plonk it. Typically battery or solar-powered.
String lights: Versatile and very easy to install. Can be draped over balcony railings and fences, wrapped around columns and trees and used to define borders and edges. Use hooks or staples to attach to surfaces. They can run from a mains supply but opt for a battery or solar-powered set if you want to avoid wiring.
What kind of power supply do I need?
If you don’t have an external electrical socket you can run outdoor lighting from an internal power source. You’ll need to make sure that the circuit is protected by an RCD (a residual current device, designed to break currents when necessary to prevent electric shocks) and that it can cope with the additional load you’re putting on it. If you’re fitting a single security light, installation can be fairly straightforward, but if you’re adding a number of lights, it’s advisable to run a new supply from a fuse board. If in any doubt, seek guidance from a qualified electrician. Or, if you’d rather not go down the electric route, consider a battery or solar-powered option instead.
Do I need special bulbs for outdoor use?
It depends on the kind of fixture you buy. Certain outdoor lights are designed to incorporate an LED within the unit. The LED isn’t replaceable but has a lifespan that typically lasts between 20,000 and 25,000 hours (up to 25 years based on three hours’ use per day). You can use regular halogen or LED bulbs in units with a weatherproof casing; LED bulbs are more energy-efficient and long-lasting. Philips Hue has a range of outdoor lights that you can control using your smartphone, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant when hooked up to a Hue bridge, allowing you to set timers, countdowns and colour combos. Philips advises against using its regular bulbs outside.
Are there any functionality features worth looking out for?
Depending on where you plan on positioning your outdoor lights and how you intend to use them it may be worth checking out the functionality that different lights offer. Lights with motion detectors are quite common, along with those that can automatically illuminate when they detect the sun has set. For a little more customisation some lights also include the ability to tweak their illumination time using timers or, for complete control, there are smart lights like those that sit within the Philips Hue ecosystem that you can fully customise from an app.
READ NEXT: Our pick of the best solar-powered lights
The best outdoor lights you can buy in 2023
1. Nordlux Vejers Outdoor Wall Lantern: Best outdoor wall light
Price when reviewed: £45 | Check price at John Lewis With its matte-black anti-rust frame and dome-shaped glass casing, this wall lantern from John Lewis blurs the line between classic and contemporary design. It runs off a mains power supply and is pretty straightforward to install, although we’d always recommend calling out an electrician if you’re unsure about wiring. Bulbs are easy to replace by unscrewing the glass case like a jar. Note that as the bulb isn’t fully exposed, it gives off a subtle glow rather than a bright beam. In addition to this black unit, there’s also a galvanised steel option.
Key specs – Dimensions: 23 x 22 x 25cm (HWD); Power supply: Mains; Weight: 1.6kg;Bulb included: No
2. Signature Garden Premium Solar Lights: Best outdoor spike lights
Price when reviewed: £13 (set of six) | Check price at Amazon These solar-powered LED Lights from Signature Garden are ideal for illuminating paths, steps, or just sticking in plant pots. They’re easy to install – simply press the height-adjustable spike into the ground, then pop the lamp on top. And, since they’re solar powered, there’s no wiring to mess about with, allowing them to be set up just about anywhere the sun shines.
Key specs – Dimensions: 33 x 12cm (HW); Power supply: Solar-powered LED bulb; Bulb included: Yes (LED)
3. Sebson Outdoor Wall Light: Best outdoor sconce light
Price when reviewed: £28 | Check price at Amazon Sebson’s Outdoor Wall Light features a stylish, modern design, with an attractive chrome finish and cool-white illumination. It offers both up and down lighting and can even be rotated to light along walls or fences. The light has a built-in motion detector, allowing it to turn on once movement is detected, and you can adjust how long it stays on for. Alternatively, you can set the light to turn on automatically once it gets dark, and you can adjust the light level required for it to illuminate. Overall, it’s an up-market light that looks plusher than models twice its price, and it performs great, too.
Key specs – Dimensions: 16 x 5.7 x 11cm (HWD); Power supply: Mains; Bulb included: Yes (LED)
4. CLY 25W Security Light: Best outdoor floodlight
Price when reviewed: £21 | Check price at Amazon Made from die-cast aluminium, this security floodlight from CLY is an effective and affordable buy. Its sensor offers a 12m and 180-degree detection range, and the posable head allows you to shine a light on a specific area (or reduce the glare encroaching on a neighbour’s garden). The included LED array emits a bright beam, approximately equivalent to a 75W halogen bulb, and you can vary the length of the beam duration between 10 and 600 seconds.
Key specs – Dimensions: 16 x 14 x 4cm (HWD); Power supply: Mains; Bulb included: Yes (LED)
5. Philips Hue Impress Wall Lantern: Best outdoor smart light
Price when reviewed: £126 | Check price at John Lewis If you’ve already kitted out your house with a Philips Hue smart lighting system, it makes sense to take the tech outside and enjoy hands-free, voice-controlled lights in the garden. This Impress Hue wall-mounted lamp features a simple slimline design made from aluminium and glass, and comes with an integrated LED bulb.
Once hooked up to a Hue bridge and connected by Wi-Fi, you can control it using a smartphone, Google Assistant or Alexa. You can tune the level of light it emits (great for switching between warm and cool white) and select from an overwhelming number of colour options (16 million in fact) to create the perfect alfresco ambience. There are timers, sensors and dimmer options to play around with, too.
Key specs – Dimensions: 24 x 14 x 12cm (HWD); Power supply: Mains; Weight: 1.6kg; Bulb included: Yes (LED)
6. Innr Smart Outdoor Flex Light Colour: Best outdoor strip light
Price when reviewed: £104 (4m) | Check price at Amazon Innr’s Smart Outdoor Flex Light Colour is perfect for adding a pop of colour to your patio, balcony or decking. The 4 metre flexible strip can be shaped to suit and set to one of 16 million different colours using Innr’s smartphone app. Using the app you can also adjust the brightness, set timers and even connect the strip to other Innr lights around your home.
The Flex Light comes with an IP44 certified outdoor plug but needs pairing with an additional indoor hub. It works on the Zigbee standard so you can use Innr’s own Bridge, a Philips Hue system or a different compatible Zigbee smart plug. The light also works as a signal repeater for other connected devices.
Key specs – Dimensions: 4m; Power supply: Mains; Bulb included: Yes (LED)