Landscape Lighting Tips

Table of Contents

    What’s the point of a gorgeous landscape if you can’t see it at night? Adding landscape lighting can elevate the look of your landscape, making it safer and more enjoyable for evening parties. You may think landscape lighting is simple, and it can be. But, using a few of our tricks can help you create a more cohesive, interesting, and dramatic landscape. If you’re ready to add some lighting, but not sure where to start, use these landscape lighting tips.

    What Should You Be Lighting?

    There are some areas of your landscape that are made much more comfortable or beautiful with lighting. Here are some things you should consider lighting:

    • Pathways
    • Trees and large plants
    • Climbing vines
    • Around patios or decks
    • Water features, especially waterfalls
    • Architectural features
    • Sculptures

    Just remember that you can’t light it all. You need to have strong contrast between light and shadow in order to create a pleasant scene, or the landscape will appear flat and boring. So how do you know which features are the best to light? Choose a few lighting strategies we discuss below.

    Lighting Strategies

    You shouldn’t just place lights randomly, or even predictably through the landscape. Each lighting plan should be built around the specific landscape and its best features. Here are a few strategies you can use to place lights best:

    • Focal points: If you had a professional design your landscape likely each area has one major focal point to draw attention. It’s best to use a spotlight on that focal point to draw attention to it at night. Common focal points include trees, water features, even a large potted plant.
    • Ambient lighting: Other areas of your landscape will need to be flooded with low levels of light to be useable. Pathways, patios, decks, outdoor kitchens and pools all need to be well-lit. However, you can keep the lighting low so that spotlights still feel dramatic.
    • Depth: A landscape isn’t just a vertical space. It has depth, with different layers. When possible, place lighting in different layers to bring the space to life. For example, in the front yard, you should light the front door, the edge of the first garden bed, and everywhere in between.
    • Indoor views: You’ll also be looking at your lighting when you’re inside, so consider how things will look from the backdoor or the windows. As you’ll be standing in the light, and getting a view of the whole space, it’s a different experience than when you’re outside.

    Consider Light Direction

    While most home lights simply shine down, garden lights are different. In fact, one of the most dramatic lights you can choose is light that shines up, to catch the color and texture of the bush or tree above it. Here are several ways to direct lights.

    • Downwards: This is, of course, the typical light direction. However, you can mix it up by making it a more focalized light, such as a spotlight. Lights that diffuse in ore directions feel more like moonlight and, when soft, can create a very romantic ambiance.
    • Upwards: Choose upwards lights for focal points that have a lot of dimension. It’s an unusual way of lighting that catches people by surprise and makes for some very interesting shapes.
    • Cross lighting: Lighting an object from both sides is another unusual strategy that creates an interesting look and eliminates shadows. Experiment with it and see if you like it.

    Use the right type of fixture for these techniques, don’t just take a light that is meant to be upright and turn it upside down. It may come loose or get damaged otherwise.

    Light Color and Type

    We strongly suggest you choose LED lights over incandescent lights. They are more flexible with color and more energy efficient. Of course, solar lights are the most energy efficient, but we find that they are not usually up to the quality standards we expect in our lights. They simply do not produce enough light to make an impact, or even to keep you safe when you walk around.

    Before you add your lights, be sure you’re not overloading your home’s electrical system. You may need to install a transformer to keep the lights at the back of the landscape as bright as those at the front. You can work with an electrician, or the team at the High Prairie Outdoors to accomplish this.

    We do seasonal lighting for our seasonal color clients. We can also design you an amazing landscape with lighting or add just the right lighting to your existing landscape. If you’d like help with your outdoor spaces, click “Get Started” now.

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    About The Author

    Robyn is a 2009 Graduate of the Kansas State University Department of Horticulture. She grew up in South East Kansas where she graduated from Humboldt High School. She was a Kansas State University Leadership Scholar and President of the Horticulture Club. She married Bret in 2009 and they have a daughter Ellie, born in 2021. Their family is completed by three adopted dogs.

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