Updated December 2021
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Buying guide for best landscape lighting

You've spent countless hours making your yard look beautiful, and now it deserves to be seen, no matter what time of day or night. Landscape lighting lets you show off the most impressive features on your property after the sun goes down.

If you're new to the concept of landscape lighting, you might feel a little overwhelmed by the huge variety of landscape lights on the market, all of which achieve different lighting effects. So, which do you choose?

The good news is, you've come to the right place for help. At BestReviews, we provide unbiased, thorough reviews of products for our readers. The following guide will tell you all you need to know about landscape lighting, including the different types of lights, what lighting strategies you can use, and power requirements, to help you select your new lighting with confidence.

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In general, you should see the effect of landscape lighting but not the lighting itself. The exception is pathway lighting, which tends to be decorative and visible.

Types of landscape lighting

Step lights

Step lights are mounted on the downward edges of outdoor steps for safety after dark. Some are designed to be installed in wooden steps so that they sit flush with the step, while others have a low profile and simply attach to the outside of each step.


  • Basic step lights can cost less than $5 per light.
  • High-end options may cost over $15 per light.

Wall-mounted downlights

As the name suggests, wall-mounted downlights are mounted onto a wall to shine downward. These lights can be useful for highlighting notable architectural features that you otherwise wouldn't see after dark.


  • A simple wall-mounted downlight may cost as little as $5 to $10.

  • More ornate options can cost $30 to $50 per light.

"Hardscape lights are a newer type of wall-mounted downlight that use LEDs for an ultra-low profile. They are designed to shine across the surface of a wall to emphasize its texture."

Post mount lights

Post mount – or "post cap" – lights are similar to pathway lights, except they're designed to sit on top of existing posts rather than be staked into the ground. You can use them to light a deck, path, or driveway that's already lined with posts.


  • Most post mount lights cost between $5 and $30 per light.


The spotlight is a versatile landscape lighting option that you can use to highlight areas of interest in your yard, such as an attractive tree or a statue. They're most often placed on the ground to provide uplighting, but they can be mounted up high for downlighting, too.


  • Most outdoor spotlights cost between $5 and $15 per light.

"You can find waterproof spotlights that are fully submersible and designed to light ponds, other water features, or bodies of water."

Pathway lights

Pathway lights come on stakes and are designed to line one or both sides of a garden path, sidewalk, or driveway. Since pathway lights are out on show, they tend to be more decorative in appearance than other types of landscape lighting, and so they come in a range of styles.


  • Pathway lights often come in sets and cost between $2 and $20 per light, depending on the style, size, and quality.

Well lights

Well lights are a form of recessed spotlight that lie flush with the ground. They're perfect for uplighting areas where it wouldn't be possible to hide or subtly position a regular spotlight.


  • Well lights cost about $10 to $30 per light.

Lighting design


This is lighting an area of interest from below to create a dramatic contrast between light and shadow. It's most commonly used to light trees and tall architectural features.


This is pointing lights downward for a soft, relaxed effect. It can be used to highlight flower beds, columns, or stonework.

"Moonlighting is a form of downlighting in which spotlights are mounted in trees and directed downward to give the appearance of moonlight shining through the branches."


This involves lighting an area diagonally from both sides. If you want to light an area from below but avoid the dramatic shadows you get from uplighting, try cross-lighting.


This is generally used for lighting hardscape (walls, fences, and similar non-horticultural garden features). Grazing involves mounting the lighting close to a flat surface and aiming it directly up or down across the surface to highlight the texture, creating interesting areas of light and shadow.

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Did you know?
You can find novelty landscape lighting that's mounted on garden figurines if you want a more whimsical look.

Landscape lighting features to consider


You have three main power options for landscape lighting: solar power, low-voltage power, and line voltage power.

  • Solar power is the ideal choice for much landscape lighting, as long as the lights aren't located undercover or in a heavily shaded area. Choosing solar-powered lights not only saves you money in the long run but also makes installation a breeze.

  • Low-voltage power is suitable for most landscape lighting when solar power isn't an option. Running on just 12 volts of power, low-voltage lighting only needs to be hooked up to a compatible power pack, making it fairly simple to install.

  • Line voltage power uses 120 volts, just like most household appliances. Line voltage is overkill for most landscape lighting, but you may want to consider it if you want very bright lighting. Line voltage lighting requires extra safety features, such as a junction box and a conduit, so it's best installed by professionals.

"If you use a power pack for your landscape lighting, make sure its wattage is higher than the total wattage of all the lighting you intend to run through it."


Most landscape lighting is designed so that you see only the light illuminating your desired areas, not the light fixtures. That said, some types of landscape lighting – mostly pathway lights and post mount lights – are meant to be seen and therefore are more decorative in appearance. Choose lights of a style that goes with the rest of your yard décor, from sleek and modern to rustic.


Think about the size of the lights you choose. Smaller units are generally more conspicuous and easier to hide, but they tend to produce dimmer light. If you want very bright landscape lighting, you'll generally need to opt for larger fixtures.

"All outdoor landscape lighting should have a UL "Wet" rating to prove that it's safe for use in wet weather."


Some landscape lights are brighter than others, but brightness also depends on the kind of bulb you use.

If you choose LED lighting, you won't be able to change the bulb, so be sure to choose a model of an appropriate wattage (more watts equals greater brightness) and color temperature.

If your landscape lighting uses regular bulbs, you can choose bulbs with a larger or smaller wattage, depending on how bright you want your lighting. You can also choose between warm and cool light, depending on your preference.

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Did you know?
Some landscape lighting comes with dimmers to let you choose the level of brightness and adjust it as needed.


  • Consider where you'll place your landscape lighting. Choose which areas of your yard you want to illuminate. Once you've figured this out, it will be easier to select the correct lighting.

  • Decide whether you'll need a timer. Solar lights generally come on automatically when it gets dark, but others will need to be turned on manually unless you use a timer.

  • Think about energy efficiency. Unless you opt for solar-powered landscape lighting, you'll need to consider how energy-efficient your chosen lights are. Look at Energy Star ratings to gather this information.

  • Make sure you safely install your power pack. If using low-voltage landscape lighting, you just need a power pack to run your lights. However, it must be plugged into an outdoor outlet that's fitted with a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).

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Some types of landscape lighting are simply for show. Other types, such as pathway lights and stair lights, are important for safely navigating your yard in the dark.


Q. Will I need a professional to install my landscape lighting?

A. This really depends on what type of lighting you're installing, where you intend to place it, and how handy you are. Unless you're a professional electrician, we don’t recommend installing line voltage lighting yourself, but most people who are on friendly terms with a screwdriver can tackle low-voltage lighting alone. And, of course, solar-powered lighting requires no electrical installation at all. If you're planning on mounting your landscape lighting on second-floor walls or in trees, you might appreciate professional help.

Q. What are the best materials for landscape lighting?

A. Look for landscape lighting with weatherproof, rust-resistant casings. Stainless steel, brass, copper, and heavy-duty plastic are all good choices. While affordable, aluminum is prone to corrosion, particularly if you live in a coastal area.

Q. What are “dark sky compliant” light fixtures?

A. The trouble with most outdoor lighting is that it makes it more difficult to see the stars in the sky. Dark sky compliant light fixtures are approved by the International Dark Sky Association because they perform their function without adding to light pollution. This means that you'll be able to enjoy your new landscape lighting without minimizing the view of the night sky for yourself and your neighbors.

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