Lighting can make or break a garden, and there is no better option than solar lights. Outdoor solar lights don’t require any wiring, or installation and can be used straight away, but choosing the best and brightest solar lights for your garden means thinking about how you want your garden to look at night.
I’m going to explore some of the best solar garden lights on the market today in our Solar Lights Reviews below, but let’s start by knowing exactly what to look for to find the best outdoor solar lights.
I personally prefer a gentle solar light in the garden, especially in winter months, rather than a bright light that illuminates the entire garden, but everyone has different needs.
In our greenhouse, we have hanging solar light bulbs, which give just enough light to find those last tomatoes when the sun has set early in autumn, but my neighbour has a full solar security light which lights up the entire garden when they walk past.
In this guide, I’ll be talking through the different types of lights, as well as how to understand brightness, but more importantly, how positioning your solar lights correctly will give you the most success.
Different Types of Solar Lights
Solar stakes lights and solar string lights are the two most varied options, but you can buy solar fence lights and solar path lights too. The choice depends on what you want to achieve and what garden design you are going for.
Do you want to light up the paths with downward lighting, add charm with twinkling solar lights on a pergola, or light up the whole garden for a late-night BBQ?
Solar Path Lights
The best solar path lights are the ones that shine down only. They don’t waste light by filtering it into the rest of the garden, and by doing that, show you where to walk even in the middle of the night.
The other benefit of this, and something to consider, is that any upward pointing garden lighting will confuse wildlife, so solar path lighting is a great way to avoid this.
Solar String Lights
Solar string lights are exactly as they sound. Often sold as Christmas decorations, finding the right colour and brightness will give you something you can easily install in the garden to add charm, even if they don’t give much light off in return.
Solar Fence Lights
Solar fence lights usually attach directly to a fence and need some installation (usually a simple screw will suffice). Fence lights tend to be brighter than other solar lights for two reasons.
They are built with brighter bulbs, and they are higher in the garden, usually away from shrubs and shade so get more charge from the sun than other lights.
Solar Garden Lights
Solar garden lights, or solar landscape lights are decorative choices that come in a variety of brightness levels, but are intended to create depth and structure in the garden when the sun has gone to sleep.
They are nearly always the most sculptural and beautiful solar lights you can buy for the garden.
Outdoor Solar lanterns
Solar lanterns are perfect for pergolas. Their charming character adds traditional appeal to any garden in the evening as the sun sets. Most solar lanterns give off a dull light, but it’s enough to set the mood for a party, or just to relax in the evening.
Solar Security Lights
Solar security lights might not seem like the most attractive aesthetic choice for your garden, but because they work on motion sensors, it saves energy by working only when they are triggered.
This means they provide a much brighter light, as they don’t need to reserve their charge for hours or use which is perfect for adding to your shed security.
Solar Light Brightness Explained
A standard indoor light bulb gives off between 400-1000 lumens (the universal measure of brightness). Brightness depends on a number of factors, but LED bulbs are the most efficient, giving off about 900 lumens from a 13W bulb, compared to a standard filament bulb, which runs 75W to achieve the same brightness.
Good solar lights give off around 100 lumens, as their charge usually only reaches 15 Watts.
An LED solar bulb will produce around 10 lumens per Watt, but as with all solar products they work on what is called a Watt-peak (the wattage produced in optimal sunlight), so while a bulb might advertise 100 lumens, it is likely to produce 50-60 lumen after a cloudy day.
Another consideration is whether your solar light is timed, triggered or switched.
- A timed bulb will typically spread its available charge over the allotment time, so a partially charged light will give off a partial light.
- A triggered bulb automatically switches on when the sun goes down or the light level drops. These bulbs will give off their full brightness until their charge runs out, which is great for an evening drink, but not great if you rely on them in the middle of the night.
- A switched bulb is usually either remote controlled, or turned on directly with a switch near the solar panel. These bulbs give off their full brightness when they are turned on, and stop either when they are turned off, or when they run out of charge.
Positioning Solar Lights
To get the most from your solar garden lights, make sure you position them somewhere in full sun. It seems obvious, but it can be tempting to try to nestle solar stake lights into the foliage of plants for a dappled spot of light in the evening.
Whether you want to light up the entire garden or just create some visual highlights in the space, it is crucial to make sure your lights are hung, staked or attached somewhere where their panel can face the sun in the North, with an unobstructed path to the light, and a minimum of 6 hours’ sun per day (ideally 12 hours).
Best Solar Light Reviews
Solar Garden lights or Solar Landscape Lights
These flickering garden lights are ornamental rather than practical, only giving off around 10 lumens each (for reference a small candle gives off around 12 lumens… make of that what you will).
But their solar powered flicker can add drama to a garden, and for a well-designed bit of solar garden lighting, they are well priced for a pack of 6.
These gorgeous lights from 2BFFS are capable of 120 lumens, but their brightness is nowhere near as impressive as their sculptural impact.
The simple laser-cut designs on this pair of sun and moon lanterns would work in any garden, either brightening up a lost corner, or right next to the back door to mark the entrance to the garden.
Let’s face it, not every garden is a tasteful gentle oasis, some are brash, garish, psychotic spaces where no rules apply. They’re often the best gardens. These pineapple solar stake lights are a glorious addition to a garden, and for a gardener looking to add a spark of joy in their outdoor space, these are just perfect.
These are in a similar world to the pineapples, but you might just get away with this quirky solar feature lantern in a softer style of garden, which comes with a shepherd hook for instant hanging. T
he twinkling lights pouring from the spout of the watering-can put a smile on anyone’s face. This solar light is one of the best examples of how gardens can be made engaging for kids too.
Turning a garden into an Alice in Wonderland style world of whimsy is a great way to get kids interested in gardening.
A bonus too… if you don’t use the shepherd hook to hang the light, it would make a great pole for dwarf sweet peas!
These floral solar lights from TYNLED are fully waterproof, entirely automatic, and a brilliant way to add a bit of fun to the garden. They come in a range of colours that could either blend into the border, or be used together for a loud statement in a pot outside the door.
Either way, they’re a lovely bit of a visual trickery for anyone who doesn’t want to feel like they’re surrounded by electricity in the garden during the day.
My only reservation is the primary colours, which are likely to stand out more than intended.
Anordsem’s solar rose flower lights are similar to TYNLED’s, and while Anordsem aren’t specialist lighting manufacturers, there’s something reassuring about the subtlety of these lights, with life like petals, and gentle white flowers that would blend into a rose bush in summer with ease.
Like most solar spike lights, it only gives off 10 lumens, but it’s not there to light up the space, it’s a solar landscape light, designed to highlight parts of the garden that get overlooked in the evening.
Solar brick lights can be buried into paths between bricks, or into grass and soil. These frosted lights from Astraeus produce a gentle white light for up to 10 hours per night, and their durable finish means they’re fine to walk on once they’re installed, and will create a wonderfully modern finish to your night garden.
Add a bit of sparkle to your garden with these solar feature lights. They’re one of the more versatile lights you can buy too, with a simple remote to control them from the warmth of your home in the colder months.
They can be set to run automatically, but are turned off at the push of a button, which saves power and helps them run brighter on the days where you want them.
The added remote control feature comes with a price tag, but they liven up a garden like nothing else.
Fully adjustable, metal cased, solar lights, with a 32ft cable and 100 lumens per lamp? Yes please. I thought I’d end on a high here, and Solar Light Mart smashed it out of the park.
It’s always a chore to find the right space for lights, because the cable can never get anywhere near the sunlight, especially if you’re putting lights somewhere shaded.
The 32ft cable that comes included with these lights, means they can be placed in the middle of the garden, while the solar panel sits on top of the fence getting maximum light and charging them fully every day.
100 lumens isn’t loads of light, but for a solar spike light that’s incredible, and their durable metal casing means they’ll last much longer than similar lights too.
Solar String Lights
SolarMKS are great for easy installation, and add around 30 lumens of light to the garden – which is impressive for string lights, which usually offer around 10-12 lumens.
Their efficient solar spike can be tied onto a pergola, or pegged into the soil depending on where you want them, so are great for general year-round solar lights in the garden, or for weaving through trees at Christmas for a festive display.
These are a perfect example of when Christmas lights can come in handy all year round. Solar lights can be easily moved to every corner of the garden.
So long as they have enough sun, and creating a casual bar vibe with these dangling solar globe lights couldn’t be easier, just tie them onto pergolas, or hook them into walls for a quick rejuvenation of the garden.
How cute are these solar lights from Mudder? I’d have loved these when I was a kid. Forget that. I love these now! Whether you want to create a magical path through the trees, a pixie ring, or just dot them around the border, they are super easy to install, with a single string and one solar panel to serve 20 mushrooms on a 16ft string.
The only hard parts are finding the spot for them, and remember to stop marvelling at them. These are really beautiful little lights that add charm to any garden. Even the stuffiest garden purist couldn’t resist these.
Solar Security Lights
The Jornarshar automatic motion sensor solar flood light is an incredible security light for the garden, but is also a really effective way to light up the space at night while you’re working giving off 800 lumens when activated.
It’s durable, design helps to keep your home safe with automatic motion detection, and it's super-efficient with 104 LEDs working to light up 270° of space.
As well as being easy to mount, it’s an affordable security light with much less installation than wired lights. Simply attach it to the wall and that’s it.
SolarMKS knows what they’re doing when it comes to solar garden lights. There aren’t many solar fence lights as subtle as these that are still capable of producing 125 lumen.
As long as they receive 8 hours of sunlight per day (easy in an Australian summer) they will work at full charge for 12 hours.
Their simple installation just requires a single nail or hook to hang from, so can be installed on walls or fences easily, and moved to different positions in the garden if needed.
These space efficient solar lights from JESLED are a neat bit of kit, giving off 650 lumens for up to 12 hours, with two modes to choose from.
Set to high-light, they will give off their full brightness for around 6 hrs, or in low light, provide mood lighting for up to 12 hours, off just 6 hours of charge.
By detecting the falling sunlight levels in the garden, they automatically turn on at dusk, and can be positioned to either light up a wall, or spotlight feature plants around the garden.
Solar Path Lights
Kdorrku’s Solar Powered Ground Lights are magical additions to the garden. They can simply be pushed into lawns to create evening paths that are almost invisible during the day, making a whole new garden at night time.
These solar path lights are sturdy enough to hold up to the weather, and sit flush with the floor so even if you step on them during the day, they are durable enough not to break.
They’re not bright, but give off more than enough light to guide you through the garden at night.
So, if you’re on a budget, and need something quick to light up a path, these are a great option, but these lights never last. That’s not a poke at Nekepy, who make great products, but this style usually has a lifetime of around 1 year, so they’re great for temporary use, and can be stored if you don’t need them out.
I wanted to include these because they can be a great quick fix for solar garden lighting for a party, but need to be clear that the mini pillar solar lights almost never work properly. Great budget option, but not for a permanent solution.
Outdoor Solar Lanters
The Leidrail solar lantern lights come in a pack of two, and while they won’t do much to help you see, they’re a wonderful decoration adding charm and style to your patio.
As triggered solar lights, they don’t need turning on and off every time, as long as they have 6-8 hours of sun per day they’ll light up every evening to create a warm, welcoming, garden.
What’s more, their stable base allows them to be positioned on a table as well as hung from nails, wire or pergolas, with no need to protect them from the weather as they are fully waterproof too.
I’ve been looking for lights like these for years, and I’m thrilled to find them by Dungsko here. Vintage lanterns like this can be incredibly expensive, and while this solar lantern isn’t exactly cheap, it’s much better value than some in garden centres.
You’ll only get 10 lumen from this solar lantern, even in perfect conditions, but it’s about setting a mood around the trees, or pergolas in your garden, rather than lighting them up.
Solar Fence Light
LeiDrail’s solar fence lights are dainty, contemporary, solar lights that will add a touch of class to your garden. They only give off a maximum of about 60 lumens, so aren’t particularly bright, but to create a feature of your walls and fences, with a subtle piece of solar kit these are a great choice, and a good price for a 4 pack too.
Best Solar Lights Australia
Aussie Green Thumb 2022 Top Pick
Mudder Solar Powered Mushroom Lights is my top pick for one reason and one reason only. I want them. Honestly, I’d have hundreds of these adorable solar mushroom lights dotted all over the garden.
They’re subtle light is enough to help find your way around the garden when used along a path, and their simple layout along one string makes them really easy to install too.
Best Value Solar Lights
Solar Light Mart Twin Solar Spotlights are the brightest solar light you can buy for the price. There are much cheaper solar lights on the market, but value doesn’t just mean cheap. Investing in a good set of solar spotlights for the garden is worth every penny.
These LED garden lights produce around 100 lumens, which is more than enough to light up your plants, paths, or walls, and they come with removable spikes, so if you don’t want them buried in the ground as solar path lights, they can be used as solar fence lights too.
Premium Choice Solar Lights
The only reason I’m putting Jornarshar Automatic Motion Sensor Solar Flood Light as the premium choice is because it’s truly impressed me, both on brightness, and on ease of install.
Most security lights need to be wired into the house, drilled through the wall, and sealed in. This clever little gadget just needs screwing in and turning on.
Garden Solar Lights FAQs
How do solar lights work?
During the day, solar energy is converted into electrons within the solar cell (the main components of the solar panel) which are then stored in a battery to release as light when needed.
How long do solar lights last?
Solar lights can last forever if cared for properly, but it depends on a number of factors – mostly their quality. A properly mounted stainless-steel fence light will last for years, but a plastic ground spike might only last a few days if you kick it by accident.
How long do the batteries in solar lights last?
Batteries in solar lights usually last for around 2 years, but more expensive models tend to have longer lasting batteries so the average is not a great reflection of better brands.
If the batteries in your solar lights run out and stop charging, you can order new solar batteries online and replace them in most lights easily.
How can you extend the life of your solar lights?
On cloudy days, or periods of overcast weather, triggered solar lights can turn on by mistake during the day. This causes them to lose charge, and the more your solar light batteries drain completely, the shorter their life will be.
Using the built in on-off switch, turn them off when you expect long periods of dark weather, or are unlikely to use the garden in the evening for a few days/weeks.
Turning them off will maintain their existing charge and stop them running down entirely.
Choose the Best Solar Light for Your Garden
If you haven’t yet gathered, I love solar lights. They’re brilliant additions to any garden, but choosing the brightest solar lights isn’t always the right choice for every garden.
I hope I’ve helped you find some of the best solar lights online in this article, I know I’ve found a few for my Christmas list anyway.