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From Treetop to Ground Cover: How to Layer Your Yard with Light

May 16th 2023

You’ve hung some bistro lights outdoors, even added a candle or two. So why doesn’t your porch or patio have the same pizazz as the outdoor spaces you’ve spotted on Instagram or Pinterest?

When you see a really eye-catching example of outdoor lighting, chances are it includes more than one type of light. For instance, in addition to the string lights hanging overhead on the porch, there may be mini lights on the railing and lanterns on the floor.

In other words, they’ve layered their outdoor lighting. 

The good news is that layering light is a simple design trick you can use to beautiful effect in your yard. 

Keep in mind that it isn’t necessary to use every suggestion listed below. You’re looking to use your backyard lights to create a warm glow, not approximate the wattage of a night game on the high school football field! However, by placing outdoor lights at different levels, you can create the kind of welcoming atmosphere that invites guests to remain in your outdoor spaces long after dark.

Let’s start from the top:

Lit from Above

If there’s at least one good-sized tree in your yard, then lucky you! There are several ways trees can help you realize the backyard and landscape lighting you’ve envisioned.

One way is to twine lights around tree branches. Mini lights, globe lights, Edison lights - the choice is yours. 

Or drape lights from branch to branch and suspend a pretty lantern at each anchor point.

Many homeowners use trees to secure their patio lights. Criss-cross lights overhead from tree to tree or extend them from a single anchor point to your house or patio. 

If your yard is treeless, you can still elevate your lighting.

Canopy poles are tall metal rods that can be installed temporarily or permanently along the perimeter of your outdoor space. The poles have slits or rings at the top to hold and suspend your patio lights. 

For a more permanent solution, install wooden posts in cement footings. On a deck, mount a sturdy length of wood upright at each corner to hang your light strings.


Another simple method is to run lights along the eaves of your house, porch or gazebo, using Christmas light clips to keep them in place.

String mini lights up and around a pergola or around the top of a tent or other outdoor structure. LED mini lights won’t heat up like incandescent bulbs, so they’re a safer alternative for tents, canopies and fabric-covered gazebos.

And your patio umbrella doesn’t need to be folded up at night. There are several types of patio umbrella lights that can illuminate your patio furniture, dining table and the surrounding area after dark.

Light in the Middle

While you don’t want lights shining directly in your eyes, lighting your surroundings at mid-level (between your shoulders and knees) helps keep your landscape looking balanced. This can be achieved several ways.

For instance, you can string mini lights or novelty lights along the fence line. Finish the look with solar lighted fence post caps.

Twine rope lights, warm white mini lights or the tree trunk lights you used at Christmas to create some verticality.

Create ambient lighting by installing rope lights beneath a deck rail, under the counter of your outdoor kitchen or even under the lip of your above ground pool.

Set decorative lanterns and flameless pillar candles on railings and tabletops, where they can really shine. You can also suspend lanterns from the porch ceiling and hang them on fence posts or garden hooks. Just make sure your products are meant for outdoor use, or that they’re tucked far enough under cover that they won’t be ruined in a rainstorm.

Garden torches are another great lighting option. You can find inexpensive bamboo torches at the local hardware store or look for modern metal torches that match your style.

And fire pits serve multiple purposes. A fire pit is an excellent focal point in the yard, providing warmth on a cool night and plenty of light and ambience. Whether you gather to chat, enjoy a drink or toast marshmallows, who doesn’t love a fire?

Light at Ground Level

You don’t always need a spotlight to light a walkway or garden path. Solar powered path lights have become a mainstay in many yards. You’ll find many inexpensive and attractive varieties. 

Solar lights are among the easiest ways to light your yard. Solar cells built into the lights absorb the power of the sun by day and illuminate your garden areas all night, with no need for electrical cords or batteries. In addition to path lights, you can find lighted garden decorations, statues and fountains that look pretty by day and add a bit of shimmer and twinkle to your yard after twilight.

Remember the rope lights you used on your deck rail? They also make great landscape lighting. The flexible tubing enables gardeners to follow the curving edges of gardens and flower beds or the angles of a flight of stairs. Mount them under the lip of the stair tread or along the edge of stone steps for surer steps after dark.

Illuminate an inground pool or water feature with floating pool lights. As striking as they are on water, pool lights also can be used to great effect on lawns and in your garden.

Bright Summer Nights 

Don’t let darkness dampen your summer fun. You can find plenty of pretty and practical lighting solutions for your outdoor spaces that will let you light up your summer nights for maximum enjoyment!

Check out our Home & Garden patio lights category for a wide selection of outdoor lighting options.

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From Treetop to Ground Cover: How to Layer Your Yard with Light

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