Solar lights for gardens that last long into the evening

Solar lights are a hassle-free way to light up your garden.

Outside table with solar lights

by Ellen Kinsey |

Twinkling fairy lights and flickering flames bring a warm and inviting ambience to your garden, and with the new solar panel technology, you will have sun-powered lighting that will last late into the evening. Solar lights for gardens come in all shapes and sizes - from lanterns to floor lamps and work as long as they’re positioned correctly in the sun to be charged up in the daylight.

Hosting outside is a lovely way to make the most of the warmer months; good lighting is needed to create a good atmosphere. Whether you want to light up the fire pit area, driveway, patio or pergola - we have selected the best solar lights for your alfresco gatherings.

Nowadays, there are so many options to choose from, with lights with dawn-to-dusk sensors, controllable via Bluetooth or your smartphone, along with motion sensors and timers. Before we take a look at the best lanterns, jar lights and more, Modern Gardens Magazine writer Jules Barton-Beck shares her expert advice on what to look for when purchasing solar lights for the garden.

Illuminated Decorations Hanging From Tree In Yard At Night

What to consider when buying solar lights

Solar panels

Most standard solar lights have a crystalline panel and work well in summer but not so well in winter. The latest type to look for are lights with an amorphous panel which has a much higher rate of light absorption and will help the lights to run brighter and for longer even when it’s cloudy.

Rechargeable batteries

All good solar lights have these, as the solar panel recharges them during daylight hours. To keep your lights working at an optimal level, it’s best to replace these every one to two years.

USB ports

Some lights now have this backup option, so you can top up the batteries if there are extended periods without much sunlight.

IP rating

This is a measure of how well electrical devices are sealed and, for outside lights, effectively lets you know how waterproof they are. Solar lights with an IP44 rating mean they’ll be able to withstand most weather conditions.

Position

Position the solar panel, so it’s south-facing during sunlight hours and keeps it clear from any shadows, especially from late morning to early afternoon.

Jules also gives us a tip for how to maintain your solar lights: "If your solar lights come on during the day, it’s probably because the solar panel or sensor is dirty and has tricked the lights into thinking it’s dusk. Just wipe with a barely damp cloth and dry with a paper towel."

And there are lots of new types on the market, so you can combine different effects to bring your garden to life at night. Below we’ve shared some great solar light options for your garden, including some of Jules' recommendations that will efficiently light up your outdoor space.

Best solar lights for gardens

Ray Teak LED Lantern

Ray Teak LED Lantern

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Jules says, "Every modern garden needs a super-stylish lantern that can be moved to where the action is. The larger the solar panel on the lantern, the better, as it will absorb more sunlight. Once fully charged, you can expect your lantern to run for around eight hours from dusk into the early hours." This light shines through the Ray outdoor lantern like beams of sunlight and will give an exotic twist to your outdoor decor.

Dimensions: H68 x Dia39cm

Solar Retro String Lights

Solar Retro String Lights

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Delicate strings of lights that emit a useable amount of light are a perfect way to create an ambient setting. Add a romantic vibe with this set of decorative string lights. There is a generous two meters of cable from the solar panel to the first bulb, and then each of the ten bulbs is spaced 20cm apart, giving 180cm of Illumination. Jules suggests hanging a group of them from a pergola above the patio table to create a brighter, central light.

Dimensions: Bulbs are H10cm x Dia60cm and have 2m of cable from the panel to the first bulb.

London Solar Posts (2 Pack)

London Solar Posts

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These stunning contemporary post lights are made from stainless steel and come with an override on/off switch and brightness controls, which can be reduced to double the runtime each night. The solar panels are located on the top of the posts for maximum exposure to sunlight and are designed to work year-round, even in grey colder months.

Jules says, "Installing post lights along a dark path to the greenhouse or on the driveway will instantly eradicate those irrational late-evening moments of anxiety! These lights are wire-free, so all you need to do is stake them in the ground where you want them, allow them to charge via daylight, and they’ll light up at dusk."

Dimensions:
H40cm x Dia7.8cm and 57.8cm tall, including the spike

Black Cage Solar Outdoor Pendant Light

Black Cage Solar Outdoor Pendant Light

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Constructed with five solar panels around the top of the pendant, place your solar light in a sunny spot to charge in the day and enjoy the relaxing glow in the evening. You can hang the contemporary pendant light from pergolas or use our pendant stand, which can be bought separately - to add a bright finishing touch to patios and garden seating areas.

Dimensions: H47cm x Dia38cm

Rattan Solar Outdoor Pendant Light

Rattan Solar Outdoor Pendant Light

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Gorgeous rattan is still in season, and this zen boho solar pendant light will tie up your outdoor seating area nicely. With eight warm white bulbs housed within the rattan effect plastic shade, it will add a charming light to your space. Just place it in a sunny spot, ensuring that the separate solar panel is in sunlight during the day for automatic luminance when it gets dark.

Dimensions: H42cm

Pucci Flame Effect Garden Spike 1 Light Pathway Light (Set of 6

Pucci Flame Effect Garden Spike 1 Light Pathway Light

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This beautiful set of garden pathway lights brightens your garden or driveway. These light posts do not require batteries and automatically switch on at night. The lights have a flickering flame effect and are made from weather-resistant, durable plastic, and have an on and off switch.

Dimensions: H20cm x Dia9cm

Set of 5 Tyvek Moroccan Hanging Solar Lanterns

Set of 5 Tyvek Moroccan Hanging Solar Lanterns

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Colourful and eye-catching, this Tyvek lantern bundle contains five unique hanging solar lanterns shapes and sizes and colours to add a decorative glow to your outdoor space. Each lantern has a delicate flower detailing to cast an enchanting pattern around your space when the night rolls in. Once fully charged, you can expect six hours of solar-powered light every evening.

Dimensions: Diameters: 40, 30, 30, 20 and 20cm

Solar Pagoda Light

Solar Pagoda Light

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Jules says, "We’ve always loved a stylish but oh-so-affordable paper shade in the garden, and these elongated designs are the latest take. This pretty light-up shade will bring a boho festival look to your garden, and its length means it’s ideal to hang from a high tree branch to bring a glow to an otherwise dark spot. Or hang one on each side of the patio or back door to create a laid-back ambience. Although it looks like a traditional paper lantern, it’s made of water-resistant polyester, so it won’t go soggy and fall apart."

Dimensions: Diameter 28cm

Four Solar LED Jars

Four Solar LED Jars

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Made from glass and embossed with four different but complementary patterns, this set of four solar-powered LED jars is a fabulous way to illuminate your garden. Each jar contains a soft LED light with a handle for hanging.

Dimensions: H9cm x Diameter 7cm

Wall, Fence and Post Light Pack x 4

Wall, Fence and Post Light Pack x 4

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"These individual solar lights are a versatile option as you can fix them at any height and use them anywhere you want, either singly or in a row," Jules says, "Position low to highlight your fave pots or shrubs or place higher up for a wider arc of light such as on the patio." They are ideal for entrances, patios, garages and sheds and come with a smart light sensor for easy usage.

Dimensions: H4cm x Dia7cm

Solar lights for gardens FAQs

How do solar lights work?

The word ‘solar’ means relating to or determined by the sun, so as the name states, solar lights work with the sun. Without getting too technical, solar panels on lights absorb solar energy with light from the sun and store them. When the sun goes down, the panels release this energy – this is why many solar lights are automatic.

These lights will often have a small solar panel on either the top of them or as an attachment. All you need to do is ensure this panel is placed in a space where sunlight can reach it, and then your lights should brighten up as much as possible.

Where can I hang lanterns in my garden?

Many solar garden lanterns will already come with hanging hooks or needles so that you can simply attach them to a tree, bush, or pergola. Some garden floor lanterns work best on the floor, particularly if they’re big enough to make a scene on their own. Garden lanterns also look good on an outdoor dining table or side table as a centrepiece if you’re struggling to find a space to work with them.

Will my solar lights work in winter or in the shade?

Yes, they will. Even when there’s a cloudy day or on cold winter days, the solar panels are charged by light. There are fewer daylight hours in the winter, but they will still be able to charge up with the amount of light from the darker seasons.

Why have my solar lights stopped working?

Solar panels must be in the light of the sun, and most of the time, when your solar lights aren’t working is because they haven’t charged up enough in the sun.

Make sure there are no bushes or branches shading the panel, and your lights should work. Some solar lights have an on/off button, so make sure it’s in the on mode before you put it out in the sun, and don’t make the mistake of assuming that solar lights will work instantly either – you’ll have to charge them in the light for a day before they work at full power. If you find that there is still a problem with your solar garden lights, you may need to check the battery and get it replaced. Some solar light packs may even come with a spare battery just in case this happens.

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