Landscape lighting 101: Techniques and types

These days, homeowners are spending a lot more time enjoying their outdoor property. One reason for this is the increase in the use of landscape lighting. Another is the fact that energy-efficient, cost-effective lighting systems are becoming more and more affordable every day.

But there’s more to lighting up a landscape than just putting a few light fixtures in the ground. There are a variety of techniques and types. There are also a variety of materials used for the fixtures themselves. I’ll dive into them in this post!

Lighting Techniques & Types

There are many different types of lighting out there for many different lighting strategies. For instance, some lights are more utilitarian and used for specific tasks. Others provide accents, highlighting certain aspects of a landscape.

Regardless of what you’re using the lights for, here’s a basic rundown of the most common techniques and types:

  • Uplighting and downlighting — Uplighting involves installing lights on or in the ground to highlight a garden or architectural features. Downlighting involves installing a light in a tree or on a roof to cast downward shadows. Both of these techniques are used to create ambience or mood, or to draw the eye to certain focal points in a landscape.
  • Post lights — Quite simply, these are standard posts set in the ground with a lamp on the top. These are common for lighting pathways.
  • Inground “bullet” lights — Also common for lighting pathways and patios. When we install these, we actually core drill into the stone or pavement and put the lights directly into the holes. These provide a sleek, almost runway-like feel since they’re flush with the grade. With galvanized aluminum finishes, they never rust and are great for modern landscape designs.
  • Step lights — These tend to be safety features that we install underneath the risers or steps of stairs, preventing anyone from tripping or falling! They also are great for “wayfinding” — helping guests navigate a new landscape by lighting the ideal pathway through it.
  • Undercap lights — These are lights that we install underneath the “caps” of certain hardscaping features. For instance, I’ve worked on mortared stone sitting walls that surround gathering spaces in a landscape — such as a firepit or patio. These walls have a stone “cap” on the top, and we install lights that are designed to fit underneath the cap, creating a cool glow.
  • String lights — Perfect for patios! String lights are a classic way to add some ambience to a communal area in a landscape.
  • Water feature & custom lighting — There really are no limits to the techniques and types of lighting you use in a landscape! One particular project comes to my mind. When we worked for a customer in Decatur, we installed an 18 foot long cordoned steel water feature with 17 “bubblers” that shot up. Each of these bubblers had an LED “ring” light around it!

How much will it cost?

That’s a good question. Landscape lighting systems are a lot like cars — there’s a variety of price points for a variety of budgets. At Plants Creative, our lighting systems start at $2,600.

Here’s the thing: LED light bulbs cost the same amount to produce over and over again. The internal working components are the same across the board! What you’re really paying for with a lighting fixture is the external housing of the bulb. These come in a range of materials:

  • Powder-coated aluminum — Most lighting systems come in this casing. They tend to be black in color, and are cheap, yet reliable.
  • Stainless steel — A slight step up from aluminum, stainless steel fixtures are more able to resist corrosion.
  • Copper — Copper lighting fixtures are extremely strong and durable, which make them a premium choice for landscape lighting. Plus, the attractive reddish-brown hue can add a real accent to a landscape and boost curb appeal.
  • Specialty & custom metals — Sometimes, specialty metals can be brought in for a lighting system. Some of our clients have wanted specific colors in their landscape and have opted for a one-off production of a specialty fixture.

I hope this post cleared up any questions you have about landscape lighting! If you’re looking to have a lighting system installed and designed in your front or back yard, feel free to get in touch with us. I love helping customers with their lighting, because once installed, they get to see their properties in a whole new light. With a carefully designed lighting system in hand, you can enjoy your landscape day… and night!