The best solar garden lights can create a cosy atmosphere and emphasise your favourite plants, sculptures and water features. Not only are they perfect for adding ambience to alfresco gatherings, they also look great from indoors on dark evenings.
Take a look at our nine garden lighting ideas to get inspiration before you browse our selection of the best outdoor solar lights.
How do solar lights work?
The flat panel usually found on top of solar lights or on a separate plate contains silicone chips called photovoltaic cells to absorb energy from the sun. The power collected is then converted into chemical energy as it’s stored in the battery, which fuels the light with electricity.
Meanwhile, a ‘photoresistor’ stops the electricity flowing when it can detect external light, and turns the lamp on when it’s dark. This is just a quick run-down of the process; you can find a more in-depth explanation at Lights4Fun’s page on how solar lights work.
Even the best outdoor solar lights need fresh batteries to continue working well after a year or two of constant use. Make sure you replace them with high-quality ones designed for use in solar-powered products, like these:
The best solar garden lights for any outdoor space
Shapelights USB Solar Mood Lights
Best for decorating patios
The best solar lights are versatile, like this polypropylene lamp you can use indoors and out. Choose between four shapes - a cube, sphere, cylinder or pebble - and you’ll get seven bright colour options and a smooth transition mode, which automatically switches between them.
Each light can hold up to 50kg in weight, so it could also function as a stool for children - a handy added extra if you use it as a nightlight.
If you choose not to leave your light outside and use solar power, you can top up the battery via USB. Either way, it’ll turn on in the dark for seven hours.
Dandelion Garden Solar Lights
Best for style
With their spectacular ‘starburst’ shape, these solar lights will create an eye-catching feature during garden parties and other outdoor events. Use them to build an illuminated walkway or cluster them together in a special spot.
You can choose between two sizes when you buy these ‘dandelion’ lights. Both options are a metre tall, but the small has 96 LED bulbs and a diameter of 35cm, while the large has 120 bulbs and is 45cm across.
With enough solar power, these lamps should stay lit for six hours after nightfall.
Outdoor Garden Moroccan Red Balloon
Best for hanging from trees
Most of the best solar garden lights are neutral in tone, but these fun options add a splash of colour to your outdoor space. Choose from a range of Moroccan-style lanterns, including a purple balloon, a pale pink cylinder and a green diamond - perfect for alfresco dinner parties.
There are several different designs to enjoy, so you can mix and match shapes and colours to create a vibrant display, or buy the full set for maximum impact.
After charging, they'll automatically turn on in the dark to create a cosy atmosphere.
Eva Solo SunLight Solar Outdoor Lamp
Best for al fresco dining
There’s no need to pack up and head inside when darkness falls if you have a few of these smart outdoor table lamps. With their integrated solar panels and wireless design, they’ll keep your table illuminated and uncluttered after the sun goes down.
In fact, these are some of the best solar lights when it comes to output, as they’ll stay lit for up to 20 hours after eight hours of charging. Just override the automatic daylight sensor using the manual on/off switch.
The design includes a frosted glass top and anodised aluminium foot, so it should survive frost and other poor weather conditions.
Set of 3 steel spike spots
Best for lighting up your driveway
- Buy now from Lamp and Light (£33.95)
If you’re after a set of practical garden lights to illuminate a path or driveway, try these smart pillar lamps. They’re 42cm tall and made from stainless steel with a frosted window to create a wash of indirect light.
Thanks to the in-built brightness sensor, they’ll automatically turn on when it gets dark outside.
Each set of three lamps connects to a miniature solar panel, which you can stick into the ground for stability.
Solar patio lantern
Best for making a statement
- Buy now from Crocus (£39.99)
They say you should treat your garden as another room in your home, and this patio lantern will help you create a welcoming space. Measuring 60cm in height, it’s ideal for making a statement on a patio, especially when placed alongside seating.
Inside the large lantern are warm white LEDs, which automatically turn on when the sun goes down, so you won’t have to worry about switching it on and off yourself.
12 Mini Mushroom Solar Stake Lights
Best for borders and flowerbeds
Some of the best solar garden lights are more decorative than practical, like these unique ‘mini mushroom’ lamps. They don’t emit a huge amount of light, but they do create a magical look clustered under trees or in a border.
You get 12 in a pack, each with a total length of 20cm, so you can position them between 5cm and 10cm above the ground for natural height variations.
Lights4Fun recommends you cluster them together over two square metres. Then, position the connected solar panel up to two metres away and the mushroom caps will have a warm white glow come dusk.
Solar Cane Lantern
Best for side tables
- Buy now from Cox & Cox (£16.50)
Cox & Cox is one of our go-to retailers when it comes to garden products; you can always find neutral, contemporary pieces to enhance your outdoor space.
This woven-cane-effect lantern is a versatile solar lamp to have in your collection. Either use the handle to hang it from a tree or hook, or place it on a side table for a cosy glow. You could even invest in a few and dot them along a dining table during alfresco parties.
Choose between the 24cm ‘small’ model or the 27cm ‘large’ version. You’ll get six hours of light and you can use the switch under the lid to turn it on and off manually.
See our round-up of the best portable outdoor lights for more garden styling inspiration.
Premium Solar Spotlight Kit
Best for illuminating trees and sculptures
- Buy now from Lights4Fun (£99.99)
This pack of four powerful solar spotlights is a practical choice if you want to draw attention to some of your favourite elements in the garden. They’re made from durable aluminium and have a remote control for adjusting their brightness, setting timers and switching them on and off.
There’s a 3m cable between each light, which should make it easy to illuminate a tree from different angles or position the lamps towards multiple garden features.
If you want to keep them lit without relying on the sun, you can replenish the batteries yourself with the USB cable. They should give out five or six hours of light on a full charge.
Alice is a digital writer with a knack for tracking down the most innovative and exciting products to hit the market. Working across several of Our Media's special interest brands, she's written for publications including Countryfile, Gardens Illustrated and Science Focus. Outside of work - and lusting over homeware and gardening products - you’ll find her rambling in the great outdoors or watching an old film.
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