The best solar garden lights come in a range of colours and designs to brighten up your outdoor space, whether you choose stake lights for highlighting borders, string lights for the fence or a pretty lantern for the table. As well as creating ambience when entertaining, some designs can be used for a more practical function to add an extra layer of security around your home.
Solar garden lighting can, however, be a little hit and miss - shining brightly one day, then looking as dull as a scorched August lawn the next. But with advice how to buy and how to care for your lights throughout the year, you can enjoy the best solar garden lights for more than a single season.
Below, I’ve tested a selection of this year's most eye-catching solar garden lights that you can buy online. I’ve included novelty designs, ‘festoon’ string lights for trees, fences and gazebos and solar lanterns to add magic to the lawn. I’ve also included stake lights for showcasing your best flower borders and motion-sensor solutions for the garden path.
For help in choosing them, I asked award-winning garden designer and BBC Gardeners' Question Time panellist Matthew Wilson. (You can find Matthew's advice on how to use and care for solar lights at the bottom of this feature.)
Matthew Wilson’s top 5 tips for buying a solar garden light
- Do use a mixture of lights - festoon, spike and uplighters, for example - to create different effects.
- Don’t rely on solar lights to provide 100% fool-proof security lighting. It feels like too much of a risk. Motion-sensor lights are best used as an add-on - rather than as the main feature - in your security set up.
- Do combine solar lights with other light types, such as plug in/rechargeable lamps, candle lanterns and so on.
- Don’t mix bulb colours - a mix of warm whites, cool whites and blue whites don't really look good together in a garden setting.
- Do use more lights with lower lumens to create a glow, rather than a few very bright lights that will make you feel uncomfortable, disrupt wildlife and annoy the neighbours.
What are the brightest solar garden lights and how bright should they be?
"Around 100 lumens will create a soft light on a pathway," Matthew says, "while 150 lumens would work for an outdoor dining space.”
How I tested the best solar garden lights (by Emily Peck)
During my 20+ years as a journalist I’ve reviewed everything from the best cordless lawnmowers to the best bee hives for urban beekeeping. Combining my love of gardening and technology by testing the best solar garden lights for 2022 has been a treat.
I set the lights up in a sunny border in my garden and assessed each light on visibility, design, functionality and aesthetic appeal. After a full day of sunlight, I monitored how well each design lit up after dark and checked in on them at 3am to see if they were still shining as brightly as they did after sunset. Read on to discover which designs I thought stole the show and will add style to your garden this season. And, if you're upgrading your outdoor space, don't forget our guides to the best garden heaters, best garden chairs and best rattan garden furniture.
What are the best solar garden lights for 2022? At a glance
- Best overall – Geemoo Solar Flickering Dancing Flame Lights
- Best solar fence light - Garden Trading Solar Festoon Light String
- Best solar string light -
- Best motion sensor solar light - 4lite Solar LED Bollard Light
- Best solar lantern - Solar Helsinki Lantern
Best solar garden lights
1. Geemoo 6 Pack Solar Flickering Dancing Flame Lights
We like: the impressive warm glow of these solar garden lights, which come in a great-value pack of six
With their fiery, flickering glow you could be forgiven for thinking that these solar-powered stake lights are candle-lit. They are powered by a high-end polysilicon solar panel with a built-in rechargeable Ni-MH battery. They can light up for up to 10 hours in summer once fully exposed to the sun.
I thought these solar-powered lights stood out from the crowd due to their noticeably eye-catching glow. When I looked out of the window in the middle of the night, they were the most prominent and attractively hued solar lights shining in my garden.
They were also easy to assemble and good value as they come in pack of six. Although their black plastic waterproof frames don’t look or feel like the most premium lights I’ve seen, I think they are perfect for lighting up garden paths and highlighting flower borders.
2. Garden Trading Solar Festoon Light String
Best solar fence light
We like: the multiple hanging loops for stringing along fences, branches or anything
With so many solar festoon-style string lights on offer online, it can be daunting to know which model to pick, but I think this Garden Trading design stands out for a number of reasons. For a start you get up to 20 bulbs that are conveniently spaced apart on a single 12.5 metre string. By contrast, a similar bulb string light such as B&Q’s Alvares (also reviewed in this test) gives you just 10 bulbs.
The vintage design of these festoon bulbs looked good along my garden fence, but I think they would work equally well along the trim of a gazebo or nestled loosely in tree branches. While they weren’t the brightest lights in my test – possibly due to just how many bulbs were having to work off one small solar panel – I liked the way you can switch between light modes, which included a static and a twinkling setting.
3. Elan Solar Dandelion Lights
£24.99, Solar Centre
Best solar gazebo lights
We like: the lengthy wire that makes it good for tying around tree trunks, gazebos, parasols and more
With an ample two metres from the solar panel to the first ball, you get 30 warm white dandelion lights on this string light. I thought it looked particularly good tied around the base of my pear tree, but its long wire makes it equally suitable for adding sparkle to a gazebo or parasol trim or perhaps woven through plant beds.
I was amazed at just how brightly the small lights shone well into the night and how well I could see them 20 metres away in the house. You can also switch between the steady or flashing modes to suit your mood.
4. Alvares Bottle Solar Powered Outdoor String Lights
Best solar string lights
We like: the roomy spacing between each bulb with flashing and steady modes
There may only be 10 bulbs on this solar string light, but I found them to be surprisingly powerful. The lengthy three-metre cable also means the stylish long bulbs are evenly spaced out so you can easily hang them along the fence, shed wall or across masonry – I balanced them across the two brick pillars that make up the entrance to my kitchen garden, which seemed to work well.
5. 4lite Solar LED Bollard Light
Best security solar light
We like: the powerful 230 lumens, 10m sensing distance and two motion detector modes
This motion-sensor aluminium LED bollard light is modern in design and great for paths and lawns to add an extra layer of security around your home. It has a maximum sensing distance of 10 metres and lit up in a very bright and cool white each time I approached. Not the prettiest solar light I tested, but definitely the most practical.
If you’re keen to step up your security with solar power, also check out Arlo’s Pro4 Wireless Outdoor Security Camera with Solar Panel
6. Habitat Solar Neon Effect Bulb String Lights
Best colourful solar lights
We like: the colourful neon glow these lights emit in the dark
A wonderful way to add colour to your garden, these neon solar lights won’t go unnoticed. You get a pop of 10 colourful lights on a compact 390cm line that last for up to six hours. As the space between each bulb is noticeably shorter than your standard 10-bulb string light, I think a light like this would work well in a small garden or compact patio area.
7. Solar Light-up Bird Feeder
£12.49, Coopers of Stortford
Best bird-friendly solar garden light
We like: the intricate design of this dual-purpose design
Looking pretty both day and night, this solar bird feeder emits a warm glow when it gets dark seen through its intricate metal cutwork. It comes with a hook that we found easy to hang from a tree and a tray on the base that is perfect for nuts and seeds for the birds.
8. Solar Helsinki Lantern
Best solar table centrepiece
We like: the simply stylish black metal frame
This sophisticated black lantern is 31.5cm high and19cm wide and I think works well on a tabletop or for use on a patio or next to a flowerbed. Its legs are sturdy, and while I would have preferred a warm light as opposed to a bright lights, its run time of up to six hours didn’t disappoint.
9. Solar Mesh Duck Garden Light
Best novelty solar lights
We like: just how well you can decipher the shape of this duck by night
No garden is complete without a little wildlife, and what better way to include an animal into your garden than with this solar duck light? The orange and yellow mesh frame of these ducks felt well designed and looked great as a pair nestled on the lawn.
10. Solar Company Solar Bug Light – Ladybird or Bumble Bee
Best tree-hanging solar light
We like: how easy these lights are to hang and how brightly they shine
Ideal for adorning trees and adding charm to the fence, these cute ladybird and bumblebee solar lights measure 14cm in height. I hung a few from my pear tree and was very impressed at how brightly they glowed after dark. Try not to pull on the wires, however, as they do easily stretch and will hang low.
11. Smart Solar Damasque Lantern
£9.93, Robert Dyas
Best solar lantern
We like: the curvaceous intricate form of this elegant lantern
With its antique rust effect, this light will add a touch of Moroccan style to your garden table. I found its handle easy to hang from a tree and admired it shining brightly deep into the night. I would have preferred a warmer light as opposed to its cool white inside, but I did think it looked good both day and night.
12. Argos Home Solar Tall Metal Flower Stake
Best decorative solar light
We like: the pretty flowerheads of these metal lights feature copper wire LED lighting
This metal flower stake looks pretty both day and night and is perfect for easily piercing into the lawn or flowerbeds. Its elegant form emits a warm white light and, I thought, worked particularly well when grouped together in a line of three. I also found it simple to unpack straight out of the box, piece together its two parts and stake into the earth.
13. Uvbang 2 Pack Solar Flower Stake Lights
Best colour changing light
We like: the colour changing capability for up to 10 hours
If the sun has dried up your flowerbeds, give them a burst of colour with this set of two flower stake lights. They look surprisingly like real flowers during the day and can provide a colour-changing light show at night. Not as fun as RHS Wisley’s, but one I thought was worth waiting for after a full day of sun.
14. Solar Silver effect Starburst Solar-powered LED Outdoor Stake light
Best solar stake light
We like: the way this light gives you a magical Christmas twinkle at the height of summer
This Starburst stake lights looks like a dandelion and features 120 warm white LEDs that can be set to sparkle or provide a steady light. I loved seeing them sparkle at night, and while then box states they can provide up to six hours, they seemed to last even longer.
15. Three-Pack Outdoor Luxe Path Lights
£29.50, Marks and Spencer
Best border solar lights
We like: the way these set of three lights can be woven into your flowerbeds to add a little interest to a dull area
This set of three tree lights are connected by a cable with a two-metre wire to the solar panel. Their bright white branches stand out quite a bit during the day and aren’t the most attractive I’ve seen, but come nightfall, the warm white glow they emit is quite powerful and will see you in good stead for hours.
16. ShapeLights Indoor & Outdoor USB Solar Powered Mood Light Pebble
£39.99, Solar Centre
Best solar patio light
We like: this colour changing light adds ambience both indoors and outside
This light is a little different to the others in the test as it can be mains powered for use indoors, USB charged and solar powered. Once I had charged it up for four hours I placed it outside and waited for dark. I could then switch between its two modes on the base for the colour changing cycle in up to eight colours or the single colour – I chose red, which really stood out in the dark.
Do solar garden lights work in rain and in winter and how long should they last?
Solar technology certainly should work in the rain or on shorter winter days but, as garden expert Matthew Wilson says, “Ultimately, we’re asking a very small solar panel to do quite a lot of work.” It's better to think of solar lights as soft ambient lighting and have more of them, augmented with other light sources, Matthew says.
"The solar lights I have in my garden typically stay on for around three to six hours after dusk in summer but only 30 minutes in winter – it all depends on how much sunlight there is and how efficient the solar panel you choose.”
How do you clean and care for solar garden lights?
A typical solar light comes with a solar panel, rechargeable battery and lamp. Some also have a backup USB charging feature. “With exposure to the elements, outdoor solar lights can get damaged, rust over and their wires can break,” says Matthew. “If your solar light stops working it may be that the battery has worn out so it’s worth checking to see if you can replace it with a rechargeable battery.”
To get the best from your light, make sure your solar light panel is clean. Brian Davenport from The Solar Centre – which Matthew recommends as a good quality retailer – advises cleaning the solar panel from time to time with a soft, slightly moistened cloth to prevent the build-up of dirt, debris or snow. Also check the solar panel is in direct sun during the day as these can easily get knocked about by wind, rain, pets or garden wildlife.
An average solar collector needs around eight hours of sunlight for the best results after dark. ‘Take your lights inside over winter if possible or when sustained bad weather is on the horizon,’ suggests Matthew. ‘The reality is that solar lights rarely have the kind of high-quality weather proofing to make them last, which is why they need a little attention when the forecast looks bad.’