The Bright Ideas Blog

Design inspiration and outdoor lighting tips and advice for homeowners

Where Do I Put Landscape Lighting Fixtures in My Yard?

Landscape lighting fixtures come in all shapes and sizes. Every fixture has a job to do, just like every tool does. The trick to good lighting is to be sure you aren't trying to use a hammer where you really needed a screwdriver. 

Lets take a look at the different fixture categories and how they would be used to light a typical landscape:

path lights

We've all seen path lights in people's yards. The reason I know you've seen them before is because they are the most conspicuous fixture in any given landscape lighting system. 

A path light is traditionally comprised of three parts: a ground stake, a tall post, and a top hat. See the picture below


A path light's primary function is to do precisely what its name entails; light up a pathway.

Path lights are great for casting light downward onto a pathway to provide people with safety and functional lighting. The beautiful effect it creates is just an added bonus. 

Path lights get misused and abused more than any other fixture. Remember, path lights are meant for lighting up path ways. Do not place path lights through out all the flower beds around the whole yard. It will look too busy and detract from the overall lighting effect. 

Path lights placed along pathways are great, but not if that means they will be located in turfed areas. Placing path lights in the lawn is a bad idea. No matter how durable and high quality the fixture is, it will get beat up by lawn maintenance equipment in these locations. 

directional up lights

Directional up lights, sometimes referred to as spot lights, are placed in the ground and cast light upwards to accent trees, architectural accents, etc. Check out the photo below to see an example of directional up lights at work. 

Adondokis Small Japenese Maples 

When lighting trees, directional up lights should be placed at the base of the trunk and directed upwards into the canopy. If you're not achieving the right effect, it can be worth while to move the fixture around and try casting the light from different angles. Have fun with it!

wash lights

The only real difference between a directional up light and a wash light is how they cast light. A directional up light is more restrictive and doesn't allow the light to cast as wide of a beam. 

Wash lights are specifically meant to cast a very wide beam angle so the fixture can wash light over the target. 

Where would you use a wash light? 

There are plenty of areas in the landscape and on the architecture of the home where wash lighting would be an appropriate solution. 

For example, if your attempting to capture your home's stone work along the foundation, than wash lighting is perfect! See the example below:


down lights

Down lighting is used to create some of the most dramatic and subtle lighting effects in outdoor lighting design. However, it is not for your average DIYer or handyman to attempt. 

Down lights are a special kind of fixture made to be mounted up high in a tree or off the architecture of a roof so it can cast light over the intended target down below.

The effect this lighting creates almost feels like a soft moon light. Its simply magical. Check out how down lighting is used to illuminate the walkway in the photo below:


If down lighting is an option for your lighting project, it can be well worth it.

specialty fixture 

So far we've covered the kinds of light fixtures you'd expect to see in most common landscape lighting systems. However, there are quite a few specialty fixtures out there you could expect to see:

  • Undercap Lights
  • Post Lights
  • Bollards
  • Pendent Lights
  • Cored Recessed Lights
  • etc. 

For more information about specialty fixtures in your hardscape, click here.

 download our free design guide

If you aren't sure where to get started with your lighting project, Download our free design guide to help you get started!

Free Landscape Lighting Design Guide

Are you looking for a landscape lighting professional? 


If you are looking for a professional to help with your landscape lighting installation, request a consultation here! Let our designers create not only a functional property, but one that highlights the beauty of your home even at night. 

At Landscape Lighting Pro, the art of outdoor illumination is a real passion we work to perfect. Designing elegantly bespoke landscape lighting systems is simply all we do. For nearly 20 years, our award winning team of designers and craftsmen have striven to bring the best outdoor lighting experience possible to people's homes and businesses across the Wasatch Front & beyond. 


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