Written by Terry Smith
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UK’s best solar water features: bird baths, rock gardens, and cascades
This article was last updated on April 23rd, 2022 at 6:10 am
If you are trying to add some character to your garden, feel that your garden needs something extra to complete it, or if you just enjoy the sounds of water while you relax and a heightened ambience, then a solar water feature should be at the top of your list of things to buy – it’ll also help attract a myriad of birds like a bird table helps so very much in the Winter particularly. Quite simply put, a solar water features makes your garden look that little bit more special at night. The garden is a place to use our senses, a solar water features is felt best in terms of sound which is a rarity for the garden – normally it is sight and smell.
While sometimes we think of water features as ponds which can be very expensive and time consuming, not only to build, but to design too. The best solar powered water features bridge this gap nicely providing most of the benefits without the hassle. And some water features can also mimic the practical use of ponds for the wide biodiverse animal life that we are lucky enough to have here in Old Blighty, which rely on water to survive. The moving water that a bird bath with a pump provides can be essential and helps maintain the wildlife in the UK not just as useful as its a place to clean and drink but doubly useful as the running water is oxidised.
Best solar water feature – editor picks:
Best overall solar powered water feature: Smart Garden Solar Powered Garden Water Fountain Bird Bath Feature
Best bird bath: Smart Garden Solar Kingsbury 3 Tier Garden Water Feature Fountain Bird Bath
Best rock gardens: Blumfeldt Ocean Planet Solar Fountain
Best cascading solar water feature: Direct Global Trading Solar Powered Charcoal Fountain
Best wall mounted solar water feature – Blumfeldt Löwenstein Wall Fountain
Budget pick: – AISITIN 5.5W Solar Fountain Pump
Solar water feature buyers guide
Solar powered water features hit the mark in a number of ways. The first and most important mandate – taking care of our planet/wildlife is what it’s all about to me and I am in favour of these smart water features. Not only does the solar power keep the flow night and day, most of them have LED lighting which creates a prominent stunning feature accentuating other features nearby too, casting interesting depths of light on them if well positioned.
Personally I just like to sit outside with a cup of tea and enjoy what nature offers me. However, there is a reason the people of Japan seem to have water features in almost every zen garden I saw when I visited Kyoto last year. There is something very relaxing about the sound of moving water. A water feature or should I say the right water feature creates a focal point for your garden just make sure you choose a water feature that is in keeping with the aesthetics of your garden. If you like the idea of a water feature, the idea of something that is easy to install and is also environmentally friendly, then a solar powered water feature will be ideal for you.
In terms of buying, the interesting thing about solar water features is the sheer diversity and number of different types, and then the number of different ways in which install occurs. Be it from a built in solar panel integrated into the unit all the way through to one with a separate panel that can be placed in the sunny parts of the garden.
Then you’ve got battery life, if they have one, reliability, water flow rates, and the prices cary wildly. Not to mention they come in the form of bird baths, cascades, and rock arrangements:
Where installation of solar powered water features seem simple, maintenance is less fun and definitely more of a chore. The first thing, and something you will need to check the most regularly, and more often during the autumn months when leaves and debris are most likely to be flying about in the high winds, is the water pump. The leaves, twigs and so on can clog the water pump stopping the flow of water. Check your water feature regularly and remove anything foreign bodies in the water before blockages even occur. Even insects can pose a problem so just fish those out too.
Checking the water level is also something that can be easily forgotten about or just ignored. The water level can be important to ensure that water pumps operate correctly. The maximum and minimum water fill levels are going to vary so check the level is topped up regularly and if you don’t use plain old tap water – go for distilled water which has no impurities nor minerals so it reduces the amount of mineral build up in the pump and disturbs wildlife the least.
Depending on your water feature, you are going to need to change the water more or less often. Bird baths, for example like the Smart Garden, that’s going to have to be changed more frequently. Every two to four days there could be a build up of bugs, bird seeds and different kinds of algae – some don’t take it quite as seriously and just let it run – this will lead to a blocked pump, they are only small on solar water features. Remember, animals are now using this to clean or possibly drink from. But, even if you have the cleanest bird bath in the world the water level is going to need topping up as over time the birds are using the water and it’s also evaporating as well. Other water features will only need the water changing at least once a month.
Give it a blast off with a cordless pressure washer if you have one
Finally, give it a real clean. Like I said, it’s a lot more of a chore to maintain a solar powered water feature than to install one. So, you are going out to check on your solar powered water feature and you’ve noticed the water looks contaminated, you possibly come back for a two week holiday in the sun and realise you have neglected your garden duties a bit. Well, you have had a well deserved rest so it’s back to the grind and time to give your solar powered water feature a much needed bit of TLC. My advice when completely cleaning any water feature is using environmentally friendly cleaning products – my actual preference is to hit my bird bath with my cordless pressure washer – it’s not so powerful that it damages, but strips it clean and negates the need for chemicals. I will say though, you need to be careful if you have delicate paint – always do test patches first so you don’t wreck the whole thing – like I have 😀
Drain your water from time to time and scrub if you can’t use a pressure washer
You will need to drain all the water out and get a soft to medium bristle brush for scrubbing assuming you can’t use a pressure washer I would also suggest adding one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a roughly 3 litres of water. It is not going to harm any wildlife or affect the feature in any way so give everything a good scrub for five minutes and rinse thoroughly. Everything should be brand new again in no time. With regards to your pump, you can get a bucket of clean water, again with some apple cider vinegar in it and cycle through the water until the water pumping though looks clean again just five minutes should suffice. After that you can grab a toothbrush and try to clean any hard to reach places that may have any extra build up of dirt or algae. You shouldn’t need to remove any parts but you can do if need be. Just be careful and make sure you rinse off the water pump thoroughly with distilled water. As a final check this is obviously a good time to check if any parts may need replacing too.
Where should I place the water feature and solar panel?
Just in case it isn’t painstakingly obvious the solar panel needs to get some form of sunlight. Here in the UK we aren’t blessed with constant sunlight and well when we have it we need to make the most of it. Just like a solar panel. As we don’t get constant sun it is best to place it in a part of the garden where you get a reasonable amount. That way we can get the best results and if it works well, maybe you can experiment a bit with placement.If your water feature has the solar panels integrated then you will be moving the whole item into the direct sunlight:
If you have chosen a water feature with a wire going from the water feature to the solar panel then you might have a few more choices on where to place the feature and the solar panel, depending on the length of the wire of course. Obviously having a wire going across the lawn is just an accident waiting to happen so unless you are thinking of bumping off the wife, probably best to rethink the wire option if you need to use the water feature as a centrepiece. Some products on this list like the Blumfeldt Ocean Planet Solar Fountain placement is not going to be a problem at all but I feel it would look best in a rock garden of some sort. Most will look great just about anywhere. However, due to the nature of the design of the AISITIN 5.5W Solar Fountain Pump you are going to need a pre-existing water feature of a body of water such as a pond.
What is a good base for the water feature?
Unless you are building a pond or creating your own water feature from scratch then you shouldn’t really need to make any above ground foundations using concrete. Normally just a level, flat surface is going to suffice. You can find these on grass, in a flower bed, a patio or even decking. It all comes down to common sense, you don’t want the water feature to topple over nor do you want the water to run off of it in a funny way.
1. Smart Garden Solar Powered Garden Water Fountain Bird Bath Feature
Best overall solar powered water feature – Smart Garden Solar Powered Garden Water Fountain Bird Bath Feature
I have to be honest, I am a sucker when it comes to wildlife. If you have read any other articles I’ve written that could involve any sort of animal paying my garden a visit I tend to get a bit excited not as much as a Friday night admittedly but I am fond of wildlife that’s for sure.
This water feature or bird bath whichever way you look at it is going to help attract some little feathered friends and even possibly the odd fury one, squirrels will love this too – I have to say it’s in direct competition with the Kingsbury 3 as the best overall solar water feature but pips it on design in my eyes. Placement is going to be something you will definitely need to think about here as it’s a bird bath with solar panels. So clearly, direct sunlight is a must and it’s really gonna need a level surface to sit on, other than that installation couldn’t get any easier, there are no wires at all. It’s powered by a battery which in turn gets its juice from the two solar panels integrated into the bath itself. The pump will move the water around a unique detailing of two children filling up a bucket of water from a tap.
A rather large tap, oh and they aren’t making a very good job of it either so it also makes a cascading effect as it runs from tap to bucket, which is actually fills up the swings and pours to a well and finally to bird bath.
The structure is made of a high quality poly resin that will withstand the harsh UK weather. That being frost resistant and obviously its UV protected too – has to be obviously. The decorative design is most certainly elegant and it has a bronze effect to it. The top of the feature comes up to roughly waist height and really it could be a little taller height wise. It is not heavy but stable. If situated in a well thought out place then it is not going to topple over in the wind with or without water in it. All this bird bath really needs is three things, water, direct sunlight and of course you’ve guessed it…….. birds.
- It’s a bird bath so doesn’t just look good it attracts wildlife too
- Two integrated wireless solar panels
- Unique detailing with movable parts
- Made from a bronze effect high quality poly resin
- Frost and UV resistant for the ever changing UK weather
- Lightweight but steady
- It could have been a little taller
2. Smart Garden Solar Kingsbury 3 Tier Garden Water Feature Fountain Bird Bath
Best bird bath solar powered water feature – Smart Garden Solar Kingsbury 3 Tier Garden Water Feature Fountain Bird Bath
Here we have yet another bird bath water feature! Don’t worry this is the last one on the list.
I could quite easily have given the Smart Garden bird bath the top spot here but this is really another great design and due to it being slightly different it’s worth letting you know this is a viable option too. As you can see from the name the first thing different is it is three tiered. There is also a wired solar panel which means you don’t need to place the bird bath in direct sunlight, only the solar panel. I am unsure whether that will be a pro or a con in some people’s eyes.
Me, I am a positive person and having the solar panels, not integrated, might work out better if the only spot you can put the bird bath doesn’t get consistent sun. However, I’m not opposed to putting a few extra quid into buying the right thing and not buying twice. This one may come down to design preference too. The Smart Garden definitely has a more classic bird bath feel to it with a stone look rather than a bronze quirky detailing on the other Smart Garden bird bath. Also made from a UV resistant and frost proof poly resin it holds up just as well to the elements. The water is pumped around and to the top of what looks like an unopened flower where it overflows down from bird bath to bird bath, even more fun for the birds.
- Three tiers of fun for the birds
- Wired solar panel with a decent amount of reach to place in direct sun
- Classic stone effect bird bath design
- Made from a UV resistant and frost proof poly resin for protection against the elements
- The wired solar panel may put some people off when there are integrated options
3. Blumfeldt Ocean Planet Solar Fountain
Best for rock gardens solar powered water feature – Blumfeldt Ocean Planet Solar Fountain
This water feature really does look like a stone albeit a poly resin like most of the products on this list. That being said, this one can be tucked away and camouflage itself in a rock garden like it’s some sort of solar powered water feature chameleon. The only give away being the four LED lights, but I like those because they accentuate the feature so that’s ok. This one really is something straight out of a Japanese zen garden. The water almost bubbles out of the top of the stone over the LED lights and over the main oval shaped stone. You are able to adjust the pump to change the height of the water.
However, I feel that this looks the best when the water is just trickling over the stone and the LED lights and not splashing all over the place, unlike the top pick Smart Garden which is improved by the messy water effect. It’s designed to be elegant, flowing gently over the stone effect poly resin. The poly resin is as always weather resistant and shields the solar powered water feature from the sun and the cold. You are going to want to place this feature near a rock or stone garden, it just looks better positioned there rather than amongst flowers. This means it might be hard to find the sunshine that’s needed to power it. Luckily it comes with extra long connecting cables so you can place it in that Japanese style rock garden that’s tucked away in the corner and run the cable into some direct sunlight. Blumfeldt has created this water feature with a solar panel to easily acquire power during the day and a 3.7 V / 2 Ah battery for up to eight hours of use when the sun goes down. The solar panel is secured with a handy stake to just pop in the ground and keep the wires out of the way too.
- The stone effect poly resin is very realistic and looks great amongst other rocks
- The stone effect poly resin is weather resistant, shielding against the UV rays and frost
- 4 LED lights that highlight the water feature
- Extra long connection cable to the solar panel for optimum solar panel placement, complete with handy stake to secure in position
- Dual solar panel and battery system for operation during nighttime hours
- The wired solar panel may put some people off when there are integrated options
- Not being real stone may also put people off but I think it looks really cool and should definitely not be dismissed straightaway.
4. Direct Global Trading Solar Powered Charcoal Fountain
Best cascading solar powered water feature – Direct Global Trading Solar Powered Charcoal Fountain
One of the best designs I’ve come across and it’s very different to the Blumfeldt Ocean Planet Solar Fountain, looks wise and it’s a far more ‘sloppy’ water trickle which in my mind makes a nicer sound. It’s simple really but personally I think it looks great. So there are three bowls, the highest bowl with a spout pours the water into the bowl below creating a waterfall into the next bowl which in turn pours the water into the final bowl creating the cascading effect. Admittedly, it may have been a little better if there was a fourth bowl, either a larger one at the bottom or a smaller one at the top, as it would have made more of a cascading effect but as previously mentioned really like the way it looks. Inside each bowl there are LED lights which will light up the solar powered water feature creating a lovely scene during the nighttime.
Both the LED and the pump are powered via a 2W solar panel. The solar panel comes with a long 5 metre cable for connection to and from the water feature. I could actually feed the cable secretly though a flower bed and around some plants without it being seen then stake the solar panel in the ground neatly tucked away but still in full blast of the sunlight. Do be careful when you are tending to the flower bed and remember you’ve run the cable through there. The extra cable allowed me to really find a great spot for sunlight and optimum power.
On the battery there is an easy to operate button system with a simple on and off short press or hold system. Plus, there is a light that will tell you the battery status so don’t worry if you haven’t quite found the best spot to place the solar panel. You can see if it works better in a particular area than another. The light will shine green, when, you’ve guessed it, it’s good to go and all fully charred. Orange when you are on a half charge and yes, red when it needs a charge. A simple but effective system.
Imagine you have friends coming over to enjoy an alfresco dining experience on the decking in the garden tomorrow. Unfortunately, even though it’s summer, the weather hasn’t been ideal and it’s generally an overcast day. Luckily the battery comes with a charging point so you can just cut your losses. Rather than praying for a full day’s charge tomorrow before dinner with friends. Just charge it up manually the primitive way in the house and ever so slightly add to the electric bill :D.
You know that anticipating a cloudy day but getting a nice bright sunny one does happen so you still have faith but you wanted to make sure you can create the best atmosphere for a lovely warm summer evening with friends so it’s worth the extra effort by way of a charge inside. Garden looks freshly cut, plants and flowers in full bloom and a nicely lit water feature.The lit up bowls plus the sensual sounds of a waterfall while you enjoy an evening meal on the decking completes a perfect, great British summer evening. It’s a weatherproof poly resin with a charcoal stone effect finish. It looks pretty realistic to me too.
- An excellent cascading design
- Each bowl contains an LED light to brighten up the bowls at nighttime
- Solar panel with an extra long 5 metre cable for optimum panel placement
- Easy to use pump and battery
- Battery charging point for those bad weather days
- Made from a weatherproof poly resin with a with a charcoal stone effect finish
- An extra bowl in the design creating an extra level would have been nicer in my opinion but it’s still the top of the list for cascading solar powered water features
5. Blumfeldt Löwenstein Wall Fountain
Best wall mounted solar powered water feature – Blumfeldt Löwenstein Wall Fountain
I have to say this is going to be high on your list of things to buy if you have a dull wall that you need to change into something a little special in both the day and the night. The stone effect looks great on most backdrops but if you have a hang this one a rustic or vintage style wall then this looks even better. It has an ancient Greek feel to the style of a lion’s head spitting water as the main eye-catching feature.
Made from a robust poly resin like most poly resin material it is made to withstand the UV rays of the sun and the cold frost from the harsh UK winters. But where it really wins after noting the plastic fibre material is the look – tell me you can spot the difference easily on a rustic brick wall 🙂
The Blumfeldt Löwenstein Wall Fountain uses a pump to create a consistent flow of water of 200 litres per hour. Powered via a 2W solar panel during the day and uses a 3.7 V / 2000 mAh Li battery at night. There is also a charge point for the battery so if we aren’t fortunate enough to get any sun then we can still enjoy the water feature when the sun has gone down.
At dusk, the tray of water lights up from an automatic sensor LED light system and it really complements and highlights the detailing of the lion’s head at night – the only LED display which is more impressive in my mind is the AISITIN.
Now installation is going to require a little more effort but if you haven’t check out the installation guide above. Unfortunately I was a tad disappointed that the package didn’t include any fittings whatsoever. I double checked the box in case I missed them then checked online. Very suprising this was the case but it’s not a complete disaster.
- Best for brightening up bare walls
- Vintage stone effect robust poly resin
- Eye-catching Greek design
- UV and frost protection
- Decent pump providing consistent flow of water
- 2W solar panel and 3.7 V / 2000 mAh Li battery giving you the option to charge the battery
- Automatic LED lighting creates an ambiance at night
- Installation is more than other products on this list
- No fittings were included with the item
6. AISITIN 5.5W Solar Fountain Pump
Best budget solar powered water feature – AISITIN 5.5W Solar Fountain Pump
If it’s more than just cheap and cheerful you’re after then you won’t be disappointed. Now, I’m not saying it’s not considered cheap and cheerful but it is a decent product on a budget and it’s actually so cheap it might even be worth a quick buy to see if it does the trick. It comes with two choices, a 3.5W and a 5.5W LED. Which is there not only to give the water a colourful glow but it can brighten up the feature it’s used in or even the foliage around it.
Just a quick honourable mention, Aisitin also has a sister product, which is basically the same thing just without an LED. It’s all going to come down to preference really but I’d go for the more powerful 5.5W LED option as it’s still a steal for the price you are paying. The idea with this is you can quite literally just put it into any body of water and it should turn it into a water fountain. Obviously don’t try sticking it into your pint even though that does sound fun. You will need a reasonable amount of water and like all the products today it’s gotta be in direct sunlight for the best results. It uses a 3000mAh battery that is essentially charged up during the day.
You also get a choice of modes too. The two modes, I’d say, are best described as day and night mode. Day mode works as normal during the day time pumping water vertically adding peace and tranquillity to the garden, unless the grand kids are causing havoc. Then as the sun goes down it detects darkness and the LED lighting will come on. There are 7 different colours and they are on an automatic cycle changing. Night mode is pretty much, charge in the day and use at night. When I say use at night I just mean as it gets dark the fountain will turn on with the LED lights. The fountain itself is a circular shape and that’s where the solar panel is located. Try to understand that I am not going to be able to check the longevity of the battery. It states that it will charge – discharge between 300 to 500 times.
Taking the price and the general feel of the product you would agree that it’s not going to last forever and as I said there is no way to check those figures without coming back to you at a later date. That being said it’s cheap as chips and you will either love it and replace it with a new one or move on to something bigger and better. There are 7 different nozzles that you can combine and create different sprays styles for your fountain. Some work better than others and I’m pretty sure most people are going to opt for the larger of the jets as some are a little pathetic really. Do make sure that you check it and even every now and then as leaves and other debris could easily block both the motor and the solar panel itself.
- Inexpensive to buy and replace (if you love it of course)
- Different power options (I like the 5.5W LED option)
- Two modes for optimum use
- 7 different colours on an automatic cycle
- 7 different nozzles to create different sprays of water
- Did I mention it’s cheap?
- It’s not going to last forever if you have the extra money you can get a more fancy water feature.
- You will already need an existing water feature to use this product
Other things to consider when purchasing a solar powered water feature
Quite possibly your solar powered water feature is going to become the prime focus of your garden or in fact a centrepiece. You might want to take into consideration any other features that might compliment your new found focal point. Now, some water features come with lighting and some don’t but even if they come with lighting there could be room for more. Now I’m not saying light up your garden like its Highbury Stadium on game night or a runway at Heathrow but just as an example you could have some uplighting with cool tones to maintain the feature as a focal point or solar powered lights down a path towards the feature. However you decide to give your garden that extra idyllic ambiance I hope this list has helped you in your choice of solar powered water feature and You get to enjoy your garden even more everyday.
How to install a solar water feature
Most water features aren’t going to take that much to install – the key is pretty much the right tools for the job – beyond that any novice DIY’er will handle it, other than the Blumfeldt Löwenstein Wall Fountain which is wall hung and takes a bit of skill, I assure you! A number of the ones featured on this list are as easy as choosing a spot in the sun, filling her up with water and Voilà there you have it, a water feature ready for action. That’s the wonder of solar powered water features, they are just a case of unbox and you’re ready to go. Others are going to take a few wires being connected and pieces put together. Nothing will need you to get out your spade and start digging. At worst, you might need to rearrange a flower bed to make room for a water feature of possibly the solar panel if that is the best position, to be in direct sunlight. Choosing the type of water feature is going to dictate your installation. With regards to a wall mounted solar powered water feature it will take slightly more effort. Ok, so you will need the following;
- An SDS drill
- A masonry drill bit
- Raw plug
- Stainless steel, galvanised or some sort of non rust screws will work the best
- A spirit level
- A tape measure
- A marker
Firstly, you need to scope out the place where you think the solar powered water feature will look best. Try to centralise the feature width ways you don’t want a feature up high on a wall so try to work out where you think it’s going to look best height wise. Look at the back of the water feature and measure where the hanging holes are to work out exactly where you are going to need to place the screws. Next, mark where you are going to drill. Using the SDS drill with the correct size masonry drill bit (screws, raw plugs and drill bits will vary so be sure to get the correct size to what you are working with) dill a hole in the wall. It is always best to steer clear of drilling holes in the pointing of a wall as the mortar as they are less sturdy than a brick itself. Once you have your hole to the correct depth where it’s not going to swallow your raw plug then put in your screw and tighten being sure you have enough length left of the screw to hang the desired wall mounted solar powered water feature. Repeat this step for as many hanging points as necessary. Check out the picture below to give you some quick tips about how to use raw plugs courtesy of ‘handy crowd’.