Written by Terry Smith

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Best solar garden lights [UK]: Bright and decorative solar lights reviewed

This article was last updated on April 23rd, 2022 at 4:58 am

When looking into solar lights for the garden in preparation for writing this article, I was staggered by just how many excellent looking products there were to choose from. But, as everyone knows, looks aren’t everything and can even be deceiving.

What is equally, and man would argue more, important to the way solar garden lights look, is how robust and durable they are. You have to remember that these lights and their solar cells will be left outside in all weather conditions, and need to be able to handle it.

With this in mind, we bought, borrowed, scraped, and scrounged, and got our hands on the most popular, best-selling, solar powered garden lights and put them to the test. After all was done, we chose the best solar lights for gardens and wrote up reviews for them that you can find easily by clicking on the products’ names below.

Our picks for best solar lights for gardens in the UK are:

  1. Beau Jardin 8 pack: best garden solar lights – must have for garden pathways
  2. Leztonic Solar Fairy Lights best decorative garden solar lights
  3. ZFITEI solar lights: Top alternative lights to make pathways and walkways
  4. Lush forest step lights
  5. Ruyilam flickering lights: Alternative decorative garden lights
  6. XLUX rose lights: Most beautiful garden lights
  7. Sunnest solar string lights

Why choose solar lights for your garden?

I would say the main reason people have for buying solar lights for their garden is running costs, which are basically zero. After the initial buying price, you don’t have to worry about an oversized electricity bill coming your way.

Another advantage of this non-reliance on your mains electricity, is that you don’t need to have power cables leading into your home to a power outlet, and if you get a set of lights with a timer, you don’t even have to remember to switch them on.

And, of course, let’s not forget the environmental factor coming into play. It should be blindingly obvious to anyone that solar powered lights are far more environmentally friendly that ones that are main powered. So, you get to feel happy with yourself while watching your new lights illuminate your garden each night.

If you’ve never set up solar lights in your garden before, and you’d lie some inspiration, have a watch of the following video for some ideas-

What problems can you run into with solar powered garden lights?

When it comes to using outdoor solar lights in the UK, your biggest problem is always going to be getting enough sunlight to the solar cells to power them. Now, this isn’t really a problem in the warmer seasons, but late autumn and winter, with their shorter days and often overcast skies, are a different story.

In any case, you should always set up the solar cells in a spot where they will get the most sunlight, but if the solar panels are built into the light itself, you might not have that option. If you are having problems with your lights not illuminating, and want to check if they are still working, simply leave them under a light in the house for a few hours.

What some people don’t take into account, is that solar lights are still battery powered, they just charge that battery from the sun. The quality of these batteries is usually affected by the price of the product, and so, more expensive solar lights will usually have better batteries that will last longer and charge faster.

Solar string lights are very popular and I can see why. They are relatively inexpensive, can cover a large area such as a patio or decking, and there are some nice variations to choose from.

One problem that people run into with the really cheap string lights is that the ‘string’ part, AKA the wires, can’t take much manhandling and can even arrive from transit broken. If you do go for budget string lights, unravel them with care, and be careful not to twist or kink them too much.

Finally, keep an eye on your solar panels, if they get too dirty they will stop working properly so keep them clean like in this video-

 

What you should think about when choosing the best solar lights for your garden

Here’s a shortlist of the main factors to consider when buying your outdoor solar lights. Most of it is common sense, but we hope that we bring one or two things to mind that you might not have thought about.

You tend to get what you pay for

Yes, I know this is true for almost everything, but with solar powered lights that will spend their life outdoors, it is even more so.

That’s not to say there aren’t some low-cost lights that prove to be a bargain, it’s just, generally speaking, the quality of budget products tends to be inferior. This usually amounts to things not working as they should, and most often not living up to the product description and claims of performance.

As they say: buy cheap, buy twice. However, there are those few diamonds to be found in the rough, and we have dug around and found a few for you. You can find them in our reviews section further down this page.

Battery quality is important with solar lights

This is usually connected to price, but not always. The basic gist of it is that the better the battery, the better it will hold its charge and the longer running time you will get from your lights between charges.

Now, we all know that advertisers are prone to stretching the truth (to say the least), and so, don’t take their word for it. have a read of customer feedback and reviews and see if there are recurring negative comments regarding battery issues. If so, look somewhere else for your solar garden lights.

Solar panels need to be placed correctly

If you’ve looked into solar lighting for your garden, then you’ve probably noticed that some products have a separate solar panel, and some have theirs integrated into the light itself.

If you want to get the best possible performance out of your solar panels, they need to be in a spot that gets at least 8 hours of sunlight per day. Obviously, this will be easier if the solar panel is separate to the lights, but this is not always an option.

As a rule of thumb, larger solar panels will absorb more light, and therefore charge the battery faster, but the quality of the solar cells, as well as the battery, also come into play here. If you get the right product, you can expect something like this to light up your garden path-

Weatherproofing and durability is essential

As your solar lights will be left to the mercy of the weather, you really need them to be able to withstand whatever nature throws at them and keep on ticking. Being waterproof is, of course, essential for any outdoor electrical product, but there are other ways in which lights can be damaged by being outdoors.

For example, there is rust and corrosion of metal parts on the lights. Some metals are more prone to being damaged by this than others, so look for stainless steel and aluminium. A good coating of paint can slow things down too, and materials like plastic will not rust at all.

Wind can be just as bad as rain for damaging solar lights in the garden. Strong gusts can blow the lights down onto the ground, or bang them into walls and other objects, damaging them. In addition to this, small particles of dirt and dust can be blown into any gaps in the lights outer casing, and cause issues once inside.

The best way to know that your new lights will not fall victim to the elements, is to check that it has a good IP rating. A product that is IP65 will have very good protection against water and particles blown by the wind, and this is something we have looked for when picking our top products for our reviews section.

Your lights won’t last forever

Even if you have paid good money for your solar lights, you can’t expect them to last forever, and if you went for the cheapest ones available, you’ll be lucky to get through a season or two before you have problems.

Most quality outdoor solar lights should last you at least two years, especially if they have decent LEDs, battery, and solar panels. If any of these things is not up to the quality of the others, then you might find the lights breaking down before that.

Even if the lights and their components are particularly well-built, the batteries that power them are always going to have a limited life, so you should keep this in mind when deciding just how much money to spend on your lights. You don’t want the cheapest products that will fall apart in a month or two, but do you want to spend over the odds on something that you know has a limited lifespan?

What features are important to you?

Some lights such as security spotlights will probably be a bit sparse on features, and will only really have a sensor that triggers the light to come on.

On the other hand, decorative lights can offer you multiple lighting patterns such as flashing on and off, illuminating in a sequence, twinkling, and much more. Having lights with a timer or light sensor can be very handy, as you don’t have to remember to switch them on and off, and it will save on battery life.

Brightness

This goes back to what we said earlier about advertising claims vs reality. It’s so easy to use photo editing software and make a product appear better than what it really is, so we advise you to read our reviews, as well as customer feedback to get a better idea of what to expect.

The other side to this, is when the lights are really bright and this drains the battery much faster. This happens to some of the cheaper security lights that are on sale, but decorative solar lights can also suffer from the same thing.

If you’re disappointed with the light that your chosen product is emitting, the person in this video has a neat little trick for enhancing it-

What are solar garden lights?

Garden solar lights are designed to enhance the mood and setting of your garden and comparably use the same technology as LED torches, as well as flood lights which are extremely bright so do not feel you will be buying into an underpowered product!

Solar garden lights should enhance the way you feel about your garden. It should promote interesting spaces and concepts, create depths and layers that you only normally achieve from high end thought process and design. Whilst giving your garden the extra aesthetics, solar garden lights should also be practical and affordable proving good value to the ambience of your home, for that reason I have chosen the garden lighting for this article that I feel will enhance your garden much like solar water features when you compare the mood it’ll create.

You might have heard about solar lighting a great deal. They are gaining popularity almost everywhere and solar garden lights are no exception to the rule driven by the idea of solar panels and renewable energy. The most important reason for the popularity of these lights is that they will help with saving a lot of electricity and reducing wiring costs. Until recently, the last decade or so, solar lights emitted a dim illumination and have not reliable or the battery storage wasn’t up to scratch. But, this trend has changed considerably with the help of the introduction of LED lights into the arena.

The good thing about LED lights is that they generate illumination without the heat generated by normal bulbs as well as for a fraction of the electric consumed. Even though they bring bright illumination, they need far less electricity. When you go for solar garden lights with LED bulbs, you can save on the electricity as these lights are plenty bright enough without the need for mains electricity. You will be happy with these lights in your garden.

How do solar garden lights work?

The photovoltaic cells in the solar panels tend to absorb sunlight in the day to charge the batteries and then start working when it is dark at night. The only problem with these lights is that as they are powered by the sun, you should place these lights in areas that get the full sunlight during the day or purchase the type of light that has a removable solar panel and power lead that can be placed anywhere in the garden, much like solar powered water pumps. It would be ideal to make sure that they are installed in the places where they can get maximum exposure to the sun daily.

Is there anything you can do if you cannot get direct sun?

You know that all areas of your garden do not get the same amount of sunlight. In this case, you might be wondering whether it is not possible to use solar garden lights. The reality is that you can with the best solar garden lights. Nowadays, there is an option called the remote photovoltaic panel, which can be placed on your roof or any other sunny area in your back garden. It can pass on the solar power through simple wiring to the lights that you install in preferred areas of your garden, much in the same way you put your solar panels in a sunny area and run a power lead when using a solar water pump and even a solar rodent repeller such as the MASO brand.

Even if you live in an area in the United Kingdom that does not get much sunlight, you can still install the best solar garden lights and get favourable results, mainly due to LED light technology so you can maximise the light from the power you are using.

What to consider and compare when shopping for the best solar garden lights?

As you plan to invest in the best solar garden lights that will improve the attractiveness and safety of your garden, you will have to consider some of the factors listed below when shopping for these lights:

  • The size of the solar panel – some have very low Watt ratings and cannot product the same power understandably. You normally get what you pay for with solar so be weary of anything too cheap
  • Battery life – much the same as the size of the solar panel, when you compare battery life it’ll boil down to the quality of the product in question. So for example a good quality garden solar light is an in-built 2200mAh battery from Cinoton Solar Garden Lights.
  • Is pre-charging required?
  • Dust till dawn sensors – Nothing worse than lights that come on at night. If you look at flood lights they always have these whatever model you compare.
  • IP Rating – this refers to wether they can be used outdoors, or outdoors undercover. As I explained in the flood light article, IP65 can be used anywhere outdoors but IP44 should be covered if outdoors. You even get IP67 which is a higher rating still.
  • Clear installation instructions
  • Warranty

So, make sure that you check each of the above-mentioned options to make sure that you end up the best lights for your garden.

This eight-pack of Beau Jardin solar lights are the perfect way to add a bit of flair to your garden, and will look fantastic lining your path, guarding your front or back door, or illuminating your flower beds.

There is a lot to like about these lights. For one, instead of using plastic for the shades, Beau Jardin has opted for glass, and this ensures that the maximum amount of light is reflected, creating a beautiful pattern on the ground below.

Robust and durable are words that are thrown around a lot these days, but I feel confident using them to describe these lights. Not only are the shafts and caps made from stainless steel, but with improved weatherproofing, the new version of these lights has a very high IP65 rating.

The six lumens output is just right, and gives off an impressive amount of light while being kind to battery life. During our tests, we found that the lights worked all night after letting the battery charge during the day. That’s not bad at all.

The only problem I can see with these lights is if your garden has a lot of trees casting shade, as the solar panels are on the top of the lights. As the lights need to be staked into the ground, you can’t position the solar panels anywhere else. Other than that, there is absolutely nothing I don’t like about this excellent product.

Pros

  • Very good quality solar lights and worth paying more for
  • Glass light shades are far better reflectors of light than plastic
  • Robust and durable, and won’t be damaged by the weather
  • Good battery life from a day’s charging

Cons

  • Integrated solar panel means that you’ll have to be careful where you place the lights

String lights are an incredibly popular way to light up decking and patios these days, and these Leztonic fairy lights are some of the best selling on Amazon at the present time.

For a very reasonable price, you get 23ft of wiring and 50 good quality LEDs to play with, although about 7ft of that is without lights and used to connect to the power source. So, if you want to cover a larger area, you’ll need to buy more than one set.

The spherical shaped LEDs are multicoloured, can be set to illuminate in eight different modes, and give a warm and playful feel to the area that you set them up in, perfect for parties. The light produced is noticeable but not the brightest I’ve ever seen, giving off a kind of glowing effect when not in one of the other lighting modes.

For budget solar string lights, the bulbs on this Leztonic product feel surprisingly solid, but the wiring is quite thin though and you’ll have to be careful not to damage it. Battery life wasn’t anywhere near what was claimed either. Instead of the 10 hours we were promised on a day’s charging, we experienced more like 6 to 7.

On the plus side, you don’t have to worry about switching these lights on and off. It’s all taken care of automatically thanks to built-in sensors that will switch them on once it gets dark. They are protected from rain and dust too, and have an IP65 rating like the excellent Beau Jardin lights.

Pros

  • Best-selling product on Amazon with many happy customers
  • Low price makes them affordable for everyone
  • Eight different lighting modes to choose from
  • Switch on automatically at night

Cons

  • Wire is quite thin and could break if not treated properly, as you can see in the photo-

Leztonic Solar Fairy Lights

With their simple but versatile design you won’t have problems finding a good place for these ZFITEI solar lights in your garden.

What I like about these lights is that you can just lay them flat on top of surfaces, or simply attach the supplied plastic spikes and plant them directly into the soil. It’s a nice effect to have the lights shining up at you from either side of the garden path, or lighting up your steps from ground level.

Being right down there on the floor, the lights need to be protected from the rain and sealed off from dust, and the IP65 rating lets us know that that is the case. The stainless-steel cover is a useful addition in the fight against rust, but the ABS plastic used for most of the light’s underside could be better quality.

The downside to having them on the ground is that they are more at risk of being sat in shadow from walls, furniture, and ornaments, so you should think carefully about where you would place them before buying.

Fitted with a light activated switch, the ZFITEI solar lights will come on as soon as it gets dark, without you needing to do anything. Each light contains 8 LEDs and produces a nice amount of light for about 6 hours before the battery runs out. Despite this being less than what was claimed, it actually works out well as the lights went off just around bedtime.

Pros

  • Flat design makes them very versatile
  • They look fantastic lining garden paths and illuminating flower beds
  • IP65 weatherproof means they will be fine outdoors for long periods
  • Each light has 8 LEDs and produces impressive light

Cons

  • Are susceptible to shade reducing charging if installed at ground level

This six-pack of Lush Forest Solar step lights is one of those things that you never knew you were missing, until you see them in action.

Their L-shaped design makes them perfect for mounting on steps, fence tops, and similar surfaces, and their low profile means that they never feel obtrusive or an eyesore. We connected ours to some decking steps using the screws provided, and I was very happy with the results.

There are two light modes to choose from- plain white and a constantly changing multicoloured effect. Personally, I preferred the plain white, and I loved the reflected pattern on the steps that looked like sunbeams. The switch to change the lights could be better placed, and it is tricky to change modes once the lights are mounted in place, so test and choose your favourite before fixing them down.

With some solar lights that we tested, we noticed that the battery wasn’t charging as much as it should, or that the lights were burning through that charge quickly. This wasn’t the case with the Lush Forest lights, and I think that the large, amorphous silicon solar panel on top has something to do with their ability to last for around 8 hours.

Another factor in the battery life is probably that the lights aren’t that bright, and won’t light up your entre garden. Instead, they cast a glow around them for a few feet and so are good for ornamental purposes, just don’t expect floodlights.

I’d have to say that the lights feel solid and robust, and I think a lot of it’s due to their simple design. There are no real small parts that could break off easily, or any wires that could be twisted, stepped on, or snapped either. The only real danger is someone stepping on the solar panels and damaging them.

Pros

  • Very solid and robust construction
  • Design makes them a fantastic addition to decking steps and wall or fence tops.
  • Good running time of about 8 hours from a day’s charging
  • Produces a beautiful sunbeam style light reflection

Cons

  • Lights aren’t the brightest, so don’t expect floodlights. This clip shows a similar product, so you know what to expect:

Although there are many identical products on the market right now, we found that these from Ruyilam were the most reliable and had better build quality.

First of all, let me state that these are for decoration only, and don’t expect them to emit a lot of light. They are designed to resemble an open flame flickering, and they do that very well, but they will not bathe your entire garden in light.

They do look fantastic though, and the combination of warm glow and the dancing flame effect really makes your garden feel inviting at night. In the daytime, when the lights are in charge mode, they still look ornamental and attractive. This isn’t something that can be said for all solar lights for the garden.

Talking of charging, these Ruyilam lights need about 8 hours of good sunlight to fully charge and then you’ll get around 8-10 hours of usage once the sun goes down and the lights kick automatically into gear.

The mainly ABS construction ensures that rust and corrosion won’t be a problem, and the product has been tested for water and dust proofing and earned an IP65 rating. Assembly and setup are very straightforward, and I think most people will be very happy with them as long as they don’t want too much brightness.

Pros

  • Stunning looking flame effect is eye catching
  • Still look ornamental during the day
  • At least 8 hours of usage from a single charge
  • Resistant to weather, rust, and corrosion

Cons

  • Decorative lights and as so, are not the brightest available.

Nothing says garden quite like roses, so why not have some that you can display at night time too?

XLUX’s outdoor solar powered rose lights are nothing if not lifelike, with beautifully shaped individual petals that look just as good in the daytime as they do at night. You can even alter the shape of the stems to suit your tastes, and this also adds to the realism, as you can have the two lights set up differently.

If red roses aren’t your thing, you can choose to go with blue, yellow, white, or pink instead. All of them look amazing, and you could create some wonderful effects by mixing different coloured lights around your garden.

XLUX Outdoor Solar Powered Rose Lights

With an IPX4 rating, these aren’t as weather proof as some of the other products we’ve reviewed so far, but they will still resist water splashes from any direction, and we had no problems with them during our testing time, when it rained a lot.

The one thing that worries me slightly about this product, is that the petals of the flowers are made from a soft material and not plastic. Now, I understand that XLUX did this to make the flowers look realistic, but I just wonder how well that material will hold up to being outside for months on end?

Battery life was pretty good and we got a good 7 hours out of a full day’s charging. Part of the reason for this could be to do with the fact that these roses don’t emit a great deal of light though, and are comparable to the Ruyilam torch lights we reviewed above.

Pros

  • Rose design is perfect for gardeners
  • Very realistic roses that still look great in the light of day
  • Available in multiple colours
  • Stems can be moved into a position of your liking

Cons

  • Material used for the petals might not be the most durable

The problem with setting up solar powered string lights in your garden, is that you run the risk of looking, well, a bit generic as they are so popular and widely used. Thankfully, there are products like this one from Sunnest that offer you some variation from the norm.

Instead of the usually rounded light bulb shaped lights, Sunnest have decided to go with golden star shaped ones, and the overall effect is simple but interesting and attractive, especially when you play around with the different lighting modes.

Altogether, there 50 LEDs fixed onto a 7-metre length of wire. The wire is actually quite thin, and it did get tangled up a lot when I was trying to unravel them out of the box. I found this frustrating but not deal breaking. Just like with most string lights, there is about 2 metres from the power source to the first actual LED light, so keep this in mind when calculating how many you will need to light up a given area.

After leaving the solar panel in a good spot, albeit on a slightly overcast day, for about 8 hours, the lights worked for a good 6 hours, so I can’t complain there. The light they emit is a warm, welcoming, yellowish glow in standard mode, and this I really liked.

These lights aren’t going to last forever, and you will have to be careful when handling them, but you won’t have to worry about the rain doing any damage as they are well protected against the weather.

All things considered, the Sunnest star shaped string lights are decent for the money, but suffer from the same things nearly all of the cheaper solar string lights do- thin wire that you’ll have to be careful with.

Pros

  • Star shaped lights are different to the usual ones seen on string lights
  • 8 different lighting modes
  • Warm golden glow feels inviting
  • IP65 weatherproof rating

Cons

  • Thin wire could break easily if you don’t handle it with care right out of the box.


About Terry Smith

I’m Terry Smith from gardentoolbox.co.uk, a professional landscape designer, hobbyist gardener, and barbecue fanatic with 20 years experience building and restoring. So as you go through my site you'll watch me document some of the professional garden installs I make as well as the major projects I take on at home. While sharing those experiences and guiding you, I'll be recommending some great tools I use to enable this along the way so you can really buy in confidence. Always feel free to pop me a message: info@gardentoolbox.co.uk

View all posts by Terry Smith

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