13 Breathtaking Ideas for Backyard String Lights

String lights aren’t just for festive holidays. These bright, affordable mini-bulbs can add sparkle and enjoyment to your outdoor spaces, whatever the season.

By Andréana Lefton | Published Jul 09, 2020 04:47 PM

Brighten Your Outdoor Life

outdoor string lights

With a little imagination and under $100, you can transform your patio and backyard into a magical retreat. The key ingredient is string lights—with different styles including fairy lights, Edison bulbs, icicle lights, and globe lights. Almost all outdoor string lights are now available with LED bulbs, which are more energy-efficient than incandescent filaments. You can also find solar string lights, which don’t require an electrical socket or extension cord.

Tiny twinkling lights strung in trees, or wrapped around fence posts, require little installation and offer almost instant enjoyment. Hanging globe lights over an outdoor dining area or pool takes a little more set up time. But with the right hanging kit, you’ll be surprised at the beautiful effect—and will doubtless want to relax and entertain outside more often.


Make a Magical Patio

backyard patio string lights

What a difference twinkle lights can make. Emma, who blogs at A Beautiful Mess, transformed her patio into an inviting outdoor nest by twining Christmas lights around ceiling beams. One trick is to buy lights with a cord color that matches and blends into the surroundings. Emma chose brown corded lights (available on Amazon) to make the whole look seamless and elegant.

Related: 8 New Ideas for DIY Outdoor Lighting

A Beautiful Mess

Dine Al Fresco

Illuminating a table backyard string lights

Vintage bulbs, with their exposed filaments, bring an industrial and timeless feel to these DIY string light poles, designed by J. Sorelle for The Home Depot. Using aspen tree trunks secured into concrete bases, a single strand of globe lights (available at The Home Depot) drapes across the table for a perfect party setting.

J. Sorelle for The Home Depot

Lounge by the Chiminea

Accenting a chiminea sitting area backyard string lights

If your outdoor seating area is under-utilized after dark, try this method for bringing light. Sarah of Thrifty Decor Chick offers some simple ideas for hanging string lights over an outdoor seating/dining area, complete with a chiminea. She favors Feit Electric’s warm incandescent bulbs, strung on a heavy, weather-resistant cord (available on Amazon).

Thrifty Decor Chick

Create a Luminous Canopy

canopy backyard string lights

Have an ample outdoor space? Brent and Courtney, the husband and wife design duo behind Gray House Studio, provide a step-by-step guide to hanging a string light canopy. The critical accessory? The right lights! To span a wide grassy lawn or deck, they suggest 100-foot globe string lights (available on Amazon).

Gray House Studio

Host an Outdoor Movie Night

backyard screen string lights

Get away from your screens and set up a movie projector instead. All you need is our genius guide for setting up an outdoor theater, and some decorative string lights to amp up the ambiance. We suggest going green with solar-powered fairy lights (available on Amazon). These pretty, warm-toned lights are engineered to withstand weather conditions and work between six to eight hours on a full charge.


Go for a Midnight Swim

outdoor pool canopy string lights

Bring romance to your everyday life with a dip after dark. If you’re lucky enough to have a pool, bistro-style overhead lighting can add beauty and functionality. Of course, any electricity near water requires caution, so read up on the risks before installing your string lights safely. One option is shatterproof and waterproof solar-powered bulbs, like these by Brightech (available on Amazon).

flickr.com via Jordan Silva

Transform Your Garden Wall

wall hanging backyard string lights

A timber wall or perimeter fence can offer protection and privacy. It can also provide a blank canvas for illumination. All you need is a string of Edison lights, with each bulb suspended on a vertical cord, like these by Banord (available on Amazon). The effect will make your yard seem bigger, brighter, and more festive.


Hang from the Trees

hang from trees string lights

For understated illumination, string globe lights (like these vintage bulbs, available on Amazon) between tree branches. The Home Depot offers handy instructions for hanging lights from your trees. You’ll have to drill a hole for a hook, which will anchor the cords in place. Attach the ends to an extension cord, plugin, and voila! An enchanted arbor for the whole family to enjoy.


Enjoy Christmas Lights, All Year Long

drape lights trees string

Forget tightly-wrapped branches, and add a little creative chaos to your tree lighting experience. One idea is to use icicle string lights (available on Amazon), which drip vertically down. Warm white lights look beautiful all year long, glowing through the foliage. Use multiple strings, draped organically throughout the tree branches, to make this look pop.

Related: 10 Inventive Outdoor Lighting Projects to DIY for the Holidays


Brighten the Ground

outline perimeter string lights

Solar lights are ideal for yards that get a good dose of sunshine. However, instead of individual path lights, make a bright perimeter using solar string lights (available on Amazon). The benefit is greater illumination and the ability to highlight flower beds or unique features of your garden, like a teepee or fountain. Just make sure you position the bulbs and cords away from foot traffic.

Related: 10 Enchanting Landscape Lighting Solutions


Wrap Fence Posts

wrap fence backyard lights

Wrapping string lights is one of the simplest ways to add a little sparkle, outdoors. Play with contrasts: like a rustic wood fence wrapped with twinkling fairy lights. A great option is Anjaylia’s LED firefly string lights (available on Amazon), which come in extra-long lengths and are battery-operated, so you won’t need to worry about an extension cord.


Add Sparkle To Your Porch

wrap porch backyard string lights

For a contemporary look, white LED string lights (available at The Home Depot) look good all year long, especially when paired with bright white railings. Worried about extra energy costs? LED technology uses a chip rather than a heat-producing filament, so you'll use a fraction of the electricity of traditional incandescent bulbs—with less heat produced too.

Hampton Bay for The Home Depot

Drape the Pergola

drape pergola string lights

The beams of your pergola are ideal for stringing up globe lights (like these weatherproof bulbs, available on Amazon). Loosely drape the cord in long loops, from beam to beam. It’s best to space the lights evenly, but don’t worry about perfection. This look is all about casual outdoor dining and relaxing under a subtle glow.


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