Best solar garden features – our 7 favorites for an eco-friendly, atmospheric space

The best solar-powered features to enhance your outdoor space using renewable energy

three images of outdoor spaces
(Image credit: Future PLC / Danetti / Festive Lights)

Solar-powered garden features are a brilliant way to add another dimension to your outdoor space while being kind to the planet. Solar outdoor lighting, water features, and decor also tend to be a convenient and cost-effective way to create a calm and inviting atmosphere, with no cables required.

Compared to traditional electrical outdoor lighting ideas, solar-powered options are easy to set up, and once installed, you can let the sunshine do the rest. There are clearly many benefits to going solar in the garden, but where is the best place to start? 

We asked garden designers for the best solar-powered garden features they have used in their projects that you can cherry-pick at home, to help you create a garden you never want to leave.

Best solar garden features

Not only can solar-powered garden elements increase our enjoyment of our outdoor spaces - perhaps with the trickling of a water feature or a handy self-watering system in the greenhouse - but they are also a good way to be sustainable at home and can even help to cut energy bills.

Many homeowners are embracing greener solutions to power their homes, such as using solar panels and heat pumps – here are some eco-friendly options for your outdoor space.

1. Water features

solar powered water feature with grey pots

(Image credit: Festive Lights)

A water feature is always a great way to add interest to your yard because it creates movement and sound while attracting wildlife. Flowing water can also serve as a focal point and help to make a sensory garden that feels like a soothing retreat: 'Solar-powered water features, such as fountains or ponds, are excellent for creating tranquil garden atmospheres,' says Luke Steffensmeier from Reedy River Landscapes.

'They use direct sunlight to operate, eliminating the need for electrical wiring and reducing energy costs. While these features primarily work during the day when sunlight is available, some come with battery storage systems to store excess power, allowing them to function for a few hours at night,' Luke adds. 

Garden designer Susan Hampton recommends positioning your water fountain near your seating area, as this helps you to switch off and relax, and the sound helps to cover other distractions and less welcome sounds around you.

landscape designer Luke Steffensmeier
Luke Steffensmeier

Landscape designer Luke Steffensmeier founded Reedy River Landscapes in 2016, which originated as a one-man band and soon grew into a multi-crew team, ready to take on any design or build. Bringing unique designs and exceptional customer service to people in the greater Greenville area is what drives Luke's team.

2. Solar irrigation systems

Pop-up sprinkler head in a lawn

(Image credit: Getty Images/Malorny)

You can harness the power of the sun with solar irrigation systems, which keep plants watered while on vacation and keep your lawn looking its best in dry periods. 'Solar-powered irrigation systems offer a smart solution for keeping your garden lush and vibrant,' says Robert Roth, CEO of Quote For Solar Group. 

You can find solar powered irrigation systems at Amazon designed to keep containers watered, and solar drip irrigation kits for lawns and greenhouses, also at Amazon.

'These systems utilize solar energy to pump water directly to your plants, guided by sensors that monitor soil moisture levels for optimal hydration,' Robert Roth explains. 'By leveraging solar technology, you not only conserve water but also reduce reliance on fossil fuels.'

3. Pathway lighting

outdoor stairs with solar powered lighting

(Image credit: Sparkle Lighting)

Whether you opt for bamboo stakes, globe lights or solar flood lights to light the way, installing garden lighting means you can enjoy your outdoor space for longer, with the added benefit of increased home security and safety outside. 

'Solar lighting is easy to install and low maintenance,' says Luke. 'Pathway lights and spotlighting can illuminate garden features. These lights charge during the day and automatically turn on at dusk, providing a seamless transition from day to night ambiance in the garden.' 

They can also make a driveway look and feel much more welcoming to you and your guests. These solar flood lights from Lowes come well-reviewed, lighting up driveways for those in rural areas needing plenty of illumination.

4. Accent lighting

festoon lighting in patio area with umbrella

(Image credit: Danetti)

Accent lighting on a patio can actually enhance the sense of space inside your home in the evening because you can see the space beyond the window. Opt for warm white string lights for your patio lighting or angle a solar spotlight, at Amazon, toward a tree further down the garden to illuminate it and create drama with your backyard lighting

Susan Hampton recommends setting up an up-light to highlight the texture of a plant after dark. 'Imagine one picking out the leaves of a small acer, viewed either from indoors or your outdoor entertaining space,' she says.

5. Sculptural solar decor

decorative outdoor lights in yard

(Image credit: Ella James)

There are all kinds of solar decor ideas to add a sense of awe and wonder to your outdoor space. 'Sculptural solar decor adds artistic flair to your yard. My latest find is a set of glass mushrooms that emit a radiant glow after dark,' says designer and home stager Chenise Hinds

'You can also find butterflies, bug-repelling torches, glowing globes and more. Their whimsical shapes will make you smile while the solar power keeps energy costs low.'

6. Solar grow lights

LED grow light for plants

(Image credit: Amazon)

Solar grow lights supplement natural light and have lots of uses – for example, if you have a north-facing garden with shaded areas, and aren't able to move plants to a sunnier spot, they can be a practical solution. 

Plants and vegetables need plenty of sunlight to thrive, and sometimes they will benefit from more targeted light, be it outside or in a greenhouse. Consider installing solar grow lights, at Amazon to give plants a boost, especially during the winter months.

7. Pool heating systems

A classic pool house retreat next to a pool area with steps and sun loungers

(Image credit: Future / Annaick Guitteny)

'Solar pool heating systems are a game-changer for homeowners looking to extend the usability of their pools,' says Bob Berriz from Berriz Design Build Group. 'Utilizing solar energy to warm pool water during cooler seasons not only enhances comfort but also significantly reduces energy costs associated with traditional heating methods. 

'This eco-friendly solution aligns with modern sustainability practices while ensuring year-round enjoyment of your outdoor oasis.' Inground pool solar heating systems, at Amazon can raise the water temperature up to 15 degrees Farenheit. 


How long do solar powered water features last?

'Most solar-powered garden features are designed to last several years under proper maintenance,' says Luke. 'However, the lifespan can vary based on factors like the quality of components, environmental conditions, and how well they are maintained. Regular cleaning of solar panels and replacing batteries as needed can extend their functionality.'

Opting for eco-friendly garden features that harness solar power means we can make use of a totally free and inexhaustible source of energy, while reducing our reliance on the grid and championing sustainability.

Millie Hurst
Section Editor

Millie Hurst is a freelance lifestyle writer with over six years of experience in digital journalism. Having previously worked as Solved Section Editor at Homes & Gardens and Senior SEO Editor at News UK in London and New York, Millie has written for an array of homes brands including Livingetc and Real Homes and was formerly Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home. She has written and edited countless features on home organization, decluttering and interior design and always hopes to inspire readers with new ways to enjoy their homes. She lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, and loves to weave nature-inspired decor and nods to time spent in Italy into her own home.