Pergola lighting ideas – 5 ways to brighten up your outdoor living space

Use pergola lighting in different ways to create your desired backyard ambience

Pergola lighting
(Image credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz via Getty Images)

Warmer weather calls for sitting in the backyard until dark, gathered with friends and family to enjoy peaceful evenings. To enjoy your outdoor living space at night, it's important to have the right lighting to illuminate your space.

If you have a pergola in your yard or are exploring pergola ideas, you might be contemplating the kind of lighting to use in this space. Lighting is a key element of designing a pergola because you can use it in different ways to create different effects and night-time environments.

We've spoken to experts to find out about their favorite ways to use pergola lighting and compiled an inspirational list of pergola lighting ideas for you to try.

Pergola lighting ideas

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5 pergola lighting ideas

Choosing how to incorporate lighting in your pergola space is important for night-time outdoor living. Use lighting in the right way and you can create your desired ambience. Discover inspirational pergola lighting ideas below.

1. Hang draping lights for a warm feel

Pergola lighting ideas

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To get cozy under your pergola, you should consider draping lights. Whether it's twinkling lights that elegantly drape down or lightbulb-style lights hanging from the ceiling, choosing this type of outdoor lighting can instantly warm up your pergola.

'Draping lights on pergolas adds dimension and a ethereal aspect to floral and greenery,' says interior designer, Charmaine Wynter. 'The soft glow from the lights can create an inviting ambience, transforming a simple outdoor area into a magical evening setting,' she adds.

There are many types of draping lights available and they can be hung in a number of ways. A popular pergola roof idea is to hang draping lights along the ceiling or you can drape them down the sides to create a curtain of lights.

'The advantages of draping lights is that they offer soft general lighting for tasks and entertaining, but they do create glare and sometimes can diminish the appearance of the pergola because your attention is drawn to the lightbulb,' says Nels Peterson, outdoor lighting expert, Vice President and Brand Leader at Blingle.

'One of the ways to make draping lights is where the bulbs themselves actually have small shades, or covers, which spin a diffusion that looks almost like drips of honey,' he adds.

Charmaine Wynter
Charmaine Wynter

Charmaine Wynter is an award winning interior designer at Charmaine Wynter Interiors and applies her design experience to life, sharing her advice with her followers through her Instagram live 'Host-Chatting with Charmaine Live'. Charmaine has been a featured designer on TV shows across North America.

Nels Peterson
Nels Peterson

Nels Peterson is a lighting industry veteran with over 30 years of experience. He now serves as the Vice President and Brand Leader for Blingle. Most recently, he was the National Senior Director for Blingle prior to his new role with the brand. Nels is a Certified Outdoor Lighting Designer through the Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals (AOLP). In 2023 and 2024 he earned the National Award of Excellence in Landscape Lighting for Most Outstanding Landscape Lighting Project in the U.S. by the AOLP.

2. Install downlights to illuminate your pergola

Pergola lighting ideas

(Image credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz via Getty Images)

If you're looking for a way to maximise lighting and brighten up your pergola entirely, experts recommend installing downlights. This can help make your pergola setting feel more like an outdoor living room and keep your seating area bright for hosting evening garden parties.

'The best way to brighten a pergola is to create a sense of enclosure by downlighting the perimeter posts and surrounding structures with well-concealed, mini downlights and small fixtures that have good glare control and lenses that diffuse the light over a broad area,' says Nels. 'This creates a true outdoor room effect,' he adds.

Whether you want your downlights to be visible or concealed, there are lots of options on the market. You can disguise your downlights behind curtains if you have incorporated pergola shade or attach them straight to the ceiling of your pergola to shine down.

3. Add colorful lights for different events

Pergola lighting ideas

(Image credit: Matthew Blythe via Alamy)

To create a bit more of a different vibe and set the party mood, why not try using colorful LED lights? These come in a range of forms so that you can style them exactly as you please. Colorful lights also often have settings that allow you to change up the color whenever you like.

'The mood in a pergola area can be dramatically changed by use of various colored lights, such as calming blues, energizing reds or warm yellows to give off an inviting cozy feel,' says Artem Kropovinsky, interior designer and founder of Arsight.

Just as blue houseplants can evoke feelings of calm and red houseplants can be energizing, choosing which colors to light up your pergola with can help get the mood right for the occasion you're hosting.

'Color should be used sparingly to highlight certain features that easily reflect the light back into the landscape or the outdoor patio area,' says Nels. 'Combining colored lights with more natural color temperatures lends to a more interesting look and one that's more pleasing to the eye. Keeping the light sources small and sporadic creates a more magical effect,' he adds.

Artem Kropovinsky
Artem Kropovinsky

Artem Kropovinsky, founder of the NYC-based Arsight, boasts over a decade of global interior design expertise in both residential and commercial projects. From transforming Brooklyn brownstones to reshaping Manhattan retail spaces, Arsight's portfolio showcases its design prowess on national and international scales. 

4. Use lights to highlight pergola planting

Pergola lighting ideas

(Image credit: Brian Gort via Alamy)

Just like patio lighting, if you've taken the time to carefully curate your pergola area with beautiful planting you can use pergola lighting to highlight and showcase your work. There are lots of lights that can work for this, but it's all about how you position them.

'Twinkle lights tucked into the pergola add highlights to plantings. This method subtly illuminates the textures and colors of the foliage, enhancing the natural beauty of the garden both day and night,' says Charmaine Wynter.

Placing lighting around your pergola to illuminate plants means you can even enjoy your pergola from inside, looking on at your plants on display. Although, something to consider when leaving lights on is how much outdoor lighting costs.

'This works great with annual container plantings where we want a burst of color, perhaps at the post supporting the pergola,' says Nels. 'This can also be done to larger trees surrounding the pergola fixtures tucked up underneath and along the rails of the pergola could be aimed upwards, highlighting the top of trees and creating a better sense of enclosure,' he adds.

By placing lighting carefully around your pergola you can show off not only the plants within the space but also around the rest of your garden.

5. Make lanterns for your pergola

Pergola lighting ideas

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An option for DIY-lovers is making your own lanterns. This can add an ethereal effect and charm to your gatherings. It just requires a few materials - like candles and containers - and can be a fun project to do.

'We’ve seen homeowners create a cozy feel for special occasions by setting up floor lamps or stringing paper lanterns. Vintage bulbs and decorative sconces, such as Moroccan lanterns with candles, can add a unique look to your space as well,' says Nels.

'This type of lighting may need to be taken indoors during inclement weather, but it looks great when you want to create an indoor-outdoor experience for guests,' he adds.

You can also buy outdoor lanterns to create the same effect.


Are pergola lights rainproof?

If you're wondering if you can leave outdoor furniture in the rain and aren't sure whether your pergola lights will be safe in adverse weather, don't worry. Outdoor lighting is designed to withstand different weather and shouldn't become damaged in rain. However, if you have brought lighting designed for indoor use outside, it can be wise to pack it away when you are done using it. You should always check the manufacturer instructions and advice to see if your lighting is rainproof.

There are many pergola lighting ideas to explore and each one can create a different effect in your backyard. Thinking about the events you are hosting or the feel you want to create in your pergola can help you choose the right lighting for your space.

If you want to find more outdoor lighting inspiration, explore our expert guide on outdoor string lights to brighten up other areas of your yard.

Tenielle Jordison
News Writer (Gardens)

Tenielle is a News Writer in the Gardens team at Homes & Gardens with five years of journalistic experience. She studied BA Journalism, Media and English Literature and MA Magazine Journalism at Cardiff University. Before coming to Homes & Gardens, Tenielle was in the editorial department at the Royal Horticultural Society and worked on The Garden magazine. She is passionate about sustainable living and likes to encourage gardeners to make greener choices to help tackle the effects of climate change with a trowel in hand. Tenielle is also a houseplant lover who is slowly running out of room for her ever-growing collection.