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What to Avoid Doing When Installing Landscape Lighting Path Lights

mistakes to avoid when installign path lights

Installing landscape lighting path lights can transform your outdoor space, providing both safety and beauty. However, it's essential to approach the installation process with care and consideration. In this article, we will guide you through the do's and don'ts of installing path lights, ensuring that your lighting project is a success. We will cover various aspects, including avoiding common mistakes, emphasizing the importance of good design, and selecting the appropriate stem height for different garden types. Let's dive in and explore the best practices for installing landscape lighting path lights.

The Importance of Good Design When Installing Path Lights

Good design is crucial when it comes to installing path lights in your landscape. A well-thought-out design not only enhances the overall visual appeal but also ensures functionality and safety. Let's explore why good design is essential for path light installations:

1. Ensures Proper Illumination and Visibility

A well-designed path lighting system ensures proper illumination along the walkway, enhancing visibility and safety during nighttime hours. By strategically placing the lights and considering factors such as beam spread and light intensity, you can create a lighting layout that illuminates the path effectively and reduces the risk of accidents or tripping hazards.

2. Enhances the Aesthetics of Your Landscape

Path lights are not only functional but also serve as decorative elements in your outdoor space. A good design takes into account the overall landscape aesthetics and complements the existing features, such as plants, hardscape elements, and architectural details. By considering the visual impact of the lighting fixtures, you can create an atmosphere that enhances the beauty of your landscape.

3. Considers Practical Factors and User Behavior

During the design phase, it's essential to consider practical factors and user behavior. Walk the path you are lighting and ask yourself some simple questions: Do you cut a corner when walking around in your yard? Do you pull your garbage cans to the street and have the potential to hit a path light due to its placement? Do your kids play in this area and could they damage the fixtures or knock them over? By understanding how you and your family use the space, you can make informed decisions about the placement and configuration of the path lights.

What to Avoid Doing When Installing Landscape Lighting Path Lights

Avoid Installing Path Lights in Grass

Installing path lights directly in the grass can lead to several issues that can compromise the functionality and durability of the lights. Let's take a closer look at the problems associated with this installation approach:

1. Damage from Weedwackers and Lawn Mowers

When path lights are placed in the grass, they are at risk of being damaged by weedwackers and lawn mowers. The rotating blades or strings can accidentally hit the fixtures, causing breakage or dislodgment. To avoid this, it's best to install path lights on a separate surface, such as gardens or mulch, or use mounting options that keep the lights elevated and away from ground-level maintenance equipment.

2. Children Bumping or Knocking Over the Lights

If you have children who play in the area, installing path lights directly in the grass can be problematic. Children may accidentally bump into the lights while running or playing, causing them to become dislodged or damaged. By using alternative installation methods that keep the lights away from areas prone to play, you can minimize the risk of accidents and ensure the longevity of your path lighting system.

Avoid Creating a Landing Strip or Runway Look by Staggering Path Lights

To achieve a visually pleasing and balanced lighting effect, it's important to avoid creating a landing strip or runway look. This occurs when you align the path lights on both sides of the walkway in parallel. While it may seem symmetrical at first glance, this configuration can result in an unnatural and exaggerated lighting pattern. Instead, consider installing the lights on one side of the walkway, evenly spaced apart, or staggering them one on the left then one on the right further up the path you are illuminating.  This will create a more pleasing and harmonious lighting design.

Choosing the Correct Stem Height for Path Lights Based on Garden Types

Path light with 24 inch stem

The stem height of path lights plays a crucial role in achieving the desired lighting effect and complementing different garden types. Let's explore the appropriate stem heights for path lights based on specific garden styles:

1. 15-Inch Stems for Desert Rock Type Gardens

In desert rock type gardens where foliage doesn't grow very tall, it's recommended to use path lights with 15-inch stems. The lower stem height ensures that the light fixtures don't overpower the surrounding landscape while still providing sufficient illumination along the path.

2. 18 and 24-Inch Stem Heights for Gardens with Taller Plant Material

For gardens with taller plant material, such as shrubs or ornamental grasses, path lights with 18 and 24-inch stem heights are ideal. The taller stems allow the light to reach over the plants, illuminating the pathway effectively. Additionally, the increased height helps avoid casting unwanted shadows on the foliage, maintaining a balanced and visually pleasing lighting display.


  • Q: Can I install path lights directly in the grass?
  • A: It's advisable to avoid installing path lights in the grass as they can be damaged by weedwackers and lawn mowers. Placing the lights on a separate surface or using alternative mounting options is recommended.
  • Q: What is the ideal spacing for path lights installed on one side of a walkway?
  • A: To avoid a cluttered appearance, it's important to space path lights apart evenly when installing them on one side of a walkway. The exact spacing will depend on the length of the path and the desired level of illumination.  Remember every inch of the walk way does not need to be lit, you can lead the person down your path safely without using too many fixtures.
  • Q: How does good design impact path light installations?
  • A: Good design ensures proper illumination, enhances the aesthetics of the landscape, and considers practical factors and user behavior, resulting in a functional and visually appealing path lighting system.
  • Q: What is the appropriate stem height for path lights in desert rock type gardens?
  • A: Path lights with 15-inch stems are suitable for desert rock type gardens where foliage doesn't grow very tall.  15 inch stem heights are also great for illuminating foot paths.  
  • Q: What stem heights are recommended for gardens with taller plant material?
  •  A: Gardens with taller plant material benefit from path lights with 18 and 24-inch stem heights, allowing the light to reach over the plants and avoiding casting unwanted shadows.


When it comes to installing landscape lighting path lights, it's important to avoid common mistakes and prioritize good design. By not installing path lights in grass, avoiding the creation of a landing strip or runway look, and considering the appropriate stem height for different garden types, you can ensure a successful and visually appealing path lighting installation. Remember to walk the path during the design phase and ask yourself relevant questions to determine the best placement for the lights. Install path lights based on your needs while considering how you walk and use your property. By following these guidelines, you can create an inviting and safe outdoor space illuminated by beautiful path lights.

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