What is reflectance and how it affects your garden lighting

Reflectance is the measurement of the amount of light reflected by a surface. While the concept sounds very technical, knowing how the light will behave around the materials in your garden can help you create a better landscaping project.

Although most garden surfaces are dark and do not reflect light well, your eyes need less light outdoors than they do indoors to see forms, shadows and patterns. To choose the right lighting intensity for each area of your garden, remember to also consider the materials around the fixtures.

Below are some ideas of landscape lighting that take advantage of materials and their reflectance. The more reflective a surface is, the less light you will need to achieve the desired brightness around it.

Here the design makes use of the highly reflective white walls to brighten up the whole area.

Light stones reflect around 50% of the light, making it possible to create a well lit entryway with soft low voltage lights.

Concrete reflects about 40% of the light and the rough texture creates a sharper outline of the lighting spots.

Red bricks reflect about one third of the light shed on them and they provide a warmer, cozier look to the garden.

Placing lighting fixtures closer to vegetation can be a good way give the garden a more discrete lighting. Plants have around 25% of reflectance.

Soil and dark stones reflect about 15% of the light and it is possible to create an interesting design by featuring different shapes and textures.

Grass is one of the lowest reflecting surfaces, only 6%. In this example the lawn creates a great separation around the house.

Tips on choosing the correct bulb power

Thanks to the wide variety of green outdoor lighting products, garden lighting can be affordable and practical. All low voltage lighting products consume less energy, so choosing the correct wattage has more to do with the results you are expecting to create on your garden than with the energy consumption of the bulb.

For example, on path area lighting, you may want to choose your bulbs according to the area you want to cover. The bigger the circumference, the brighter it should be. The illustration below provides an example of the diameter and bulb power.

Flower illustration by Freepik


When creating a focal point in your garden try to envision how far the object you want to shed light on will be from the viewer. An object located far away from the main view point will require a brighter light than one that is closer. The illustration below is an example of a directional light spotting a tree and the appropriate wattage for the different view points.

Man and tree illustration by Freepik

Try around different options to see what works best for your garden. If you need some ideas on how to simulate different lighting effects take a look at this video How to Check the Layout of Landscape Lighting in Your Yard by Tricia Craven Worley on Today’s Home Owner.