Glowing Orb Landscape Lights. A 5 minute, $5 DIY.

The easiest, cheapest landscape lighting hack ever.  Set a few of these glowing outdoor orbs in your backyard and they’ll have more impact than installing an outdoor kitchen and an infinity pool.  Not really. But still – they’re really nice and quick to make.

Get ready for it … this one’s a doozy.  Doozie?  Doosey.  It’s a humdinger. THIS is one of the posts that put me on the map when I started my blog over 10 years ago.  Between this post and How to Make a Personal Fire Pit I was the reigning Queen of Pinterest for the summer of 2010. Or maybe it was 2011. Either way I wore a sash and started picking out Corgi names.

All of this from old light shades and string lights.

It looks high end with a side of huge impact, It costs next to nothing, And even if being “handy” to you means replacing your regular lightbulbs with eco-friendly ones … you’ll be able to do this in 3 minutes flat.

That’s right.  Some old glass shades, some old (outdoor) Christmas lights and BAM.  You’re a backyard badass baroness.  (There can only be one Queen)

In my attempt to make my backyard a teensy bit more contemporary than my 180 year old house I ran into a few problems.  Contemporary outdoor lighting is EXPENSIVE. That’s what led me to creating my own.

If I’m gonna shell out a whole whack of cash for something in my backyard it’s gonna be on a tenderloin for the BBQ.  Or a better BBQ.  Or a talking parrot who refers to me as Princess Leia. It isn’t gonna be for lighting if I can help it.

So while perusing the local second hand store I came across some truly unfortunate stains on the carpet AND the ubiquitous opaque glass shades.  You’ve probably thrown a few out in your lifetime.  Stop doing that.  Stop it right now. 

And here’s the best part!  You know those stupid, anger inducing mini lights you have shoved in your basement?  The ones where only half of the string lights up?  Yeah, um … this is a perfect use for them.  PERFECT!

Just stick the glass shades anywhere you want and stuff them full of mini lights.   Attach an extension cord if you need to and hide it under your garden dirt or mulch.  I have my lights on a timer so they come on every night at dusk.

When I first made these 10 years or so ago solar lighting was pathetic. 3 legged dog in the rain pathetic. Now they’re a lot better and they’d be a good way to light these up as well as long as you have a place you can place the solar panel that gets a lot of sun. In the case of my backyard that isn’t a good option.

These are the solar powered lights I’d use if you have enough sun.


I pulled the HUGE orbs you see in the second photo near the top of this post out of someone’s garbage.


They look beautifull. And it wasn’t a fluke that I found these in a second hand store.  Every time I’ve gone into a second hand store I’ve noticed these shades there.  Goodwill, Salvation Army, random Bible Stores … they’re always in there.

Flea markets have them as well!  They’re usually around $1 – $3 each.

  If you don’t have a second hand store near you, you can order these shades on Amazon. But the price fluctuates wildly. Sometimes you can get them for $4.99 each for a 6″ shade and sometimes they’re over $20.  And it would be stupid to spend $10 – $15 when you can spend $1 – $3.  Right?

Plus reduce, reuse, recycle and all that stuff. If a second hand store doesn’t have them now they will, just keep checking back.

Trust me.  Queen Princess Leia wouldn’t lie to you.

p.s.  Look here to learn how to turn these same glass shades into a birdfeeder and Look here to learn how I used them in the winter!

Glowing Orb Landscape Lights. A 5 minute, $5 DIY.


  1. Lindsay says:

    This is such a good idea!So amazing for a for a front door or back steps is what I’m thinking.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Lindsay – Yup … I’ve moved them all around the yard and house! If you search for my “outdoor planters” you’ll see how I used them in my holiday planters. ~ karen

  2. Bridget says:

    I just found you through Pinterest, I love this idea, so simple yet stunning!! Way to go! I wish I hadn’t thrown out those half lit light strands last winter! I will be trying this a soon as I find some orbs. Did you already make the winter version?
    Oooh, I bet it would look awesome with colored lights??

  3. Susan says:

    I love, love, love these lights. I also love that you made them out of things that readily available and *CHEAP*!!!

    You have a new fan in me ;o)

  4. Teresa says:

    I love this idea! I’ve actualy bought two new lampshades as there don’t seem to be any in the junk shops (I’m in the uk) ….would you believe my mini christmas lights have way too many lights on the string (I was jamming them into the shades and still had loads left over!)….so I am going to have to buy some new ones….. I don’t care though as it will still work out cheaper than buying new garden lights…..I hope!

    • Karen says:

      Teresa! My mini lights were too long too! Just keep adding more shades until you have enough to accommodate all the lights! Or bury the lights under mulch. That’s another way to go too. :) ~ karen

      • Teresa says:

        Ok… good idea! (better than just breaking the extra lights – which I had thought of doing…. :-S)
        Love this website btw…have passed on to friends.

  5. Cindy says:

    I LOVE the way these look! You’re so smart!

  6. Lovely! Thanks so much for sharing.

  7. Sarah says:

    Wow! I love this! This past January I bought solar powered mini lights from Canadian Tire – I might have to dig those out and use them! Perfect solution, when you don’t want to run power cords, I just bought a house and I am fixing up our yard, it was a mess, and this is just what it needs to bring it up another level. Looks like I am stopping by Habitat for Humanity after work today!

  8. Cerise says:

    Fantastic idea! I’ll be on the hunt for those glass shades! I already have a box full of those silly Christmas lights.

  9. Laura says:

    Thank you this is perfect! I want to have my wedding in a clearing in the woods. I want to have the path to the clearing lit with different kinds of things producing white light. These are perfect! I am going to use this idea for sure!

    Thank you so much! I love them!

    • Karen says:

      Laura – You’re welcome! I think a wedding in the woods sounds beautiful. You’re right! These orbs would be perfect. (provided you have a source for electrical) ~ karen!

  10. Angela H. says:

    Oh, this is awesome. I’m totally pinning it — and I got here from the CRAFT blog, which is also awesome.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Angela! I’m actually going to show yet another fantastic thing you can do with these orbs on Thursday! ~ karen

  11. Holly says:

    I can’t wait to see what you do with them in the winter, but for now I’m going to try this for the summer. So glad I found your site through Marys Meanderings.

  12. Toni says:

    Hi, Karen! I just found your website from Kimba at A Soft Place to Land. I love this project! I am totally non-handy around the house. (I could be if I really wanted to, but I hate reading directions, trying to get precise measurements, etc. I make my husband do it! I can change light bulbs and kill roaches, ants, and spiders though!) I have been looking for a lighting solution to line the walkway to our front door and this would work perfectly. Off to Goodwill this week to look for the glass shades. Thanks for sharing!

  13. kate says:

    Really an awesome idea! I would like to do this in my garden area that is nowhere close to an outlet…I’m going to see if I buy really cheap solar garden lights to provided the light source…not sure if it would be strong enough to be pretty through a globe though…we’ll see. Thanks for showing it, so nice!

    • Karen says:

      Kate – You’re right, the solar garden lights are usually pretty dim. Hopefully you can find some that are strong. I think the ones that run of a separate panel as opposed to having the solar panel on the top of them are stronger. Plus that way the solar panel won’t be shaded. (if you get solar lights that have the solar source on top of the light, it’ll be covered up and not getting enough sun if you put them in the glass shades. Good luck! ~ Karen!

  14. mary says:

    What a fantastic idea! Would you mind me sharing this idea on my blog with a link back to you?

    • Karen says:

      Sure Mary! And thank you for asking! Just make sure to not post my whole post! When you do that, nobody comes back to my site to visit. (I did a post on how to properly re-post stuff a week or so ago) Glad you liked the orbs!

  15. Kristine says:

    Oh my goodness thank you so much for sharing. I am going to do this in my backyard! Thank you!!!!

  16. JenniferH says:

    I was wondering… have you tried doing these with multi-colored lighting, or other color strings (like orange around halloween?) I might have to try this in my yard!

    • Karen says:

      Jennifer – That’d be a good idea for the holidays. My backyard is kind of “fancy” so I prefer the white for my yard, but colours would work for other, more casual backyards. I’m curious about what the multicoloured lights would look light. Hmm. ~ karen

  17. S says:

    Okay, I gotta ask… do you think the lighting keeps the slugs away from your hostas?

    • Karen says:

      Huh! That’s a good question. My chickens recently demolished one of my hostas. And I mean demolished. I wonder i the lights would keep THEM away! I don’t know the answer to your question, but I’ll be sure to keep an eye out this summer! I don’t have a HUGE problem with slugs to begin with but I always have a few holes. ~ karen

      • Bambi says:

        In regard to a problem with SLUGS…..I had this problem in the past and learned that if you use a little beer in bottle caps or other small vessels (metal glass jar lids) placed near or under whatever plants that they disappear.
        Slugs love strawberries and other plants and evidently it is the smell or taste tht drives them away (any beer works).
        So now you have a use for discarded bottle caps that you used to throw away….and they are easy to find and re-use.

        • Karen says:

          Hi Bambi. Thanks! I’ve actually tried the beer and you’re right it does work. The problem I’ve had with it is whenever it rains you have to go out and empty the drowned/drunk slugs. Maybe I”ll have to make little tents to go over the beer caps. Like tiny little beer gardens eerywhere, lol. ~ karen!

  18. Absolutely LOVE them!!!

  19. Chera Logsdon says:

    These are beautiful!!! Can’t wait to go to my local thrift stores to look for some of them to make for myself….Thanks for sharing:))

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Chera! I’ll have even more ideas for these orbs in the summer so keep a lookout for them. :) ~ karen

  20. I forgot to mention i LOVE your writing style! You are a very talented writer. Thanks for the entertainment and crafty ideas at the same time!
    Kristy of

  21. FABULOUS!! GREAT idea. I stocked up on those mini lights for $.37 each after Christmas at Walmart. I didn’t know why.. NOW I DO! Thanks kristy from my crafty thrifty diy blog

  22. theaxx says:

    this is ingenius!! i love it! ha!


    Spoonful zine.

  23. Rosanne says:

    Well I’m only a year late, so I’ll try this fab idea this summer. I thought the moon was so bright last year, turns out, it was all the orbs alight because of you. I love this, especially the part where you say “reduce, reuse, recycle and all that crap”. Bah!!

  24. Robin Jensen says:

    I’m so doing this! Also, You are hilarious!!

  25. Judy says:

    How about using the battery operated mini lights??I’ve done those in wine bottleswith greenery around& on top!!

    • Karen says:

      Judy – Give it a shot! You’d just have to make sure you got strong enough lights that would glow through the opaque glass and I’d probably do something to ensure the batteries were waterproofed if you kept them outside. Put the battery pack in tupperware or something. :) I like the plug in lights because I know they’re meant for outdoor use and I can put them on a timer. ~ karen

  26. Ali Winter says:

    Shut the front door! These are SO fantastic! I saw a 2 pack at costco for considerably more than $3. Great Idea, I love thrift store shopping.
    I found your blog through Pinterest, great way to get your stuff out there!

    • Karen says:

      Ali – Thanks for the comment. Feel free to Pinterest any of my stuff. :) I have NO idea how to Pin things. I can barely, *barely* manage StumbleUpon. ~ karen!

  27. Jenn says:

    Did you do your winter photo shoot?

  28. Terry says:

    Oh, fiddlesticks! I should have put this “cooking, baking and toenailcure on the place for kitchen, not the orbs! Sorry.
    The orbs look beautiful and night and during the day they add that certain je ne sais quois that is so attractive and the whole effect, day and night, puts me in mind of the little gnomes and garden fairies that help us in making our gardens grow–and, dast I say here–glow? Ooh,may have stretched that one a bit. Nevertheless, they look just fine and are, at once, relaxing and inspiring. Thanks!

  29. Terry says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian neighbor. You look like I do when fully involved in the kitchen, pie-baking, roast beast basting, and so forth. Ain’t it great?!

    Now, on to that pesky ingrown toenail…cit a small “v” in the middle of the offending nail, The toenail will grow towards the center leaving you with a pain-free toe. It takes a little while but it always works. You may just have to do this every so often. OK, enough pre-table T’giving talk. Do you make stuffing? What kind? What veggies are you making. Oooh, this is so exciting because it makes me want to get into the good kitchen and start thinking, doing and turning out great food. Best of Luck and thanks for your sharing!

  30. DzynByJules says:

    OMG! I thought I was the MacGuyver of cheap/inventive decor, but I tip my tiara to you, AGAIN!!! I am TOTALLY inspired, AGAIN! Twice in one evening! I’m speeding over to the Goodwill tomorrow, Mach 2 with my hair on fire, to scoop up all the orbs I can get my hands on! Now I have an excuse to break into my bins of “I can’t throw out these partially good tangles of lights, cause I know I’ll find the PERFECT use for them someday” random Christmas stuff, now I know I didn’t save them for nothing! My husband will be thrilled! YOU ARE THE BEST! I’m going to line the garden beds of my front walkway for Halloween with this over the top outstanding idea! SQUEALS!!!!!!!!! Thanks again Karen! Jules

  31. Alisha says:

    This is YOUR backyard? *jealous face* I’ve been seriously coveting this backyard awesome since Design Sponge posted it. I’m just discovering your blog today and I’ve already peed a little … about 6 or 7 times. Just sayin’. :)

  32. Erin says:

    I heart you. I heart your blog. AND I heart your ideas. Just wish I had a Yard now…..

  33. Anemone says:

    Ok…I dont have a backyard… YET…. or much of a front…

    but when i do which isnt long again…

    pretty glowing orb lights…are going to be the first lights i install.

  34. sera says:

    I so completely love this! Now I just have to dig out my old xmas lights… do you actually use your basement as the staging room for all the stuff that you might use someday? like dead xmas lights and old prosthetic legs?

  35. Jane says:

    How do you get the water to fan across the slate so nicely?

    • Karen says:

      The slate is on a teeny bit of an angle (towards the pond) and the water is coming out of the hose at the perfect rate. If you do this yourself another trick is to stick a small rock in front of the hose. Vary the size and shape of the rock to vary the way the water comes out. (I didn’t need the rock, but it’s a trick that I know works) Another tip … the faster the water comes out of the hose (due to the strength of the pump) and the further it has to fall before it hits the pond, the louder it will be. Good luck!

  36. Jane says:

    So basically, dig a pond and line. Build up slate wall at side for water to hurtle over. But does it come from the top out of a planter, fall in, and recirculate up?

    • Karen says:

      The pond has a pump in it. To this pump I have a hose attached. This hose then has a splitter, which turns one hose into 2 hoses. Each of these hoses runs out of the pond to the top of each of my waterfalls. (one hose per waterfall). The hose runs out the top of the slate waterfall and is concealed by more slate on top of it. It is just a continuous, recirculation of the pond water. That’s basically it. !

  37. Jane says:

    Karen, love your fountain. How did you do it?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jane – thanks! I think (hope) you’re talking about my waterfall. You can see my entire backyard makeover, including building my pond here! I basically built a waterfall that surrounds my half of my pond using leftover pieces of slate. My backyard was slate, but most of it fell apart and crumbled over the years. The pieces that were still O.K., ended up as a surround to my pond and a couple of waterfalls. If you look at the other post I’ve shown you you’ll get an idea of how I did it! If you need more detailed info lemme know … karen!

  38. Fab! You haven’t had any problems with moisture, have you? Um. Not in general, but with the project and the lightbulbs and whatnot.

  39. Brittany says:

    WOW! Pretty much pure genius!! I’m going to use this idea for the New Year’s party I am throwing… it looks like it would be a nice way to decorate a stage!

  40. Maggie says:

    Humdinger? I should say so!! I love this idea. Totally going to do this, you brilliant woman! Have a question….where did you get the planter you are using as a table? Thank you for sharing all of your wonderful ideas!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Maggie. Glad you like the idea! It’s always the simplest things, isn’t it? If you’re talking about the black cylindrical planter with the glass top (in between the 2 chairs in my backyard) … phew … I got it at Homesense. Which if you are American is the equivelant of Homegoods. Had a few nicks and blemishes so I got it cheap.

  41. Shelly (FlagirlinTN) says:

    OK, this idea is just crazy smart. The “why couldn’t I think of something so clever and cheap?” smart. I am DOING this..
    Mostly thank you for a post that doesn’t make me laugh so hard I pee. It is getting increasingly hard to make up reasons why I change clothes at work.

  42. Sherry (BTLover2) says:

    Another brilliant idea! I can’t tell you how much I adore your backyard and everything you’ve done to it. Orbs, ponds, fountain, etc. GORGEOUS!! You really are talented beyond words…

  43. Jeanne says:

    What a great idea! And, I several strings that only half light, perfect.

  44. Zina says:

    Kewl. Now please come to England and my new flat and show me how to get a plug for power out to my deck. Well, hang on, that won’t work, really, because they tell me that our tame electrical systems are dangerous enough but are piddly stuff compared to the electrical systems in the UK, so most electrical work is best done by a licensed electrician.

    So…I’ll use this tip once I get power out to the deck. On the other hand, waitasecond, I saw battery strings of mini lights and some frosted light covers at the pound store…hmmm…

  45. LOVE this idea, thanks for sharing!!!

  46. Vila says:

    Great! Thanks for the tip! I was actually staring for hours in one local issue of Design magazine where they had similar glowing orbs floating in water…this is like a dream come true ;) anyhow, can you by any chance explain the timer setup? Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Vila. To set anything up on a timer outside, all you have to do is buy an outdoor timer at a hardware store. You plug it into your outdoor electrical outlet and then plug the item you want to come on and go off at a certain time into it. There’s usually a dial with pins on it to set what time you want it to go on and off at. Cheaper timers just work with dawn and dusk. You plug the item into the timer and it automatically comes on at dawn and goes off at dusk. The cheapest outdoor timer will probably cost you $10.

      • Lita says:

        So about that outdoor outlet.

        Saying you don’t have one, Aand you wanted to install one….what would be the best way of going about that?

      • Vila says:

        Thanks a bunch! Would you believe that in this part of EU they never heard for such timers :( … I went to a couple of DIY shops and the only thing I can find was some expensive variants of the timers used for professional lighting… darn! What I actually did is: I went to a china town and bought those Xmas lamps with built-in timer. This works nicely so far and in my basment I found transparent glass shades and it doesn’t look bad :) The problem I encountered is that the power plug and the lamp’s cable were not long enough, so I did some cutting/cable extention/duck tape insulation et voila… :))) Needless to say that I want to be just like you when I grow up, lol!

        • Carol says:

          Just be careful using duct take as wire patch, you should use electrical tape. You don’t want to start a fire if it gets hot. Timers are usually sold at hardware stores in various areas. Most use them for holidays or vacation lighting when out of town to ward off burglars.

  47. Julie shinnick says:

    oooo ahhhh those are FANTASTIC!! How did you know that we have just spent allllll our money on a new verandah and I was thinking how I could light up the area for next to nothing? You are a genius! AND psychic! Thanks Princess Leia!! xxoo

  48. Shauna says:

    GET OUT!!!! Those are soooo cool!! I’ve always looked at those lights at our restore and thought… HA…I’ve gotten rid of a few of those…ha ha…poor sucker who buys them!! However, upon seeing how cool that is I feel like a major dork. I will now go back to restore this week to buy some… I’ve got some cool ideas for Halloween!! Can’t wait to see the winter pics!

  49. deborahinps says:

    This is a terrific idea!
    I’ve used Christmas lights in a large glass vase but never thought to use them outdoors…I’m off to make my yard all fancy like :)

  50. Heather says:

    I found your site when i saw your fantastical house in Style at home. We’re moving into our new house next week, and i’m having the opposite problem as you, new build = almost no character.

    There are 3 main reasons i heart your blog.
    1.Your style is very similar to mine Modern + Antiques = totally rocking my world
    2.Hailing from winnipeg means i’m freaking cheap, so your tips are magnificent for me.
    3. I love the feeling ,and bragging rights, of making something that looks expensive from next to nothing.

    Sorry , a lot of rambeling for me to tell you I LOVE these outdoor lights. My front steps are going to be FULL of them.

    also, wondering where you got the woodcutters chopping block you used to make your side table, i’ve been looking but they’re hard to find.

    • Sue says:

      I love the look of these orbs. I live on 2 acres so the lights won’t work. I am going to try glow in the dark paint to see if I can replicate the orbs. They are gorgeous.

      • Karen says:

        Good idea Sue. Let me know how it goes! ~ karen

      • Heather Pruitt says:

        you could try taking those button lights you know tap and now they are on the battery opperated ones seem to work real well

      • Leanne Flynn says:

        An adult activity, but i just read a blog saying for an evening party, those orb shades, (worth going bare bulbs in the house one night for a party if u have this type of shade in yr kitchen- bathroom, i think) and glow sticks! Gloves on of course, carefully snip the end of the glow stick- and then pour the poisonous glowy stuff into the orb, or any container (LOL!), and just swish it around. Glow lights for the evening. I’m doing this for halloween. Shshsh!

        • June Clever says:

          Not a bad idea to wear gloves if you do this but, just as an FYI, glow sticks are non-toxic. I’ve been a vet tech for many many years and had to call poison control numerous times for animals who have eaten glow sticks.

        • Deb says:

          If glow sticks are non-toxic why would it be necessary to call poison control for animals who have eaten glow sticks? Is it because poison control isn’t aware that the glow sticks are “safe?”

        • Shelia says:

          Debbie you need to double check these things with the most knowledgeable entity. There are different brands of glow sticks, too. Please tell me you were kidding!

        • Sally Henderson says:

          You call Poison Control when you want to be absolutely sure the animal has not swallowed something that will kill him and/or to reassure the owner/vet. I did the same thing as an E.R. nurse. to reassure parents.

      • Leigh says:

        Using the glow in the dark paint works for a very short while. Lots of sun helps, but eventually it just doesn’t work. I don’t know why. Maybe the paint just bakes off after awhile.

      • Phyllis says:

        Why not use solar lights so you can place them anywhere you like.

        • Karen says:

          Hi Phyllis! Solar lights are useable in some cases, but generally speaking they aren’t nearly as bright or strong as the plug in lights. Also, if you have a backyard that’s entirely shade (like mine is) solar lights won’t work. But if you have a sunny backyard and don’t care that the lights are slightly less bright then solar lights are a good option. ~ karen!

      • Kay Hansen says:

        I have an added idea. I bought led solar lights for my fairy garden so you could use those and they are not that expensive and while you put the lights in the globe, leave the solar panel, about 2″ square outside…no extension card needed.

      • Alice Fitch says:

        Sue you can buy battery operated string lights and some have timers.

      • Marina Abbott says:

        You can make these if you can find mini lights that run off of solar power. In my area here in Canada we can order the solar mini lights from Regal a catalog shopping store.

      • Monika Klar says:

        I heard that glow in the dark paint doesn’t really work well. (And looks really ugly in day light). You might want to try it out on something small first.

        • Karen says:

          You’re right. It doesn’t work well. It’s fine for little things like Halloween decorations, but glow in the dark paint doesn’t glow bright for more than 10 minutes usually. And yes, it’s yellow or green when it’s painted on. The leftover Christmas lights really is the best idea. :) ~ karen!

      • S says:

        try solar lights? I find them much less expensive around the end of the season and stock up.

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