Smart garden lighting: Philips Hue, Ledvance & Co

LED lighting for plants, flower boxes, paths in the garden or on the outside of the house, smartly controllable via app and radio and even colored if desired? We show what is possible.

Philips Hue (test report) is now a real size when it comes to "light bulbs" with that certain something. The lamps controlled by Zigbee radio can be switched on, dimmed and even changed in color using the app, motion detector, button or smart home software. No wonder that there are now a number of alternatives; from Ledvance (Osram) or even from Ikea (Tradfri).

If you don't just want to refresh the interior with effects and comfort, you now have a large selection. Elsewhere we have already shown what is possible with smart outdoor lighting for the house, yard and balcony and how it can be retrofitted.

In addition, there are also exciting products for the garden. We looked around the market and tried some lights.

Smart lighting is characterized by the fact that there are two “channels”: electricity and data. While a conventional lamp burns when there is power and is off, if not, there are always 230 volts on lamps from Philips Hue & Co. You will be informed by radio whether they should shine or not, in what brightness, with which color temperature and possibly also in what color.

Because WLAN and Bluetooth are not optimal in one lamp for various reasons – for example, due to energy consumption and production costs – another radio standard has prevailed in this environment: Zigbee is widespread in Europe.

To be able to control lamps with a Zigbee receiver, a kind of adapter is necessary. Philips calls it a hub, but bridge or gateway are also common. The Geärt needs electricity and is connected to the network. Then he can be reached via the appropriate app with the mobile phone via WLAN and, if desired, also via the Internet and sends switching commands to the individual lamps if necessary via Zigbee radio.

If you want to use Hue & Co., you definitely need such a hub. In addition to the devices of the respective manufacturers, a universal Zigbee hub is also installed in the Amazon Echo Plus (test report) and Amazon Echo Show (test report), for example. Basically, this works across manufacturers, but with many restrictions. More information and approaches our colleagues from heise summarized online. In our experience, the path with the Philips hub is in many cases the easiest and best, especially since there are many practical accessories such as outdoor motion detectors and radio buttons. Because while lamps and lights usually also work quite well across manufacturers, this usually does not work with buttons and sensors, or only with severe restrictions.

Radio-controlled external sockets also make existing garden lighting smart or couple it to motion detectors.

But what still does not go over radio is the electricity. Of course there are also solar powered garden lights, but they are often not of high quality and do not even last through the night. If you want to properly illuminate your outdoor area, you cannot avoid a fixed power supply.

From Philips from the Hue range, but also from Ledvance and other manufacturers, there are great lights for the garden. They have already integrated the Zigbee control, work accordingly without problems and free of tinkering – and are accordingly expensive. We'll get to that in a moment

A cheap alternative are outdoor lights from the hardware store, such as the well-known plastic balls: They usually have an E27 or GU10 lamp inside, which can be replaced by a smart variant. However, since the smart lamps are usually larger than conventional light bulbs, you should try before buying whether they fit – or order online so that you have a right of return. Anyone who has not yet used smart lighting will get away well with starter kits: Here, in addition to two or three bulbs with the desired socket, the necessary Zigbee Bridge is also included in the package.

The lighting can be switched via the app, thanks to the Alexa connection via voice command or via smart home software. If you want, you can also integrate classic wall switches or radio remote controls to switch from the veranda or from the conservatory. Battery-operated wireless motion detectors are also practical, which can be attached to the masonry – or simply placed somewhere. Which lamps should shine in which brightness for which period of time is a matter of setting and can be changed at any time.

If you already have existing garden lighting, you can also make it smart with appropriate external radio-controlled sockets – or use correspondingly smart “lightbulbs”.

Flexible LED strips in a waterproof outdoor version are suitable, for example, for path marking, for edge lighting of raised beds and flower pots, but also for mounting under eaves, between sidewalk slabs, under stairs or on garden furniture. The strips themselves require a low voltage power supply; the starter kit comes with the right power supply. Additional strips for expansion are then cheaper. However, the hub is not always included: if you don't have anything at all, you should pay attention to it.

Attention: The LED strips are available in both indoor and outdoor versions. If you discover a supposed bargain, you should better check again whether the corresponding variant can also go in the rain. Hobbyists get away much cheaper with simple, outdoor-suitable RGB LED strips and associated WLAN control. Anyone who is interested in such a solution can be found under the search term Tasmota a first point of contact – this is a widely used open source solution for controlling smart lighting.

Spotlights that color bushes and trees and lighting effects for the lawn: the options for shapes and colors are almost endless, but the cost of finished products is high. We have put together a couple of exciting lights from different manufacturers. Let's start with Hue's Lily, for example; colorful mini spotlights with earth spike, which are just as suitable for flower beds as for raised beds, flower pots or for illuminating trees and bushes. If you don't want to illuminate, but are looking for effect or edge lighting for paths, beds or the terrace, you can take a look at the garden poles from Ledvance, for example.

If you want to give a bit of a kick to paths, driveways or parking lots with a few smart spots, you have a large selection again. Mini spotlights that are connected to each other like a chain of lights by cable are welcome. Alternatively, there are floor spotlights, recessed floor spotlights – and even real lanterns with a classic look. We found suitable wall lights in our article on smart outdoor lighting.

Light in the garden is cool, smart lighting is even better: just a few colored spots can turn a dark standard garden into a real magical world. It is important that you do it right: you should not save on the power supply; Island solutions with solar cells are always just a compromise.

If money plays a subordinate role, Philips, Ledvance & Co. offer first-class outdoor lighting. If you have to pay attention to the euro, you can implement colored and smart lighting with cheaper lamps and standard smart bulbs for significantly less money. Either way, you can enjoy the smart control via voice command, motion detector or app.