Skip to main content

21OAK may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Tips and inspiration for lighting your outdoor tree

If you’re looking for outdoor lighting solutions that create a smattering of magic and wonder in your yard or garden, you might want to mark a specific target: your trees. Because if you love the look of trees filled with twinkling lights during the holidays, why not enjoy that same beauty with your own trees all year long? After all, dining al fresco in the summer is a whole lot more magical when surrounded by trees and shrubbery festooned with brilliant strings of light.

While everyone knows how spectacular evergreens look when draped in light, you can give that same glow to virtually any type of tree or shrubbery — even palm trees!

But, lighting an outdoor tree can be tricky so take a look at our tips and inspiration before you head outside!

Make a plan!

Start by selecting which trees you want to light up, focusing on those that will give you the most landscaping wow factor! Keep in mind that the perfect trees for lighting are often the trees that are the least perfect in the daylight — those with interesting shapes and unique branch configurations look all-out dramatic when all lit up.

While the biggest tree in your yard can certainly deliver the biggest impact, the larger and taller the the tree the more lights it will require and the more difficult the project may be to tackle. The last thing you want is to end up with a big, beautiful tree with barely enough lights to even notice. Choose the tree — or trees — that match up with the amount of lights you have available. 

LED string lights are best suited for outdoor use. While a bit more costly than standard incandescent bulbs, LEDs last significantly longer and are 75 percent more energy efficient than incandescents, saving you money over time.

When choosing extension cords for your project, always work with outdoor-rated cords. To protect against shock hazards in outdoor situations, you must use a ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) cord and GFCI outlet.

Use a ladder for reaching high parts of the tree — do not even think about climbing the tree to hang lights! Consider having a friend help by holding the ladder base while you climb, not only for safety but also to advise you on light placement from a ground-level viewpoint. 

Light it up!

When it comes to hanging outdoor tree lights, more is more! Depending on the circumference of the trunk, you could use 20 or 30 lights with each wrap around the base of the tree. Make a lighting plan and budget. It’s better to have one tree done perfectly than several trees done wrong. 

Before you hang a single light … TEST YOUR LIGHTS. We can’t stress this enough! The last thing you want is to get your project complete only to find a strand of lights smack in the middle of your display isn’t working. Plug in each and every strand before hanging. You’ll thank us later. 

Start from the bottom and work your way up. Wrap the tree trunk, moving up as you wind the lights around the base. Be mindful of spacing and use your fingers as a guide for consistency between rows. The best results require uniform spacing.

Finish by wrapping lights up the limbs and branches, keeping several extra feet of string at the end. Once you’ve reached the end of the limb, reverse direction and wind it back down. Secure the end of each light string by tucking the end into a branch crevice or tie to the tree with natural twine or planting tape.

If large trees are too time consuming, difficult, or expensive for you to tackle, you can still enjoy the twinkle of outdoor lights on your smaller trees, shrubbery, and bushes. The trick is to get as many lights on the trees as possible and to focus on those trees with the most unique shapes and angles for optimum appeal. 

Editors' Recommendations

5 New Year’s cleaning resolutions you can actually keep up all year
These easy ideas will have your home sparkling in the new year
Person cleaning kitchen with gloves and spray bottle

The new year always seems like a good time for new beginnings, including making some changes around your home. Whether you want to save money by using DIY methods for dry-cleaning clothes at home, sprucing up your master bath with a fresh coat of paint, or swapping out all the lightbulbs in your house for energy-saving LEDs, a few small changes can have a big impact on both your wallet and the planet.

If you’ve decided to make getting on top of your house cleaning routine a priority this year, we have five great ways to kick things off right. Let’s get ready for a cleaner, more organized 2023 with these New Year's cleaning resolutions.

Read more
The house maintenance tasks homeowners think first-time buyers should know
A few considerations when buying your first home
try these 11 bathroom diys you can do in one hour plumber

Buying a home for the first time isn't for the faint of heart. There are so many decisions you need to make and so many considerations to keep in mind before you sign on the dotted line. The biggest worry (beyond the biggest financial investment you're making) is what you don't know, especially regarding house maintenance. Luckily, we have the expertise of those who have come before us.

Redditor theforeverletter recently posed this question on the r/Home Improvement subreddit: "Homeowners who have been doing this for [a while], what regular maintenance do people need to do to their house they don’t know they should be doing? For those of you who know far more than me, I bought a house last year; what things do I/other first-time homeowners need to do to keep up with everything we may not know? Of course, this depends on the house (Septic/city water crawl space/no crawl space) and things can vary, but happy to learn as much as I can!" Hundreds of people were happy to share their advice, and we've taken some of the most popular, so you know what to look out for.

Read more
10 stunning rustic Christmas decor ideas that actually feel fresh and modern
Copper, plaid, natural elements, and more: Check out these rustic Christmas decor ideas
Farmhouse-styled Christmas tree with pillows and chairs as decor

When it comes to decking the halls of your home this Christmas, the best way to achieve a rustic look while still remaining modern can be puzzling. For rustic Christmas decor ideas that are still fresh, there are a few approaches. From worn wood frames to natural elements, you can adorn your space with wintery pieces that are sure to wow your family and friends while still giving off that warm holiday vibe.

Of course, just because you're using plaid, natural elements, and wall signs, doesn't mean your decorating scheme has to feel like everyone else's. It's all about how you incorporate these elements into your existing decor. If you've been looking for some inspiration with your Christmas decorations this year, keep reading. We’ve collected 10 unique ideas that will appeal to your cozy country style in a fresh and modern way.

Read more