Outdoor Tree Lighting

outdoors in winter with a holiday light show with a large wrapped tree with white lights

Outdoor lighting is a big part of decorating for the holidays. Woody plants can be decorated for extra holiday cheer. This year at Reiman Gardens we are wrapping trees with colored lights. Here are some tips to help you get started.  

  • Choose the plants and the lights – Choose plants that are focal points in your yard – ones that can be enjoyed from multiple vantage points.  It is important to know your limitations based on time and tools available. Larger trees will require more lights and much more time to wrap. When it comes to choosing lights, LEDs are the best choice. They are more energy efficient and don’t give off heat that can cause buds to break early.
  • Test Light strands – Make sure to plug lights in before putting them up. If there are dead bulbs or a fuse that needs changed, it is safer and easier to do it before they are wrapped around prickly evergreens or high up in the canopy of a tree. Check for frayed or broken wires as well, as those can cause electrical fires.
  • Lay out extension cord – Lay out an extension cord that is rated for outdoor use at the base of the plant. If possible, plug your extension cord into an outlet with a GFCI (ground-fault circuit-interrupter), or use a GFCI extension cord. This will minimize the chance of electrical shorts causing fires or damaging your plants. You may want to loop the cord around the base of the plant to secure it.
  • Wrap trunk and branches or gently drape lights – Plug in your first strand of lights and begin wrapping the tree or shrub. Deciduous trees are often wrapped starting from the base of the tree and then running up and down several limbs. Evergreen trees can have lights draped over and under limbs. Shrubs can be individually wrapped or, if they are close together, lights can be run between them. 
  • Ladder safety – Putting lights on trees often means working on a ladder. Make sure the ladder is on stable ground and is evenly balanced. Have a spotter hold the ladder if you need to climb higher than 6 feet.
  • Secure the end of the strand – When you finish lighting your plants, secure the end of the strand by wrapping it under itself or tying it around the branch. Don’t use metal wire or anything that could rub through the wire’s insulation.  
  • Plan for removal – For the sake of plant health, it is best to remove light strands from your trees and bushes each spring. Follow the last on, first off rule to make removal easy.

Prepared by Lindsey Smith, Plant Collections Curator