How Do You Light Up Trees in Your Yard? (5 Lighting Tips)

There’s nothing more magical for the whole family than lighting up the trees in your garden.

You can simply light trees in your yard by either using spotlighting, uplighting, silhouetting, downlighting or string lighting. You can use an existing outdoor electrical point, get a professional to wire one in for you – or use solar powered lights to create amazing tree lighting effects.

Let’s consider your options if you want to install some dazzling tree lighting at home. 

How to light trees in your yard

Spotlighting

This is a great way to draw attention to a favorite tree. Choose a tree that’s naturally eye-catching: it could be a larger specimen, or one with striking-coloured leaves. If you can, pick an evergreen, because otherwise, for several months of the year, your focal point will be bare of leaves. (Not the best look, although we do have some tips for brightening winter trees further on.)

There are different places you can locate your spot for the best effect. We’d suggest uplighting the tree, but with the lights a few feet away from the trunk, so they shine up at an angle. This lights a good-sized area. If you don’t like the idea of visible lighting units in your yard, disguise them with grasses or carefully placed rocks.

Just think about the possible impact of a spotlight on other areas. Is it shining into your windows, or even worse, into your neighbor’s windows? It’s definitely worth checking this out before you commit to an outdoor lighting scheme. However, an excellent byproduct of spotlighting is extra outside home security. You can use the spot to light up a darker corner of your yard: a prettier version of a security light.

Uplighting

If you want to create a touch of drama in your yard, uplighting a tree gives instant impact. We love the theatrical effect this gives; and it really brings large leaves to life (this is perfect for palms and other subtropical favorites).

For a large tree, take a pair of spotlights and position them away from the trunk, shining upwards at about 40 degrees. This will illuminate a decent-sized area, drawing attention to your mighty tree.

If you have more intricate foliage you’d like to highlight, position the spotlights closer to the trunk and shine them directly upwards. This will give you an absolutely gorgeous effect that shows off the patterns of the leaves. It will also emphasise any patterns on the trunk: imagine the effect on older olive trees with their elaborate twists.

Uplighting can also draw attention to a small or slim tree or pot plant. Put an in-ground light as close as you can to the trunk. This is a nice way to pick out a few featured bushes among a larger planting scheme. Want to light a driveway or gateway? Uplighting a few plants in the area is a pretty and noninvasive way to do this.

Silhouetting

You know those lovely, sunny mornings, when the sun makes shadows of the leaves, and casts them against your blinds? It creates a pretty, dappled effect, with a Japanese blossom-style delicacy to it. You can deliberately make these lovely dappled shadows 24/7, with careful use of garden lighting.

This lighting technique works best if you have a solid projection surface, like a yard wall, a garage or outhouse, or a close-paneled fence. Put the light face-on in front of the tree, with the wall behind it, and you’ll get this spectacular, eye-catching effect. You can also experiment with colours. Prefer a more subtle approach? Use several smaller lights, which will cast more delicate shadows between them.

Lighting tip: if you want to make a smaller tree look bigger, light it from below, as this casts a larger shadow. This is really handy if you have a young tree but still want a theatrical effect.

Downlighting

This can be trickier to set up, but is so worth it. Downlighting creates a more subtle look than uplighting or silhouetting, picking out details of the foliage without introducing direct light to your yard. For a glowing, more natural look, downlighting is an excellent choice.

If you have a tall roof or wall that you can mount the light on, that’ll make the job easier. Point the beam down towards the tree at an angle (a swivel spot is the best for this job), lighting the leaves and branches. This effect mimics sunlight, with a gentle, diffused light shining through the leaves.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a handy outbuilding to mount your light on: how about placing the downlights in the tree itself? Again, a few smaller lights work better for this. Space them out on sturdy branches, pointing some downwards towards the trunk and others upwards into the leaves. 

We’ve talked about how this creates a subtle, natural lighting look. It doesn’t have to. Choose colored lights that bring a glowing cheer to your nighttime garden, and you can even change the colors with the seasons. This can be great fun for holiday decor. 

lighting garden trees

String Lighting

This is the instant and easy option – and it always looks great. String lights come in a great variety of colors and styles, and with solar-powered versions, can be set up in any yard. If you want an immediate impact, hanging string lights in your tree is an instant fix.

White and warm white are classic designs, bringing a real magic feel to your yard. We also love the various colored options, especially if you have a celebration planned: team them with garden bunting for maximum impact. Because that’s just it: these lights are so easy, that you can hang them up for the holidays or a party, and take them down again the next day. Some lights have flashing options for a retro disco mood.

You can find a great choice of designs if you search online. We love the latest vintage bulb designs, which look fantastic strung between trees, and will also provide you with some useful light. There are novelty shapes for kids, such as animals, stars and flowers. Try a row of lit-p llamas, or string your trees with bees.

If you’re missing your leaves in the colder season, string lights are the perfect way to decorate your yard and liven up those bare branches.

Tree Lighting Tips

And now the more technical part… We mentioned solar above, and that is by far and away the easiest way to run your tree lights. If you’re lucky enough to live in a state with year-round sunshine, those solar panels are really going to work for you. 

If you’re using conventional electric lights, go for a low-voltage option to keep your running costs down. Low-voltage lights are easier on both the planet and your wallet, and you’ll be happier having them on more often if they’re cheaper to run. LED bulbs are both energy efficient and bright.

Keep your lights clean. The daily build up of dirt and dust will gradually dull your lights, reducing the impact of your scheme. A wring-out cloth dampened with soapy water should do the trick, and make it part of your regular yard maintenance.

If you don’t already have an outside electrical point, please get a professional to wire your lights for you. It’s generally not a large job, and it’s always best to trust your electrics to the experts. Houzz.com has a list of professionals, and you can browse by your area.

In Conclusion

Lighting trees in your yard is not just for Christmas time. You can create magical effects all year round that make an amazing atmosphere for family BBQ’s or meals outside with friends.

Whether you choose spotlighting, uplighting, silhouetting, downlighting or string lighting – there are plenty of ways to light special trees using your existing outdoor power supply.

And if you don’t have an electrical socket in your yard, you can easily ask a local tradesperson to fit one in. Alternatively, solar powered lights are a great option if you want more versatility.