Outdoor Tree Lighting Ideas

Outdoor Tree Lighting Ideas

Sep 7th 2023

One of the best ways to enjoy your landscape deep into summer evenings is to use strategic lighting around the property. Shining a light on important elements such as trees can elevate your landscape design. There are a wide variety of designs and light variations you can incorporate to make your landscape really pop. The aesthetics of a place matter almost as much as comfort in its enjoyment level. Utilizing more outdoor lights can also improve security around your home, and dissuade those who may be otherwise inclined to trespass. Here are a few outdoor tree lighting ideas you can follow to help your property live up to its fullest potential.

Tree Lighting Techniques

To create a dramatic effect on your trees and shrubs, uplighting is a great tool. The light is positioned somewhere on the ground and shines at an angle towards the trunk and foliage of the tree you've chosen as a focal point. This technique, if done correctly, gives a very elegant look to your trees at night. You can use a single light, or multiple in order to create more dimension and visual interest. The best place to set your lights is at the base of the tree, aiming the lights up towards the limbs of the tree and the trunk for the best effect.

Alternatively, downlighting is another option available. This requires the light to be placed up in the tree where it shines down on your outdoor living area, patio or driveway in order to brighten up get-togethers and help guests clearly see where they are going. This technique works best with deciduous trees because they offer a wide canopy that allows for the most light to shine down. This creates a dappled light effect on the ground. The best spot for downlights is on tree trunks and large tree limbs in order to best hide the light fixtures. Though the number of lights you would need depends on the size and shape of your tree, two lights per tree typically works well.

Another common lighting technique is spotlighting. Choosing an especially becoming tree to feature or shrub to light up will draw the eye to it on dark evenings. Spotlights are brighter than uplights and should be placed a bit further away from the subject. To silhouette a tree, all you need is a wall from a fence, garage, or house directly behind the tree for the shadow to fall across. This is one of the best ways to really accentuate a tree.

Beam Angles

Beam angle is essential to consider when positioning your lights. To create a wash effect, it may be best to consider wide, low beams. These will eliminate dark spots and brighter points in the landscape. Narrow beams are ideal for highlighting specific parts of trees, especially when trying to illuminate a smaller tree. To achieve your ideal look, you may need a bit of trial and error with your angles. Though there are many options out there for your light bulbs, LED lights are typically the best way to go. They last for a very long time, use less energy and are more durable than their counterparts.

Lumens Required To Light Your Tree

Depending on the height of your trees, you will need a different lumen output to adequately light up your target. A lumen is the measure of the amount of brightness in a lightbulb. Too little light and you won't be able to see the trees properly, while too much light can lead to blown-out subjects and limited ambiance. There are a few general guidelines you can follow to ensure your lighting is just right.

The lowest lumen levels you will find are typically 80-120 lumens. This is best for lighting from ground level up to 6-10 feet high. It works well for lighting small structures like walkways, patios, or decks as well as smaller trees, hedgerows, and bushes. For medium-sized trees and two-story buildings, 140-180 lumens are your best bet. Bigger trees and larger houses will almost certainly require 230-270 lumens. Lumens about 350 are typically reserved for lighting chimney tops, prominent home peaks and trees over 50 feet tall.

Finally, most outdoor lighting designs are going for a subtle look. Be sure not to go overboard and illuminate every tree, shrub, and special feature in your yard. You can enjoy those the entire day. Come nightfall, you want to pick a few special highlights that will draw your guests in further.