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The Complete Outdoor Tree Lighting Guide

Mitchell Elworthy August 31, 2023 at 2:09 pm

Gone are the days when homeowners used to hold back on their exterior decor or become conservative with outdoor lighting. These days, homeowners are going all out on their lighting and leaving nothing to chance. But with the average Australian household paying only $80/hr for outdoor lighting installation, there’s no reason not to hop on the bandwagon. 

Whether you're looking to add some extra cheer to your home or create a festive atmosphere for your neighbourhood, the outdoor tree lighting is just what the doctor ordered. However, installing outdoor tree lights isn't as easy as most people think. If you're new to tree lighting, you might want to start by acquainting yourselves with the specifics of tree lighting.

Today's post is the ultimate guide to outdoor tree lighting for homeowners.

Table Of Contents:

Common Tree Lighting Techniques

There are quite a few ways you can employ to light up your trees. The most common ones include uplighting, downlighting, and even moonlighting. Let’s look at these tree lighting techniques in detail.

Uplighting vs. Downlighting

When shopping for tree lights, you'll hear two common terms: "uplighting" and "downlighting." So what is uplighting and downlighting, and how does it affect your tree's lighting?


Uplighting is when you place the light source under the tree, pointing upwards. Using uplights under trees is probably the easiest and most popular forms of tree lighting. This creates a soft and natural look that's very pleasing to the eyes. Uplighting is also great for accentuating the tree's features and making it the focal point of your outdoor space.

Uplighting lighting up palm trees in a coastal setting 

The Havit 316 Stainless Steel 30w LED Uplighter

316 Stainless Steel 30w LED Uplighter

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The product used in the above photo is the 316 Stainless Steel 30w LED Uplighter from Havit Lighting. It's one of our most popular uplights due to it's heavy duty construction. This uplight is a 316 marine grade fitting which means it can be used on coastal settings and still won't rust.

Price (RRP): From $277.99*

*Price may have changed at time of reading


Downlighting is when you place the light source above the tree, pointing downwards. This creates a more dramatic look and can be great for setting the mood. Downlighting is also a good way to highlight the tree's branches and leaves.

The lighting method you choose for your trees depends on the type of tree you have and the look you're going for. Some trees look better with uplighting, while others look better with downlighting. Of course, you can always choose both and even consider moonlighting.

For proper downlighting, you'll need to have a large deciduous tree. A tree that's the focal point of your lawn works best. Install a 60-degree accent light at least four feet beneath the lowest hanging branch.

You want the light to be at least 20 feet from the ground for the greatest effect. Also, experiment with different angles and find the right one for creating shadows. You can have the light higher in the tree, but you don't want branches to block out the light.


Moon lighting in trees in a backyard setting

"Moonlighting" style lighting


Moonlighting is a special type of downlighting that tries to mimic moonlight. It involves placing a light fixture high up in the trees, angled downwards. This creates the impression of a tiny moon shining down on the tree branches and the lawn.

Moonlighting gives the place a natural, homey feel that's perfect for the outside. The leaves and branches also create lovely shadow patterns. Moonlighting is great for patios and other spots that would look great under the moonlight.

Enlightened Bushes/Trees With Spike Lights

Our customers love our 316 Outdoor Spike Lights

The quickest and easiest way to add some atmosphere in your backyard is to use spike lights to light up your bushes/shrubs or small trees. They're incredibly easy to install and can be placed just about anywhere in your yard. Spike lights are very versatile - you can use them on almost any type of tree or bush, regardless of its size or shape.

LED Outdoor Garden Spike Light

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This is one of our most popular LED garden spike lights, and it's frequently used to illuminate trees and bushes. It's the actual item that you can see in the picture above (the photo above was actually taken by one of our customers). This spike light is a 316 marine grade fitting which means it can be used on coastal settings and still won't rust.

Price (RRP): From $69.99*

*Price may have changed at time of reading

Hanging Tree Lights

Aside from uplighting and downlighting, you can always get hanging tree lights. These are cheaper and much easier to install. What's more, they have a variety of styles to pick from, including:

A Canopy of Stars

This style involves spreading hanging lights on the leaves and branches of the tree. This makes the top of the tree look like a canopy of stars. This technique works best on willow trees and other trees with spreading canopies.

To get a canopy of lights, you'll need bright-coloured string lights. Carefully weave these lights in and out of the branches, spreading them as much as you can. Avoid clustering the lights, or they may look like fireballs instead of stars.

Wrap Around

This technique is straightforward and only involves wrapping string lights around tree trunks. However, avoid wrapping the trees too tightly, or it might harm them. Also, ensure you space the individual coils of light so you can still see the tree trunk after wrapping.

How to Hang String Lights on Your Trees

String lights are among the simplest lights to install on your trees. If you're looking to hang string lights on your trees, you'll need:-

  • A ladder
  • Extension cord (outdoor rated)
  • Plant tape
  • Cardboard

With all the above materials in hand. You can now hang the string lights by following the below steps.

Test the String Lights

It's a good idea to turn on the string lights before installing them. That way, you can check if all the bulbs are working and identify any defective ones.

You also want to ensure the string lights are the right length for your trees. They shouldn't be too long or too short.

Lay Out the Cord

Once you've confirmed that the lights are working, it's time to lay out the cord. Start by placing the extension cord at the base of the tree. Then, run the cord up the tree's trunk and over to the next one.

Do this until you've gone around all the trees you want to light up. You can use plant tape to secure the cord to the tree trunk if you want.

Wrap the String Lights Around the Trunk

Now, it's time to wrap the string lights around the tree trunk. Start at the base of the tree and work your way up. As you wrap, make sure you space out the coils so that you can still see the tree trunk.

When you get to the top of the tree, drape the string lights over a branch and down to the next one. Do this until you've wrapped all the trees you want to light up. You can use cardboard to secure the string lights in place if needed.

Types of Outdoor Lighting

Before installing any lighting for trees, it's essential to understand the types of outdoor lighting available. You can choose one that best suits your needs and style. Here are the main types of outdoor lighting for your consideration.

Landscape Lighting

Landscape lighting is a type of outdoor lighting that highlights building and landscape features. They are also great for illuminating the premises and providing security. Some great examples of landscape lighting include sconces, spotlights, and lanterns.

Flood Lights

Floodlights are special lights that focus on a particular area to illuminate it completely. They're rarely used for aesthetic reasons but mostly for security reasons. Flood lights are mostly halogen and fluorescent bulbs that you can adjust to direct the light beam in a particular direction.


As the name suggests, spotlights are a type of light that focuses on a specific object. They're great for providing direction and security and can also serve aesthetic purposes.

Motion Sensor Lights

Motion sensor lights are outdoor lights that turn on automatically when they detect movement. They're mostly used for security purposes but can also be used to light up a dark area or pathway. Motion sensor lights are available in different styles, including floodlights, spotlights, and wall lights.

How to Choose the Best Outdoor Tree Lighting

The first step in installing lighting for trees is to choose the type of lighting. We've already talked about the different types of outdoor lights. Let's now look at how you can pick the best one for your trees.

Choose the Lights

There are many tree lighting choices, and you need to find the best one for your home. Start by first thinking about what theme you want for your tree and outdoor lighting. If you're hosting parties or getting into the festive season, you might want to get LED lights.

If you want something a little more minimalist, then sconces under the tree will do fine. Once you figure out the type of light you want, proceed to the next step.

Pick Your Tree

You can't just drape all the trees in your compound with LED lights. You'll have to select specific trees so that the lights will look perfect on them. If you don't have good options, you can plant your own.

A couple of trees that go well with LED lights include evergreen trees, Japanese maples, palm trees, and the like. You should consider planting these and other trees to make the most of your tree lighting. Combine high-quality lights with the perfect tree, and you'll be the envy of all your neighbours.

Choose the Tree's Trimming

Now that you've picked the lights and the tree, it's time to give the tree a good trim. Trimming the trees helps ensure the lights fit correctly while adding aesthetic flair. Trim your trees, keeping in mind how you want to arrange the lights, and you'll be good to go.

Outdoor Tree Lighting Simplified

There you have it; a complete guide to outdoor tree lighting. With this guide, you should be able to create an outdoor lighting setup for your trees without any problems. Just remember to take safety precautions and follow the instructions carefully.

If you're after advice around landscape design or general gardening we recommend checking out the Sydney local business Grow Kings the guys there are experts and have a huge range of LED grow lights

You can contact us today so we can help you get the best lights for your trees. 

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