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When planning outdoor lighting for your home, you want to make sure that you consider every aspect of your home and yard. Getting the right balance of light throughout your property is essential. You need to plan the proper lighting for your home as well as appropriate lighting for your landscape. The challenge is finding the perfect parts of your landscape to highlight. One feature to consider highlighting is any unique trees. But short of sticking a spotlight under each tree, what the best way to light your trees? From the experts at Night Vision Outdoor lighting, here are some of our best tips for installing landscape lighting for trees.

Expert Tips for Installing Landscape Lighting for Trees [infographic]

Why To Light Trees?

The first thing to consider when you plan to light trees is why you even want to light them. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t light trees, but it’s best to start from the ground up with a plan. A common mistake is for homeowners to just stick a light under every tree. The results of that approach can be disappointing. You may end up with what looks like a glowing forest or a patchwork of light splotches, depending on how dense your trees are. Either look is probably not what you had hoped for.

To get tree lighting right, you need to think of it as part of your overall lighting plan. The most important feature of any lighting plan is balance. Whether you are lighting the facade of your home, a small backyard, or acres of landscaping, keep an eye on balance. The main thing to avoid is clumps of brightly lit areas or large dark patches.

When choosing which trees to light, think in terms of features. Is there a particular tree that is interesting to look at? Also, consider that some more mature trees can create a great interplay of light and dark if they have a broad branch structure. Remember, good outdoor lighting doesn’t just highlight what is there during the day. It can actually create new textures and designs that weren’t visible in sunlight.

Trees are some of the largest features in your garden, so they definitely require some attention. Find trees that are both interesting and well spaced out around your property to highlight.

Accent Lighting for Trees

If your tree is of average size, you can probably light it with no more than two lamps. One narrow-angle bullet light can be directed at the trunk of the tree. Another broader flood light can be directed into the foliage to light the extending branches. This combination of lights is the simplest way to light an average size tree to be viewed from only one angle. This type of lighting is perfect for a tree that backs up against a wall or fence, you that you will only ever see it from one side.

For a tree that will get a 360-degree viewing, you will need a couple of extra lights. The biggest thing to think about is how to avoid harsh shadows. Start with a single bullet light on the trunk. Then add a fill light from the opposite angle to brighten some of the shadows. Finally, add backlighting to illuminate the “dark side” of the tree. This method works from any angle. It doesn’t really matter which angle you choose to start.

Once you have lit the trunk, you can move on to the branch structure and foliage. For a broad-branched tree with a wide canopy, broad flood lighting from underneath can provide a pleasant glow. If a tree has tighter, thicker foliage, consider placing the lights farther away and pointing at the foliage from the outside to illuminate the shape of the tree.

For especially tall trees you may need more than one light from each angle. If a single lamp is not adequately lighting the whole trunk, you can add a second lamp pointed higher up. The two lamps combine to create an even light all the way up the trunk.

Lighting for Small Trees

When lighting small trees or significant bushes, you will not need to light the trunk and foliage separately. For small ornamental trees, you can use one or two lights from different angles to light the whole tree. Another option is to use well lighting. Well lights are buried in the ground, with the light shining almost directly upward. This can provide an interesting effect, especially for a tree with textured or layered branches and foliage.

When lighting small trees, you can choose to light multiple trees to create various effects. One way to use small tree lighting is in place of path lighting. If you have small trees placed along a walkway or path, you can use them in place of or in combination with path lighting. Keep in mind that path lighting is a guide, not a landing strip. Path lighting should pull you along from light to light. A combination of decorative fixtures and well-lit small trees can create variety and interest in your path lighting.

Lighting Statues and Other Special Features

Some methods that you can use for tree lighting are also applicable to lighting unique features in your garden. Features can be large or small, ranging from small statues or water features to bench swings or even gazebos. Size is the primary factor in how you choose to light a feature. The viewing angle is also an important consideration for this type of lighting.

For a small statue or sculpture, something under 4 feet tall, you can use small bullet lights to get an all around even lighting. Pick your main viewing angle and start with a light that will illuminate the main front of the statue or sculpture for a 45-degree angle. Once you have lit that area, add a light from the opposite angle to fill in harsh shadows. Finally, depending on the size and shape of the feature, you may need a backlight.

For statues and sculptures taller than 4 feet, you may need additional lighting. If the statue is especially tall, you may find that you can light it in a very similar manner to a mid-sized tree. First, use a bullet light to illuminate the base or pedestal. Then, use a wider-angle light to bathe the central part of the statue in an even glow. Finally, add light from the sides and back to smooth out harsh shadows.

One significant difference between lighting a tree and a statue or sculpture is that with a tree you are creating a new effect out of light and dark. But with a statue, you want to do your best to reveal the existing structure without imposing new shapes of light and dark. However, a third type of lighting effect is necessary when lighting utilitarian features. These may include gazebos, bench swings, or other features that are both ornamental and useful. For these, a combination of uplighting and downlighting may be necessary. Well lighting can work well to give a gentle glow to the whole area. Take care to place lights where they won’t create glare for people using the area. Downlighting can come from overhead trees or a nearby building.

NightVision Outdoor Lighting Can Help

Accent lighting for your trees can be a beautiful way to add interest to your landscape at night. There are many ways to use lighting effectively for different situations. In any situation, help from professionals is a great way to make sure you get your desired look. At Night Vision Outdoor lighting we have lit thousands of gardens and landscapes. That means there is hardly any type of tree we haven’t seen before. Let us help you light your garden for that outstanding nighttime display. Contact us now to get started.