Trees are a substantial and popular part of many landscape designs, and lighting them at night is a great way to enjoy them from dusk to dawn while also adding security and safety to your yard. If you're deciding on the best ways to light your trees, here are two of the top landscape lighting ideas and elements to consider for your trees: downlighting and uplighting.

How to Downlight a Tree:

Downlighting fixtures shine light downward, and they have more of a softer light effect than a spotlight. Think of moonlight, and you’ll understand the idea behind downlighting. This lighting effect is most like nature, recommended anytime you have a property with mature trees. 

Downlights can be placed on tree trunks and large tree limbs, and the more you can hide the fixtures, the better, which adds to that moonlight effect that is so aesthetically pleasing. Downlights can also add to the safety and security of your yard since large trees can also cause large shadows and dark spaces. We recommend two fixtures per tree. To achieve this effect, try to have light project through some of the branches to create those beautiful shadows on the ground.

How to Uplight a Tree: 

Uplighting fixtures focus light upwards on objects like plants, trees, and structures. Uplights are usually placed at ground level, and they can also add nighttime ambience while still helping with the safety and security of your yard. Because uplighting is such a popular option, and since you want your uplights to offer the right amount of light depending on where they’ll be placed, here are some tips to make the most of your uplighting:

How Many Lumens to Uplight a Tree?

Since the main objective here is to uplight your trees, depending on the height of your trees, you’ll need a different lumen output. This will make a difference in your background by eliminating the ability to put too high an output causing a blown out subject and fatiguing the eye (click here to read more about how to create the perfect balance of visual comfort in your landscape design) or leaving a feature unnoticed due to using a light level that is too low.

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Level 1 (80-120 lumens): This level—the lowest lumen level—is great for lighting from ground level up to about 6-10 feet. While this light level works well for plants like hedgerows, bushes, and shrubs and hard objects like sidewalks, decks, and porches, it can also work well for smaller trees. 
  • Level 2 (140-180 lumens): This light level is best used for medium-sized trees. It can also be used to create a shadow effect on two-story homes.
  • Level 3 (230-270 lumens): If you have larger trees in your landscape, you’ll want level 3 lighting, for sure. You can also use this level of lighting for 3 story homes and larger homes.
  • Level 4 (350 to 1000 lumens): Use level 4 lighting for 50-80 foot tall oaks and pine trees as well as lighting chimney tops and large home peaks.

Click here to read more about what lumens you need for landscape lighting

It’s also important to remember that depending on the size and density of the tree canopy, you want to use one lower level light on the tree trunk and multiple fixtures on the canopy depending on the viewing angels. Cross lighting a tree makes it more 3 dimensional.

What Beam Angles To Focus on When Lighting a Tree?

You can have the best uplighting fixtures on the market, but if you don’t aim those beams of light in the right areas, you won’t get the lighting effects, security, and safety features you’re going for. Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind:

  • Use low and wide beams to create a wash effect, eliminating bright spots and dark areas.
  • Since uplights offer a shadowing effect, it’s best to place fixtures in the ground and then angle them to focus on the trees and the surrounding areas.

Halogen vs. LED for Landscape Lighting a Tree? Go with LED.

Once you’ve figured out your perfect design, beam angles, and light levels, you may be thinking should I go with Halogen or LED lights? The answer is a big yes to LED. Here’s why: 

  • You’ll save money since, over time, LED bulbs are much less expensive to operate.
  • You’ll save time not having to change those bulbs as often (which with downlighting, can be really tricky) since LED bulbs last 10-20 years vs 1-2 years for halogen.
  • You’ll save energy (and more money!) since LED bulbs use up to 80-85% less energy than

Click here to learn more about LED vs halogen lights

Ready to illuminate the beautiful trees in your landscape or anything else landscape-related? Contact us—we’re happy to share our knowledge and expertise to help you create the landscape lighting plan of your dreams.