8 Tips for Decorating Outdoor Trees… Without Damaging Them

Christmas snowflake icicle

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and that means beautiful neighborhood light displays in front yards everywhere. Is there anything more lovely than a beautifully decorated front lawn, adorned in lights and decorations? And is there any better highlight to those displays than gorgeous, live trees, decked out in holiday splendor?

We couldn’t agree more! But we want those stunning trees looking their loveliest come spring and summer, too. So, we’ve come up with these 8 tips to help you create a beautiful holiday light display in your yard without sacrificing the health and safety of your trees.

  1. Use the Right Lights

To protect your tree (and everyone else) from burns or electrocution, be sure to only use lights rated for outdoor use. Be sure to check your extension cord, too – it also needs to be rated for outdoor use.

  1. Check Your Lights First

Ok, this one isn’t for safety, but just to save you a ton of frustration: plug in your lights and check that they all work before you get to work. If you’ve ever completely decorated your tree before discovering that the lights don’t work, you’ll never make that mistake again (don’t ask us how we know that).

  1. Don’t Wrap the Lights Too Tight

If you opt to decorate by wrapping branches with strings of lights, make sure you don’t wrap the lights too tightly. If the lights are really tight, then if anything pulls on them – if someone trips over the cord, if an animal starts pulling on the lights, or if a falling limb gets tangled in the lights on its way down, the lights will get pulled even more tightly around the branches of your tree, and this could remove some of the needles or damage small branches. Make sure there’s some “give” in the strings of lights when they go on.

  1. Take Care to Avoid Any Small Growth

As you adorn your outdoor trees, wrap or drape your lights around the trunk and the sturdiest branches. Avoid smaller, delicate, new growth to avoid breaking off these fragile parts of your tree and allowing your tree to have the best growth and health come springtime.

  1. Remove the Lights at the End of the Holiday Season

Holiday decorations on trees are truly lovely. And we know – it’s tempting to leave at least some of them up for a while. The idea of white twinkle lights on our trees on summer evenings spent in the garden has a romantic appeal, as well. And if warm weather tree décor suits you, then go for it! But don’t accomplish the outdoor bistro look by leaving your Christmas lights up year-round. Trees are always growing, so lights left on long term will damage the bark, inhibit the growth of your tree, or even grow into the bark as the tree grows. Eventually, your tree will split the wires, too, creating a fire hazard and an electrocution risk. If you want lights on your trees in the summer, by all means – but take them off in winter and put them back on in the summer, or at least check and adjust them as needed throughout the year.

  1. Try Draping Instead of Wrapping

If you want to make the safest possible choice for the health of your trees, you can drape the lights rather than wrapping them around the branches. Lights hung in this manner are more likely to fall or slip throughout the season, especially in areas with strong winter winds or heavy December snows, so it might not be the right choice for you. But if you can opt for draping instead of wrapping, your trees will thank you (and removing the lights at the end of the season is much easier with this method, too).

  1. Use Net Lights

Net lights can be a happy medium between the security of wrapping the trunk and individual branches and the gentleness of draping the branches with lights. Light nets can be tossed or laid over a tree or bushes quickly and easily. They are usually the best choice for easy removal, as well.

  1. Use a Live Tree Indoors and Then Plant it Outdoors

Another great option for happy trees is to use a live, potted Christmas tree indoors this year, plant it outside after the holidays, and give yourself another outdoor tree to decorate next year! Be sure to learn about which types of trees are appropriate for your climate and which species belong in your area. A tree service near you can help answer any questions you might have about how to successfully plant and care for a live Christmas tree as it makes its home in your yard.