Outdoor Christmas lights

Outdoor Christmas lights

The Christmas season is here and many of you are considering putting holiday lights in your outdoor trees for a beautiful landscape. This can mean an awful lot of work and time, both in putting up and taking down. It also involves the purchase of the proper lights and a place to store them for the following season. We recommend using professional tree lighting companies, such as Southampton Nursery in order to spare yourself the hassle. However , if you are determined to do it yourself, we offer the following tips:

First you need to determine the length of the string(s) of lights you’ll need. Measure the circumference of the tree trunk, as well as the circumference and count of any branches you wish to wrap with lights. Determine how much spacing you want both between each light bulb on the string, as well as how far apart you plan to wrap the light strings. Usually a 6″ bulb spacing is popular for wrapping trunks and branches, with an average spacing of 2-3″ between strings. Divide height by desired string spacing, multiply total by circumference to calculate total string length needed. Example: we have a 4’H trunk that measures 2′ in circumference, and we plan to wrap four of the stronger branches, which measure 3’L and 6″ in circumference. Use this equation to learn how to wrap a tree with lights:

  • 4’H trunk / 3″ spacing = 16 x 2′ circumference = 32′ of lighting
  • 3’L branch / 3″ spacing = 12 x 6″ circumference = 6′ of lighting per branch
  • Total lighted feet will be approximately 56′ for the trunk and four branches

Total power available should also be taken into consideration when wrapping. If using commercial mini light strings, up to 10 100-bulb count strings can be connected, or 420 watts. If using premium mini lights, up to six 100-bulb count strings can be connected. LED lights typically allow up to 43 light strings, or 210 watts, to be connected, so there is rarely a concern of plugging to many LED strands together. Switch to energy saving LED lights to allow for maximum light counts.

Most trees are wrapped the length of the trunk and approximately 3-4′ high in the extending branches. Not every branch needs to be wrapped, and branches should be selected to allow for an even, pleasing distribution of light. Wrapping trees is much easier with two people, and by keeping the string in a neat ball. The following steps are the easiest way to wrap trees:
  • Start at the base of the tree with the first string of lights. Make sure the male plug is ground level to connect with your power cord.
  • Starting with the female, begin wrapping the tree systematically, connecting the male end with the next light string’s female end.
  • Wrap Christmas lights tightly, to ensure a snug fit. Lights will stay in place if wrapped tightly, but you can use zip ties to secure any loose wires or areas of concern.
  • Increase vertical spacing of strings on branches where light strings will be wrapped up and back down.
  • Keep light strings in close proximity to the tree to prevent wind and storm damage.
Wrapping evergreens and shrubs is a different story, because unlike deciduous trees they keep most of their needles and leaves throughout winter. You need to estimate how many light strings you’ll need for the the size of light you choose. Generally, an 8′ evergreen needs 300 mini-lights or 100 C7 lights, and a 15′ evergreen needs 800 mini-lights, 250 C7 or C9 lights. We don’t recommend do-it-yourself over 15′.  Lights should be checked before installation, especially when lighting larger trees that will be almost impossible to fix once all the light strings are on. 3-Way splitters and power taps may be needed to extend outlets up the length of taller trees. Here are some tips for wrapping evergreens:
  • Calculate how much power is needed for lights to ensure maximum thresholds are not exceeded
  • C7 and C9 bulbs are the most popular on larger evergreen and pine trees
  • Wrap lights in a random pattern to allow for the occasional light to burn out without notice or disruption in appeal
  • Wrapping the canopy of larger trees allows for bright lighting without the need to wrap to the top of the tree
  • Utilize extendable poles to reach highest parts of the tree

For the fastest, cleanest method, choose net lights for bushes and hedges. If you prefer to wrap trees with outdoor tree lights:

  • Use random patterns throughout
  • For long sections of hedges, bring the source of power to the center of the hedges and string lights to the left and right
  • Secure strings into the outer region of bushes, covering the top and 3/4 length down the sides
  • Leave 1′ clearance from the ground to ensure lights don’t sit in water or snow
Some things to remember to protect your trees:
  • Remove lights soon after holiday season. Don’t leave them in tres for years to come
  • For obvious reasons, we advise against putting glass ornaments, tinsel or other such decorations in outdoor trees
  • Don’t put paint or fake snow on your outdoor trees
  • If there is any kind of electrical problem, unplug the tree from outlet before attempting repairs. If the problem is serious, leave the tree unplugged. Nobody wants an outdoor electrical fire in a tree near their house

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all from the gang at Fox Tree!