Christmas light ideas for outdoor trees: 12 ways to add instant sparkle

Our favorite Christmas light ideas for outdoor trees will give your garden a magical makeover this festive season

Christmas light ideas for outdoor trees
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you love the idea of lighting up your yard, our Christmas light ideas for outdoor trees are the best way to give your space an instant makeover you’ll love. As dusk falls your garden will be transformed into a magical place filled with seasonal sparkle to set the scene for those all-important Christmas celebrations.

There's so much potential when it comes to dressing up outdoor trees with lights. From festoons and fairy lights to lanterns, icicles, candles and cascades there is something to suit every tree, no matter how big or small.

If you want a quick fix for your outdoor Christmas decor ideas, choose battery-operated designs. If you have several trees you want to decorate and like the idea of a full-on festive look, mains-powered lights are the best option. Solar-powered lights offer a more subtle glow.

Ice white lights look modern, while softer yellow-toned lights feel more traditional. Multi-coloured lights offer a full-on party approach, while candles and lanterns in trees look extra special for a fairytale feel.

So if you want to add some extra twinkle to your trees this year, you'll find plenty to inspire in our selection of standout ideas.

Add a festive touch with Christmas light ideas for outdoor trees  

To get you inspired for decorating your garden with lights, we've put together some of our favorite looks. These Christmas light ideas for outdoor trees will instantly transform your yard into a winter wonderland. 

1. Create the right mood

selection of lights for trees

Bring on the sparkle with a selection of Christmas lights from Dobbies

(Image credit: Dobbies)

Christmas is the one time of year when you can never have enough lights. Illuminate your yard with the best outdoor Christmas lights and you can create some super special sparkling effects that will transform night time into a winter wonderland. It’s the quickest way to create a magical glow. 

When it comes to the best Christmas light ideas for outdoor trees, the trick is to add light on lots of different levels and trees are great for giving you plenty of options. Wind fairy lights around tree trunks and through branches, dangle lanterns and candles, and place solar uplighters at ground level to illuminate them.

At this time of year, mains or battery-operated lights will give a brighter and more intense glow than solar lights. The combined effect will give your garden a sense of enchantment that's perfect for parties.

2. Add a welcoming twinkle

small topiary tree with christmas lights

Small trees in containers are transformed by the addition of these Warm White outdoor battery fairy lights from Lights4Fun

(Image credit: Lights4Fun)

Spread the sparkle with your outdoor Christmas lighting ideas and light up small clipped trees in a front porch. When lit up with the warm glow of weatherproof fairy lights these look super smart and will add an air of enchantment to welcome guests. 

Look for battery lights with a guaranteed long shine time, dark cables that blend in with greenery, and twinkle and flash setting options if you want to put on more of a show. It's also a nice idea to choose ones that come with a timer so they come on automatically at dusk.

3. Try magical lanterns

small lantern lights for decorating trees

(Image credit: Ella James)

Softly glowing warm white lanterns look magical floating in outdoor trees and switch up the fairytale factor in your garden if you want to set the scene for your next garden party. Make sure you choose a product with weatherproof material though so they can be safely left outside.

If you're looking for an eco-friendly option to illuminate trees or don't have an outdoor power source, opting for the best solar lights is your easiest option. Make sure you position the solar panel that comes with the lights in direct light to charge up and it will activate the lights at dusk. 

4. Wrap a tree trunk (or two!)

trees wrapped with christmas lights

These Icicle Lights in Gold Edition by Twinkly from Festive Lights are smartphone controlled and feature numerous color and effect options

(Image credit: Twinkly)

Choose a tree that's a real focal point in your garden for its elegant shape that will look good illuminated and dress up the trunk and branches with a wrap of magical twinkling lights. This idea even works if the tree is bare as there's more opportunity to show off the lights.

Large lit trees have real wow factor, but remember you'll need lots of lights for it to look effective. Small trees can look just as good. Just make sure you have enough lights before you start, whatever the size of your tree, and that they're all working before you set up the stepladder.

Begin wrapping the lights around the base of the tree trunk, moving upwards as you go. Make sure each wrap round is consistently spaced for a professional looking result. Finally secure the end with twine to finish things off neatly.

5. Try easy pre-lit trees

porch with christmas trees and wreath

Battery operated pre-lit Christmas trees and wreath from John Lewis & Partners

(Image credit: John Lewis)

If you're a fan of low maintenance garden ideas, this is the look for you. There's a lot to be said for the fuss-free option artificial outdoor Christmas trees give you. Faux trees are now so much more stylish and like the real thing. Opt for beautiful potted pre-lit trees that are pleasingly symmetrical for a neat look that requires no maintenance. And as long as you keep them for years to come it will prove to be a sustainable choice too. 

For a fabulous looking authentic tree, choose one with PE needle tips. These are a little more expensive but look much more realistic and create a bushier looking tree. Co-ordinate the look with matching Christmas wreath ideas for a chic look.

6. Add a set of pretty cascading lights

tree with christmas lights in garden

The easy option for a professional looking tree - indoor Outdoor Cascading tree lights from Cox & Cox

(Image credit: Cox & Cox)

If you have a favorite evergreen tree in your front garden and want a quick and easy way to give it a festive look, you can't beat a set of cascading fairy lights for instant impact with minimum fuss. 

Featuring multiple strands of LED lights, these designs simply attach to the top of the tree and then the lights cascade down the sides of the tree, creating a warm and welcoming glow in the process. 

7. Go multi-colored for a fun look

outdoor trees decorated in multicoloured fairy lights for Christmas

(Image credit: Lights4Fun)

Although cool or warm white are the more classic choices for outdoor Christmas lighting, there's no reason why you have to be restricted to these neutral tones for your garden colour scheme

If you want to make your tree display stand out from the crowd, why not mix and match the colors of your festive lights? Whether you opt for icy blues, a multi-colored option, or a combination of both as shown here, they're a brilliant way to up the fun factor in your festive display. 

8. Hang lights in trees

glass tea light lanterns hanging in tree

These lights add a fairytale touch to your garden at Christmas 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Add a sprinkling of magic to your patio lighting ideas with masses of hanging tree lights. It's quick to do and so lovely to look at, and that includes from inside the house. If you're planning a party it creates just the right atmosphere for welcoming friends and family to your backyard.

To get the look, use lots of solar bulbs or mini glass solar lamps, or alternatively try small glass jars with battery operated flameless tea lights. This is a look where more is better so string up as many as you can for maximum impact.

9. Double the wow

christmas garden lighting

Outdoor Garden Plug-in Bulb String Lights from KooPower.com

(Image credit: Koopower)

Why choose just one lighting style when you can double things up. For example, weave a string of lights around a branch to add iridescent sparkle then layer up the look by hanging a lit lantern or two.

Vintage-style metal Moroccan outdoor lamps introduce an exotic touch to any outdoor lighting ideas, with the intricate filigree designs casting enchanting patterns to add special ambience to any festive occasion. 

Try using flameless candles for an easy option. Hang ornaments like Christmas stars from branches too that will catch the light as they turn in the tree.

10. Wind festoon lights around branches

festoon lights in tree

(Image credit: Gardenesque)

If you like a cool and contemporary look try taking the vintage lighting trend outdoors with rows of simple filament style bulbs filled with warm white LEDs. Minimalist with their stripped back appearance, festoon light ideas add a touch of style to an outdoor space and are perfect for wrapping round branches.

This is a look that lasts. Wrap branches with lights discreetly and you can leave them in place for summer entertaining as soon as the weather gets warmer or for simply switching on whenever you feel the need to light your backyard with some magic.

Our guide to the best festoon lights has plenty of top buys and expert tips, or shop today's best deals below. 

11. Go for pretty details

starburst lights in tree

(Image credit: Sparkle Lighting)

Take your Christmas light ideas for outdoor trees up a level by adding pretty ornamental details in the same way you would decorate a Christmas tree indoors. There are some lovely new lighting designs around this year just begging to decorate a tree near you.

The latest festoons, fairy lights and garlands feature pretty starbursts, stars and moons, bees and flowers, pompoms and leaves. You can even get mistletoe, pine cones and robins to keep your garden decor ideas more seasonal.

12. Make a bold overhead statement

festoon lights in trees

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're lucky enough to have several trees in your garden it's time to go to town. Add a sprinkling of magic by weaving, looping and twisting iridescent fairy lights and festoons through the branches to create a dramatic display. It's a fast way to add a festive mood to your winter patio ideas.

To get the look, check out connectable lights. These are the best option if you're planning on covering several trees for your display so need longer lengths of lights. They couldn't be easier to use. Connecting your lights is simple. Make sure the pin and grooves at the end of each string are correctly aligned, push them together and twist to secure. Then you’re good to go. Happy festooning!

What's the best way to put Christmas lights on an outside tree?

First decide which tree you'll hang your lights on. If you're using mains power choose one that the cable for your lights will reach, and where the lights will be visible, ideally from the house too. Next measure your lights to check you have enough for the project you have in mind, and that they are in good working order. 

If you're using an extension cord, run it from your house to the tree. Wrap the cord around the base of the tree, a few inches off the ground, and tie in a simple knot. It needs to be suitable for outdoor use. If you're using solar or battery operated lights you can miss this step out.

Start looping your lights through the branches, spacing them evenly. You'll need a step ladder and preferably someone to hold it while you perch. This is handy as you can also get a second opinion to check your lights are going in the right direction. When you're done secure the end of your light strand with a simple knot or twist tie.

Switch on and stand back to admire your work, adjusting as you see fit.

Solar Edison light bulbs in garden

Solar Edison bulb LED string lights, Gardenesque 

(Image credit: Gardenesque)

How do you wrap lights on a large outdoor tree?

This is one of our favorite Christmas light ideas for outdoor trees. Here's how to get the best look for your scheme. 

  1. Start by deciding how many lights you'll need to wrap your tree. Measure the circumference of the trunk and any branches you plan to wrap with lights. Decide how far apart you plan to wrap the light strings.
  2. You can leave it to guess work or do the maths and accurately calculate the total string length you'll need. To do this divide the tree height by the spacing you want between wraps and multiply the total by circumference. 
  3. Plug in the lights to make sure they're working, then gather them into a ball shape to make installation easier as they'll be less twisting and untangling as you go. You'll also probably need a ladder and a second person to help out.
  4. You can create something lovely with just a few outdoor string lights wrapped approximately 6 inches apart. If you want a more full-on look keep each wrap closer together as you move up the tree. 
  5. Start passing the ball of lights around the trunk and branches. Keep the lights pulled tight to prevent the string slipping down.
  6. When you reach the end of the first string, plug in the next one and continue wrapping until you reach the desired height. Secure the end with a tie to fasten it. Then switch on for wow!

tree with christmas lights wrapped in trunk

(Image credit: Twinkly)

How can I make my Christmas light ideas for trees look more professional?

It's all in the planning when it comes to professional looking Christmas light ideas for outdoor trees. Before you put up the ladder and start hanging Christmas lights in your tree, you need a design in mind for your winter wonderland. 

Decide what type of lights you're going to use to decorate your outdoor trees and how you're going to secure them. It's important you have enough lights if it's going to look professional.

You want your lights to look good throughout the festive season. So make sure lights and extension leads are in good condition and there are no exposed wires or other safety hazards, and that they're all suitable for outdoor use. 

front yard decorated for Christmas with a range of festive lights

(Image credit: James Brey/Getty Images)

Try this trick for a professional looking finish to your outdoor tree lighting ideas. You will need three sets of lights for a large tree. Instead of wrapping lights around the tree in a maypole style, divide the tree into three imaginary 'triangle' shaped sections, going from top to bottom. Plug in the first set of lights, and secure the last bulb on the string at the top of the tree. Weave the tree lights back and forth across your first 'triangle', then repeat with sets two and three, continuing to weave each set of lights back and forth in a triangular design until your reach the bottom of the tree.

Alternatively go for the draped look with a cascade of lights to create a perfectly lit tree with ease. Simply position at the top of your tree and let the light strings fall, leaving a glowing trail in their wake. Reposition as necessary, then step back to enjoy the ethereal glow of your fairy tale Christmas look.

tree trunk and branches wrapped in warm white fairy lights

(Image credit: Lights4Fun)