Twinkly Christmas lights are hands down our favorite part of the holiday season. From classic white to crazy and colorful, they make exteriors look festive and welcoming. Whether your approach is more Clark Griswold or Martha Stewart, they truly add something special to every home. But clients often ask us whether outdoor lights can damage live trees and shrubs. Here are some thoughts on getting the most out of holiday lights while protecting your landscape.
Are Christmas Tree Lights Dangerous for Trees?
As long as you’re using lights designed for outdoor use, Christmas tree lights are safe for evergreens and many hardwoods. Hardy, winter-loving plants can take weight, light and a little heat from light strands. And research has shown that the small amount of light put out by decorative or landscape lighting isn’t enough to hurt plants’ growth. But you’ll want to avoid too much bling on more delicate hardwoods, including some flowering trees. Christmas lights are also a no-no for young trees: they can damage buds or put too much weight on young limbs.
How Can I Make Sure My Outdoor Lights Are Safe?
There are a few simple steps you can take to make sure your outdoor lights don’t damage your trees and shrubs and avoid danger to your home and family:
- Make sure you’re using lights specifically designed for outdoor use. Outdoor lights are made to hold up in cold or wet conditions, while indoor lights can burn or damage your live trees.
- Make sure you’re also using weatherproof extension cords and lightboxes for safety.
- Make sure your light strands are in good condition and don’t have frayed wires or other fire hazards.
- Set timers so your outdoor lights are not on all day and all night.
- Don’t use a staple gun to hang lights–this can damage tree limbs and bark.
Are LED Christmas Lights a Good Choice for Outdoors?
Many experts are recommending switching to LED (Light Emitting Diode) Christmas lights rather than using traditional incandescent lights.
- LED lights cost more up front but are more energy-efficient and longer-lasting than traditional lights. They’ll also save money on your electric bill if you do lots of outdoor decorating.
- Generally, when you lose an LED bulb, you don’t lose half the string as with old-school lights.
- LED lights emit less heat and don’t get hot to the touch, so they present less of a fire hazard than traditional bulbs.
- LED lights are now available in warmer colors than the first generation which tended to have a bluish cast.
- Laser projection lights are another safe and easy way to illuminate the house and grounds with less work and no direct contact with plants or buildings.
What Are Some Tips for Installing Outdoor Christmas Lights?
If you’re putting up your own Christmas lights (especially if you like to go big), here are some tips that can help you do it safely and efficiently:
- Using tree clips makes installation easier and helps keep lights in place.
- Ring connectors let you run several strands from different directions and can help avoid the tedious task of wrapping a tree or shrub.
- Net lights are another excellent time-saver for evergreens.
- Use ladders safely and get help when you’re going for height.
Can I Leave My Christmas Lights on After the Holidays?
In love with your holiday lights and tempted to keep them up all year? Let’s reconsider that one. Outdoor Christmas lights are intended to be temporary. Cords and wiring may get damaged, even on sturdy exterior lights so go ahead and take down those seasonal lights (mid-January is just fine). But if you’re loving the way a little outdoor illumination looks, your landscape pros can help you with solid year-round outdoor lighting that’s designed to be permanent and safe.
Outdoor Lighting from Epling
At Epling Landscaping, year-round lighting for outdoor spaces is a specialty. We approach outdoor lighting with safety as a priority while also focusing on esthetics. We can help you light up pathways, entrances, stairs and outdoor living spaces and create a warm, welcoming atmosphere, even on chilly winter evenings. It’s a great way to keep that merry and bright feeling without pushing the post-holiday limits.