How To Light Trees, Palms and Large Shrubs In The Landscape

Summary: Lighting trees, palms and shrubs in the landscape can dramatically change the look of a home when the landscape lights come on and show the night garden in a whole new light…

Question: We would like to use landscape lighting in the garden for lighting trees, some palms and large shrubs. Do you have any tips or things we should be aware of. One of the outdoor lighting perspectives I’ve seen is uplighting and downlighting used with some wild results! Annette, Metairie, LA

Answer: Annette, palms, a tree, artificial palm tree, large flowering shrub, tree trunk, tree branch or evergreen often makes a natural focal point or center of attraction for many garden scenes during the day. Plants of this type often have many interesting points to be viewed, so they must be lighted from different directions to present an interesting lighting pattern and to be adequately illuminated or highlighted.

lighting-palms-550

Mood lamps or spotlight in bullet-type lamp light fixtures are the basic outdoor tree lighting units required for this portion of your garden lighting. Solar garden lighting used in pathway lighting will not do the job. But adding rope light to the trunk on a palm tree in a common decorating feature for holiday tree lighting around shopping centers.

How many to use, and where best to locate and position them depends on the size and shape of your shrub or tree, and also on the effect you want to create. Generally speaking, locate a light in each of the following four basic positions.

Lighting To Emphasize Trunk Texture and Shape

Spiked into the ground near the trunk of the tree and aiming almost straight up into the branches. This light emphasizes the texture and shape of the trunk, and “points out” the low hanging branches and fronds, creating the effect of a canopy of light overhead. It lends a sharp dramatic accent, and works best with trees that are lacy and fairly open in their structure, but use it sparingly to avoid a harsh, glaring effect.

Lighting To Emphasize Tree or Shrub Shape

Placed into the ground several feet away from the trunk of the tree and aimed up into the branches at an angle of 30 to 45 degrees. This lighting usually emphasizes the shape of the tree or shrub, lending an exotic air to those with an interesting form. It is not as brilliant or striking to the eye as the first type of light, but can be used more freely and is particularly effective with large trees that have gnarled, twisted-looking branches and limbs. It is also the most useful type, and more frequently used, of all-round tree and shrub lighting. Place the fixture so that it is between the tree and your normal viewing position and so the light is being aimed away from your eyes.

landscape-lighting-ficus

Lighting To Emphasize Higher Branches and Leaves

Fastened up among the branches of large open trees. Direct this light upward from a low branch or fork in the tree to light up the branches and leaves above it, or to accent the texture and shape of branches too high to be treated effectively with ground lights.

Where a large tree is to be viewed from one side only, direct the light downward at a slight angle away from the normal point of view to light up the outermost branches and to create the effect of a canopy of light overhead. But use this lighting cautiously to avoid annoying glare.

Lighting To Emphasize Over All Tree or Shrub Shape

Fastened as high as possible to a near-by building or structure or even to another tree. This side lighting models the over-all shape and foliage of the denser trees and shrubs most effectively. Place the sources of lights close to the house so that the lights will not be shining into your eyes. It is often difficult to install this lighting on the average home grounds due to the danger of producing glare in your neighbor’s house or in the eyes of those approaching your own house.

Other Topics You May Like