Installing Christmas Lights on Your Outdoor Trees

Christmas light on a tree outside
Excited to turn your yard into a winter wonderland this year, but don’t know where to start? We all enjoy hanging stockings around the house and decorating the Christmas tree in our living rooms. But the fun doesn’t have to stop inside the home! Get your holiday light show started with this guide to safely hanging Christmas lights on your outdoor trees.

What You Need to Hang Christmas Lights on an Outdoor Tree

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • String lights
  • Extension cords
  • Sturdy ladder
  • Measuring tape or yardstick
  • Sharpie-type pen

Choose the Tree You’ll Hang Lights On

Before measuring out your lights, decide which tree you’ll hang your lights on. In general, trees with more textured bark will hold the lights most easily.

You also want to choose a tree that 1) your extension cords will reach, and that 2) will be visible to passersby. Note which side of the tree faces the road so you can arrange the display such that the less-sightly ends of cords hang on the back of the tree.

Hanging Lights on Trees with Exposed Trunks

Trees like oaks, maples and beeches won’t have leaves left during the winter, so your lights will be more visible. Once you decide on a bulb size (mini, C7 or C8), you’ll need to measure the string lights you want to hang on your outdoor tree. This is a good time to test the lights to make sure all the bulbs work!

Measure the height of the tree with your yardstick or measuring tape. Then measure the circumference of the trunk. Don’t forget a separate set of measurements for any branches you’d like to decorate as well.

The easy rule of thumb is (height / separation) x circumference. For example, if we were hanging lights three inches apart on a four-foot-high trunk with a two-foot circumference, our measurements would be (4’ / 3”) x 2’ = 16 x 2 = 32’ of lighting. Perform the same calculations for each branch you’d like to include.

Note: To complete the calculation, make sure to convert any measurements that are in feet to inches for an all-inches result, and then divide that result by 12 for the number of feet you need in lights. Like so: 48 inches (4' truck height) / 3 inches (separation) = 16 inches x 24 inches (2' tree circumference) = 384 inches, which converts to 32-feet of lighting.

Hanging Lights on Evergreen Trees

Evergreen trees will still have greenery during the winter and will require longer light strings with bigger bulbs. Mr. Handyman recommends 6-inch bulb spacing. Consider hanging larger bulbs such as C7s or C8s on evergreen trees.

Hanging Lights on Large Outdoor Trees

Decorating a large outdoor tree will require a little extra planning.

  • Decorate outside branches, as inside branches may not be as visible.
  • Set up more than one ladder in case one falls.
  • Ask a friend or family member to steady the ladder you’re on.

Hanging Lights on Your Outside Tree

Once you’ve chosen your tree and measured out your lights, it’s time to start hanging lights on your outside tree! There’s no need to use damaging nails or staples here – the bark should hold the strands just fine. You can use zip ties for areas that need extra security.


  1. Set up your ladder. Always make sure you can climb down easily.
  2. Mark your tree. Using the yardstick or measuring tape and your Sharpie, make a mark about every three inches up the length of the trunk. You’ll use this as a guide when you’re hanging your lights.
  3. Attach your power source. Run the extension cord from your house to the tree. Wrap the cord around the base of the tree a couple times and tie it in a simple knot so that there’s no risk of unplugging if anything disturbs the cord. Start about one-inch up to keep your wires out of water or snowdrifts.
  4. Start wrapping the light strand. Wrap your lights firmly enough to stay on the tree bark, but not as tightly as possible – if your tree swells after a heavy rain, it will need room to expand without damaging your lights.
  5. Plan spacing for branches. If you would like to wrap multiple branches with the same string of lights, space your wraps twice as far apart going up so that you can wrap in the middle as you descend.
  6. Secure the end of your light strand with a simple knot or twist tie.
  7. Plug your lights in and admire!

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your outside tree lights! You can create beautiful multicolored trees by using several light strands in different colors. To avoid mixing up your colors, color-code the strands by attaching a piece of colored tape.

Christmas Light Hanging Services

All Tangled Up? No need to add to your holiday stress! Mr. Handyman’s holiday light hanging services can do all the work for you. Contact your local Mr. Handyman us today or request service online.