Lighting Large Trees

Lighting Large Trees

Posted by Chris H. on 9th Apr 2014

landscape lighting large trees

Highly visible large trees such as live oaks often act as visual anchors for many landscape lighting designs. Properly illuminating enormous trees can be visually powerful and keep architectural objects in line with your overall lighting design.


  • Big trees (50’-70’) pose a great challenge when trying to illuminate the upper canopy and the inner structure.
  • Most trees are leafy and have dense canopies that make it hard for light rays to pass past the first few lower branches and light up the top leaves in such a way that the illumination can be seen from below.
  • Large trees with dense canopies demand multiple light fixtures (7-15 or more) to illuminate the tree both on the inside and the outside, which can be really expensive.
  • To highlight and display the intended features, big trees need brighter light sources for an evenly visible illumination.

Illuminating large trees follows a two-stage process that starts by first lighting the trunk then the branches and finally getting enough light to the outer leaves of the tree so that its shape and fullness can be seen clearly. A few groups of fixtures need to be placed at about 5-6’ from the tree’s base. The above fixtures will aid in illuminating the internal branching structure of the tree. Some instances may require that you remove some branches, so enough light is able to penetrate and display the main features of the tree. The next set of lights must be positioned on the outer surface (8-12’ beyond the outer drip line), to light up the outer leafy canopy.


  • Inner branching: the most appropriate lamps for illuminating the interior branches include 10w, PAR36 and 13w 60-degree lamps.
  • Outer canopy: the most suitable lamps for lighting up the annex canopy include PAR36, 10w and 13w 30-degree lamps. The 30-degree lamps is more suitable for outer canopies simply because it has a more powerful center beam than a 60-degree lamp.

Remember that big trees may vary in both size and shape. Each tree must be approached artistically, basing your judgment on its size and shape to determine the number of fixtures that each individual tree requires. The branching mechanism and the shape of the branches are also key feature that influence the number of fixtures to be used.