Protect your trees from damage with these expert tips on how to hang your holiday twinkle lights.
By Sarah F. Ehrhardt
Twinkling lights brighten spirits through a long winter’s eve, but if you’re not careful, they can also cause havoc on the health of your yard. To help your plantings weather the season in good health, follow these simple rules from our landscaping expert.
Holiday Decorating Tips for your Winter Wonderland
1. For deciduous trees—the kind that lose leaves in winter—wrap light strands fairly snugly around the branches, and keep the strands back from the branch ends. Wires flapping in the wind can rub against plant tissue and cause damage, and slim branch tips easily snap under the additional weight.
2. Secure lighting strands with electrical tape or stretch ties. Don’t use zip ties, metal twist ties or even plastic-coated wire, all of which dig into tender plant tissue.
3. Remember, cold plants tend to be brittle. If you’re decorating in the cold, take your time to avoid snapping branches. You’ll have not just a great display, but also healthy, undamaged plants.
4. If you like the retro look of colored lights with large bulbs, consider switching to the newer LED lights. They burn cooler than incandescent ones, so there’s less risk of heat damage. While they cost more up front, they last longer and use far less electricity, so you won’t overload your home’s system.
5. Use lights, connectors and extension cords made specifically for outdoor use. Don’t risk a fire.
6. Remove lights from shrubs soon after the holidays. Both deciduous and evergreen shrubs put out lots of twiggy growth. Twigs can twine through and tangle in the wires and break off roughly when lights are finally removed. Plus, you risk ruining your hedge trimmer if you try to prune around the lights!
7. It can be tempting to leave lights on trees, particularly tall ones. But haul out that ladder anyway. Lights snug around a trunk or branch can start to dig into plant tissue when new growth begins in spring. You might be able to leave lights on mature trees through two holiday seasons, but young trees grow rapidly. Make sure you remove their lights soon after the holidays to avoid girdling, which cuts off the flow of nutrients and water.
About the expert: Sarah F. Ehrhardt holds a bachelor’s degree in horticulture and has 21 years of experience in landscape design. She still loves to turn the soil and watch plants grow.