Are you stumped when it comes to how to artfully drape Christmas lights on a tree? These easy-to-follow tips will show you how to light your Christmas tree, whether it is real or artificial. We'll help you create your best holiday tree yet, effortlessly and beautifully.

By BH&G Holiday Editors
August 14, 2015

This handy guide will teach you how to hang lights on your Christmas tree. Get our tested tips on how to light artificial Christmas trees and how many you need to decorate your tree. Plus, we'll show you how to put lights on your tree for any style of Christmas decor. From subdued and simple to merry and bright, these Christmas tree lighting tips will help you impress your holiday guests.

How to Hang Lights on a Fresh-Cut Christmas Tree

When hanging Christmas tree lights on a fresh tree, you should plan on using three 100-light sets for every foot of your tree's height. Lighting a tree requires patience and our simple steps:

  1. Instead of wrapping the lights around the tree in a maypole style, mentally divide the tree into three triangular sections, from top to bottom, around the tree's cone.
  2. Plug in the first string of lights, and nestle the last bulb on the string at the top of the tree next to the trunk. Weave the tree lights back and forth across the triangle, being careful not to cross the cord over itself. When you reach the end of the first string, plug in the next set and continue weaving the lights back and forth until you reach the bottom, connecting no more than 300 Christmas lights end to end. Repeat this procedure for the remaining triangles.
  3. Step back from the tree and look at it with your eyes crossed, or squint until the tree is blurry. Wherever you see dark holes on the tree, rearrange the lights as necessary to fill in. To remove the lights without tangling them, work in reverse.

Create the Prettiest Christmas Tree

Reasons to Opt for an Artificial Christmas Tree

There is good debate over real versus artificial Christmas trees. While some people find the piney, wintry scent of the branches puts them right in the holiday spirit, others find the real evergreens can create a mess. The fullness of a fresh cut tree is hard to replicate in an artificial tree, but one could complain about the regular waterings. The case of allergies prevent you from having a live tree, so if these reasons, or others get in your way, perhaps choosing an artificial Christmas tree for your holiday decorating is in the cards for your household. Creating a magical glow of lights on an artificial tree isn't difficult, but it demands patience.

How to Choose an Artificial Christmas Tree

How to Hang Tree Lights on an Artificial Tree

Many artificial Christmas trees come in sections that open like umbrellas. If you use miniature tree lights, you can wrap them around the branches and leave them on permanently—just be sure to light each section separately! We recommend using 50-light strands because they are easier to work with as your wrap the tree branches. Bonus: 50-light strands are less likely to burn out or have electrical problems.

Below are three different ways to hang lights on your artificial Christmas tree.

Related: Learn how to decorate a Christmas tree

For Subdued Lighting

  • Use about 12 boxes of 50-light strands for a 6-foot tree and about 20 boxes for an 8-foot tree.
  • Begin at the bottom of the tree close to the trunk. Allowing some slack or leader cord in the first strand of lights, separate the cord near the first bulb so it forms a loop. Slip the loop over one of the branchlets or greens near the trunk, and wrap the cord a few times around the green to secure it.
  • Pull the string of Christmas lights taut to the tip of the branch, then work back toward the trunk, wrapping the cord over itself and the branch.
  • Separate the cord again when you reach the trunk, and slip the cord over a branchlet to secure it. Carry the cord over to the next branch, wrap it around a green near the trunk, and pull it out to the tip. Wrap the cord over itself and the branch as before.
  • Continue wrapping branches in this manner until you come to the end of the string. Plug in the next set, and keep going until you reach the point where the tree comes apart. Work any extra lights back along the branch rather than crossing the section. When you wrap the top section of the Christmas tree, don't wrap the lights around as many branches so the tree will look evenly lit from top to bottom.

For Moderate Lighting

  • Use 20 boxes of 50-light strands for a 6-foot Christmas tree and 30 boxes for an 8-foot tree.
  • Follow the same procedure as for subdued lighting, but wrap the cord around some of the greens along the branch as you work back toward the trunk.

For Showcase Lighting

  • Use 40 boxes of 50-light strands for a 6-foot tree and 80 boxes for an 8-foot tree.
  • Wrap the cord around every green as you work back along the branch.

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How to Hang Christmas Tree Lights Outdoors

When you're looking to add a bit of seasonal cheer to the trees or shrubs in your front yard, follow these guidelines for lighting outdoor areas.

  • If you use floodlights to show off outdoor evergreens, use white, blue, or green lamps. Red, yellow, amber, and pink lamps will make the trees look a muddy brown.
  • Don't try to hang strings of Christmas lights from the eaves with cup hooks—in a strong wind, the wires may swing loose. Instead, use plastic gutter clips that hook onto the gutter and hold the wire tightly in place. Look for packages of gutter clips in crafts stores and hardware stores near the tree lights and supplies.
  • Be sure you have outdoor electrical sockets to plug into when you use outdoor Christmas lights. Don't worry about hiding the electrical cords—just keep them organized neatly, and no one will notice them.

Tips and Considerations to Safely Hang Tree Lights

  • Christmas tree lights can either be end-to-end—aka string-to-string—or stacked. Before buying your tree lights, check the boxes to make sure they're all compatible. By using stacked plugs, you can join more strands than you can with end-to-end plugs.
  • To maximize safety, never plug more than two extension cords together. Instead, buy them in the lengths you need, and make sure they can handle the wattage of the bulbs.
  • The wattages of all the lights you use should be the same. This prevents power surges while prolonging the life of the bulbs.
  • Plug in the lights before you remove them from the box so you can see if they work before you put them on the tree.
  • Consider using miniature clear (white) lights for your base lighting, then add strands of the new cool-burning large bulbs for color and variety. Alternatively, add sets of novelty lights, such as flicker-flames, flashing lights, bubble lights, or other shapes.

Related: Try these no-fail hacks for hanging lights on your tree.

Comments (7)

December 3, 2018
When ever I have a tree that has gaps in the foliage I put artificial greenery from the craft store into the gap to fill it in. Makes the tree look nice and balanced.
December 4, 2018
Awesome idea. Thank you.
November 24, 2018
I used to place white lights then connect them to an adapter outlet that had a switch in the middle. Then, I hung the colored lights and connected them to the adapter (the other outlet on it). A flick of the switch, my tree went from all white lights to all colored lights. Everyone at my parties (and my children when they were young) loved it! Gave a totally different look to the tree and the lighting in the room. And my talented (Rest in Peace, Ma) Mom told me to always place lights near the trunk and 'inner' sections of the tree (for depth). I still use strings of pearls and beads and carefully look for branches that will allow them to drape down from one of the branches to another. Always the most beautiful trees I've ever seen!
November 24, 2018
80 boxes of lights for one tree? Typo? what kind of home wiring can power 4,000 bulbs? And who would spend $800 on lights?
November 27, 2018
80 boxes of 50-light strings IS 4000 lights. This seems a bit excessive to me too!
November 27, 2018
Actually they are saying to use 50 bulb strands so that would only be 400 for an 8' tree. That is normal I believe...
November 24, 2018
I agree!