Is It Safe to Hang Christmas Lights On Palm Trees?
People often hang Christmas lights from palm trees, but whether it's safe depends on several factors. Here's some advice from an expert.
When I first came to California, the palm trees were the clearest sign to a Midwesterner like myself that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
The giant palm fronds that appeared as I drove through Marin County on my way to the Golden Gate Bridge spoke of abundant sunshine and snowless winter days. I found them even more striking than the coastal redwoods, or the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean stretching to the horizon.
Californians may have relatively mild winters, but they like Christmas as much as anyone. Decorations adorn houses, shrubs, walkways and, yes, palm trees during the holiday season. Palms provide some of the most striking backdrops for colored fairy lights. Some palms in touristy coastal villages like Capitola, close to where I live, remain decorated year-round.
No palm trees grow on my property, and I’ve never decorated one for anyone else. So for this story, I sought the expertise of Dara Greaney, CEO and founder of LEDLightExpert.com, for tips on doing it right.
On This Page
Is It Safe To Put Christmas Lights on Palm Trees?
“Yes, if done properly,” says Greaney. “Trees should be mature palms, probably at least eight inches in diameter. You need them to be stable and not at risk of blowing around too much.”
Greaney prefers choosing an existing post adjacent to the palm, extending a wire between the palm and the post and hanging the lights from the wire. If there isn’t a post, install one.
Of course, you could also wrap the lights around the trunk of the palm, as many people here in Santa Cruz County do. In that case, you’ll probably need a ladder to reach the higher parts of the trunk. And yes, the tree probably can support you.
“Mature trees that exceed 10 inches in diameter are OK,” Greaney says. “They can handle the weight. For anything lower, don’t rest against the trees, just set up the ladder next to it.”
Anytime you install outdoor Christmas lights, you must avoid loose or exposed connections that could spark and start a fire. Always plug the lights into an exterior GFCI outlet to ensure power will be cut if anything like that happens.
Why Not To Put Christmas Lights on Palm Trees
Putting Christmas lights on a palm tree can have some unintended visual consequences. To get an idea of what you probably shouldn’t do, Google “lights on a palm tree.” Imagine if you turned a replica of the Blue Origin rocket into a fountain, and you get the idea.
Before you begin your project, carefully note the shape of the trunk and visualize what it will look like if you highlight it with LED lights. In some cases, less is definitely more.
Another potential issue: Activity on the ground disturbing the electrical cord and pulling the lights off the tree. It’s safer to decorate a palm that’s growing in a well-defined enclosure or on the edge of a property than one in the middle of a well-traveled area. If you don’t have a choice, be sure to route power cords well away from trafficked areas.
It’s also not a good idea to hang heavy lights on the palm fronds. Some string lights weigh enough to make the fronds droop. In a high wind, they could snap off and fall. LED Christmas lights shouldn’t cause this problem if the fronds are mature enough to support them.
How Do You Put Christmas Lights on a Palm Tree?
You’ll find controversy online regarding the damage you can do to a palm tree by driving staples or hangers into its trunk. Arborists tend to agree it isn’t a good idea. Greaney sides with arborists.
“Nothing should go into the tree, ever,” Greaney says. “You risk damaging or even killing it. It’s not needed. Just wrap them up and secure over a branch higher up.”
Palm fronds grow only from the top of the trunk. As the trunk grows, they fall off. Depending on the species, sometimes this leaves triangular tabs that can hold string lights securely. If the trunk is smooth, consider securing strings with bungees or another method that doesn’t penetrate the trunk.
To secure string lights to palm fronds, go with twist or cable ties. Just make sure the lights are secure enough to stay put in high winds.
Palm Tree Lighting Alternatives
If you’re queasy about hanging Christmas lights on your palm trees, consider hanging them on surrounding shrubbery, and/or illuminating the palm trunks and fronds with floodlights. This can create an even more atmospheric effect, especially if you use colored floodlights, or ones that change colors at regular intervals.
If you choose solar-powered floodlights, you won’t have to worry about extension cords or extra power consumption.
If you like sparkling things, try wrapping tinsel or garlands around the trunk and hanging them from the fronds to reflect the light from the floodlights.