Outdoor Down Lighting – Information On Down Lighting Trees

Lawn At Night With A Light Shining Through A Lawn Chair
(Image credit: Siedentop)

There are a number of options for outdoor lighting. One such option is down lighting. Think of how moonlight illuminates the trees and other features of your garden with its cool, soft light. Outdoor down lighting does the same and it’s a quick, relatively inexpensive way to turn a run of the mill backyard into something magical and mysterious. Read on to learn how to use down lighting in landscapes.

What is Down Lighting?

Down lighting is simply lighting up your garden with lamps that are angled down, not up. When you place lamps above an object instead of below it, the result imitates natural light. This is especially true when the light fixture is concealed in a tree or underneath some element of hardscaping. All a garden visitor sees is the warm glow without being able to determine where it comes from. This is especially beautiful when down lighting trees.

Down Lighting vs. Uplighting

Most gardeners thinking about outdoor lighting weigh down lighting vs. uplighting. Each type of lighting gets its name from the direction the light is angled.

  • If the light is placed above the element to be illuminated, it is down lighting.
  • When the light is below the focus element, it is uplighting.

Many homes employ both outdoor lighting methods in the landscape, and both have their place.

Using Down Lighting in Landscapes

Outdoor down lighting works well to bring night-time attention to shorter bushes, flower beds, and attractive groundcover. Used beneath seating walls and benches, outdoor down lighting lights up the hardscaping element but also illuminates nearby walkways. This kind of outdoor down lighting makes nighttime garden use safer and more secure. Downlighting on steps prevents falls by making them easier to see at night. If your house has a large outdoor living area in the backyard, your best way of illuminating it is from above. Remember that the higher up you place a lamp, the larger the circle of light it sheds. You can create circles of any size by varying the height of the lamp.

Down Lighting Trees in the Landscape

If you place a light in a tree and angle the lamp down, it illuminates the ground below rather like moonlight. The branches and leaves of the tree create moving shadows on the patio or lawn. In fact, down lighting trees by placing lights high in their branches is also known as moonlighting.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.