Find The Perfect Number Of Lights For Any Christmas Tree

Small illuminated electrical white holiday light bulbs.

The first step to decorating a Christmas tree of any size is adding festive lights. But, where do you start? How many lights do you need for a 5 foot, 6 foot, or 10 foot tree? Can you have too few or too many lights? Don’t fret. There really is no way to get this wrong. You can add as many or as few lights as you like. However, there are some general rules of thumb if you don’t know where to begin.  

Before you get started consider the following:

  • What is the height of your tree? 
  • What style is your tree?  Is it a pencil, slim, or regular width? Pencil and slim trees will have less room for lights than a regular full width tree.
  • Do you want a completely lit from within glowing tree or a softer look?
  • What color lights do you prefer?
  • What style lights do you prefer? Large bulbs, small bulbs, LED, incandescent, holiday shapes, fairy, etc.

Once you have your answers to the above, it’s time to get started!  After countless hours scouring the internet (scroll down for what the ‘experts’ say), a good ballpark to consider is one strand or string of lights for each foot of tree height. For example, if you have a 6 foot tree you need 6 strands of lights.  Avoid the headache and long calculations for the perfect number of lights. This method is simple and easy!  

Chart with Christmas trees and lights
  • 3 foot tree: 3 strands of lights
  • 4 foot tree: 4 strands of lights
  • 5 foot tree: 5 strands of lights
  • 6 foot tree: 6 strands of lights
  • 7 foot tree: 7 strands of lights
  • 8 foot tree: 8 strands of lights
  • 9 foot tree: 9 strands of lights
  • 10 foot tree: 10 strands of lights
  • 12 foot tree: 12 strands of lights

Lights are generally sold with 100, 150 or 200 lights per strand. Make sure to check the package before purchase. Strands with 100 lights will give off a soft relaxed holiday mood.  Strands with 200 lights are real show stoppers and make the entire tree shine from within. Strands with 150 are the most popular as they fall somewhere in the middle of relaxed and showstopping. It all depends on the look and mood you are trying to achieve. 

What the ‘experts’ say

There are lots of opinions on this topic.  Here are what some holiday ‘experts’ recommend:

  • Lowe’s: 100 lights for every 1.5 feet of tree
  • Home Depot: 100 mini lights or 50 C7 lights per vertical foot for thick trees and half for thin styles 
  • Real Simple: One strand per vertical foot (this is what I also recommend!)
  • Better Homes and Gardens: Prefers light strands with 100 lights. They give three options- the middle option is similar to my personal recommendation of 1 strand per vertical foot of tree height. The minimal option is 1 stand for every 2 feet of vertical tree height (3 strands for a 6 foot tree). The final option they offer is for those who really can’t get enough lights- 2 strands per vertical foot of tree (12 stands for a 6 foot tree). That escalated very quickly!

Pro tip: Keep a replacement plan in mind for any broken lights.  It’s always a good idea to buy one extra strand for the year when one gets broken, damaged or too old to work anymore.  Retailers and manufacturers don’t make the same light sets each year, so grabbing a new strand may not be so easy in future years.  This is particularly important for any lights with unique shapes or trendy colors, sizes etc.  

Safety tips for trees with lights

  • Always unplug your tree before leaving the house or going to bed.
  • Check the light packaging (and tree packaging for artificial trees) and be sure to follow all safety instructions for the number of strands that can be connected together.  
  • Consider LED lights when possible.  LED lights put off much less heat than incandescent bulbs and reduce the risk of fire.  Although more expensive, they are more energy efficient and will last longer than their incandescent counterparts.  
  • Make sure to secure your tree and electrical cords if you have curious pets or children in the home. No one wants their tree to fall on them or a loved one.  Or worse, a live reenactment in your own living room of the Christmas tree fire from the movie Christmas Vacation.  
  • Make sure to discuss electrical safety with young children and discourage them from playing with any cords.  A great way to keep the kids involved and safe is to consider adding an extension cord with a foot switch/button.  My three-year-old loves turning on the tree lights each morning and the button keeps him in the action, but far away from the actual electrical outlet.  
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