Safely attaching fixtures and cable to trees

Safely attaching fixtures and cable to trees

by Mike Gambino

Attaching wiring to trees is not harmful to the tree if common sense and a few important guidelines are followed.

First we need to know how trees grow. Contrary to popular belief, if a fixture is placed at a 20 ft level in the tree, it will remain at that 20 ft. level forever unless someone physically moves it.

Fixtures attached to the tree do not move with the growth of the tree.

Trees as they grow widen in girth (width of trunk and branches) and from their tips.

Now that we understand how trees grow we will discuss what to do and what not to do when attaching cable to trees.

Proper practices

Use stainless steel hardware– This is what professional arborists and tree care specialists use when cabling or supporting a tree as it is harmless to the tree and will not rust or deteriorate. Hardware with threads are best as it won’t be pushed out of the tree with growth.

Mounting hardware should be attached in such a way to allow cable to move away from tree as it grows.

Install cable so it is never directly resting on the surface of the trunk or branches with no chance of movement.

It’s not a bad idea to leave a small loop of slack wire buried at base of tree to allow for adjustments as the tree grows.

Use the minimum amount of mounting hardware possible to effectively attach equipment to the tree and make it easy to adjust later as needed.

This Gambino brand tree mount downlight is connected to the tree with a single point stainless steel standoff which isolates the fixture and is safe for the tree and allows for growth and easy future adjustments

Improper Practices

Never wrap cable or wire around the tree. As it grows it will damage cambium layer of tree which could result in decline or death of tree and damage to cable. If the growth of tree doesn’t break the cable the tree will grow over the cable and become embedded (see below).

Never nail or screw brass or copper hardware into trunk or branches as it is poisonous to the tree.

Never use staples or other mounts that press the cable directly against the trunk or branches. As tree grows it will grow over the cable literally embedding it into the tree (see below).

The practice of Leaving a large coil of wire buried at the base of the tree is not necessary and is a waste of resources.


Vigorously growing and immature species should be checked every 6 months or sooner depending upon species.

Mounts need to be loosened and adjusted on a normally scheduled basis along with service of lighting system.

This photo of a Gambino tree attachment was taken 3 years after initial installations. This method gives the tree room and time to grow before requiring adjustment.

What can happen with improper mounting or a lack of maintenance

This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 20 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .

Blog articles may be published with permission on other websites without editing or removing links.

  • Eddie Sharer
    Posted at 13:42h, 04 December Reply

    Great info !! Thanks a lot. New into lighting and this method appears to be the best way to do it !!

  • Jared
    Posted at 00:56h, 31 January Reply

    Hi Mike,

    Any recommendations on what kind of conduit to use to wrap electrical wires used in trees? Ideally something very flexible and not too wide a gauge.

    Any suggestions are appreciated.


    • Mike Gambino
      Posted at 01:48h, 31 January Reply

      Hello Jared,

      You never want to wrap wire around branches or trunks of trees. As for the best conduit method either flexible copper pipe with a gauge just slightly larger than your wire so it will fit inside or 1/2″ grey flexible conduit for a less expensive but effective solution. Thanks for the inquiry.


  • Ed Scritchfield
    Posted at 00:51h, 05 June Reply

    Your care for trees shows. Thank You

  • Tim
    Posted at 12:55h, 14 October Reply

    Hello Mike,

    Thank you for your blog on tree lighting. It answered a lot of my questions.

    Do you have a recommendation on brand of mounting cable tie? I have seen a lot online but it challenging finding the best quality.

    I have also been trying to find a better mount for the trees. Do you have any recommendations?

  • Mike Gambino
    Posted at 07:27h, 15 October Reply

    Hello Tim. We use Gardner Bender (GB) mounting cable ties. A short while back they were having quality issues as the tie would snap while tightening but they seem to have worked that out. They will not last forever and will need to be replaced overtime.
    The photo of the mount you sent to my email is not a tree mount but is a surface mount to be used on non growing hosts only. We use a single 4″ long stainless steel standoff that keeps the mount separate from the tree that can be adjusted as tree grows over time. You can see it in photo #2 in this blog article. We find this to be the most effective way to mount the fixture with the least impact on the tree.

  • Tim
    Posted at 09:22h, 15 October Reply

    Thank you for the information Mike. Where can I find the standoff mount hardware?

  • Mike Gambino
    Posted at 09:30h, 15 October Reply

    Tim, the standoff has machine screw threads on the top 1/4 of the hardware ( I get them 3 and 4″ long overall depending upon size of branch/trunk they are being used on) that attaches to the fixture mount with a locking nut and the balance has wood screw threads that go into the tree. It’s a part that is found in the furniture building industry . Make sure that you get it in stainless steel which is a bit challenging to find. Try a good hardware store ( I don’t know of a big box that has it in stainless steel) or online.

Post A Comment