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Street and security lights

street lights
As the tree matures, it is likely to conflict with the light unless regular maintenance visits are made to reduce the canopy.
street lights
Planting small-sized trees avoids the maintenance issue.

Planting a tree that requires regular pruning to keep it away from a street or security light is a costly malpractice. If the tree management budget does not allow for training large trees away from or over lights, plant them at least 30 feet away to minimize interference with the light.

Large trees planted too close will require regular pruning to prevent foliage from blocking the light. Many people forget the option of moving a light so a tree can be planted or maintained in a particular spot without regular pruning.

Moving the light can often provide a permanent solution to a potential conflict between lights and trees. Follow the recommendations for the situation below that most closely matches your planting site.

Table for planting near street lights

Lights less than 15 feet away

  • Lights shorter than 20 feet
    - Train large-maturing trees that are planted close to a light so they grow over it, allowing the light to shine beneath the canopy. The people responsible for maintaining the tree after planting should be alerted of the early pruning needed to implement this plan. If not, the tree might be improperly pruned to keep it under the light. This creates recurring pruning costs and provides no shade to the area. Medium-sized trees might be poorly suited near low lights because they block the light. Branches may not grow high enough to train over the light. Very small trees (10 to 15 feet tall) might be suited if the canopies will not reach the light fixture. Trees with a narrow canopy are well suited for planting here provided they will not grow into the light.
  • Lights 20 to 40 feet tall
    - Large and medium-sized trees may not be suited for planting close to a fixture 20 to 40 feet tall because branches will grow into and block the light. Keeping the tree pruned away from the light will be a regular chore. Small trees are better suited for planting close to lights 20 to 40 feet tall.
  • Lights more than 40 feet tall
    - Small and medium-sized trees are well suited for planting near tall light fixtures. Their canopies will not grow into and block the light. Large-maturing trees can be planted if root space is limited, or there are other site conditions that will prevent trees from reaching their mature size.

Lights 15 to 30 feet away

Choose trees that are narrow enough so they will not grow into the light. If you would like to plant trees that will grow into lights, select those with an open canopy so light shines through. Trees such as callery pears and oaks with dense canopies are often pruned destructively near lights to provide adequate illumination and safety.