How to Make a Willow Lantern

Here’s how to make a willow lantern that you can use for decor or even as an outdoor light. Willow is one of my favorite plants because it’s so versatile, and when you cut it down, the branches are flexible enough to bend into interesting shapes without breaking. I’ve seen lots of different designs for willow projects, but this idea is pretty simple and easy!

How to Make a Willow Lantern

It doesn’t require any fancy tools or materials either – just some string lights, wire clippers (or scissors), pliers/wire cutters if needed, and about two hours’ time. So let’s get started!

Why Is a Lantern Important

A lantern is a holiday decoration that can serve a practical purpose. Since willow branches are very flexible, they make it easy to add string lights to the exterior of the lantern. Then you have a warm, ambient light for your party or event.

You can also use these instructions to create an outdoor light by incorporating a solar-powered garden light instead of string lights. Instead of buying a new solar light, you can use an old one that doesn’t work anymore and put it inside your lantern for a unique look!

What You’ll Need:

  • Willow branches
  • String lights (preferably LED)
  • Wire clippers (or scissors)
  • Pliers or wire cutters Tape  (optional)

Preparing Your Willow Branches

To make your willow lantern, you need enough willow branches to make a sphere. Depending on the size of the sphere you want to make, you’ll need about six or seven branches. Cut off any leaves or smaller twigs with wire clippers (or scissors). Then remove the thorns by scraping the willow branches against each other.

To bend the willow branches, all you have to do is pull them in opposite directions until they break in half. After breaking off about six or seven branches, you should be able to shape your sphere pretty easily.

Methods on How to Make a Willow Lantern:

1. Bend Them Into a Sphere: 

The reason for this is that it’s the simplest way to make a willow lantern, and you don’t have to worry about any tricky angles. If you’re making an outdoor light or plan on using string lights that are much shorter than the branches, I recommend creating a sphere with your willow branches.

2. Form Your Sphere On the Floor:

This method is for people who want to make their willow lanterns in a certain shape because it involves measuring the branches against each other. To keep the shape you create, bend the branches down and secure them to the floor using masking tape or anything that has a bit of stickiness to it. I highly recommend cleaning your floor before doing this because bits of willow wax can be hard to remove later.

Willow Lanterns in a Certain Shape

3. Make a Lantern With an Exterior Support Branch:

  Once you have enough willow branches for your exterior, cut them all at once before making your sphere. First, cut your branches off evenly to about the same length, then taper them out slightly at the end. The extra length will act as a support branch, so you won’t have to worry about making it too thick anywhere else on your lantern. 

4. Make an Outdoor Light Using String Lights:

You can create an outdoor light without buying any lights at all. You need an old solar light! When the sun goes down, your solar light will turn on automatically. You can either leave it in its original case or put it inside a lantern (wrap string lights around the exterior of the lantern if using LED bulbs). If you’re using an old solar light that’s been sitting in the garage for a couple of years, be sure to test it first.

Take It Slow and Test Your Lights

You can use a spare piece of willow branch to make a quick shape, or you can take your time with these branches. When putting together a sphere shape for outdoor light, I recommend testing each branch before securing it. Willow branches are very fragile, so they break easily. You can get away with bending a few of them the wrong way before cutting that one off and replacing it with another willow branch.

In case you’re wondering what to do with your old solar garden lights, you can always recycle them! They’re made from PVC plastic, which is recyclable.

Willow Lanterns Are Great for Any Season!

These willow lanterns can be decorated to suit different seasons or occasions. For example, you can use string lights that are more festive, like Christmas lights, for the winter holidays. And you can use LED string lights if you want an outdoor light without any cords directly across from your door. Try using white or blue solar lights if you want to make a willow lantern for peaceful nighttime meditation.

Decorated to Suit Different Seasons

Here are some examples of different willow lanterns I’ve made in the past:

  • Colored Solar Lights + Glow Sticks (Green Lantern)
  • String Lights (Red Lantern)
  • LED String Lights (Blue Lantern)   
  • Solar Lights + LED String Lights (LED Lantern)

Tips and Warnings:


-Be gentle with the branches when making your lantern. They’re very fragile!

-You can use willow wax instead of string lights for outdoor light, but make sure you keep it in a well-ventilated area or outside.


-It’s a good idea to use string lights instead of solar lights if you want an outdoor light on all the time. The wax from willow branches drips onto batteries, which can cause corrosion and leakage. And it’s not safe to tap into electricity on your own.

-If you’re making a lantern for the summertime, use LED string lights because they don’t get hot like regular string lights.

-Don’t leave your solar garden light in intense sunlight, or it can overheat. If you want to keep it outside year-round, try placing the solar panel inside of a lantern for shade.

-Make sure you test your willow branches before you secure them to your sphere. They’re very fragile and can break easily!


I hope this tutorial has helped you to build your willow lanterns. Now that you know how to make a willow lantern, please be careful with these items and remember to take them apart when the season is over!

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