Which Trees Grow the Fastest?

by Kaia Koglin
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There are plenty of reasons to plant trees, from adding privacy and beauty to your yard to encouraging birds and wildlife to visit your home.

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But if you’re looking at a bare yard, it can be difficult to imagine a time when you can spend your summers relaxing under shady leaves. Thankfully, there are fast-growing trees that allow you to quickly make a statement in your yard.

Which Types of Trees Grow the Fastest? 

When it comes to plants and trees, fast is a relative term. A fast-growing tree typically grows at least 25 inches each year until it reaches maturity. All sorts of trees can be fast-growing, including deciduous, evergreen, hardwood and softwood. This means that you can find fast-growing trees to suit many purposes.

However, there are often trade-offs with fast-growing trees. They can have weak wood, making them susceptible to snapping and falling branches. They can be more susceptible to disease and pests and are commonly short-lived — though that's not always the case. Choosing a tree that's right for your location and soil condition can help it remain healthy.

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Fast-Growing Privacy Trees

Many people want a fast-growing tree to create more privacy in their yards. A tree can grow higher than the fence line, offering an additional screen that discourages nosy neighbors. Most privacy trees are evergreen so that there are always leaves to create a secluded retreat and are planted in a line to cover more area. Here are some good species for privacy.

  • Thuja Green Giant: A resilient, low-maintenance tree that adapts to different environments and grows up to 40 feet in 11 to 20 years
  • Leyland Cypress: A hardy plant that’s easy to prune and can reach its maximum height of 60 feet in 20 to 25 years
  • River Birch: An attractive tree with reddish-brown bark and diamond-shaped leaves that reaches 30 feet in around 10 years
  • Silver Maple: An adaptable tree that grows well in suburban and urban environments and can reach 60 feet in 10 years.
  • Spartan Juniper: A tree that can tolerate extreme heat and cold, de-icing salt and drought and grow to 20 feet in about 10 years

Fast-Growing Shade Trees

Trees planted for privacy often grow tall and straight. Shade trees, on the other hand, tend to have a large crown. Deciduous trees can be a good choice for shade, as they drop their leaves in winter when you want to let more sun in. These trees are good for fast-growing shade.

  • Quaking Aspen: Named for its shaking fall foliage and best grown in full sun. These trees grow up to 50 feet tall and are mature at around 10 years of age.
  • Red Maple: This tree has red flowers in spring and scarlet red leaves in fall, providing year-round interest. It grows to its full size of 40 to 60 feet in around 25 years.
  • Hackberry: This is a hardy tree with distinctive, corky bark that matures in 15 years and grows to 40 to 60 feet.
  • Northern Catalpa: This tree has fragrant, white flowers and a twisting trunk. It generally reaches 40 to 70 feet and matures in five to seven years.
  • American Sweetgum: A pretty, though sometimes messy, tree that can reach 80 feet and matures in 20 to 30 years.

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Fast-Growing Windbreak Trees

Windbreaks are lines of trees that help slow the wind. They can provide shelter for your plants and help limit damage in windy areas. They’re especially useful in coastal areas, where they can also reduce sea spray. Try these trees if you want some extra protection.

  • Norway Spruce: Commonly used as a Christmas tree, the Norway spruce can grow up to 180 feet tall. It reaches about 10 feet in five years, and growth slows after 25 years.
  • Emerald Green Arborvitae: A smaller tree that doesn’t require pruning, it only grows to 10 to 15 feet but reaches that size in around 10 years.
  • Blue Elderberry: A small, drought-tolerant tree with edible fruit, it grows to 15 to 25 feet and matures in just two to three years.

Fast-Growing Flowering Trees

Some people aren’t looking for fast-growing trees for any specific purpose. If you want a tree that adds style to your yard, flowering options offer the most beauty. Try the following options if you want floral charm with your privacy or shade.

  • Crape Myrtle: Depending on the variety, these trees offer pink, lavender, red, purple or white flowers. It reaches its full height of 15 to 25 feet in five to 10 years.
  • Tulip Tree: A type of magnolia that has tulip-shaped flowers, it can grow up to 90 feet tall but will be 10 to 18 feet tall after five years.
  • Crimson Bottlebrush: An Australian native with bright flowers that grow in clusters that look like a bottlebrush, it reaches maturity at two years and can grow to 30 feet tall.
  • Weeping Willow: Beautiful in flower or not, due to the graceful, dangling stems, it reaches 35 to 50 feet after around 15 years.

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