Fast Growing Trees
Anxious to enjoy the shade and privacy from a large tree , we may rush to buy the fastest growing tree we can find.
But the fastest growing trees are often structurally weak with soft wood. They are susceptible to breakage in storms and can be dangerous planted near structures. A shortened life span is sometimes a problem in trees that grow very rapidly. Fast growing trees also have a high demand for water creating a large and sometimes shallow root system. Aggressive roots can interfere with septic systems and sewer lines. Trees with shallow roots can completely topple in ground drenching storms.
The best long term decision is to select a moderately fast growing tree and give it the best start possible to encourage strong and steady growth. Trees grow fastest when they are young, so give it proper attention in the first few years.
Location is critical. Allow space for the full size of the the tree. Nursery tags often present “mature” size, which is only 10 to 20 years. A tree will continue to grow many decades past that.
Consider future obstructions . The eventual size of the tree may interfere with power lines, sidewalks and driveway sight lines.
Appropriate drainage is important. Consider that low spots may be soggy and high spots may be dry. Be sure you know the requirements, preferences and tolerances of the selection since these soil moisture conditions are critical to the healthy growth of your tree.
Plant it well. Dig a generously wide hole deeper that the root ball. Loosen the surrounding soil well. I suggest amendments only as necessary to improve drainage or moisture retention. But you don’t want to create a “rich hole” that the roots never want to leave. The goal is to encourage roots to spread wide and deep for a good anchor and deep source of nutrients. Slow soak a new tree planting deeply and repeat every few weeks as it establishes.
These are some moderately fast growing trees that will grow strong in your landscape:
Arborvitae Green Giant This evergreen grows 3 feet per year. Excellent in rows or groups as a privacy or wind screen.
Dawn Redwood Grows 2 to 4 feet per year and can reach more than 100 feet easily. A very unique and interesting tree with deciduous needles if you have the room. They like a moist, but not saturated soil.
Eastern White Pine Grows 2 feet or more per year reaching up to 80 feet tall. Best grown in wide open spaces. Old trees are prone to weak breaking limbs.
European Black Alder Grows very rapidly in the first 10 years, as much as a meter in a year. This is an excellent selection for wet soil.
Hybrid Maples There are more and more seedless maple hybrids that grow fairly quickly, up to 3 feet per year. A couple of the best are Freeman Maple and ‘Autumn Blaze’. Although their wood is not weak, branch structure may cause limb breakage.
Hybrid Poplar Grows very quickly at the rate of 5 to 8 feet per year. Often planted in a row as a wind or privacy screen. Roots and litter can be a problem. These are best for wide open spaces rather than residential properties.
Leyland Cypress Growing 3 feet per year, Leyland Cypress is a lovely columnar evergreen. Susceptible to devastating pests and disease.
Magnolia Southern Magnolia in particular is fairly fast growing at 1 or 2 feet per year. Most grow low and wide and are beautifully ornamental in bloom.
Northern Red Oak Grows up to 2 feet per year. Red Oaks are of course susceptible to oak wilt, which is not treatable in a Red Oak.
Pin Oak Grows 2 1/2 feet per year and reaches at least 70 feet tall. Pin Oak does not do well in high pH soils.
Paper Birch Grows a foot or two a year. A very popular landscape tree. May be messy with dropping catkins.
Quaking Aspen Grows at least 2 feet per year. Although structurally strong and beautiful with it's’ fluttering leaves, there are many problems with this tree. They are very messy, develops colonies and attracts pests and fungus.
Red Maple At a growth rate of 1 to 2 feet per year, this is one of the fastest growing maples with brilliant red fall color.
River Birch Grows a foot or two per year with interesting bark and yellow fall color. Can be messy with dropping catkins.
Sargent Cherry Growth rate is 1 to 2 feet per year but with a relatively short life span. Many only live 20 years. Beautiful smaller ornamental with pink blooms and good fall color.
Sycamore The American Sycamore grows a foot or two per year with strong and upright limbs. But it is constantly dropping bark, leaves and seeds and is very large., up to 100 feet tall.
Tulip Tree Often referred to as Tulip Poplar is not actually a poplar. It is a member of the Magnolia family. A Tulip Tree may grow more than 2 feet per year when young, a foot per year as it matures and eventually should reach 80 to 100 feet tall.
Weeping Willow Specific varieties vary but typically grow in a range of 3 to 8 feet per year. With a massive spread of 35 feet, the roots also spread wide and shallow. Roots may be aggressive and the trees can be very messy as well has weak in the limbs. Be very cautious with willow varieties, carefully scrutinize new hybrids for consideration.
Every single tree and evergreen has advantages and disadvantages. Get to know your options well to make the best selection for you and your landscape.