Fast Growing Trees for Florida (With Pictures) – Identification Guide

Fast Growing Trees for Florida (With Pictures) – Identification Guide

Fast-growing trees are excellent for providing shade and privacy in a Florida landscape. Many species of trees with a fast growth rate are suitable for growing in the Sunshine State. Evergreen trees for Florida gardens offer benefits throughout the year, providing privacy and shade and boosting curb appeal. In addition, many deciduous trees for warm climates have attractive and fragrant flowers to enhance your front or backyard aesthetics.

Some of the fastest-growing types that thrive in Florida are the American sycamore, weeping willow, some maple species, and the river birch. But suppose you want evergreen trees in your southern garden for privacy or screening purposes. The best fast-growing evergreen trees are the slash pine, Hong Kong orchid tree, and the Carolina cherry laurel. These evergreen trees thrive in Florida’s heat and humidity and grow quickly.

Do you want to know the fastest-growing trees for privacy and shade in Florida? If so, please read on. This article has descriptions and pictures of Florida trees with accelerated growth rates.

How to Choose Fast Growing Trees for Florida

Sun exposure, humidity, soil types, and proximity to coastal areas affect which tree species you can grow in a Florida garden landscape. Additionally, Florida‘s diverse growing zones mean some species suited to warmer climates may not survive colder winters in the north.

If you live in northern Florida or the central region, look for fast-growing trees suitable for USDA zones 8 and 9. The growing zones in South Florida are 10 and 11. It’s also good to remember that some trees for zone 9 may also grow well in cooler regions of South Florida.

Types of Fast Growing Trees for Florida (With Pictures)

Fast-growing trees for Florida landscapes are those that grow between 2 and 8 ft. (0.6 – 2.4 m) annually. Most trees with rapid growth are deciduous trees. However, several rapidly-growing evergreen trees thrive in the southeastern region of North America.

American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

American Sycamore Tree (Platanus occidentalis) tree

The large American sycamore tree grows fast and is often found along streams, rivers and wetland areas

The American sycamore is one of the fastest-growing deciduous trees suitable for growing in central and northern Florida. This massive shade tree grows rapidly, adding 5 feet (1.5 m) to its annual height. Identifying features of this native Florida tree are clusters of red flowers, spiky green balls in late fall, and distinctive exfoliating bark.

This huge tree grows 100 to 130 ft. (30 – 40 m) tall and 40 ft. (12 m) wide. The native sycamore performs best in moist, well-drained soils and full sun or partial shade.

The American sycamore is identified in the landscape by its rounded or irregular crown. Additionally, this ornamental shade tree has winter appeal due to its white peeling bark that reveals tan inner bark.

Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica)

Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica)

The weeping willow tree grows quickly and can be easily identified by its droopy branches

The weeping willow is an eye-catching deciduous tree with attractive cascading branches. This rapidly growing ornamental tree thrives in North and Central Florida and grows by 5 feet (1.5 m) yearly. The easily recognizable tree has a broad, rounded crown with lance-shaped leaves on drooping branches.

Also called the Babylon willow, this willow species is easy to recognize in a Florida landscape. It grows 62 to 82 ft. (20 – 25 m) tall and wide. Apart from its weeping habit, ornamental features of the tree are its greenish-yellow flower clusters, cotton-wool-like covering on seeds, and attractive shape.

The weeping willow is tolerant of drought, coastal air, and soggy soil in USDA zones 2 through 9.

Lombardy Poplar (Populus nigra Italica)

Populus nigra

The Lombardy poplar is a fast growing tall and slender tree with upright branching growth

The Lombardy poplar ranks as one of the fastest-growing trees in the Sunshine State. This tall, skinny tree has a distinctive shape with upward-growing branches. A characteristic of the Lombardy poplar is the fluffy white substance surrounding the seeds. The poplar has small clusters of spring flowers, diamond-shaped leaves, and thick black bark on mature trees.

Also called the black cottonwood tree, the Lombardy poplar has an impressive growth rate. It can grow 5 ft. (1.5 m) per year, reaching a mature height of 40 to 60 ft. (12 – 18 m). However, this pencil-like tree only has a width of 10 to 12 ft. (3 – 3.6 m). This makes it ideal for adding a vertical accent to a compact garden.

Grow this stunning tree as a privacy screen, shade tree, or tall windbreak in a Florida landscape in zones 8 and 9.

Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)

Silver Maple Tree (Acer Saccharinum)

The silver maple is a fast growing deciduous shade tree with silver-green leaves

The silver maple is a stunning shade tree that grows at a rate of 5 ft. (1.5 m) per year, making it an excellent addition to a central or northern Florida landscape. This maple species is identified by its canopy consisting of green leaves with silvery undersides. It also has attractive rough brown bark and small clusters of reddish flowers.

Also called silverleaf maple, swamp maple, or creek maple, the attractive ornamental tree grows rapidly. It matures at 50 to 80 ft. (15 – 24 m) tall and up to 50 ft. (15 m) wide. The maple tolerates drought, heat, and poor soil and is suitable for growing in warm, humid landscapes.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Red Maple Tree (Acer Rubrum)

The fast growing red maple tree has a spectacular autumn foliage and looks great in any Florida landscaped garden

The red maple is a striking fast-growing landscape tree for Florida gardens. This species of maple is characterized by its spectacular crimson fall foliage, pinkish spring flowers, and attractive shape. This ornamental shade tree is ideal for growing in USDA zones 3 to 9 and in full sun.

The red maple grows around 3 ft. (1 m) annually. It reaches a mature height of 40 to 120 feet (12 – 36 m) tall with a canopy 50 ft. (15 m) wide. The red maple is suitable as a landscaping shade tree in northern and central Florida from coast to coast.

Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Tulip Poplar or Yellow Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Tulip poplar trees – summer and autumn foliage

Tulip poplar is fast-growing yellow flowering tree to plant in central or northern Florida. This native Florida shade tree adds 3 feet (1 m) per year to its height. It grows 80 to 100 ft. (24 – 30 m) tall and 50 ft. (15 m) wide.

Also called the tuliptree or yellow poplar, this decorative tree has several ornamental features. The poplar blooms with trumpet-shaped yellow flowers. It has dense, glossy green foliage and turns yellow in the fall. Its symmetrical oval crown is ideal for shade in the Florida heat.

Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata)

Quercus falcata Southern Red Oak

The southern red oak is a deciduous native Florida tree which is great as a shade tree

The southern red oak is a fast-growing oak tree that thrives in Florida’s climate. The majestic landscape tree is characterized by its deciduous glossy green, lobed leaves, yellowish-green flower clusters, small stumpy acorns, and dark gray, furrowed bark. These heat-loving oak trees grow as far south as Lake Okeechobee.

Growing around 2 ft. (0.6 m) per year, the medium to large-sized shade tree matures to heights of 82 to 100 ft. (25 – 30 m) tall. As a result, this common oak tree performs well as a fast-growing shade or specimen tree.

The southern oak is easy to distinguish from other species of red oaks due to its long, narrow, deeply lobed leaves.

River Birch (Betula nigra)

River birch tree (Betula nigra)

The river birch is a low maintenance tree with rapid growth rate and tolerance for wet soil

The river birch is a deciduous tree that grows fast in Florida’s warm and humid climate. This hardwood tree has a wide, pyramidal canopy, densely growing glossy green leaves, and yellowish clusters of finger-like flowers. The multi-stemmed growth and dense canopy make the river birch tree suitable for growing as a screening or shade tree.

The river birch tree grows 30 to 70 ft. (9 – 21 m) tall, and its canopy spreads up to 60 ft. (18 m) wide. Growing at 3 feet (1 m) per year, it’s one of the fastest-growing birches for Florida landscapes. In addition, its silvery bark and spectacular golden yellow autumn foliage give the large tree tremendous ornamental value.

Shumard Oak (Quercus shumardii)

Shumard Oak Tree (Quercus shumardii)

The Shumard oak is a native Florida tree that is commonly used as a shade tree

The Shumard Oak is an outstanding shade tree that thrives from the northern Gulf coast region and south to Fort Myers and West Palm Beach. This deciduous oak is identified by its attractive open, rounded canopy, lobed leaves with bristle tips, huge acorns, and beautiful fall and winter colors.

The majestic Shumard oak grows fairly quickly at 2 to 3 ft. (0.6 – 1 m) annually. The native Florida oak tree grows 50 to 80 ft. (15 – 24 m) tall and 40 to 50 ft. (12 – 50 m) wide. Due to its tolerance for salty air, humidity, and heat, this tall tree is a popular choice as a shade and street tree in Florida.

Crape Myrtle Tree (Lagerstroemia indica)

Crape Myrtle Tree (Lagerstroemia indica)

Crape myrtle trees have spectacular clusters of flowers and are known for their rapid growth

The crape myrtle is a beautiful tree that is ideal for small, compact gardens in Florida’s panhandle, east to the Atlantic coast and south to Orlando. These small shrub-like trees bloom with spectacular clusters of purple, red, pink, and white flowers. Additionally, this deciduous, fast-growing tree has beautiful yellow fall colors.

Crape myrtle trees and shrubs are suitable for growing in USDA zones 7 to 9. However, some heat-tolerant varieties grow well in South Florida. The shrub-like trees grow up to 20 ft. (6 m) tall and wide. You can plant them as a dense privacy hedge, flowering screen, or specimen tree.

Related reading: Crape myrtle tree care.

Flowering Dogwood Tree (Cornus florida)

Flowering Dogwood Tree (Cornus florida)

The fast growing dogwood tree is relatively small and has attractive white flowers

The flowering dogwood is a small to medium sized tree with moderate to fast growth. These attractive flowering trees have early-blooming white flowers, followed by lush green foliage, then clusters of red berries. Dogwood trees thrive in full sun and partial shade in all areas of northern Florida and south to Orlando.

Flowering dogwood trees have an attractive vase-shaped growth habit. One of the features of the native tree is that its flowers bloom on bare branches. Flowering dogwoods grow 20 to 30 ft. (6 – 10 m) tall and up to 30 ft. (10 m) wide.

Related reading: Types of dogwood trees with red berries.

Broad-Leaved Paperbark Tree (Melaleuca quinquenervia)

Broad-Leaved Paperbark Tree (Melaleuca quinquenervia)

You can grow the fast growing broad-leaved paperbark tree in all parts of Florida

The broad-leaved paperbark tree is a fast-growing tree suitable for growing in all areas of Florida. The attractive decorative tree is identified by its dark-green, leathery lanceolate leaves and beautiful bottlebrush flowers. Additionally, the heat-loving tree has white or beige papery bark — hence its name, paperbark tree.

Also called the punk tree, the ornamental landscape tree thrives in USDA zones 9 through 11. The spreading tree grows 30 to 50 ft. (10 – 15 m) tall and up to 30 ft. (10 m) wide. The egg-shaped fuzzy white flowers appear in spring and persist through early fall.

Bottlebrush Tree (Melaleuca linearis)

Bottlebrush Tree

Bottlebrush tree has fuzzy red flowers and can be grown in Florida in zones 9 – 11

The bottlebrush tree is a small shrub-like tree, ideal for landscaping gardens in Florida. This rapid grower thrives in all of Florida’s growing zones — from Jacksonville and Pensacola in the north to Miami and Fort Myers in the south. The attractive bushy tree is identified by its scarlet red bottlebrush-like blooms.

The bottlebrush tree grows 3 to 8 ft. (1 – 2.4 m) tall. Red flower spikes on arching branches cover the bushy foliage when blooming in late spring. The small flowering tree is ideal as a foundation planting, container plant, or specimen for a sunny border.

Carolina Cherry Laurel (Prunus caroliniana)

Carolina Cherry Laurel (Prunus caroliniana)

Carolina cherry laurel is a small evergreen flowering tree suitable to grow as a hedge

The Carolina cherry laurel tree is a native Florida fast-growing tree suitable for planting as a hedge, dense screen, or noise barrier. The identifying features of the easy-to-grow tree are its leathery evergreen leaves, fragrant, showy white flowers, and shiny black berry-like drupes.

Carolina cherry laurel is a popular small to medium size tree to plant as an evergreen hedge. The native plant grows 15 to 20 ft. (4.5 – 6 m) tall. When planted in rows, the foliage creates a dense evergreen barrier that thrives in tropical and subtropical conditions.

Earleaf Acacia (Acacia auriculiformis)

Earlleaf Acacia (Acacia auriculiformis)

Earleaf acacia is a popular landscaping fast growing tree in Florida

The earleaf acacia is a medium-sized, fast-growing shade tree. This popular Florida landscaping tree is identified by its loose, rounded open crown, abundant bright yellow flowers, and unusual spiraling seed pods. The native tree is suitable for all areas in Florida south of Lake Okeechobee.

With a growth rate of 6 to 8 ft. (1.2 – 2.4 m) per year, this acacia species is one of the fastest-growing trees in Florida. Mature trees reach heights of 50 to 100 ft. (15 – 30 m) tall.

Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii)

Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii)

Slash pine tree is native to Florida and is an attractive fast growing landscaping tree

The slash pine is a fast-growing native Florida pine tree and is popular throughout the Sunshine State. These beautiful conifers grace landscapes from the panhandle to Miami and Key West at Florida’s southernmost tip. The pine tree is identified by its blue-green needle leaves, large brown pine cones, and rounded crown.

The slash pine tree grows rapidly to reach mature heights of 70 to 100 ft. (21 – 30 m) tall. You can plant slash pines as a specimen tree or as a screen, windbreak, or for its evergreen foliage in your landscape.

Hong Kong Orchid Tree (Bauhinia X Blakeana)

Bauhinia blakeana tree

The Hong Kong orchid tree makes an ornamental tree for Florida gardens with its attractive pink flowers

The Hong Kong orchid tree is perfect for a shade tree in any Florida backyard. The orchid tree has beautiful orchid-like flowers that bloom in shades of lavender, pink, and purple. These huge blossoms measure 6” (15 cm) and cover the tree in pastel shades when blooming from summer through early winter.

Although not a native tree to the southeastern US, the Hong Kong orchid tree is not considered invasive. Instead, it’s an ideal choice as a specimen tree, shade tree, or to keep the sun off a patio or deck area.

Hong Kong orchid trees grow 20 to 40 ft. (6 – 12 m) tall and are suitable for all of Florida’s growing zones 9 through 11.

Jacaranda Tree (Jacaranda mimosifolia)

Blue Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia)

Jacaranda is a large flowering tree with stunning purple flowers that is suitable for the warmer parts of Florida

The Jacaranda tree is one of the largest flowering trees in South Florida. The tree is identified by its enormous clusters of fragrant purple trumpet-shaped flowers blooming in spring. Jacaranda is also an ideal shade tree for southern climates due to its spreading crown and dense foliage.

The fast-growing Jacaranda tree thrives in full sun and USDA zones 10 and 11 and warmer areas of zone 9. This ornamental tree grows 20 to 40 ft. (6 – 12 m) tall, and its shade canopy spreads up to 60 ft. (18 m) wide. The flowering tree has a fast growth rate.

Golden Trumpet Tree (Tabebuia chrysotricha)

Tabebuia chrysotricha (Golden Trumpet Tree)

The golden trumpet tree is an easy care and low maintenance tree with fluffy yellow flowers that is suitable for southern Florida

The trumpet tree is a tropical, evergreen, fast-growing tree suitable for landscaping yards in southern Florida. The identifying features of this lawn, patio, or specimen tree are its golden yellow trumpet-shaped flowers that cover the tree in early spring. These bright yellow flowers emerge on bare branches before the green oblong leaves appear.

The golden trumpet tree is well suited to growing in USDA zones 10 and 11. Growing in full sun and moist soil, this spectacular flowering tree grows 25 to 35 ft. (7.6 – 10 m) tall and wide. Its spring flowers measure 2.5” to 8” (6 – 20 cm) long. Additionally, 8-inch (20 cm) long seed pods persist on the tree throughout winter.

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