Fast Growing Trees (With Pictures) – Identification Guide

Fast Growing Trees (With Pictures) - Identification Guide

Fast-growing trees for your garden landscape are ideal for shade and privacy. Planting trees with a fast growth rate means they reach their mature height in a relatively short time. This gives you the opportunity to achieve your landscaping goals sooner. Additionally, fast-growing evergreen trees have the advantage of offering privacy throughout the year.

Some of the most popular fast-growing trees for shade are maple, birch, weeping willow, and flowering dogwood trees. However, suppose you need evergreen trees with accelerated growth for privacy or screening. In that case, arborvitae, cypress, and white pine trees are ideal choices. These evergreen varieties have dense foliage and grow rapidly.

What are the fastest-growing trees for privacy and shade in your garden? This article has descriptions and pictures of trees with the best growth rates for residential landscapes.

Fast-Growing Trees (With Pictures)

Fast-growing trees are great options for adding height, structure, and texture to your garden landscape. Due to their spreading canopies or dense foliage, they also are ideal for protecting your property from sunlight, prying eyes, noise, or wind. Please read on to learn about trees with a fast growth rate.

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 landscaped garden

The red maple is a fast-growing shade tree with an open growth habit and dense foliage. Characteristics of red maples are their reddish spring flowers, spectacular yellow and red fall foliage, winged V-shaped papery seed cases, and attractive gray bark. It’s suitable for growing in USDA zones 3 to 9.

The red maple grows between 40 and 120 ft. (12 – 36 m) tall and up to 50 ft. (15 m) wide. The red maple is an excellent choice as a shade tree in areas where it receives full sun exposure during the summer months.

The outstanding feature of the fast-growing red maple is its three to five lobed leaves with serrated margins. The showy deltoid leaves are green during summer, helping to provide shade in gardens thanks to dense foliage. In the fall, the leaves turn golden yellow and bright red.

Freeman Maple (Acer x freemanii)

Freeman Maple (Acer x freemanii)

Freeman maple tree has fast growth rate and includes many cultivars

The Freeman maple is a medium-sized shade tree with a rapid growth habit. Its dense, rounded crown makes it a good option for sheltering a garden from the sun during summer. In addition, this hybrid maple has an excellent form and spectacular fall color — bright orange to red foliage.

The Freeman maple grows 45 to 70 ft. (14 – 21 m) tall and 35 to 50 ft. (10 – 15 m) wide. You can plant this maple shade tree in USDA zones 3 through 8 in full sun and moist, well-drained soil.

Other distinctive features of this fast-growing maple tree include its dense clusters of red flowers, five-lobed leaves that turn from green to red in the fall, and smooth gray bark.

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 an impressive shade tree characterized by the silvery underside of its leaves. With its dense canopy, this large shade-providing tree has shaggy brown bark, lobed silver-green leaves, and small papery winged samaras (fruits). Although this maple blooms in spring, its reddish flower clusters are insignificant.

The silver maple is a fast-growing tree with a spreading oval shape — ideal for protecting a backyard from sunlight. This deciduous shade tree reaches heights of 50 to 80 ft. (15 – 24 m) and up to 50 ft. (15 m) wide. Grow the tree in USDA zones 3 to 9.

Also called creek maple, silverleaf maple, white maple, and swamp maple, this fast-growing deciduous tree is ideal for providing shade in a garden. It’s also tolerant of heat, poor soil, and drought.

Sawtooth Oak (Quercus Acutissima)

Sawtooth Oak (Quercus Acutissima)

Sawtooth oak trees have moderate to fast growth rate and are good shade trees

The sawtooth oak is a moderate to fast grower tree with a wide, spreading crown making it perfect for shading a backyard. This medium-sized tree has a broad, pyramidal crown with lustrous green leaves, yellowish-green flower clusters, and coppery-brown fall colors. Sawtooth oaks grow 30 to 75 ft. (9 – 22 m) tall.

Its broad-spreading, oval to conical crown make the sawtooth oak ideal for shade in garden landscapes. The canopy measures up to 60 ft. (18 m) wide. This shade canopy consists of bristle-toothed leaves that turn golden brown and persist into winter.

Sawtooth oaks are ideal for growing in USDA zones 5 through 8 and perform well in full sun and well-drained soils. Once established, this oak tree species is tolerant of drought, heat, and humidity.

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 multi-stemmed tree that works well as a shade or screening tree when grouped together. This common tree has rapid growth and features diamond-shaped glossy green leaves forming a pyramidal crown. In addition to being a great choice for shade, river birch also produces dangling yellowish-brown catkins in groups of three.

River birch trees tend to grow in clumps and can reach heights of 30 to 70 ft. (9 – 21 m) and up to 60 ft. (18 m) wide. It is suitable for growing in USDA zones 4 through 9, making this suitable as a fast growing shade tree in northern Florida.

Besides being useful as a shade tree, a river birch has great ornamental value. It has silvery white exfoliating bark, and golden yellow fall colors provide year-long visual interest. Additionally, it requires little maintenance. It also tolerates moist, soggy soils and full sun.

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

Crape myrtle is a beautiful flowering tree for providing shade in southern garden landscapes. The deciduous tree is known for its rapid growth, abundance of bright pink flowers, exfoliating bark, and leathery, glossy green oblong leaves.  Crape myrtle also has spectacular orange, gold, yellow, and burgundy fall colors.

Small varieties of crape myrtle trees grow 3 to 5 ft. (1 – 1.5 m) and, when planted together, make an attractive privacy screen. However, if you want to grow crape myrtle as a large shade tree, choose a taller variety that grows 20 to 40 ft. (6 – 12 m) tall and 25 ft. (7.5 m) wide.

Crape myrtle trees thrive in USDA zones 6 through 9. However, some crape myrtle cultivars are suitable as shade or privacy trees in southern Florida in zone 10.

Related reading: How to care for crape myrtle trees.

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 a rapidly growing shade tree with eye-catching pendulous branches that cascade down to the ground. This weeping willow species has a graceful habit of forming a broad, rounded crown. Its leaves are light green, with narrow lanceolate blades, and the weeping tree has clusters of long yellowish flowers.

A weeping willow will not only enhance shade in a sunny garden but will also make a strong statement. The tree performs best in USDA zones 6 through 8 in full sunlight and moist ground. You can also plant the spectacular shade tree near streams and ponds.

Weeping willows grow quickly to reach a height and width of 30 to 40 ft. (9 – 12 m).

Related reading: Other types of fast-growing willow trees for shade.

Hybrid Poplar (Populus deltoides x Populus nigra)

Hybrid poplar

The fast growing hybrid poplar makes it the ultimate tree for creating a tall privacy fence

The hybrid poplar is one of the fastest-growing trees for privacy and shade in a garden landscape. This poplar is known for its rapid growth, adding between 5 and 8 ft. (1.5 – 2.4 m) annually. The poplar tree is identified by its silvery-green, triangular leaves, black bark, and oval canopy.

There are many poplar species of trees suitable as a windbreak, screening tree, or privacy tree. This cultivar is popular because it doesn’t produce cottony growths in spring, resulting in less mess. The privacy tree grows between 40 and 50 ft. (12 – 15 m) high and spreads up to 30 ft. (9 m) wide.

The hybrid poplar thrives in USDA zones 3 to 9, making it ideal as a privacy tree throughout the United States and as far south as northern Florida.

Flowering Dogwood Tree (Cornus florida)

Flowering Dogwood Tree (Cornus florida)

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

One of the most beautiful flowering shade trees that grows rapidly is the flowering dogwood. The small shade tree has a low branching habit with a broadly-pyramidal canopy. Ornamental features of the tree are its large white star-like blooms, medium-green leaves, and eye-catching red berries. In addition, the canopy of layered branches provides shade in the summer.

Flowering dogwood grows well in USDA zones 5 to 9, with full sun to partial shade and average soil conditions. The small shade tree grows 15 to 30 ft. (5 – 9 m) tall and wide.

An identifying feature of dogwood trees is their attractive, dark gray to black bark that develops into small, rough, scaly blocks resembling alligator skin.

Related reading: Dogwood trees with red berries.

Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Tulip Poplar or Yellow Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)

Tulip poplar trees – summer and autumn foliage

The tuliptree is an impressive deciduous tree with a pyramidal shape, making it ideal as a shade tree for large yards. Features of the tuliptree are its yellowish-green tulip-like flowers, glossy green foliage, and brilliant golden-yellow colors in the fall. This attractive flowering shade tree thrives in USDA zones 4 through 9. Tuliptrees typically grow between 80 and 150 ft. (24 – 45 m) tall and up to 50 ft. (15 m) wide.

The tuliptree has several charming qualities, making it ideal for garden landscapes. The cup-shaped yellowish-green flowers bloom in spring and early summer, contrasting with the four-lobed glossy green leaves. Additionally, the large shade tree has unusual conical fruit.

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 tree is a sizable deciduous shade tree with rapid growth. Some of the identifying features of the American sycamore are its large maple-shaped leaves, clusters of spring flowers, and spiky balls that appear in the fall. However, its most notable feature is the camouflage-like gray, brown, and creamy-white bark.

This magnificent landscaping tree grows 100 to 130 ft. (30 – 40 m) tall and 40 ft. (12 m) wide. The huge shade trees perform best in full sun in USDA zones 4 through 9.

Fast-Growing Evergreen Trees

Evergreen trees are some of the best types of trees for privacy. Typically, they have dense foliage that creates a protective hedgerow or screening around a front or backyard. But what are the best fast-growing trees for privacy? Please read on to find out.

Thuja ‘Green Giant’ – (Thuja plicata x standishii ‘Green Giant’)

thuja green giant

For fast growing living privacy fence choose arborvitae evergreen trees such as the Thuja ‘Green Giant’

Also called the Green Giant Arborvitae, this thuja hybrid is one of the fastest-growing evergreens for privacy screens. Growing at 3 to 5 ft. (1 – 1.5 m) annually, the large tree has soft, feathery foliage and an elegant pyramidal growth habit. The hybrid thuja performs best in full sun and well-drained soil.

The dense evergreen foliage of the Green Giant thuja makes it ideal for protecting your privacy around your property. Planted as a tall hedgerow, the arborvitae blocks noise, unsightly views, and noisy neighbors.

The Green Giant arborvitae grows 40 to 60 ft. (12 – 18 m) tall and up to 18 ft. (5.5 m) wide.

Leyland Cypress (Cupressus × leylandii)

Leyland Cypress Tree (Cupressus x leylandii)

Leyland cypress is a fast growing evergreen tree which can be used for privacy screen

The Leyland cypress is a popular evergreen tree for use as a fast-growing privacy screen, windbreak, hedgerow, or noise-blocking border. The impressive conifer has a broad columnar to pyramidal habit, flattened sprays of green foliage, and reddish-brown scaly bark. The rapid growth of Leyland cypress trees makes them perfect for evergreen landscaping.

The Leyland cypress can grow 60 to 70 ft. (18 – 21 m) tall with a spread of 10 to 15 ft. (3 – 4.5 m) wide. It has an impressive growth rate for cold-hardy coniferous trees of 3 ft. (1 m) per year. Suitable for USDA zones 6 through 10.

Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)

Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)

The tall narrow Italian cypress gives a stunning focal point in the landscape or it can be used as fast growing privacy screen when planted in a row

The Italian cypress is a tall coniferous tree with bluish-green needles, a thin, columnar shape, and rapid growth. Planted in a row, this cypress specimen creates a tall privacy screen or windbreak. Additionally, the pencil-like erect evergreen tree is low maintenance and tolerant of salt and drought.

The Italian cypress grows 40 to 70 ft. (12 – 21 m) tall and only 6 ft. (3 m) wide. The skinny conifer tree, with its soft scale-like foliage and round seed cones, is an attractive addition to sunny landscapes where shade and privacy are required.

Suitable for growing in USDA zones 7 through 9.

Eastern White Pine Tree (Pinus strobus)

Eastern White Pine Tree (Pinus strobus)

The large and fast growing eastern white pine tree is suitable as a shade tree in cooler climates

The eastern white pine is one of the fastest-growing pine trees suitable for privacy screens or shade trees. The tall conifer grows 50 to 80 ft. (15 – 24 m)  tall and up to 40 ft. (12 m) wide. Its identifying characteristics include bluish-green needle leaves, reddish-brown bark, and narrow, cylindrical pine cones.

The rapid growth rate of more than 2 ft. (0.6 m) per year and its wide, dense canopy make the eastern white pine tree perfect for screening large yards. Additionally, it is an excellent coniferous shade tree for colder climates as it thrives in USDA zones 3 through 8.

Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is not a true cedar but a type of juniper tree

The eastern red cedar is an evergreen shade tree with a medium to fast growth rate. The identifying features of the conifer are its red-brown bark that exfoliates in strips, spherical bluish-purple cones, and silvery-green scale-like leaves. It has a growth rate of 1 to 2 ft. (0.3 – 0.6 m) per year.

The eastern red cedar is cold hardy in USDA zones 2 through 9, making it suitable as a shade and privacy tree throughout most of the United States.

What Are the Fastest-Growing Trees?

Deciduous trees with the fastest growth are the hybrid poplar, weeping willow, and red maple. These rapidly growing trees can increase in height by 5 to 10 ft. (1.5 – 3 m) per year. The fastest-growing evergreen tree is the arborvitae cultivar ‘Green Giant,’ adding 3 ft. (1 m) to its height annually.

What are the Fastest Growing Trees for Shade?

Features of fast-growing trees that provide shade are their dense foliage, wide, spreading crowns, rapid growth, and drought tolerance. Among the sought-after trees for shade gardens are large maples, oaks, poplars, and river birch trees. For example, the weeping willows can add over 10 ft. (3 m) per year when young.

What are the Fastest Growing Trees for Privacy?

Evergreen trees are the best for screening a front or backyard. Many evergreens like thujas, the eastern white pine, red cedar, and Leyland cypress have dense evergreen foliage and upward columnar growth. These features make these trees ideal for privacy around your property. Additionally, their evergreen growth screens your yard during winter.

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