How to Choose the Fastest-Growing Tree or Bush for Your Garden

A beautiful garden doesn’t sprout overnight, but with patience and the right know-how, you can fill your outdoor space with lush trees and bushes in no time. As a gardener based in Wisconsin, I’m familiar with our state’s diverse growing conditions. I’ve helped homeowners across the state cultivate gardens that balance rapid growth with sustainability.

Selecting the fastest-growing trees and bushes allows you to transform your landscape quickly. But haste makes waste when it comes to gardening. With research and planning, you can pick plants ideally suited for your space that will thrive with minimal upkeep. Follow this guide to get your garden growing faster than you can say “photosynthesis!”

Understanding Growth Rates

When researching trees and bushes, you’ll inevitably encounter the term “growth rate.” This simply refers to the expected speed at which a plant increases in size vertically and horizontally each year. While genetics play a crucial role, growth rates can fluctuate based on environmental factors. Here’s an overview of what impacts the growth rate of trees and bushes:

Soil Quality: Plants absorb nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus through their roots. Rich, well-drained soil provides the best meal for healthy growth. Acidic soil below pH 6.0 or compacted clay soil can stunt expansion.

How to Choose the Fastest Growing Tree or Bush for Your Garden

Water Availability: Trees and bushes need sufficient water to transport nutrients through their vascular systems. Drought conditions lead to slower growth as plants conserve resources.

Sun Exposure: Like solar panels, plants convert sunlight into energy via photosynthesis. More sun equals more fuel for growth.

Temperature: Warm weather accelerates growth by speeding up physiological processes. Scorching heat or winter freezes slow everything down.

Pruning: Strategic pruning directs energy toward desired branches and foliage instead of diverting it to unnecessary growth.

Pests/Diseases: Damage from pests and diseases can weaken plants, reducing their ability to expand vigorously.

Age: As trees and bushes mature, their growth rate declines as energy is diverted to reproduction.

Genetics: Some plants are bred specifically for fast growth, while others expand leisurely.

You can maximize your growth rate by selecting the right tree or bush for your soil, sunlight, climate, and space. But beware of rapid expanders that can quickly overtake your garden!

Determining Your Gardening Goals

Assess your overall gardening vision before planting the first fast-growing flora you find. Consider elements like:

  • Privacy: Do you need foliage to screen out views, noise, or foot traffic? Many fast-growing bushes excel as living fences.
  • Shade: Are you seeking cool respite from the summer sun or protection from winter winds? Look for trees with wide canopies.
  • Curb Appeal: Evergreens or flowering varieties can provide visual interest and beautify your space year-round.
  • Wildlife Habitat: Would you like to attract birds, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators? Plants with berries, nuts, and nectar-rich blossoms are essential.
  • Erosion Control: Does your yard need help stabilizing soil on steep slopes or along water features? Look for deep-rooted trees and bushes suited for this task.
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Once you’ve defined the functional roles you want plants to play, you can better match the growth rate to your goals. A rapidly growing bush-like forsythia quickly delivers screening and bright spring blooms. Slow-growing oak trees eventually provide wildlife habitat and erosion control over decades.

The benefits of trees and bushes in your garden

Considering Your Garden’s Environment

The ideal plant for your friend’s garden may fail fabulously in your own outdoor space due to differences in climate, soil, and other factors. Before buying, analyze your garden’s unique conditions to determine what will thrive there.

Soil Type and pH

Dig down 6 to 8 inches in several spots and analyze your soil makeup. Sandy soil drains quickly, while clay soil retains more water. Silty soil with a mix of particle sizes offers balanced drainage and water retention. The ideal pH range for most trees and bushes is slightly acidic, between 6.0 to 7.0. Use an at-home soil testing kit or send samples to your local agricultural extension office for analysis.

Sun Exposure and Climate Zone

Note how sunlight hits different areas of your garden throughout the day. Also, check official USDA hardiness zone maps for your region. These maps indicate the average coldest temperature so you can choose proven hardy plants adapted to your climate.

Space Constraints and Root Habits

Picture how big that cute shrub will stand ten years from now! Refer to plant tags or resources like local nurseries to understand your plant’s mature size. Also, research if the tree or bush has aggressive surface roots that could invade pathways, patios, or foundations.

Water Access and Drainage

Trees and bushes need sufficient water during their first year of establishment. Ensure your irrigation system or watering commitment can support their needs. Also, assess your drainage. Plants that thrive in continuously moist soil may succumb to root rot in poor drainage.

Popular Fast-Growing Trees and Their Traits

Now that you know your site and purpose, it’s time for the fun part – picking plants! Here are some of my favorite fast-growing trees for Midwestern gardens:

Deciduous Trees

Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum):

  • Growth Rate: Over 3 feet per year
  • Mature Height/Spread: Up to 100 feet tall, 70 feet wide
  • Features: Bright green leaves with silvery undersides, smoky orange fall color
  • Tolerates: Wet soil, pollution, salt, shade
  • Notes: Speedy growth but prone to breaking limbs in storms

Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera):

  • Growth Rate: Over 2 feet per year
  • Mature Height/Spread: Up to 100 feet tall, 40 feet wide
  • Features: Showy spring flowers resembling tulips, unique leaves
  • Tolerates: Various soil types, some drought, somewhat urban conditions
  • Notes: Also known as yellow poplar, it is the state tree of Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra):

  • Growth Rate: Over 2 feet per year
  • Mature Height/Spread: Up to 100 feet tall, 75 feet wide
  • Features: Compound leaves, delicious edible nuts
  • Tolerates: Various soil types, somewhat urban conditions
  • Notes: Produces natural herbicide that inhibits other plants from growing nearby
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Evergreen Trees

Leyland Cypress (Cupressus x leylandii):

  • Growth Rate: Over 3 feet per year
  • Mature Height/Spread: Up to 70 feet tall, 20 feet wide
  • Features: Graceful fern-like leaves, fast columnar growth
  • Tolerates: Most soil types, air pollution, salt spray
  • Notes: Often used for privacy screens and hedges

Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana):

  • Growth Rate: 1 to 2 feet per year
  • Mature Height/Spread: Up to 50 feet tall, 20 feet wide
  • Features: Vibrant evergreen foliage, bluish-colored berries
  • Tolerates: Dry sites, various soils, urban conditions
  • Notes: Provides nesting habitat for birds

American Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis):

  • Growth Rate: 1 to 2 feet per year
  • Mature Height/Spread: Up to 60 feet tall, 15 feet wide
  • Features: Fan-like sprays of flattened leaves, fragrant foliage
  • Tolerates: Various soils, shade, wet sites near water
  • Notes: Often used for privacy screens and hedges
Find the Fastest Growing Tree or Bush for Your Area

Popular Fast-Growing Bushes and Their Traits

Perk up your garden with these speedy shrubs ideally suited for Midwestern climates:

Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia):

  • Growth Rate: Over 2 feet per year
  • Mature Height/Spread: Up to 10 feet tall, 10 feet wide
  • Features: Bright yellow spring flowers, arching branches
  • Tolerates: Variety of soils, some shade
  • Notes: Prune after flowering to maintain shape and size

Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii):

  • Growth Rate: Over 2 feet per year
  • Mature Height/Spread: Up to 10 feet tall, 10 feet wide
  • Features: Fragrant conical flowers attract butterflies
  • Tolerates: Variety of soils, heat, some drought
  • Notes: Deadhead spent flowers to promote more blooms

Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus):

  • Growth Rate: 1 to 2 feet per year
  • Mature Height/Spread: Up to 15 feet tall, 15 feet wide
  • Features: Striking red fall foliage, orange-red winged bark
  • Tolerates: Variety of soils, some drought, partial shade
  • Notes: It can be invasive, so monitor growth and prune regularly

Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius):

  • Growth Rate: 1 to 2 feet per year
  • Mature Height/Spread: Up to 10 feet tall, 10 feet wide
  • Features: Exfoliating bark, white spring flowers, reddish fall foliage
  • Tolerates: Variety of soils, urban pollution, salt, drought
  • Notes: Prune the oldest stems at the base in spring to renew growth

Landscape Design Considerations

Once you’ve selected plants, consider how they’ll merge into your overall design. Follow these tips:

  • Match scale – Make sure young saplings won’t shadow over smaller plants at maturity.
  • Envision layers – Use trees, shrubs, perennials, and groundcovers to create depth.
  • Repeat elements – Unify the design by repeating similar forms, textures, or colors.
  • Allow room to grow – Give plants space to reach their potential size without being crammed.
  • Draw the eye – Use focal points, curves, and contrasting foliage to create interest.

Walk around the garden, visualizing future growth. Sketch ideas or use garden planning software to see your layout matured. The right design reduces maintenance and harmonizes fast and slow-growing plants.

Get it right the first time choosing the perfect tree for your garden.

Planting Tips for Maximum Growth

Spring and fall are ideal times to plant new additions when soil moisture and mild temperatures are plentiful. Here are some planting tips to spur rapid growth:

Pick healthy nursery stock – Select plants with green, turgid leaves and active stem growth. Avoid root-bound or diseased plants.

Prep the soil thoroughly. Amend dense clay or sandy soil with 2-3 inches of organic compost before planting.

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Plant at the proper depth – Set the plant at its original nursery depth, but don’t bury it too deeply.

Water thoroughly – Allow a slow stream until the soil is saturated around the roots.

Apply root stimulator – Use vitamin B1 root stimulator according to package instructions to encourage root growth after planting.

Add mulch ring – Place 2-3 inches of mulch around plants while keeping it clear of stems.

Stake as needed – Use staking to anchor shallow-rooted trees until they establish deeper roots.

Get your trees and bushes to a great start with the right fertilizer

Caring for Your Fast-Growing Trees and Bushes

Consistent care during your first year is critical to ensuring your greenery gets off to a vigorous start. Pay close attention to these essential maintenance tasks:

Water 1-2 times per week – Increase water if soils are dry. Decrease if soggy.

Fertilize in early summer – Use a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer, following label rates.

Inspect for pests – Monitor for common problems like Japanese beetles, aphids, and borers. Remove by hand or use OMRI-certified treatments.

Weed regularly – Keep planting areas free of competing weeds, especially in spring and summer.

Prune strategically – Prune only for structure, health, and shaping. Never shear!

Protect trunks from critters – Use fencing or wrapping to protect from deer, rabbits, and rodents.

Stake as needed – Add supportive staking if plants start leaning severely due to growth.

With vigilant and attentive care during the first year, your plants will establish an expansive root system and vigorous growth that will carry them through future seasons.

Pruning for the Perfect Shape

Environmental Impact and Sustainability

While fast growth satisfies the impatient gardener in us all, it shouldn’t come at the expense of our planet. Follow these tips to make your garden a natural wonderland that welcomes diversity:

Select Non-Invasive Species

Check sources like the USDA and state agencies to avoid problematic plants that can escape boundaries and disrupt local ecosystems. For example, I adore flowering butterfly bush, but it’s sadly classified as invasive in some states. Make sure choices like bamboo and burning bush won’t run rampant.

Invite Pollinators and Wildlife

Select native plants with pollen- and berry-producing flowers to nourish bees, butterflies, birds, and other helpful wildlife. You’ll enjoy the bustling activity while supporting your local ecosystem.

Balance Growth and Water Consumption

Rapid growth requires ample hydration. Look for plants suitable for your region’s rainfall, such as drought-tolerant natives. Consider rain barrels, soaker hoses, or drip irrigation to minimize waste. Adding mulch also curbs water needs.

By designing gardens that sustain both the plants within them and the living world around them, we can all relish in the ripening fruits of our green thumb labors for many seasons to come! Please feel free to post photos and share your own stories of cultivating fabulous fast-growing trees and bushes! I look forward to hearing about your garden adventures.