As the warm embrace of spring draws near, so does the urge to spruce up our outdoor spaces. For many homeowners, that means transforming a drab yard into a lush garden oasis. But most lush gardens aren’t built in a day or year. That’s where fast-growing trees come in.
These remarkable trees can rocket skywards at astonishing rates, providing shade, privacy, and grace to your landscape in the blink of an eye. Whether you crave instant gratification or wish to attract more songbirds before summer’s end, fast-growing trees deliver on your landscaping dreams.
In my two decades as a gardener here in Wisconsin, I’ve learned quite a bit about these hasty hardwoods. From towering poplars to fragrant eucalyptus, let’s explore the ten fastest-growing trees guaranteed to bring rapid returns to your garden.
- 1 Why Choose Fast-Growing Trees?
- 2 The Power of Rapid Growth
- 3 Top 10 Fastest Growing Trees
- 3.1 Instant Shade Solutions
- 3.2 Ornamental Wonders
- 3.3 Fruitful Giants
- 3.4 Evergreen Excellent
- 3.5 Native Speedsters
- 4 Planting for Success
- 5 Caring for Your Speedy Specimens
- 6 Enjoying the Benefits
Why Choose Fast-Growing Trees?
Before highlighting superstar species, discuss why you might add these expeditious trees to your landscape.
As humans, we relish immediate results. Fast-growing trees appeal directly to this desire. Rather than waiting years for a stately oak to reach its full grandeur, trees like the royal empress provide dramatic beauty in just a season or two.
Within a year, many fast-growing trees rocket upwards at a rate of 3-6 feet. This provides a sense of accomplishment for the home gardener, realizing the fruits of their planting labor relatively quickly.
Trees clean our air, cool our cities, prevent soil erosion, and provide habitats for birds, bugs, and beasts. Fast-growing trees deliver these perks rapidly. As climate change threatens many ecosystems, planting more trees improves environmental resilience.
Certain fast-growing trees even directly support endangered species. The quaking aspen, for instance, provides food and shelter for the threatened American burying beetle. By planting fast-growing aspen, we can expand this beetle’s habitat range.
Property Value Boost
According to the USDA Forest Service, mature trees enhance curb appeal and can increase a home’s value by up to 20%. But it takes time for newly planted trees to reach impressive proportions. Fast-growing trees give you a jumpstart on creating an established landscape that will wow potential buyers.
The Power of Rapid Growth
Before highlighting the fastest-growing trees, let’s explore what makes them sprint skyward so quickly.
Defining Fast Growth
So, what constitutes a ‘fast-growing’ tree? Annual growth rates of over 2 feet are generally considered speedy for most tree types. Swift species can stretch upwards of 8 feet per year!
Of course, no tree grows that rapidly forever. Fast-growing trees experience a growth spurt in youth before settling into a more moderate pace.
The Growth Rate Balancing Act
Rapid expansion sounds excellent, but slower growth has advantages, too. Fast-growing trees are often weaker wooded, more prone to disease, and shorter-lived. They also require more maintenance, like frequent pruning and ample water.
It’s about balance. Look for trees that deliver speedy satisfaction but also provide long-term benefits. Avoid trees known to be invasive, weak-wooded, or incredibly short-lived. Proper care and maintenance help fast-growing trees thrive for decades.
Top 10 Fastest Growing Trees
Let’s highlight stellar species guaranteed to rocket your landscape to the moon in record time! I’ve categorized them according to their potential roles in your garden.
Instant Shade Solutions
Do you frequently host summer barbeques but lack a shady respite? These towering trees will provide shade in a snap.
The Majestic Hybrid Poplar
Hybrid poplars expand 5 feet per year in youth, forming an imposing columnar silhouette. Their ample canopy provides respite from the summer heat for garden seating areas. Though relatively short-lived, poplars are hardy, low-maintenance trees.
The Regal Royal Empress
Perhaps the fastest-growing tree in the world, the royal empress tree shoots upwards at a breakneck 10 feet per year! It forms a broad, rounded canopy in just a few seasons, granting plenty of shade. With large tropical-looking leaves and abundant lavender blossoms, this beauty makes a dramatic focal point.
Are you looking to add some visual excitement? These eye-catching specimens put on a memorable show.
The Dazzling Dawn Redwood
With delicate, fern-like foliage that turns fiery red in fall, the dawn redwood is a true four-season spectacle. Its narrow, pyramidal habit allows you to combine several stunning effects. Though it hails from China, the dawn redwood thrives in our Wisconsin climate.
The Graceful Weeping Willow
Few trees evoke such a romantic, fanciful air as the weeping willow with its long, leafy tendrils. Rapid growth transforms them into stunning focal points within a few seasons. Their vigorous roots seek moisture, so plant them near ponds, streams, or rain gardens.
Produce plentiful fruit right in your yard with these fast-growing fruit trees.
The Bountiful Quaking Aspen
A Wisconsin native, the quaking or trembling aspen earns its name from its leaves that flutter in the slightest breeze. This hardy tree provides dappled shade and a vibrant fall color and invites plenty of birds. Aspens spread rapidly through root suckers, so you’ll soon have a grove!
The Lush Lemon Eucalyptus
Most eucalyptus trees originate in Australia but adapt remarkably well to our climate. The lemon eucalyptus dazzles with its citrus-scented foliage and showy bark. Plant one as a living screen for privacy or a row as a windbreak. Just beware of falling snowy blossoms in spring!
Get instant privacy and year-round greenery from these evergreen beauties.
The Majestic Thuja Green Giant
With vibrant color and dense architectural form, the aptly named Thuja Green Giant makes a dramatic living screen or windbreak. Its shimmering foliage provides privacy and blocks wind rapidly. Site it carefully, as its vigorous roots can damage the pavement.
The Versatile Leyland Cypress
Another living wall option is the Leyland cypress. Its slender, pyramidal form fits nicely into tight spots, and its graceful green boughs provide shelter and seclusion in just a few seasons. Just be careful not to plant this vigorous grower near structures.
Want to incorporate regionally native trees? These grow with gusto while supporting local wildlife.
The Stately Silver Maple
A fixture of Wisconsin forests, silver maples grow rapidly into stately, spreading specimens, showering the landscape with fiery fall color. Their sprawling roots demand ample space, so plant them in areas where they can stretch. Be sure to give their abundant sweet sap to maple syrup producers!
The Majestic Sycamore
Another native, the American sycamore, is among the tallest eastern US trees. Fast growth helps them effectively shade large areas in parks and other open spaces. Their camouflage-patterned bark adds winter interest after their leaves unfurl vibrant yellow in fall.
Planting for Success
Proper planting and care will set them up for success now that you’re eager to acquire these arboreal speed demons. Here are my top tips:
Select a Spacious Spot
Many fast-growing trees become large, so allow plenty of room for their roots and canopy to spread. Avoid tightly hemmed-in spaces near structures that can restrict growth.
Check the tree’s expected mature height and width, and plant it centered within that space. If long-term space is limited, look for trees suitable for frequent pruning or dwarf cultivars.
Plant for Vigor
Dig a wide planting hole only as deep as the root ball. Gently loosen compacted roots before backfilling with native soil. Water thoroughly after planting, then lay down 2-4 inches of organic mulch around the base to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
If your soil could be better or more compacted, amend it with compost to help your tree grow quickly. Avoid fertilizer at planting time to prevent root damage.
Stake for Stability
Newly planted trees often need staking until their root systems expand. Use wide, flexible ties and avoid driving stakes into the root ball. Once the tree can stand independently, remove the supports after 1-2 years.
Prune for Structure
Pruning encourages proper branching structure by removing inward-growing limbs while the tree is young. To establish a solid central leader, you should remove crossed branches and prune back upper branches further than the lower ones.
At planting time, limit pruning to lower branches and avoid removing more than 25% of the canopy. Subsequent light pruning every few years helps maintain form and vigor.
Caring for Your Speedy Specimens
While most fast-growing trees are naturally vigorous, providing extra care ensures they grow strong and healthy year after year.
Consistent deep watering is vital for fast growth. Instead of frequent light sprinklings, slowly soak the entire root zone 1-2 times weekly. Deep watering encourages deep root systems that can better weather droughts. Mulch and irrigation systems help maintain ideal soil moisture.
Feed Every Few Seasons
While most trees don’t need frequent fertilizer, fast-growing trees respond well to occasional feeding. In early spring, apply a balanced, slow-release organic fertilizer around the roots every 2-3 years. Avoid high-nitrogen chemical fertilizers, which can damage soil ecology.
Regular pruning in youth helps trees develop sturdy branching patterns. After establishment, limit pruning to removing dead or damaged limbs. Only remove up to 25% of the live canopy at one time. For most trees, pruning every five years or so suffices.
Monitor for Issues
Look closely at your trees for signs of disease, pests, or damage. Address issues promptly to maintain vigor. Common problems include borers, scale insects, fungal leaf spots, and root rot. Your county extension office can diagnose problems and recommend organic treatments.
Brace for Weather Extremes
Our Wisconsin winters can wreak havoc on trees. Tree wraps can prevent frost cracks, and heavy snow loads can break branches. Keep lawnmowers and weed whackers away from trunks to avoid wounding. If storms topple or damage your trees, prune broken branches cleanly just outside the branch collar.
Enjoying the Benefits
When cared for properly, fast-growing trees become beloved landscape fixtures that provide beauty, shade, and sanctuary for decades. Do your research, select trees adapted to our region, and plant them in spaces where they can reach their potential.
Take time to enjoy watching your new arboreal additions expand day by day. Let them inspire you to plant more trees – fast-growing or not – and do your part to keep Wisconsin green for generations to come.
Now, I’d love to see and hear about your adventures growing fast-growing trees! Please share photos of your favorites or stories about how these speedy trees have transformed your landscape. What fast-growing trees have thrived in your yard?
I look forward to seeing the fruits of your planting labors!