There are all sorts of reasons why people want quick growing trees and shrubs. Perhaps you just got a new house and are desperate for shade, or your neighbor just parked a motor home in his backyard, and you need it screened ASAP!
Whatever the reason, be careful and know the drawbacks of quick growing trees and shrubs.
Many of the growth characteristics that make trees or shrubs grow fast can often lead to weak wood, insect issues, and all together shortened lives. There are better choices for fast growing trees and shrubs than others. The list below highlights plant material that is quick yet, for the most part, more reliable. A quick growing tree or shrub grows between 1.5′ to 2′ a year. Anything over that will most likely be a poor choice for a long lasting reliable tree.
To ensure optimal growth, provide good soil, proper nutrients, and ample water. Because they put on so much growth each year and can have weaker wood, it is important that quick growing trees and shrubs receive proper trimming
When using quick growing plant material in the landscape, it is a good idea to diversify with both fast growing and traditional plant material. This way you get the best of both worlds. You get a quick screen or shade and allow time for the slower plant material to grow. After a decade, or so, re-evaluate the quick growing plant material and remove what is necessary. This technique leaves the more desirable and more reliable slower growing plant material which has had time to mature.
It is important, when placing the quick growing plant material, that enough room is left between them and any structures or plants. Fast growing trees and shrubs can rapidly shade out other plant material if planted too closely. Also, plant beds and structures can be damaged if the quick growing trees and shrubs need to be removed or come down on their own.
Autumn Blaze Maple: Will grow to 50-60′ tall by 40′ wide. Prefers moist well-drained soil and will grow around 1.5′ a year. Make sure to pick out a tree with a good central leader. Zone 4
Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry: Can be a single stem or a multi-stem tree or large shrub. Grows to 20-25′ tall by 15′ wide. Prefers medium moisture and will grow 1-1.5′ per year. Zone 4
Black Alder: Will grow to be around 30-40′ tall by 30′ wide. Prefers wet soils and will put on nearly 1.5′ of growth per year. Zone 4
Dawn Redwood: This is a deciduous evergreen that loses its needles. Will grow to 70′ or more by 25-40′ wide. Prefers moist conditions and will grow up to 2′ per year. Zone 5
New Horizon Elm: This Elm will grow to 50′ tall by 25′ wide. Widely adaptable to different soil conditions and will grow about 1.5′ per year. Zone 4
River Birch: This Birch has light to cinnamon colored exfoliating bark. It is mostly grown as a multi-stemmed tree. Tolerant of drought conditions once established and can also tolerate moist soils. Will reach 40-50′ tall by 30-40′ wide and put on 1 to 1.5′ of growth a year. Zone 4
Tulip Tree: This tree is called a Tulip Tree because its leaves resemble Tulip flowers. It can reach approximately 70′ tall by 30-50′ wide and prefers moist well-drained soil. Will grow between 1.25 and 1.5′ per year.
Willow Trees: There are many different types of Willow trees out there. For the most part, they all are very quick growers. Caution should be taken not to place willows near houses, sewers, or septic systems. They have very aggressive roots that search out water. Trees range from 20 to 80′ tall and have similar widths. They all typically all prefer moist soil. They will put on average 2′ of growth a year.
Austrian Pine: Will grow to 50′ tall and 20′ wide. This tree is known to have some insect issues later in life which can lead to a shorter life. Prefers moist well-drained soil and can grow more than 1.5′ per year. Zone 2
Green Giant Arborvitae: This is one of the most deer resistant varieties of arborvitae. Will grow to be 40 to 50′ tall and 10 to 15′ wide. It is tolerant of most soils but prefers moist well drained soil. It can easily grow 2′ or more a year. Zone 5
Eastern White Pine: Will grow to 50′ tall by 20-30′ wide. Prefers moist well-drained soil and can grow 1 to 1.5′ per year. Can have issues with wind and is not salt or pollution tolerant. Zone 3
Common Lilac: This flowering shrub will grow to be around 8 to 12′ tall and 6 to 10′ wide. Prefers average to well-drained soil and will grow about 1 to 1.5′ per year. Zone 3
Cheyenne Privet: Will grow to be 8′ tall and 4 to 6′ wide. Great for hedges and very adaptable to most soils. Will grow an average of 1.5′ per year. Zone 4
Dappled Willow: This is a very vigorous shrub and can be maintained at 6 to 10′ tall and wide with some pruning. Can tolerate average soil, but prefers moist soil. Will easily grow 2′ per year. Zone 4
Diablo Ninebark: Will grow to be 8 to 10′ tall and wide. It is tolerant of most soils and will easily grow over 1.5′ per year. Zone 2
Northern Gold Forsythia: Can grow to be 6 to 7′ tall and 4′ wide. It is adaptable to many different types of soils and will grow at least 1.5′ per year. Zone 3
Peeking Cotoneaster: This shrub is a great hedge plant. It can grow to be 5 to 7′ tall by 4 to 6′ wide. Tolerant of most soils. Growth will average around 1′ per year. Zone 4
Purple Leaf Sand Cherry: Will grow to 8′ tall and 8′ wide. Adaptable to many different conditions and will grow about 1 to 1.5′ per year. Considered to be a 10 year shrub so plan for the short lifespan. Zone 3
Red Twig Dogwood: This plant can to be 7 to 9′ tall and wide. It is adaptable to most soils including moist conditions. On average, will grow around 1 to 1.5′ per year. Zone 2
Rose of Sharon: This shrub will grow to heights of 8 to 12′ tall and 6 to 10′ wide. It is tolerant of most soils and will grow about 1.5′ per year. Zone 5