Landscape Design

Top 10 Fast Growing Trees & Shrubs

By Sheereen Othman | March 27, 2017

Spring planting has already started in some hardiness zones. It’s the perfect time to plan your landscape design. If you’re looking to green your property fast, then consider these fast growing trees and shrubs.

Here are the most popular fast growing trees sold through the Arbor Day tree nursery, in order of the most popular.

  1. North Privet (Ligustrum x ibolium)

This deciduous or semi-evergreen shrub is America’s fastest-growing hedge, growing up to 3′ per year. The shrub’s dense, dark, glossy green foliage makes it an excellent choice for hedges and privacy screens.

If you’re interested in a hedge with a formal appearance, this privet tolerates shearing well. When you grow it as a hedge, shearing it early and often helps to develop thick layers of branches for year-round privacy.

2. Green Giant Arborvitae (Thuja standishii x plicata ‘Green Giant’)

The green giant arborvitae is a large, vigorous, fast-growing evergreen—shooting up by as much as 3′ per year until maturity. Its natural pyramidal to conical form boasts dense, rich green foliage that darkens or bronzes slightly in the winter.

This is an exceptional landscape tree for use as a screen, hedge or single specimen. It is also resistant to wind once established and can withstand heavy ice or snow, making it a good choice for a natural windbreak.

3. Hybrid Poplar (Populus deltoides x Populus nigra)

Hybrid poplars are the thoroughbreds of the tree world. Their claim to fame is speed, with vertical growth of 5–8′ per year not being uncommon. This cottonless hybrid can be harvested for firewood in five to seven years, making it a sustainable source. It also works well for visual screens and hillside or sand dune stabilization. While nice for quick shade, the hybrid poplar should only be planted in landscape where occasional limb breakage is not a problem.

4. Blue Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Nikko’)

The blue hydrangea is the image most of us conjure up in our heads when we think of hydrangeas in general. It is a timeless landscape plant beloved by many, including Martha Stewart.

Giant, long-lasting, mophead blooms appear in the summer, adding lovely color to the landscape. These shrubs work well as stand-alone specimens or as a hedge.

5. Norway Spruce (Picea abies)

Norway spruce is a familiar sight in much of the United States, but it’s really a tree of Europe. Throughout the globe, this tree has many uses including lumber, pulpwood, Christmas trees and landscape specimen trees. Its dense branching pattern and tolerance of soil variations has also made it a popular tree for windbreaks.

Check out DIY: A Beginner’s Guide to Landscaping.

If you have enough space and want to add a sense of formal dignity to your landscape, the Norway spruce will suit you well.

6. Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda)

The loblolly pine is an important American timber tree that is also cloaked in beauty during much of the year. With a natural range reaching across the southeastern United States, this pine is distinguished by its large, columnar trunk; attractive bark in broad, reddish-brown plates; and its pale green needles.

As one of the fastest growing southern pines, it is used for a quick screen in many landscapes.

7. Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica)

This graceful giant is known for its open crown of wispy, ground-sweeping branches and long, slender leaves. Often seen as one of the first indications of spring, the weeping willow’s yellow twigs and green foliage appear early in the season—sometimes as early as February.

The tree is easy to grow and quick to take root, reaching heights between 30′ and 40′ and nearly the same in width. It lends itself well to planting singly or in small groves near the edge of ponds, lakes and rivers.

8. Leyland Cypress (x Cupressocyparis leylandii)

Noted for its rapid growth and slender shape, the Leyland cypress has found wide popularity over a large range of the United States. It grows well in a wide variety of soil and climate conditions and makes an excellent wind break as it provides a dense barrier with good color all 12 months of the year.

This sterile hybrid is produced in great numbers for use in Christmas tree plantations, in windbreaks and along boundary lines.  It also beautifies the landscape around homes, across campuses and in parks.

9. Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

One can argue about whether the “tulips” are the outline of its leaves or its cup-shaped flowers. But both undoubtedly contributed to the fanciful name given to this tree by early settlers. And the tuliptree is still beloved for its beauty today, serving as the state tree of Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee. It is the tallest of the eastern hardwoods—and a rapid grower when conditions are right.

If you’re looking for a stunning tree that grows quickly and doesn’t suffer from many pest problems, your search is over.

10. Red Delicious Apple (Malus domestica ‘Red Delicious’)

Of the more than 2,500 different cultivated varieties of apple trees in North America today, the most famous and widely planted is the red delicious. Perhaps because of its mild, sweet flavor. Possibly because of the long storage life. Or maybe because the name is so appealing.

Legend states that the red delicious apple was named when its discoverer in Iowa sent samples to a commercial nursery in 1892. The nursery owner tasted one of the apples and exclaimed, “Delicious!”

Catch up on the Top 10  Fruit Trees.   

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2 Comments

  • Reply Rosemary Bauman September 20, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    You should NOT be recommending Privet. This is a highly invasive plant that I spend a lot of time cutting and spraying with herbicide, as a forest restoration volunteer at a KY State Nature Preserve. There are many beautiful native shrubs to plant, do your research.

    • Reply Christine Hutfles September 22, 2017 at 8:13 am

      Hi, Rosemary.

      We share your concern about invasive species, and the importance of planting native species. The Northern Privet that we carry is not invasive. We do our best to offer a diverse selection of trees and shrubs that will perform well in the communities where they’ll be planted. This includes species native to this continent as well as some well-adapted, well-behaved, exotic species. But we always check with our valued partners, such as the U.S. Forest Service, state forestry agencies, and other natural resource agencies to make sure our plants will not cause environmental harm by becoming invasive.

      One text we always consult is titled, “Invasive Plants: Changing the Landscape of America,” published by the Federal Interagency Committee for the Management of Noxious and Exotic Weeds. Whenever a plant we have offered is determined to be invasive, we take it off our sales listing both in our printed Tree Book and our online Tree Store.

      We agree with you on the importance of native plants and we continue to expand our offering of native species, especially as we have been able to find nurseries that grow native trees and shrubs. But we also realize that the adaptations of certain non-native species to our urban environments means better survival and growth in places we need trees the most – our cities and towns. Given the onslaught of insect and disease pests on our urban forests, we want to offer a diverse palette of native – and sometimes non-native – trees to replace what we’re losing.

      Thank you!

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