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The Complete Guide to Fast Growing Trees

"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."
~ Chinese Proverb

Mature, elegant, stately trees make memories and add value to a home. Who doesn't remember climbing a tree or building a hidden fort in the branches of a beautiful tree? Even as adults, we covet trees. From the shade and privacy they provide to the value of ornamental blooms and edible fruit, a landscape without trees is barren.

Whether your home is a new construction or your landscape needs a quickly maturing tree to add interest and value to your property, we offer a wide selection of fast growing trees for many applications.

Why add fast growing trees to your garden? One of the biggest benefits is cost-savings. It may seem like an oxymoron to mention cost-savings when buying trees, but you'll appreciate the long-term impact on your energy bills. Shade trees help keep your home cool by blocking sun on the roof and windows, preventing heat absorption. The AC works less, helping to lower your energy bills. Conversely, as deciduous shade trees drop their leaves in autumn, the sun can access the home, allowing its rays to warm the roof and support the heat system as needed.

Trees provide privacy and block out noise. By planting fast growing trees into a privacy screen, you can enjoy your garden without disturbance. Shade trees also make the garden a more welcoming space for entertaining, providing a respite from the sun's rays during the heat of summer.

We all know that the leaves of trees help clean the air, but it's not a fact we usually consider when landscaping our yard. Fast growing trees can provide significant reduction in pollutants, which is especially important for family members who might suffer from asthma. According to the USDA, "One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people." As if the health benefits weren't enough, leaves provide a lovely aromatherapy to a garden.

Trees also add curb appeal to your home, making the landscape into a welcoming focal point of your property. Buyers are willing to pay more for homes with mature trees.

As if the beauty of mature trees wasn't enough of a reason to add them to your garden, they can also can block wind, provide food and shelter for wildlife, and add the perfect place to dream away the hours in a hammock. What's not to love about trees?

The Top Fast Growing Tree Varieties

Whether you're looking for a large specimen to shade your garden, multiple trees to create a privacy screen, or flowering specimens to add structural interest and color to your landscape, there's a wide variety of fast growing trees to meet your needs in an assortment of colors, foliage traits, and sizes.

Thuja ‘Green Giant': Incredibly fast growing trees (up to 5' per year) provide excellent screens to block out noisy neighbors, construction, and wind. No pruning required, plus they're drought tolerant once established. 40' height, 10-15' width, zones 5-9.

Italian Cypress: A classic evergreen for entrances, driveways, and borders that is low-maintenance and elegant. The blue-green foliage and narrow, compact habit of the trees are ideal for tight spaces that need vertical interest, growing up to 3' per year. 40' height, 4-6' width, zones 7-10.

‘Rainbow' Eucalyptus: The perfect conversation starter. The brightly striped trunk provides a splash of color and textural interest, while the canopy adds shade. Grows 5-8' per year. With blooms in both spring and fall, the plant adds four seasons of interest to the garden. Tolerates dry conditions. 100' height, 30' width, zones 9-11.

‘Leyland' Cypress: When you require an immediate screen for privacy or a noise buffer, these quick-growing (up to 6' per year), low maintenance, drought tolerant trees are your solution. 60-70' height, 15-20' width, zones 6-10.

Cryptomeria Radicans: Fast-growing trees quickly provide privacy, growing 3-4' per year. Soft blue-green foliage and graceful, conical shapes add elegance to the evergreen border. 30-40' height, 15-20' width, zones 5-9.

‘Royal Empress': Growing more than 15' per year, this is the perfect tree to add immediate height, shade, and interest to your landscape. This non-invasive variety produces lavender-scented blooms in the spring and reaches its mature height in just five years. Best of all, it's disease and pest resistant, as well as drought tolerant. 40-50' height, 30-40' width, zones 5-11.

Tulip Poplar: A perfect tree to add four seasons of beauty to your garden. Hummingbirds adore the spring blooms, while songbirds and squirrels enjoy the seeds in the fall. The bright green summer leaves turn golden in autumn. A perfect disease- and pest-resistant shade tree. 70' height, 30-40' width, zones 4-9.

Mimosa Silk Tree: A lovely, versatile planting in the landscape that establishes quickly without becoming too large. With fern-like leaves adding texture and fragrant pink blooms appearing in spring and lasting through mid-summer, the mimosa adds visual interest to the garden. Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds appreciate the bright pink, pom pom-like flowers. 20-25' height, 10-20' width, zones 5-10.

‘Yoshino': Growing up to 3' per year, this stunning cherry tree is the perfect accent for your garden. The delicate white blooms add spring interest, while the foliage turns from a shiny green to yellow-orange in fall. Birds love the fruit. 20-30' height, 10-20' width, zones 5-8.

‘Kwanzan': Fabulous deep pink clusters of double blossom flowers make this tree a focal point in your landscape design. From the spectacular blooms to the foliage that changes from bronze to green to yellow-orange in the fall to the beautiful bark that adds winter interest, it's the perfect tree for year round interest in the garden. 30' height, 30' width, zones 5-9.

Crape Myrtles
‘Dynamite': Red blooms grace the large 20- to 30-foot tree. First introduced by breeder Dr. Carl Whitcomb in 1997, ‘Dynamite' is the first crape myrtle to sport true red blooms. 20-30' height, 10-20' width, zones 7-9.

‘Natchez': Elegant white blooms add brightness to the landscape, while the cinnamon-colored bark extends seasonal interest. This variety is highly resistant to powdery mildew, the bane of crape myrtle owners.15-20' height, 15-20' width, zones 7-10.

‘Muskogee': Spectacular purple blooms grace this fast growing variety, which can grow up to five feet per year until reaching maturity at 15-25 feet. Specially bred by the U.S. National Arboretum for its rich, purple blooms and excellent disease resistance. 15-25' height, 20' width, zones 7-11.

White Kousa: Long lasting blooms, autumn fruits, fantastic foliage color, and sculptural bark make this dogwood an ideal specimen in your garden. The wildlife will love it, too—the birds adore the pink fruit. 15-25' height, 20-25' width, zones 5-8.

Weeping Willow: The perfect specimen tree, its elegant branches provide the perfect hiding place for a little girl to read her favorite books. Not only is it a beautiful tree, it's a workhorse: it helps stop erosion, and it can contain flooding. Plus, it can grow up to 8' per year, adding instant impact to the garden. Highly pest and disease resistant. 40-50' height, 35' width, zones 4-9.

Hybrid Poplars: When you need a tree that can tolerate poor soil, drought, and isn't bothered by diseases and pests, hybrid poplars are the solution. They're good candidates to plant close to foundations as well, as they add visual height without encroaching on the structure. 40-50' height, 30' width, zones 3-8.

‘October Glory' Maple: With its spreading, oval canopy providing perfect shade in the garden, you'll enjoy a year-long show of color and texture. Red spring flowers, gorgeous summer leaves, and spectacular fall color that lasts longer into autumn than other maples, this quick-growing maple (up to 5' per year) is the ideal tree for continual garden interest. 40-50' height, 25' width, zones 3-8.

‘Santa Rosa' Plum: Growing your own fruit is a perk of having a garden, and this fast-growing plum tree provides delicious, thin-skinned, reddish-purple, sweet fruit. The earliest plum to ripen, it's also a self-pollinating tree, meaning that you don't need another plum tree in the garden for pollination. 20-25' height, 10-20' width, zones 5-10.

‘Keiffer' Pear: A fast growing, self-pollinating tree that will produce delicious fruit you can use for canning, desserts, preserves, or to eat fresh. While it's self-pollinating, it will perform best if paired with a second pear tree. Pest and disease resistance make this a perfect choice for your urban homestead! 15-25' height, 5-10' width, zones 4-9.

‘Queen' Palm: A tropical feel to your landscape is possible even if you don't live in the tropics. This low maintenance palm is highly adaptable to a variety of soils and sites, plus it sports edible fruit that taste like a cross between a banana and plum. 25-50' height, 15-25' width, zones 9-11 (in ground), 4-11 (potted).

Bamboo Hedge Multiplex: Unlike invasive bamboo species, this well-behaved, silvery-gray planting will not invade your garden. Instead, it will grow quickly to provide an excellent privacy wall, one that tolerates frost and snow without foliage damage. Cold hard to 12-15 degrees. Can also be grown as a houseplant with pruning. 20-30' height, 5-10' width, zones 7-11.

Black Bamboo: A striking, quick growing addition to your garden. The black canes contrast beautifully against the green foliage, providing the perfect narrow accent for your landscape. The bamboo does like to run, however, so make certain you plant it in an area suitable for naturalizing or contain it to a pot. 18-24' height, 7-10' width, zones 6-9.

All of our trees score high in disease and pest resistance to ensure you spend time enjoying your garden, not battling pests and diseases.

Background Information on Fast Growing Trees

Trees provide year-long interest in the garden. Whether they serve as privacy fences, accent plants, a burst of color, or food sources for you or for wildlife, trees add many benefits to landscapes. When you build a new home or move into a home without many trees in the garden, quickly growing trees can be a good solution to make your landscape more pleasing, reduce your energy costs, and add privacy. Most trees are low-maintenance, as well as disease and pest-resistant. Little, if any, pruning is required to keep their shapes. Additionally, many of these fast growing trees adapt easily to a wide variety of soils, sites, and applications.

How to Select the Right Trees

Before you purchase your tree, look carefully at your site and decide how you want the plant to perform. Do you intend to grow a privacy screen along your property? Need a wind screen to reduce your energy costs? Are you looking to make a statement at the entrance of your home or along the driveway? Hope to harvest fruits for an urban farm feel? Also, what is your hardiness zone? Most trees tolerate a wide range of climates, but check the growing information carefully prior to purchase.

Depending on your needs, there's an tree appropriate for your landscape. Consider foliage color, bloom season, and texture when selecting trees. Read the plant's information, paying particular attention to the plant's mature height. While most trees are typically low-maintenance, an improperly planted tree can become a maintenance nuisance. Ensure that the area is free from power lines and roof overhangs, and plan the site so that the width of the mature tree does not encroach on pathways.

As always, if you need assistance selecting the tree that is right for your garden, we're happy to help. Just give us a call at 800-399-9514.

How to Plant Fast Growing Trees

As soon as you receive your tree, give it a good drink, particularly if you plan to wait a day or two to plant it.

Proper site selection and preparation will help grow a happy plant. Full to partial sun, good drainage, and adequate airflow are all ingredients for a healthy tree. Remember to check your site for overhead power lines or structures that might become a problem as your tree grows. If you spot obstacles, choose another location.

Trees can tolerate a wide variety of sites and soils. However, amending heavy, compact clay soils with compost will improve the health of your tree, allowing water to drain adequately so it won't rot the plant's roots.

Late fall or early spring are ideal times to plant trees, allowing the plants to settle in without severe heat stress or impending freezes before roots establish in their new home.

Dig a hole approximately twice as large as the plant's root ball. A well-dug hole gives you the opportunity to breakup any compacted soil, add amendments, and give your plant a good start without overcrowding its roots. Your tree will thank you.

Loosen the plant in the container, carefully removing it, and massaging the root ball. Place in the center of the hole, making certain the soil lines of both the root ball and the hole align. You want to ensure that you don't plant the trunk too deep in the hole. Back fill the hole, pressing the soil into place. Water well. Add a layer of mulch over the site, but avoid the "volcano" effect—simply spread mulch over the site to conserve moisture. Never mound mulch around the tree's trunk, which can promote disease. If planting as a privacy screen, align plants along the border and space accordingly to the plant's recommendations. Remember to consider the mature width of the trees when planting to ensure they don't encroach on your neighbor's property.

Each spring, add a layer of compost over the planting site, as well as a good, organic fertilizer. However, do not over-fertilize flowering trees, as too much fertilizer will provide lush foliage—and few blooms.

Keep the tree well watered through the first growing season, approximately one inch per week. As it becomes established in your garden, normal rains should suffice. Most trees are fairly drought tolerant once established.

While most trees we offer are pest and disease resistant, bagworms can quickly damage a tree. Remove the caterpillars and web by snipping off the host branch, if possible. Japanese beetles adore cherry trees. If possible, hand pick the beetles, throwing them into a bucket of soapy water. If the tree is too tall, apply organic controls as needed.

How to Prune Fast Growing Trees

Most trees require little pruning. When necessary, prune just after flowering. Remove dead, sick, and crossing stems, as well as any stray stems, to maintain a clean shape. Pruning is typically needed only when a tree outgrows its site. Save yourself work by selecting trees appropriate to the space allocated.

Most evergreen trees we offer require minimal maintenance. If necessary, clip new growth to maintain shape in spring for non-flowering varieties, or after blooms fade.

The great debate: is pruning a crape myrtle "crape murder," or is it a necessary evil of enjoying the beauty of crape myrtles? Many homeowners severely prune crape myrtles due to the misinformation that they will not bloom without a considerable whacking. Others cut back beautiful specimens, simply because they've seen their neighbors "topping" the trees. The reality is that unless the plant outgrows its location, there's no reason to heavily prune crape myrtles.

However, light pruning can help shape crape myrtles into their best form. Eliminating spindly branches, snipping seed pods to encourage reblooming, and editing weak trunks to encourage strong tree form helps shape the plant to reach its full, beautiful potential. To encourage a well-defined tree shape, remove all but three to five of the strongest trunks at ground level. As the tree grows, remove lower, lateral branches, as well as any branches that cross.

To keep crape myrtles at a manageable height, remove twiggy growth to the lower growing side branches. Remove damaged or dead branches to maintain the plant's health.

Pruning trees is best done when the plant is dormant in the winter or early spring. Just prune sparingly to maintain a lovely, healthy plant.

Fun Tree Facts

In Japan, when a girl baby is born, the family plants a Paulownia (‘Royal Empress') tree for her. The tree grows throughout the girl's life, and when she is to be married, the wood is harvested to create a wedding chest for her. The tree is also planted next to houses so that Phoenix will come to protect the family and bring good luck.

The Paulownia existed in North America prior to the last Ice Age. More than 500 fossils of Paulownia leaves were discovered in tertiary strata of Ellensburg Canyon of Washington State.

Long before the arrival of Christianity, evergreen boughs were hung over doors and windows to keep out witches, spirits, and ghosts.

Weeping Willows are the basis for today's aspirin. In 1763, British minister Edward Stone identified and isolated salicylic acid in willows. However, the acid caused too much stomach upset to be useful. In 1897, chemist Felix Hoffman created a synthetic version that was gentler on stomachs. Bayer produced and sold the first aspirin.

Willows are also used in art, with sketching charcoal made from processed willow bark. They also are tied into art through mythology. The poet Orpheus received his gift for music and poetry after touching a willow in a grove sacred to Persephone. Willows are also symbolic of death, with many depicted in funereal paintings. And, of course, what willow tree is more famous that J.K Rowling's Whomping Willow in the Harry Potter series?

Many of the dugout canoes used by Native Americans and early settlers were made from the trunks of Tulip Poplars. The trunks were 60 feet long, making for large canoes capable of carrying many people and goods. In fact, Daniel Boone led 35 people from Boonesborough, KY, to St. Louis, using a Tulip Poplar dugout canoe for transportation. The men traveled on land, herding their animals, but the women, children, and all their goods traveled by canoe.

In 1912, the People of Japan gifted 3,000 cherry trees to the People of the United States as a sign of friendship. The trees were planted in Washington, D.C. Today, more than 1.5 million people visit Washington's Cherry Blossom Festival each year.

In Japanese culture, the cherry blossom represents the fragility and beauty of life. It's also a reminder that life is overwhelmingly beautiful but tragically short.

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