The Best Fast Growing Trees for Backyard Landscaping

By D.A. Barber , last updated May 3, 2011

Whether you are looking to quickly adorn your backyard with ornamental trees or create a privacy barrier of dense foliage, knowing what fast growing trees to plant will speed-up the process. The best part planting fast growing landscape trees is how it affects your property value. The faster your trees mature, the faster your home value goes up!

Virtually all fast growing landscape trees are hybrids, which are also easy to grow and disease resistant. And the fastest growing hybrids can vary from conifers and willows, to brightly blooming ornamental trees. You first need to decide what you want from your backyard landscaping. Is it shade? Do you want your backyard to glow with a variety of brightly colored flowering trees? Or are you looking to create a column of trees that both look great and create a privacy barrier that can also block noise and wind?

Thuja Green Giant (Thuja Plicata x standishii)

Evergreen conifers usually grow painfully slow, but the Thuja Green Giant can grow up to 3 to 5 feet a year. The Thuja is considered the perfect privacy tree not just because it grows fast, but because its columnar shape quickly fills into a dense green wall that needs little maintenance. The Thuja Green Giant can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions and will grow best in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 7. As a conifer, Thuja produces half-inch, oblong cones that emerge green and slowly mature to brown.

Empress Tree (Paulownia tomentosa)

The Empress tree, also known as foxglove tree, princess tree or royal paulownia, is a large flowering tree that has ten-inch long masses of dangling flowers. These lavender flowers bloom between April and May, giving off a very fragrant scent. The Empress likes full sun or partial shade and grows well in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9, reaching 40 to 60 feet high. What's popular about the Empress is that they grow very fast, commonly from 8 to 12 feet a year.

Leyland Cypress (Cupressocyparis leylandii)

For a natural privacy fence, these trees are usually planted in a row. Each will grow very quickly - about 3 feet per year – and will reach up to 120 feet high and 15 feet wide. The Leyland Cypress produces bluish green needles with a texture that is feathery and soft. These trees are also popular for use as Christmas trees in the southern U.S. and do well in USDA hardiness zones 6 through 10. These trees are also very easy to prune to maintain the size and shape of your privacy screen.

Willow Hybrids (Salix)

The fastest growing privacy tree-screen you can plant is using Willow hybrids, which can grow an average of 7 feet per year. They also grow outward to form a dense barrier. The classic Weeping Willow (Salix x sepulcralis) is popular for their fuzzy pussy willow catkins that bloom in the spring. The Curly or Corkscrew Willow (Salix babylonica var. pekinensis) with its twisted branches makes an interesting-looking ornamental. These Willows grow best in USDA hardiness zones 2 through 9 and can reach up to 80 feet high and 45 feet wide.

Lombardy Poplar (Populus nigra Italica)

The Lombardy Poplar is a favorite for fence lines or borders that needs a fast-growing screening tree. They grow 6 to 9 feet per year and do best in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 9. The Lombardy Poplar’s red or green catkins bloom during early to mid-spring. The tree can grow up to 100 feet tall and 15 feet wide and look best when they are planted in rows about 8 feet apart. The only downside is that the Lombardy Poplar is usually short-lived in nature.

Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

Crape myrtle is an ornamental tree which blooms in many colors, with flowers that range from pink, red, white, or purple and bloom from July to September. In the fall, the green foliage turns yellow, orange or red, and during the winter the smooth bark begins to peel which will add a certain rustic charm to your landscape. Crape Myrtles are popular in the South, where they thrive in the warm climate and bloom from July to September in USDA hardiness zones 7 through 9. These trees grow an average of 4 to 5 feet per year and can reach heights of 15 to 25 feet high, as well as spread 6 to 15 feet wide. The Natchez Myrtle is a larger variety with giant white flowers, while the Catawba Myrtle is a smaller tree that sports deep-purple flowers. A more compact version is the Seminole Myrtle that blooms with bright-pink flowers.

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