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15 Fast-Growing Trees

April 21, 2021

Liven up your yard and add shade quickly with these fast-growing trees.

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A Fast Grower: Crape Myrtle

Are you looking for more shade, a border for pivacy or windbreak for your outdoor spaces, but don't want to wait? These fast-growing trees will give you the coverage and color you want in a shorter period of time than most trees. And unlike many fast-growing trees, this collection avoids the pitfalls of weak wood and a short lifespan.

Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) comes in numerous cultivars, featuring flowers in lavender, pink, purple, red or white. The ones that bloom in mid to late summer are especially valuable for adding color to the landscape's "dog days," but there are also some that flower in early summer. Crape myrtles grow to 35 feet tall and wide, depending on the cultivar.

Grow crape myrtles as specimens and accents, narrow trees for fast shade, an allée along streets or driveways, screens, or stately groups under-planted with groundcovers, bulbs or small shrubs. Small varieties grow well in large containers mixed with other smaller plants. Look for crape myrtle varieties hardy from Zones 5 to 9.

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Photo: Shutterstock/Riepina Vladyslava

Fast Privacy: Emerald Green Arborvitae

You want fast growing? In the right conditions, Emerald Green arborvitae (Thuja 'Smaragd') can grow up to 5 feet per year to its mature height of 8 to 12 feet. It has a narrow footprint of 3 to 4 feet wide with a dense, columnar shape. This arborvitae boasts strong winter hardiness (Zones 3 to 8) and resists most diseases and insects. Prune to shape as needed — that won’t bother it a bit. Choose Emerald Green arborvitae for a windbreak, noise barrier or privacy screen, spacing plants 3 feet apart on center. Keep plants at least 4 feet from a structure to provide air circulation.

For a taller arborvitae, look for 'Green Giant' arborvitae (Thuja standishii x plicata 'Green Giant'), which grows 40 to 60 feet tall and up to 20 feet wide. This large evergreen needs some elbow room, making it a good choice for a larger yard. It's hardy in Zones 5 to 8.

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Fast-Growing Beauty: 'Prairifire' Crabapple

Fill spring with scenes of blossom-bedecked boughs by adding 'Prairifire' crabapple (Malus 'Prairifire') to your yard. This quick-growing beauty works well in modern yards, staging a flower show in late spring. Blooms fade to form small apples that stay on the tree, beckoning fruit-loving birds.

Disease-resistant, expect this crabapple to keep its leaves all summer long. Trees grow 15 to 20 feet tall and up to 20 feet wide. It's hardy in Zones 4 to 7 and earned the award of 1996 Iowa Tree of the Year.

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Dawn Redwood

This fast-growing tree is hardy in Zones 5 to 8. Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) grows in a conical shape to a height of 100 feet and features feathery foliage. According to fossil records, this tree existed as many as 50 million years ago. It appreciates full sun and wet soil, which makes it a good addition to a rain garden.

This redwood tolerates pollution, which is why it's often planted in urban parks. This tree has few pest and disease problems. It does need room to soar, though, and grows best in a larger open space. Dawn redwood grows 15 to 25 feet wide.

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