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There are many fast growing trees and shrubs. Because these plants have serious longevity in your garden, finding the right one for you is worth the research. For example, you may want to:

  • create privacy
  • add multi-season interest to your garden
  • or support local wildlife like birds or pollinators. 

First, it’s important to know the difference between fast or medium growing trees or shrubs. Fast growing means the plant adds more than 2 feet per year, and medium growers add between 1-2 feet per year.  But, the mature size can vary based on growing conditions like soil type, placement, and care.

 

Fast Growing Trees and Shrubs For Privacy

When planting for privacy, it’s important to think about what you’re looking to block and when. For example, privacy for summer entertaining has different requirements than second-story window privacy. And, both of these are very different from creating privacy on a balcony or patio. Also, take into consideration your planned location. What is the the sun exposure like? What about the location’s soil conditions? How wet or dry is the soil? Does the location get winter salt (such as on sidewalks or roads)?

Julie Janoski, plant clinic manager at Morton Arboretum, provided her thoughts on fast-growing trees and shrubs. She echoed the importance of knowing the plant’s use.

“Tulip tree, hackberry, and red oak are three fast-growing native trees for shade. For privacy, it really depends on where you need the privacy. Second floor window? The patio? In a narrow side yard? How much privacy coverage will you need? I’d recommend: Green Giant Western Arborvitae, red twig dogwood, ninebark shrub, or panicle hydrangeas. These all have varying levels of coverage. Of course, matching the plant to the site conditions should be taken into account.”

Privacy for EntertFast Growing Trees Collage Imageaining

Creating privacy for parties during summer months is one of the easier tasks to achieve. It can certainly be accomplished quickly by putting up a fence. Yet, many homeowners feel this creates a flat feeling, like that of an empty room. Fast growing greenery adds beauty and support a level of sound muffling. Combine greenery with a water feature for an even better experience. A fountain or small pond with a waterfall can be a great conversation starter during parties.

Second-Story Privacy

Are you looking to add some privacy to your second-story rooms? Maybe you’re looking to shelter your yard from your nosy neighbor’s second-story window? Either way, you’ll want to consider taller trees or taller arborvitae hedges. But, the question here is whether you’d like privacy through winter or if you can get by with 3-season privacy. Limit your search to evergreens for year-round privacy. Deciduous trees can provide other features and variety that evergreens may not. Look for trees featuring spring blooms, summer fruits, or fall color.

Balcony Privacy

Balconies don’t often provide a lot of privacy, yet trees and shrubs are not an option here. Despite height limitations, balcony-lovers still want privacy while relaxing or entertaining. Use ornamental grasses in tall pots or trellised vining annuals during warmer months. Switchgrass, for example, stays upright and compact. So, it can work particularly well in this application. Or, consider growing vining annuals in a pot or planter, such as morning glory or hyacinth bean. 

Patio Privacy

Patio owners can typically take advantage of fewer height restrictions than balcony owners. In some cases, patio owners may even be able to plant items in the ground. You may see success with an arborvitae or a privet hedge (we like Cheyenne or Straight Talk privet).

Sound travels in a similar way to wind. So, hedges without gaps are usually enough of a sound barrier to create a nice, quiet oasis. It’s also best to make sure the barrier is taller than the height of the noise source. Most customers looking for patio privacy opt for arborvitae or privet hedges. These plants create a thick barrier and help delineate their space.

 

Fast-Growing Trees and Shrubs for ‘Instant’ Multi-Season Interest

Green outdoor decor comes in all shapes and sizes. But, many of us are impatient and don’t want to wait 10 years to develop the structure or style we want in our gardens. So, we may look to fast growing trees and shrubs to provide instant impact. (Well, ‘instant’ on a tree-scale, at least – which is usually 2-3 years.) Autumn is a particularly popular time to think about the colors you want to see in your space. But, it’s also worth considering the tree or shrub’s year-round features.

Our very own Chrissie Sieff, nursery manager and Illinois Certified Nursery Professional, suggests consulting a local expert. “Come in to the garden center with an open mind. Check out some fast growing tree or shrub varieties you may not have heard about before. I’d recommend trying out the Katsura tree. It’s got beautiful fall color, offers great privacy, and performs well in most soil conditions. It even thrives near driveways or sidewalks that get higher levels of winter salting. It’s moderate-to-fast growing, and I have one at home that has grown 30 ft. in about 12 years. The Katsura tree offers the benefit of a fuss-free plant for novice gardeners.”

Fast-Growing Trees and Shrubs To Attract Wildlife

Most trees or shrubs help birds, squirrels, and other small wildlife. But, birds feel particularly secure in evergreens like spruce, pines, or arborvitae. Many will seek cover from storms there or nest in dense branches. Flowering plants entice pollinators. The shaggy bark of Heritage River Birch, for example, provides shelter for butterflies. The Northern Pearly-Eye butterfly blends in well with the river birch’s bark. It particularly likes its tiny flowers when it blooms. And, the Mourning Cloak butterfly often places its cocoons on the tree.

 

Our Top 11 Fast Growing Tree & Shrub Recommendations

When considering fast growing trees, look for varieties that offer strong, hard wood. A good example of this is the Autumn Blaze Maple. Autumn Blaze has the fast growing properties of some maples, combined with the strength and durability of Silver Maple.
 
For ease of reference, we’ve applied our expertise to select the most easy-care varieties. At the same time, we aimed to maximize the benefit of faster growth rates. You may notice that some plants in our list may be moderate-growers, but they are still a great option.
 

Our quick guide that can help you choose the right plant for your space and needs:

Autumn Blaze Maple Tree
  • Use:
    • Entertaining privacy
    • Second-story privacy (3 out of 4 seasons)
    • Multi-season interestAutumn Blaze Maple Tree Image - Fast Growing Trees & Shrubs
  • Size: 50 ft. mature height, 40 ft. wide
  • Growth Rate: 3 ft. per year
  • Bright red fall color
  • Pollution and salt tolerant
  • But, forms a shallow root system that can be difficult to plant through

 

Chanticleer Ornamental Pear Tree
  • Use:
    • Multi-season interestChanticleer Ornamental Pear Tree - Fast Growing Trees & Shrubs
  • Size: 20-30 ft. mature height, 15-20 ft. wide
  • Growth Rate: Around 24 in. per year
  • Does not produce edible fruits
  • Requires full-sun and well-draining soil
  • Good shade tree with spring blossoms and beautiful maroon fall color 
  • Attracts pollinators during spring blossoming

 

Cheyenne Privet hedge
  • Use:
    • Entertaining privacyCheyenne Common Privet - Fast Growing Trees & Shrubs
    • Multi-season interest
  • Size: Up to 15 ft. mature height, 4-8 ft. wide
  • Growth Rate: 2 ft. per year
  • Strong grower
  • Looks best with annual shaping and trimming
  • Blooms in spring, developing small black berries
  • Berries and leaves should not be consumed by children or pets 

 

Emerald Green Arborvitae - Fast Growing Trees & Shrubs

Emerald Green Arborvitae
  • Use:
    • Entertaining privacy
  • Size: 10-12 ft. mature height, 3 ft. wide
  • Growth Rate: 6 in. per year (not exactly fast-growing, but still great for privacy)
  • Easy to care for with few pests

 

Fall Fiesta Sugar Maple Tree
  • Use:
    • Entertaining privacyFall Fiesta Sugar Maple Tree - Fast Growing Trees & Shrubs
    • Second-story privacy (3 out of 4 seasons)
    • Multi-season interest
  • Size: 60-75 ft. mature height, 50 ft. wide
  • Growth Rate: As much as 2 ft. per year
  • Fall color just can’t be beat
  • Insect and disease resistant
  • Great for shade

 

Heritage River Birch
  • Use:
    • Entertaining privacyHeritage River Birch Tree - Fast Growing Trees & Shrubs
    • Second-story privacy (3 out of 4 seasons)
    • Multi-season interest
  • Size: 40-60 ft. mature height, 20-40 ft. wide
  • Growth Rate: Grows 2-3 ft. per year
  • Beautiful papery bark makes for great multi-season interest
  • Teardrop-shaped spade-like leaves turn yellow in fall
  • Fantastic for attracting wildlife

 

Hetz Wintergreen Arborvitae
  • Use:
    • Entertaining privacyHetz Wintergreen Arborvitae - Fast Growing Trees & Shrubs
    • Second-story privacy (4 season)
  • Size: 25 ft. mature height, 8 ft. wide
  • Growth Rate: 3-4 ft. per year
  • Easy to care for with few pests
  • Dark green foliage that holds its color well through winter

 

Katsura Tree
  • Use:
    • Entertaining privacyKatsura Tree in Fall - Fast Growing Trees & Shrubs
    • Second-story privacy (3 out of 4 seasons)
    • Multi-season interest
  • Size: 40-60 ft. mature height, 20-30 ft. wide
  • Growth Rate: As much as 2-3 ft. per year
  • Autumn leaves turn a beautiful golden yellow to orange color
  • Tree prefers moist soils but can tolerate wet conditions well
  • Perform pretty well in areas near sidewalks or driveways (more winter salting)

 

Northern Catalpa Tree
  • Use:
    • Great entertaining privacyNorthern Catalpa Tree in Bloom - Fast Growing Trees & Shrubs
    • Second-story privacy (3 out of 4 seasons)
    • Multi-season interest
  • Size: 40-60 ft. mature height, 20-40 ft. wide
  • Growth Rate: 12-24 in. or more per year
  • Hardy, requiring very little water once established
  • Great for shade or privacy
  • Flowering shade tree with spring blooms
  • Giant, heart-shaped leaves that can be 6-10in long and 6-8in wide
  • Develops bean pods in fall that last through winter

 

Norway Spruce
  • Use:Norway Spruce Tree - Fast Growing Trees & Shrubs
    • Second-story privacy (4 season)
  • Size: 40-60 ft. mature height, 25-30 ft. wide
  • Growth Rate: Approximately 2-3 ft. per year
  • Evergreen means privacy all year
  • Great windbreak
  • But, forms a shallow and spreading root system that can be difficult to plant through

 

White Pine
  • Use:White Pine Tree - Fast Growing Trees and Shrubs
    • Second-story privacy (4 season)
  • Size: 50-80 ft. mature height, 20-40 ft. wide
  • Growth Rate: About 2 ft. per year
  • Evergreen means privacy all year
  • Best planted in full-sun, but can tolerate part-shade
  • Provide enough room to grow to maturity and away from sidewalk or road salt

 

By considering the placement of trees and shrubs, you can create your own outdoor room or oasis. If you need any help choosing which fast growing trees or shrubs to plant, get in touch with us.

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Platt Hill Nursery is Chicago’s premier garden center and nursery.