Mature trees foster privacy, create habitat for wildlife, and are simply beautiful. When strategically planted to cast shade over a home (especially a window) during the sun’s strongest hours, mature trees help your home become more energy-efficient. By blocking some of the sun’s heating power, mature trees can help save you money on your air conditioner’s utility bills.
Whether you’ve had a sick tree removed and are looking for a replacement or adding foliage to your property, working with a local arborist who is familiar with your region is your best bet to ensure you are planting trees that thrive in your climate.
A skilled arborist will also know the best place on your property to plant each specimen and at what depth each tree’s root ball (if you are not starting with saplings) must be planted. Finding an arborist you trust from the get-go means you’ll know who to call in the event your new tree gets sick or needs pruning.
Waiting for a tree to mature can take a lifetime. Planting slow-growing trees means you may never reap the benefits and on a grander scale, slow-growing plants are not as sustainable as fast-growing varieties if the intention is to harvest. Though every ecosystem thrives on balance, here are some fast-growing tree species to expedite your landscape:
1. Weeping Willow. The weeping willow is an iconic giant that, when mature, reaches heights between 30 and 40 feet. This species grows best in places where the water table is high (like the Pacific Northwest) and has been clocked at an average growth of three to eight feet-per-year. It’s slender branches support long leaves to match and it’s one of the first to sprout foliage early in the season. A weeping willow’s yellow twigs and green foliage can appear as early as February.
2. Hybrid Poplar. The deciduous hybrid poplar’s most defining trait is its speed, growing at an average rate of five to eight feet annually and can be harvested for firewood just five to seven years after germination. Hybrid poplars grow best in hardiness zones three and four. At full maturation, the cottonless hybrid stands between 40 and 50 feet tall and is especially good for shade, privacy, and stabilizing sand dunes. Occasional limb breakage is a real possibility with this tree so it should be pruned regularly by a skilled arborist and be planted in an area where falling branches will not create big problems.
3. Red Maple. Staying true to its namesake, the red maple exhibits a red trait through all four seasons; red flowers in the spring, leafstalks in summer, stunning crimson foliage in autumn, and subtle red buds in winter. Because of its constant color, red maples are mainly planted as an ornamental feature. It’s considered a moderately fast grower, extending upward at a rate of around two feet per year, eventually reaching 40-60 feet. Red maple trees are most abundantly found along the American Great Plains, in the country’s northern states that border the Great Lakes, and on the east coast, though it’s extremely adaptable. Red maple trees adaptable roots help it thrive in a variety of climates and soil types. If a tree is planted in wet soil (in Vancouver, WA, for example), it sprouts a short taproot and many lateral roots. This adapted root system helps the tree soak up water at the Earth’s surface.
4. Northern Red Oak. Dubbed one of the “handsomest, cleanest, and stateliest trees in North America” by naturalist Joseph S. Illick, the Northern Red Oak grows at a rate of two feet annually. It’s revered for its hardiness in urban settings as well as its adaptability. The northern red oak is an excellent shade tree with a mature canopy spanning around 45 feet and height between 60 and 75 feet tall. It likes well-drained soil, is drought resistant, and sprouts an abundance of acorns adored by wildlife.
5. Royal Empress. When pruned properly, royal empress trees can grow up to 15 feet per year, putting it at the top of the list of fast-growing varieties. It still averages around three feet of annual grown when left unpruned and thrives in slightly shaded locations on a property. Royal empress trees are tolerant of hardiness zones five through eleven. Considered a shade tree, its sparse branches support gorgeous clusters of lavender flowers during the spring and sizeable green leaves in summer. It grows to be almost as wide as it is tall, between 30 and 40 feet in canopy size and 40 to 50 feet tall.
6. American Sycamore. Also known as the American Planetree or Buttonwood, American sycamore trees are extremely tolerant of air pollution, salt, and polluted soil. Because of this, they are a logical choice for landscaping in urban areas. It thrives in moist, deep soils and dislikes extremely dry conditions. For the first few years, this species grows up to ten feet annually, slowing to around two after a few years, and producing a gigantic specimen when mature (around 70 to 100 feet tall).
7. Lombardy Poplar. An excellent choice for windscreens, natural fencing, or privacy, the Lombardy poplar thrives just about anywhere in the continental United States. It grows rapidly, between six and twelve feet-per-year, and tops out at around sixty feet. It grows straight up and takes on a similar shape as a coniferous tree. Technically a cottonwood, the Lombardy poplar resembles the Cyprus tree, making it a popular ornamental choice.
8. Cleveland Select. An excellent choice when growing space is limited, the Cleveland select is a hardy tree that requires little attention or upkeep. Also known as the Cleveland Flowering Pear Tree, its canopy is covered in bunches of gorgeous white flowers shortly after it buds (usually in April). It grows at a pace of around four feet annually and reaches a mature height of between 30 and 40 feet. Its mature canopy spans around 15 feet and the tree is resistant to the insects and fire-blight that regularly take down pear trees. If you’re planting a Cleveland select in an area that serves as a deer habitat, make sure you protect your tree with fencing when it’s young.Mature trees foster privacy, create habitat for wildlife, and are simply beautiful. When strategically planted to cast shade over a home (especially a window) during the sun’s strongest hours, mature trees help your home become more energy-efficient. By blocking some of the sun’s heating power, mature trees can help save you money on your air conditioner’s utility bills.