4 Fast Growing Trees

Ilona Erwin

There are more examples than four, but four is the number of those I have grown (besides the fact that they are the most popular). These four are all deciduous trees, which means they seasonally lose their leaves. Because they are fast growing, it is tempting to choose them for this characteristic and think about other equally important ones later, but a tree is an investment of space and money that ought to be fully considered for what the expected benefit will be.

Trees are one of the first plantings you should plan for and try to get into the ground as quickly as your budget and time allow in a new landscape. If you have a property that someone else landscaped then trees become a top priority to consider in other ways: does the tree add character to your garden that fulfills your plans? is it a problem for the garden conditions or for the structures? is it healthy?

One of the main reasons to plant a tree in the first place is the shade and protection it gives from the elements. A secondary, but no less important reason, is the way it imprints the yard visually. Trees in the yard are mainly grown as “specimen trees“, that is, on their own rather than as a group, but they need to be considered in the whole of the garden, as well.

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Now that you have those ideas under your belt… What are the four examples of trees that grow quickly? One I highly recommend, two that are recommended with some reservations, and one I wish you would avoid.

  1. Honey Locust

    Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis: If you choose one of the named varieties that have had the pods and the thorns bred out of them, you have one of the finest landscape trees on the market. It is widely planted on city streets because of its pollution tolerance, slight leaf litter, and graceful strong growth. It will also tolerate drought, salt-spray, poorly drained sites, and alkaline soil- so you can see why it is popular. The finely divided leaf form means it casts lighter shade than a more heavily leafed form (like a maple) and its root system is underplanting friendly. The Honey Locust is native east to west, Pennsylvania to Nebraska, and south to Texas.

    It grows 30′ – 70′ feet high, about 50′ wide in an oval outline. the leaves are pinnate or bipinnate with 8-14 leaflets. The fall color is golden yellow. And here is the quality we are interested in knowing:new trees can be expected to grow 2 feet or more per season for at least the first 10 years.

  2. Weeping Willow

    Salix babylonica: This tree gets large with surprising speed. I think it is the fastest growing tree I have ever planted so give this big guy space. Reaching 30-40 feet tall and 35′ wide, it seems larger since the weeping leaf fronds oftentimes drip to the ground, instead of waving and spreading out high overhead.

    There are caveats to planting a weeping willow: like many fast growers it can have weak wood and break off during storms. The willows also have greedy roots, implacably searching for the water they love, so they can interfere with drains.

  3. Bradford Pear

    Pyrus calleryana, or the Callery pear is one pear tree that doesn’t produce pears as we think of them. They are tiny round hard balls- forget about eating them; but that is what has made this tree well-liked for ornamental landscape use. It used to be highly recommended and was planted all over the place (including one in my own city backyard long ago). After awhile the Achilles heel was made evident when wind and storms peeled off large branches, sometimes to half of the tree.

    Even though this tree grows quickly, has beautiful lustrous leaves, and a cloud of creamy flowers in spring, the failing this presents must be taken into consideration before you plant it. It grows to 60 feet by most accounts, but more like 40 feet. in my own experience. Although the backlash is almost as enthused as the promotion of it long ago, it is advised that if you like it and want to plant it try pruning the main tree to a strong leader with strongly spaced (no v shaped branching) connections between trunk and branch while it is young. They are very good looking trees, just don’t plant them where they can do damage if they lose a large branch.

  4. Silver Maple

    Acer saccharinum grows 50-80 feet tall and 35-50 feet wide (and wider with age). It is one of the most widely planted trees in my area, despite the fact that it can be wind damaged. My homestead here came with a bevy of silver maples planted to the exclusion of other tree choices- the beautiful Burr Oaks were cut down. Now why would someone do that? Perhaps you can tell that this is not my recommended choice. It is weak and sometimes ungainly looking, but it does grow fast, and it is a maple, which is why I think so many plant it. The surface roots are very greedy and compete heavily with anything you would choose to plant under it. English ivy is a good choice for a groundcover beneath this tree.

    They do provide good shade and that is their redeeming quality. There are many other tree choices, however, and you should really consider them instead, perhaps the ‘Scarlet Sentinel’ maple. One fact about trees is that there are some which grow a bit more slowly at first, but after that initial period grow much more quickly.

The short story here is that you pay a price for the fast growers in weak wood prone to breakage; except in the case of the Honey Locust. Almost all trees have their strengths and faults, but they are chosen for the role they will play in our gardens and on our streets. I personally have planted a variety of trees, including the fast growing green ash which is no longer a good tree to plant in my area because of the Emerald borer invasion.

As they say” It’s always something!”

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.