Fast-growing trees are ideal for a wind break, a source of shade, or to add height and texture to a landscape. Most species of quickly growing trees average at least one foot a year, with some shooting up more than two feet every year. As with other trees, the fastest growing tree species should be planted with their mature size in mind. If planted too close together, fast-growing trees will experience problems sooner than slower growth trees.
Paper birch, or Betula papyrifera, is a quick-growing tree that reaches heights of 50 to 70 feet. It needs full sun, but can survive in a variety of soils, although it prefers those that are well-drained. Paper birch has distinctive white bark, and the leaves put on a show in the fall as they turn a brilliant yellow before dropping. The tree's canopy typically spreads about 35 feet. It provides an important source of food and shelter for wildlife, and is considered an ornamental landscape tree. Paper birch is somewhat drought-tolerant, but will remain healthier with regular watering.
Green Giant Arborvitae
Green Giant arborvitae, or Thuja standishii x plicata, is one of the fastest growing trees available, shooting up to heights of 50 to 60 feet. Green Giant is an evergreen, so it provides year-round color. It also makes an excellent windbreak or hedge. It will grow in a wide range of conditions, from full sun to partial shade and in nearly every type of soil, as long as it is well-drained. Green Giant requires regular watering, but rewards the grower with fast, lush growth. It normally spreads to a width of 12 to 20 feet, and retains its natural conical shape without pruning.
American Pussy Willow
American pussy willow, or Salix caprea, is a very fast-growing tree that is also highly decorative, producing bright foliage in the fall and ornamental stems covered with fuzzy buds in the spring. The trees reach an average of 15 to 25 feet tall and 12 to 25 feet wide. They grow best in full sun and are tolerant of a variety of soils, even clay-like or poorly drained soil, but need plenty of water. American pussy willows provide shade and privacy screening, but they do not have the drooping branches associated with many other types of willows, such as the weeping willow.
Thornless honeylocust, or Gleditsia triacanthos inermis, grows extremely fast--up to two feet per year--reaching a height of 30 to 70 feet. The canopy spreads up to 50 feet, providing plenty of shade. Thornless honeylocusts are known for tolerating adverse conditions well, including drought, pollution and salt. The tree produces pretty yellow blooms in early summer, which later turn into long brown pods filled with a sweet sap-like substance. Bees and wildlife use the honeylocust as a source of food and shelter. It prefers full sun, and should be planted in well-drained soil.