Unless you're transplanting a mature tree into your backyard--an expensive endeavor that typically requires the hiring of a professional landscaper with tree-moving equipment--it can take decades for some tree species to mature and provide your backyard with a lush, filled look with lots of shade. For faster results, select a tree that's known for its faster-than-usual growth. You have several options, whether it's a flaming-red deciduous maple or a cold-tolerant evergreen.
Gold Medallion Tree
Hailing from South America, the gold medallion tree (Cassia leptophylla) is usually grown as a backyard shade tree thanks to its thick foliage and profuse production of bright yellow, purple, red or white blossoms. It can grow to 20 feet within its first couple years of growth.
The gold medallion tree does best in full sunshine and well-drained soil, and is also very drought tolerant. It is not extremely susceptible to any pest or disease, though its attractive blossoms do produce large amounts of seed pods that can become a debris problem. The tree does well in USDA plant hardiness zones 9b and higher.
The Norway spruce (Picea abies) is typically grown as a single specimen as a backyard focal point, or with several spruce trees as a windbreak or screen to provide you privacy from your neighbors. The tree can shoot up to more than 40 feet within its first two years of growth and, as an evergreen, can withstand the cool temperatures of the northeast United States--down to USDA hardiness Zone 5.
You can grow the spruce tree in most soil types and conditions, though it thrives on regular watering and full sunshine. The Norway spruce has few natural pests and diseases, though it can sometimes be afflicted by beetle larvae and the spruce needle miner, as well as some rust diseases. Pine cones measuring up to 6 inches in length are produced annually and can make excellent decorative pieces during the winter season.
The Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana) is a symmetrically shaped tree that reaches a height of 30 feet in its first three years of growth, but can continue growing to up to 50 feet. Its tolerance to pollution makes it ideal for urban backyards, and it is often used in municipal landscaping.
The tree does well ins USDA hardiness zones 5A through 9A. It's relatively immune to common tree problems, and is tolerant of drought and poor soil conditions like clay or acidic soil. The tree is pleasing to the eye thanks to an effusive display of white flowers every spring, while the ensuing brown fruits attract various birds species.
Drummond Red Maple
The towering Drummond red maple (Acer rubrum) is primarily a shade tree reaching up to 70 feet in height in backyards but often soaring more than 100 feet tall in the wild. It can attain an annual growth rate of 8 to 12 feet per year. As its name suggests, its leaves turn a vibrant red during the fall while its flowers blossom scarlet in the spring.
The maple tree can grow in USDA zones 5b through 9b and prefers full sun and slightly acidic soil with a low tolerance for drought conditions.