Two popular reasons exist for why trees are planted in a landscape. The first is to provide shade, and the second is for ornamentation. Of the two, shade is more critical for most home gardeners. For that reason, many homeowners seek out fast-growing trees that will provide shade for their yard as soon as possible. The downside of trees that grow fast is that they tend to be more fragile than their slow-growing counterparts.
Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)
The silver maple features beautiful fall foliage in bright yellows and reds. In addition to its showy autumn colors, the tree is desirable for its unusual, silvery bark that tends to curl and peel off. Silver maples can reach a maximum height of 80 feet and should be planted in moist soil and a location where they will be exposed to full sun or partial shade. Because the tree is so fast growing, the wood can be quite brittle, causing the tree to become easily damaged by wind or ice.
Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides),
The eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) is the fastest-growing tree in America, according to Wayne Clatterbuck, a professor at the University of Tennessee. The tree features large, broad leaves, which cast quite a bit of shade and rustle pleasantly in the wind. Unfortunately, these leaves drop earlier than most other deciduous trees, often leaving the tree bare by the beginning of fall, when the weather can still be quite hot. Like many other fast-growing shade trees, the eastern cottonwood has weak wood that is easily damaged. This tree can grow to be 190 feet tall and has been known to reach heights of 45 feet in only three years.
Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum)
The bald cypress is a popular fast-growing shade tree, especially in the south, The unique, needle-like foliage of the tree turns reddish-brown in the fall, creating an interesting visual display. The bald cypress can reach heights of 130 feet and is the perfect tree if you have a dark, empty corner in your landscape, as it can thrive in full shade. These trees are much hardier than most fast-growing shade trees. They are pest and disease tolerant and can grow in a wide variety of soil conditions. The bald cypress tree does not transplant very well, however, so take care to plant it in a location where it can remain.
Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana)
The bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana) is a smaller shade tree with an average height of 35 feet, but very popular for its springtime beauty. The this ornamental fruit tree features prolific white blossoms and brilliantly colored fall foliage that hangs around longer than the foliage of most other deciduous trees. This means that the tree's long-lasting leaves provide shade for a longer period of time. The bradford pear tree has unusually thick branch growth that renders it quite fragile. The branches of this tree break easily in ice and wind storms. In addition, the summer blossoms have an unpleasant fragrance.