13 of the Fastest-Growing Trees for a Privacy Screen in Your Yard

Plant a few of these trees and you'll have a lush living fence in just a few years.

Blooming white tree in park
Photo: Peter Krumhardt

The fastest-growing trees can reach 50 feet tall and mature in 20 or 30 years. That means they can provide shade, privacy, or a windbreak to your yard more quickly than other shade trees that can take twice that long to reach maturity. The trade-off for their speedy growth is they often start declining after they reach maturity, so they have a more limited life span than slower-growing trees. And sometimes, their wood is more prone to breaking in storms, so you'll need to prune them regularly to help keep them under control.

With the right placement and care, these trees can give your home and yard a new look in a relatively short time.

Fastest-Growing Trees

Before you plant one of these selections, make sure you have a spot to put it that's well away from utility lines, homes, and driveways to minimize damage in case their large branches (or trunks) break during storms. It's also good to pay attention to the location of septic lines and sidewalks when deciding where to place your tree because its roots could eventually cause problems with them. However, as long as you're careful when you're planting and keep up with maintenance, these trees will provide many years of beauty to your yard.

01 of 13

Bald Cypress

Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum)
Dean Schoeppner

A good choice for wet or swampy sites, bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) has few insect or disease problems and is one of the few trees that tolerate standing water. The foliage turns russet red in late fall before dropping and exposing attractive reddish-brown bark. Growing at 18 to 24 inches per year, it can reach up to 100 feet tall and 40 feet wide. Bald cypress is native to North America and grows best with full sun in Zones 5-10.

02 of 13

Chinese Tallow Tree

Chinese tallow tree leaves
Denny Schrock

A good replacement for poplars in warmer regions, Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum) usually encounters fewer pests than poplars. These trees grow with a rounded shape and look beautiful when the leaves turn color in the fall. This fast-growing tree rises 12 to 18 inches per year and can eventually reach up to 40 feet tall.

Though Chinese tallow trees are good for shade, avoid placing them near decks, patios, or terrace gardens because they drop a lot of flowers and fruit throughout the year. Instead, boost privacy with this fast-growing tree by placing it in the back corner of your landscape. Chinese tallow trees grow best in Zones 8-10 with full sun and well-drained soil.

Test Garden Tip

Check local restrictions before planting; some regions consider Chinese tallow tree invasive.

03 of 13

Cottonwoods and Lombardy Poplars

simons poplar cottonwood tree leaves
Denny Schrock

Known for growing along rivers and other moist areas of the eastern United States, cottonwoods (Populus deltoides) are also known for their brittle, weak wood. This fast-growing tree grows 3 to 4 feet per year, reaching up to 70 feet tall. Their relatives, Lombardy poplars (Populus nigra var. italica), named for the Italian region where they originated, are often used as 40- to 50-foot-tall screens. Cottonwood care can vary depending on the variety you plant, but generally, they'll grow in Zones 3-9 with full sun or partial shade and well-drained soil.

Test Garden Tip

Check local restrictions before planting; some regions consider cottonwoods and Lombardy poplars invasive.

04 of 13

Dawn Redwood

dawn redwood tree in park
Marty Baldwin

A good fast-growing tree to provide privacy in the corner of a large residential lot, dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) grows about 2 feet per year until reaching maturity at around 80 feet tall. It grows best in Zones 5-8 in moist or wet soil in sun or shade and can look like an evergreen with soft, fine needles during the growing season. In autumn, the needles turn shades of red and brown before dropping, exposing the tree's interesting branching pattern and bark in winter.

05 of 13

European Black Alder

Black Alder Tree leaves and pods
Denny Schrock

Ideal for low, wet spots in the landscape where other trees usually don't survive, European black alder (Alnus glutinosa) is native to most areas of Europe. This tree can have an extensive root system (it can stretch over 16 feet), so avoid planting near sidewalks and sewer lines. This fast-growing tree matures quickly when young but eventually slows to 12 to 15 inches per year, reaching 40 to 60 feet tall and 20 to 40 feet wide. Plant in damp soil with full sun or partial shade in Zones 4-8.

Test Garden Tip

Check local restrictions before planting; some regions consider European black alder invasive.

06 of 13


eucalyptus citriodora tall tree
Denny Schrock

Strong, vigorous growers, gum trees (Eucalyptus spp.) can anchor a western landscape, making them a good fast-growing tree for privacy and shade. Plant gum trees where their fallen leaf and stem debris won't cause problems. Growing two to three feet per year, gum trees come in various species ranging from 25 to 70 feet tall, but they don't usually grow well in the high heat and humidity of the southeast. Place in a spot with full sun in well-drained soil in Zones 9-10.

07 of 13

Japanese Pagoda Tree

japanese pagoda tree against blue sky
Denny Schrock

Flourishing in a limited range in the United States, the Japanese pagoda tree (Sophora japonica) doesn't need much care and produces creamy flowers in summer. Native to China and Japan, this fast-growing tree grows 12 to 15 inches annually and can reach 75 feet tall and wide. Japanese pagoda trees can tolerate full sun or partial shade and need rich, well-drained soil in Zones 6-8 (and temperate areas of Zone 5).

08 of 13

Lemon Bottlebrush

bottlebrush tree growing outdoors
Edward Gohlich

Tolerant of southern heat and drought, lemon bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus) can also be grown in northern climates in large containers and brought in for winter. It shoots up at a rate of 10 to 15 inches per year, eventually reaching 25 feet tall. Its red flowers also attract hummingbirds when in bloom. Plant outdoors in full sun or partial shade in well-drained soil in Zones 9-10.

09 of 13

Leyland Cypress

white flower shrub next to rocks and antique farm equipment
Erica George

You can use leyland cypress (Cupressocyparis leylandii) as an individual tree or plant in groups for a tall, fast-growing hedge for privacy and screening. It grows 1 to 3 feet per year, reaching 70 feet, and prefers full sun and well-drained soil in Zones 7-10. If you don't want it to reach towering heights, prune it regularly to keep the size under control.

10 of 13

Silver Maple and Red Maple

red maple acer rubrum tree along road
Adam Albright

One of the most common trees in the United States, the silver maple (Acer saccharinum), is native to the eastern part of North America. It grows one to two feet per year, reaching up to 100 feet tall and 70 feet wide. The silver maple is a common shade tree, but unfortunately, it has shallow roots and weak branches. Its cousin, the red maple (Acer rubrum), is also native to North America and is known for its stunning fall foliage color. Red maples grow smaller: 50 feet tall and 40 feet wide. Plant these maples in full sun or partial shade with well-drained soil in Zones 3-9.

11 of 13

Tulip Tree

tulip tree yellow and green leaves
Marty Baldwin

Known for their beautiful yellow-orange spring flowers, tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera) also have unusual leaves shaped like tulip flower silhouettes and yellow fall foliage. They grow 15 to 18 inches per year and can reach up to 100 feet tall. The wood is weak, but you can train young trees to develop wide, strong branch angles to prevent splitting. Tulip trees grow best in Zones 5-9 with full sun or partial shade and well-drained soil.

12 of 13

Eastern White Pine

forrest pine tree blue sky
Denny Schrock

With silky, fine-texture needles and long, graceful branches, North American native Eastern white pines (Pinus strobus) are fast-growing trees famous for their elegant appearance. They grow 12 to 15 inches annually and can reach 100 feet tall. Grow in full sun in Zones 3-8 with well-drained soil.

13 of 13

Southern Catalpa

close up of catalpa leaves
William Friedman, Arnold Arboretum

An old-fashioned shade tree, southern catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides), produces pretty white flowers in spring. The slender seedpods that come after the flowers can be messy, so it's best to grow catalpa in a backyard. It grows 12 to 15 inches per year, eventually reaching up to 40 feet tall and wide. It's native to areas of southeastern North America and grows best in full sun with well-drained soil in Zones 5-9.

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