We bought our house in a subdivision where landscaping was clearly not a priority. They did a decent job of planting some shrubs out front, but most of the landscape was cleared of any trees or bushes. And I live in the south – it’s hot as fire here in the summers, so shade is a must. We are also fairly close to the neighbors so we needed some fast growing privacy trees. But what do you plant that’ll grow quickly to give you some privacy as well as shade?
We have a wide-open backyard. When it came time to finally add some plants to the back, we knew we wanted fast growing privacy trees. We got help from a local nursery. Our budget didn’t allow for purchasing full-grown trees and having them professionally installed.
Not all of these are evergreen, but you will get privacy in the spring/summer and even into fall when people tend to be outside more.
Fast Growing Privacy Trees
I am still in awe of how fast these grow. River birches are beautiful trees and they have the most interesting bark that looks like it’s shedding or peeling. We planted three river birch trees in the side of our yard and they were tiny. Again – budget constraints were a big issue so we had to start small. They looked like three blueberry bushes when we put them in the ground.
I doubted we would get much privacy quickly, but I was wrong. In about 3 years they’ve gone from bush size to around 15-18 feet tall.
However, they aren’t evergreen. They lose all the leaves in the winter, but I love them anyway.
As their name implies, they love wet areas. Ours are planted at the edge of a very gradual slope in our yard so they soak up all the runoff. Make sure to plant them at least 20 feet apart. They will spread to 20-25 feet and can grow to 40-70 feet tall.
River Birch Facts
- Deciduous (loses the leaves in the fall)
- Can grow 40-70 feet tall
- Beautiful peeling bark
- Loves moist soil areas
- Grows 1.5-3 feet per year
- Zones 4-9
Green Giant Arborvitae
Another stunner and this one is evergreen – meaning you’ll have the beautiful green color year-round. This one can grow up to 3 feet per year. We planted three of these that were around 2 feet tall and in 3 years they are about 12-15 feet tall. Give them room when you plant – it can spread out between 12 and 20 feet. They have a beautiful cone shape – like a pretty Christmas tree.
Green Giant Facts
- Evergreen (stays green year-round)
- Can grow 3 feet per year
- Zones 3 through 7 or 8
- Grows 30-40 feet
- Drought tolerant
Weeping Willow Tree
One of my most favorite trees, the weeping willow tree is stunning. It’s drooping “weeping” limbs/leaves are gorgeous. Make sure you have plenty of room and beware you won’t get much grass growing under or around the willow. Keep it away from your septic lines, because the roots can potentially damage your lines. It can get between 30-40 feet tall and wide.
They aren’t evergreen, however, they are one of the first to get their leaves in the spring and one of the last to lose them in the fall/winter.
Weeping Willow Facts
- Invasive shallow roots so don’t plant next to sidewalks or septic lines
- Can grow 30-40 feet tall and wide so give them plenty of room
- Grows up to 2 feet or more per year
- Zones 6-8
This is another one that’s growing faster than I imagined. Tulip trees, also known as tulip poplars, can grow between 70-100 feet tall. They have a beautiful cone shape with dark green leaves and turn a beautiful golden-yellow color in the fall before they lose their leaves. It’s not evergreen, but definitely worth planting if you’re looking for some fast shade. Give it plenty of room because it’s one of the fastest growing and largest trees in North America.
Tulip Poplar Facts
- Mature height of 70-100 feet
- Is actually a member of the Magnolia family of trees
- Zones 4-9
Holly trees are beautiful and evergreen with pretty little red berries. Beware of the prickly leaves though. You can shape them into cones, or prune them into square/rectangle hedges. They can grow up to 3 feet per year and can reach 15-25 feet. An ideal privacy hedge or place them at the corners of your landscaping. There are several varieties – one of the most popular for hedges is the Nellie Stevens Holly.
Make sure you have a large yard and plenty of room for the Norway Spruce to grow. It can grow up to 2 feet per year and can reach heights upwards of 50+ feet. It’s fairly self-sufficient after planting – it can tolerate heat, cold, dry conditions, and wet soil. A gorgeous evergreen that will give you years of shade.
Norway Spruce Facts
- Can grow up to 2 feet per year
- Mature height of 40-60 feet
- Tolerates shade, sun, or partial sun
- Zones 3-7
- Can live over 100 years
Depending on your zone, crape myrtle trees come in a wide variety of colors from white, purple, red, pink, lavender, and more. Some species like the Muskogee Crape Myrtle can potentially grow up to 5 feet per year reaching 15-25 feet tall, and you’ll have showy lavender flowers for months. They are messy though – we have two in our front yard and when the wind blows it looks like lavender snow on the yard.
But they are stunning and fast growing. You can plant these close to driveways without fear. They need little care once established and provide beautiful somewhat droopy branches with beautiful bark.
Crape Myrtle Facts
- Fast growing – can grow up to 5 feet per year
- Can be planted next to driveways and sidewalks
- Variety of colors including white, lavender, red, purple, and pink
- Easy care once established
- Ideal for zones 7-9
Red Maples are stunning trees with fiery red leaves in the spring. They can grow up to 3 feet per year, so not quite as fast growing as some of the other trees on the list, but still impressive. And what a visual show these are! Give them plenty of room to grow and they can live for over 50 years.
Red Maple Facts
- Zones 3-10
- Can grow up to 3 feet per year
- Averages 40-50 feet tall
- Can tolerate moist or dry soils
- Don’t plant next to sidewalks or driveways due to a shallow root system
Whatever you choose for fast growing privacy trees, check to make sure it’s appropriate for your planting zone. Farmers Almanac has terrific resources to find out exactly what zone you’re in and what can be planted. Also, follow the proper planting guides when adding trees close to houses, septic lines, sidewalks, driveways, and other plants.
Nothing like planting a beautiful tree and then having to take it down because it’s too invasive for the space.
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Happy Planting – Pin for later!