How Do I Choose the Best Fast-Growing Shade Trees?

Elizabeth West

The best fast-growing shade trees are those that fit the site, are easy to care for, and will last a relatively long time. They can reduce cooling bills and provide privacy to the home. It is wise to consider the size the tree will attain at maturity and how close to the house it will be. Flowering trees and those that drop seed pods might be too messy for some people, but they add interest and color variety to the landscape. There are some fast-growing shade trees that are not recommended.

Pine trees are sturdy and can provide ample shade.
Pine trees are sturdy and can provide ample shade.

The first consideration is the size of the site. In a small yard, fast-growing shade trees that grow to 40-50 feet (12-15 m) might be fine unless they spread very wide. Smaller trees can be planted in rows to fill a broad area. Shade-tolerant plants will need to be selected for the rest of the landscaping. Blocking the sun can reduce cooling bills by 70%.

Slow-growth shade trees are often sturdier than fast-growing ones.
Slow-growth shade trees are often sturdier than fast-growing ones.

For easy care, disease and pest-resistant trees might be preferable. Slower growth trees, such as oaks and pines, are usually sturdier than fast growing ones, and are also less susceptible to breakage in wind and ice storms. They can be planted alongside fast-growing shade trees, and once they have reached a mature height the others can be culled. Trees with drooping branches, such as willows, can screen the yard from the street as well as provide shade.

Fast-growing shade trees that lose their leaves in the winter add extra work cleaning up leaves or fruit. Sweet gums shed spiky seed pods that must be raked and cannot usually be composted. Evergreen trees keep foliage all winter and make excellent windbreaks. They must be planted before late summer to allow them to establish strong root systems and moisture so the leaves don’t drop. Some evergreens have attractive fruit, such as pine cones, which can be collected and used decoratively.

Trees that have colorful leaves, flowers or interesting shapes add a new dimension to a landscape design. Japanese maples and tulip trees hold color most of the season. Beech trees have gray to white bark that peels attractively on some species. Lombardy poplar and cypress trees grow in a columnar shape and are suited to planting in rows along a drive, making good windbreaks or privacy screens.

Certain species of fast-growing shade trees can be problematic. Silver maples are notorious for shallow root systems and weak, soft wood that breaks easily during storms. Princess trees and mimosas are all considered invasive species that crowd out native trees. A local garden center can advise you on avoiding pest species that may be restricted in your area.

Flowering trees add color to a landscape.
Flowering trees add color to a landscape.

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Discussion Comments


The article makes a good point about planting fast growing shade tree along side other shade trees that are sturdier but that don't grow as quickly. If you are desperate for shade and want it as quick as possible, you could plant a silver maple tree, which grows very quickly, or some other fast growing tree that grows well where you live.

Since the silver maple is not particularly sturdy and can be very weak, you should plant some stronger slow growing trees near by. This way you can plan to remove the maples at some point when the stronger trees have grown large enough to provide the shade cover you want.

You are probably thinking why not just plant a fast growing sturdy tree in the first place. The problem is that most fast growing trees tend to be weaker in some way. Usually, either their branches or their root systems make them vulnerable to wind and pests. Slow growing trees are usually the strongest of the trees.


Magnolia trees are beautiful and they make great shade trees and landscaping trees. We have several large ones in our yard and the seeds have spread so that there are also smaller trees. We actually have to keep a close eye out for the smaller trees so we can cut them down, or else we would have a yard full of magnolia trees.

However, the magnolia tree is one of the types of shade trees that the article warns us about. Between the leaves and the "grenades" they drop onto the lawn, they keep us busy raking and hauling away debris. This being said, their flowers look great when they are in bloom and this makes up for all the extra work, or at least I think it does.

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