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Fast-Growing Trees

Martha Stewart Living, November 2000


Did You Know?

The river birch is native in the U.S. from Massachusetts to Florida and west to Kansas and Minnesota. It has been grown in gardens since 1736.


It's easy to love a mighty tree, but magnificent specimens such as beeches (Fagus) are often extremely slow-growing. However, there are much faster growing trees that can increase in height and width by two or even three feet a year. After just a few years, they can provide privacy, act as a windbreak, and offer shade from the sun. Their roots are also fast-growing so they can help to stabilize an eroding stream bank or hillside.

River birch (Betula nigra), sometimes known as red birch, is hardy in Zones 4 - 9. It quickly reaches 40 - 70 feet tall and very wide, providing a broad swath of dappled shade in summer. In winter, its peeling cinnamon bark adds interest to the landscape.

Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) is an excellent fast-growing tree for Zones 5 - 8. It can grow to a hundred feet tall, and it looks beautiful clustered along a stream or lake or planted as a specimen. It is a deciduous conifer, which means it drops its feathery foliage every fall.

Princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa), hardy in Zones 5 - 9, grows up to ten feet per year, and when mature, it can reach 30 - 40 feet tall and just as wide. The princess tree has heart-shaped leaves and in mid- to late spring, produces long, extravagant clusters of fragrant purple flowers. Caveat: Because the tree sets seed prolifically, it can become a weed in a hospitable location.


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