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10 Fast Growing Trees in Colorado (That Will Thrive)


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The state of Colorado boasts a range of different topography and elevation which will dictate how you can design your natural landscape.

Many homeowners want to plant fast-growing trees to enjoy the stately presence they can afford your property.

To maximize the chance that your chosen tree species thrives and grows quickly, it’s imperative that you choose one suited to your property’s temperature range, soil type, and moisture levels.

10 Fast-Growing Trees To Plant in Colorado

1. Plains Cottonwood (Populus deltoides monolifera)

Plains Cottonwood
Image by Epakai via Flickr

The Plains Cottonwood is one of the fastest-growing trees in North America, capable of growing up to 6 ft or more in the space of a year. It can be found close to rivers and in moist riparian areas throughout the state. It’s also one of the only tree species to grow on Colorado’s Great Plains.

The Plains Cottonwood is a tall deciduous tree with broad leaves and a dark gray bark and thrives at altitudes between 3,500 to 6,500 ft. The crown is open and spreading with drooping branches. The Cottonwood gets its name from the millions of cotton-like seeds released by female trees each spring.

Other Common Names: Poplar

Growing Zones: 2-9

Average Size at Maturity: 50-80 ft tall and 30-60 ft wide

Flowering Season: April-May

2. Western Catalpa (Catalpa spp.)

Western Catalpa
Image by Wendy Cutler via Flickr

The Western Catalpa is another fast-growing tree that doesn’t reach the heights of Cottonwoods.

The Catalpa is widely planted throughout the United States and is admired for its heart-shaped leaves which can measure 12” long and 8” wide, twisted branches, pannicles of creamy white blossom, and hanging brown seed pods.

The flowers appear around June and attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees, whilst the dense shade provides shelter for many songbirds and other wildlife. The fast growth rate and dense leaves make the Catalpa a good choice for a shade tree in Colorado.

The Western Catalpa will grow in sandy, moist, dry, clay, or loam soils.

Other Common Names: Catalpa, Catawba, Cigar Tree

Growing Zones: 4-8

Average Size at Maturity: 40-60 ft tall and 20-40 ft wide

Flowering Season: Late May/June

3. Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)

Silver Maple
Image by Andreas Rockstein via Flickr

The Silver Maple is extremely fast-growing and as such is capable of providing shade sooner than many other trees. The leaves are typical of maples and are green on the upper side and silvery on the underside and give a dizzying light show to any who watches them flutter in the wind.

The Silver Maple grows in a vase shape and produces clusters of red, yellow, and silver flowers in the spring. The seeds are the largest of all maples and are a pair of winged samaras that measure 3” long, and ripen in late spring. Squirrels love to eat the buds in the early spring.

The Silver Maple will grow in a range of different soils but prefer moist, well-drained acidic soil. It’ll tolerate some drought and flooding.

Other Common Names: Soft Maple, River Maple, Silverleaf Maple, Water Maple, White Maple, Swamp Maple

Growing Zones: 3-9

Average Size at Maturity: 50-80 ft tall and 35-50 ft wide

Flowering Season: Early spring

4. Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens)

Colorado Blue spruce
Image by F. D. Richards via Flickr

The Colorado Blue Spruce, alongside the previous 3 trees listed have been identified by the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS), as being the fastest-growing trees for Colorado’s Front Range communities. The Colorado Blue Spruce is a coniferous evergreen tree native to the Rocky Mountains.

The Colorado Blue Spruce has a pyramidal shape, blue/green foliage, and high ornamental value. Plant in moist well-draining soil, but it can adapt to clay, sandy, and loamy soils, as well as alkaline or acidic soils. Full sun is best but partial shade can also be tolerated.

The Colorado Blue Spruce is native to high mountain areas, so will tolerate cold and dry weather.

Other Common Names: Colorado Spruce, White Spruce, Colorado Blue Spruce, Green Spruce

Growing Zones: 2-7

Average Size at Maturity: 50-75 ft tall and 10-20 ft wide

Flowering Season: N/A

5. Western Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)

Western Hackberry
Image by Andreas Rockstein via Flickr

The Western Hackberry is relatively fast-growing, often with a variable habit, although can be seen with an upright oval shape. It’s a Colorado native, that handles urban pollution and drought without a problem, making it an extremely adaptable and hardy species.

Early fall sees the small fruit change to black/dark red, attracting various birds throughout the winter, including Cedar Waxwings. It’s a good tree to plant if you want to provide local wildlife with food and shelter.

Other Common Names: Common Hackberry, Nettle Tree, Sugarberry, Northern Hackberry, Beaverwood, American Hackberry

Growing Zones: 3-9

Average Size at Maturity: 40-60 ft tall and 40-60 ft wide

Flowering Season: April-May

6. American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

American Sycamore
Image by Teresa Grau Ros via Flickr

The American Sycamore is virtually indistinguishable from the more well-known London Plane (Platanus x acerifolia.)

It’s a fast-growing tree with a wide-spreading crown. The leaves of the American Sycamore resemble those of Maple trees whilst the thick bark is patchy with shades of olive green and cream white.

In the fall, the American Sycamore produces round, fuzzy seeds 1” across. It’s a hardy and resistant tree, suited to moist sandy loams or silty clay soils, and will grow happily around much of the Denver area.

Other Common Names: Buttonwood, Buttonball Tree, Eastern Sycamore, Plane Tree

Growing Zones: 4-9

Average Size at Maturity: 75-100 ft tall and 50-70 ft wide

Flowering Season: March-April

7. American Hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana)

American HopHornbeam
Image by Plant Image Library via Flickr

The American Hophornbeam has a pyramidal form that eventually reaches a rounded shape with age. The common name comes from the fruit which resembles hops, in small clusters of inflated pods that contain a hard nutlet, as well as the hardness of the wood.

The American Hophornbeam is also related to the Birch family, and also has the associated attractive gray-brown bark.

The bark exfoliates at the end of vertical stripes. It generally has a rounded to oval crown with drooping branches. It grows well in almost any soil but does especially well in any kind of loam.

Other Common Names: Eastern Hophornbeam, Ironwood, Leverwood, Wooly Hop Hornbeam

Growing Zones: 3-9

Average Size at Maturity: 25-40 ft tall and 25-30 ft wide

Flowering Season: April-May

8. Japanese Pagodatree (Styphnolobium japonicum)

Japanese Pagoda
Image by Andreas Rockstein via Flickr

The Japanese Pagoda tree has a rounded shape and is often as wide as it is tall. It’s tolerant of tough urban conditions such as heat, drought, and pollution and does well in the Denver area.

It casts a delicate, dappled shade thanks to its small leaflets, which allow grass or other shrubs of flowers to grow beneath.

August sees clusters of creamy yellow to pale white, pea-like flowers cover the crown. Pods of decorative, hanging seeds that resemble draped beads follow the flowers. Plant in full sun to partial shade in loamy well-drained soils.

Other Common Names: Honey Tree, Chinese Scholar Pagoda Tree

Growing Zones: 4-8

Average Size at Maturity: 35-50 ft tall and 35-50 ft wide

Flowering Season: August

9. Southwestern White Pine (Pinus strobiformis)

Southwestern White Pine (Pinus strobiformis)
Image by Mark Bolin via Flickr

The Southwestern Pine is one of several pine trees that can be found growing in the southern portion of Colorado. It resembles the Limber Pine, but with lighter branches and shorter cones. It’s reportedly capable of growing up to 12” a year.

Young trees tend to be dense, pyramidal, and symmetrical in shape and form. Its mature form is more open and irregular.

The Southwestern Pine’s needles form in groups of 5 and are greenish-blue in color, 2-4” long with finely toothed tips. The branches are often long and horizontal. It provides winter protection and food for several species of small mammals and birds.

Other Common Names: Mexican White Pine, Chihuahua White Pine

Growing Zones: 5-9

Average Size at Maturity: 50-80 ft tall and 25-35 ft wide

Flowering Season: June

10. Hardy Rubber Tree (Eucommia ulmoides)

Hardy Rubber Tree (Eucommia ulmoides)
Image by أبو فريد via Flickr

The Hardy Rubber Tree is a broadleaf deciduous tree with a rounded to broad spreading crown at maturity. The leaves are alternate and simple, and about half as wide as long. They are glossy dark green and appear slightly wrinkled when mature. When torn, the leaf emits a rubbery latex.

The Hardy Rubber Tree is dioecious, with separate male and female trees. The flowers as small, brownish/green, and inconspicuous. The fruit that follows resembles a large elm fruit. They have been recently introduced to parts of CO, and seem to be thriving in the Denver area.

It’ll grow in a variety of soil types, transplants well, and is drought tolerant.

Other Common Names: Gutta-Percha

Growing Zones: 4b-7a

Average Size at Maturity: 40-60 ft tall and 30-50 ft wide

Flowering Season: Spring

Green Cover

Many homeowners want fast-growing tree species so their yard can achieve a mature and finished look and provide the many other benefits that trees can offer.

No matter which planting zone in Colorado you’re situated in, and at what elevation your property is located, there are a wealth of different fast-growing tree species you can choose from to add beauty, function, and ecological benefit to your yard.

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