When planting a tree it’s natural to want to know how quickly it’ll grow and you can get the results you want to see.
Fortunately, the mild winters of Alabama and the mostly subtropical climate mean that there are plenty of fast-growing trees for you to plant.
Whether you live in the mild-winter frost-free coastal plains or the cooler mountainous north of AL, there are enough fast-growing trees for you to consider for your garden.
7 Excellent Fast Growing Trees Suitable for Alabama
1. Corkscrew Willow (Salix matsudana) – Fast Growing Shade Tree
If you’re after something your neighbors probably don’t have, then consider planting a corkscrew willow in your yard. What sets the corkscrew willow apart is its branching system; the branches spread horizontally and fork vertically, and are almost guaranteed to serve as an accent in your garden landscape.
Spring sees the emergence of buds on the eye-catching, twisted branches. The leaves are large enough to provide shade in the summer and turn yellow in the fall. The corkscrew willow is very fast-growing, so consider where you’re going to plant it well. It’ll grow in full sun, partial shade, and poor soils.
Other Common Names: Peking Willow, Curly Willow
Growing Zones: 4-8
Average Size at Maturity: 20-30ft tall and 15-30 ft wide
Flowering Season: Early spring
This variety of Elm has been developed by the University of Georgia and is resistant to all kinds of pests and diseases, including the dreaded Dutch Elm disease. It tolerates just about any well-draining soil, as well as drought. The branches on this elm grow in an upward manner, leaving plenty of headroom below.
The Chinese Elm is deciduous and has dark green foliage. The broad canopy of the Chinese `Elm is rounded, and the leaves turn a gorgeous and delicate shade of yellow in the fall and remain as such for an extended period. The bark provides winter interest, with speckled shades of orange, gray, and olive.
Other Common Names: Lacebark Elm
Growing Zones: 5-9
Average Size at Maturity: 40-60ft tall and 40-50ft wide
Flowering Season: Late Summer
3. Cider Gum (Eucalyptus gunni)
Eucalyptus are prolific growers and added with its aroma, make this species unsurpassed for those after a fast-growing tree in their yard. The cider gum is one of the hardiest and fastest-growing of all the eucalyptus.
It’s a large evergreen tree with an upright, conical habit. It has a dense canopy and is adorned with a smooth bark, which flakes off in large pieces, in shades of pink, cream, and white.
The foliage is rounded, silvery-blue when young, and changes to a lance-shape when mature, with a blue-green tint. They are fragrant at all stages of development. Small white, flowers are borne amongst the foliage with several stamens in the early summer.
Cider gums are drought tolerant and can be grown in slightly acidic moist to dry conditions. The leaves also can be used in floral decorations.
Other Common Names: Cider gum
Growing Zones: 7-10
Average Size at Maturity: 30-70ft tall and 18-40 ft wide
Flowering Season: Early summer
The pin oak is a fast-growing tree, capable of growing upwards of 24” a year. In its early years, it has a pyramidal shape, which changes to a more oval shape as the tree matures.
The leaves are glossy green in the summer and turn a shade of bronze/red later in the year. They typically measure 3-6” and have 5 lobes, although 7 or 9 is not uncommon.
The pin oak has a peculiar branching pattern, which lends it its own identity in the landscape. This is especially apparent in the winter, which means this fast-growing oak can provide year-round interest. Spring sees the production of yellow/green catkins that are 5-7” long.
The acorns of the pin oak are almost completely spherical, ½” long with a thin, tight saucer cap covered in dense scales, and are a food source for lots of wildlife. It develops a single trunk, and can tolerate drought and pollution, but not alkaline soils.
Other Common Names: Water Oak, Swamp Oak, Swamp Spanish Oak
Growing Zones: 4-8
Average Size at Maturity: 60-70ft tall and 25-45ft tall
Flowering Season: April/May
5. Japanese Zelkova (Zelkova serrata) – Fast Growing Privacy Tree
The vase shape and ascending, upward arching branches of the Japanese Zelkova are what make this tree stand out. Its leaves are dark green and turn a rich shade of maroon in the fall. Another benefit of this tree is that, like the Chinese Elm, it’s pest and disease resistant, meaning it requires little attention.
The Japanese Zelkova is tolerant of wind, pollution, and drought, and will grow in just about any well-drained soil. Full sun to partial shade is preferred but it will adapt to a wide range of conditions. Its leaves turn orange-yellow and red in the fall.
They serve well to stop passersby from seeing into your second-story windows and to block harsh northern winds.
Other Common Names: Japanese Zelkova
Growing Zones: 5-8
Average Size at Maturity: 60-70ft tall and 40-50ft wide
Flowering Season: April to May
6. Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)
The Tulip Poplar is a member of the magnolia family.
Whilst it’s often debated whether the tulip in the name comes from the shape of the leaves or the often hard-to-spot flowers, the tulip tree is undoubtedly a good choice if you’re looking for a fast-growing tree for your yard.
It’s known for its upright growing habit and high, airy canopy.
However, tulip trees aren’t suitable for every landscape as they can grow fairly tall, and their fast growth rate means their branches are somewhat brittle.
If you look up at a tulip poplar in spring, you’ll be greeted by yellow/green/orange, cup-shaped blooms 2-3” in diameter. The tulip-shaped leaves can also measure up to 8” long.
Tulip poplars are attractive to a whole host of pollinating insects and birds and are the host plant for tiger and spicebush swallowtail butterflies. Plant tulip poplars in moist, well-draining slightly acidic soil in full sun for best results.
The tulip tree doesn’t tolerate drought well, so may need summer irrigation. Winter pruning is advisable to keep it under control due to its rapid growth rate.
Other Common Names: American Tulip Tree, Tulip Tree, Tulip Wood, Fiddle Tree, White Wood, Yellow Poplar
Growing Zones: 4-9
Average Size at Maturity: 70-90ft tall and 35-50 ft wide
Flowering Season: May and June
7. Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) – Fast Growing Shade Tree
The sweetgum is a popular tree due to its unique star-shaped leaves, and fast-growth rate of from between 12-24” a year. It provides spectacular fall color and is also prized as a shade tree due to its size and spread. If you have a small yard, then the Sweet Gum probably isn’t for you.
The fruit is favored by songbirds, chipmunks, and squirrels. The sheer quantity of fruit produced means it will require some cleaning up under the boughs. The sweet gum requires full sun and won’t tolerate shade.
Avoid alkaline soils and favor moist, fertile, slightly acidic soils. Clay, sandy, and loamy soils are suitable.
Other Common Names: American Storax, Redgum, Satin Walnut, Alligator Wood, Star-leaved Gum, Sweetgum
Growing Zones: 5-9
Average Size at Maturity: 60-75ft tall and 40-50ft wide
Flowering Season: March to May
Tree Cover, Fast!
Whatever your reasons for wanting to plant a fast-growing tree in your garden, AL offers the home-gardener lots of choice due to the mild winters of the state.
It’s worth remembering that fast-growing often (but not always) comes with the caveat of weak branches that could prove hazardous without due thought of where you plant.
- 7 Fast Growing Trees In Alabama
- 8 Alabama Native Trees to Plant Today
- 6 Best Fruit Trees Suitable for Alabama
- 6 Evergreen Trees To Grow In Alabama
- 12 Best Flowering Trees In Alabama
Thomas worked for a number of years as the head of plant propagation for a horticultural contractor taking care of many different species of ornamental trees & shrubs. He learned how to propagate certain endangered endemic species and has a love of permaculture, sustainability and conscious living. When Thomas isn’t hiking in nature he can be found playing music, reading a book, or eating fruit under a tree.