Trees are a godsend for homeowners and gardeners for many reasons, from the color and beauty they provide to their many unique utilities.
But a lot of trees can take decades to reach a mature height, which can be an issue for gardeners who need to quickly establish hedges, privacy screens, shade trees, and other important landscape infrastructure.
Gardeners in USDA hardiness zone 8 live in some of the warmest regions of the country, with mild winters and exceptional growing seasons. While this can be a pain when summer is at its most sweltering, there is an enormous range of versatile trees that thrive in this zone as a result, including fast-growing species.
If you’re looking to establish trees on your property as quickly as possible, here are a number of useful fast-growing trees for zone 8 to consider.
10 Fastest Growing Trees for Zone 8
1. Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum)
Naturally occurring in swampy areas of the Southern United States, the Bald cypress is a fast-growing, moisture-loving conifer that grows between 1 to 2 feet per year.
It is a fantastic landscaping tree with soft, bright green foliage that turns cinnamon red in fall (it is one of the few deciduous conifers in the US), and shaggy silvery-grey peeling bark that adds plenty of ornamental appeal.
But it is best known for its distinctive knobby “knees” that flare out at the base of its trunk. According to the University of Kentucky Extension, these knees will only develop when the bald cypress is planted in standing water. It will thrive in both wet and well-draining soil conditions and even tolerates some drought.
The Bald cypress has a number of uses in landscape gardening, including as a specimen, accent, shade tree, and wildlife tree as it provides excellent shelter for many local species.
Other Common Names: Bald Cypress
Growing Zones: 4-10
Average Size at Maturity: 50-65 feet tall, with a 20-30 foot spread
Flowering Season: Spring
Available at: Nature Hills
2. Pin Oak (Quercus palustris)
One of the fastest-growing oak species, the Pin oak grows by around 2 feet per year in its youth before slowing down in maturity. They are an excellent choice if you want to quickly establish a handsome shade tree, specimen, or wildlife tree on your property.
This oak will provide four seasons of interest with its dark green lobed leaves that turn a coppery red and bronze in fall, and its attractive branching habit with upper branches that grow upright, middle branches that spread outward, and lower branches that sweep down toward the ground. It is striking to look at, especially in winter when its leaves have dropped.
The Pin oak grows equally well in urban conditions or in woodlands and rural landscapes. It should be planted in wet, loamy soil with full sun exposure, though it can adapt to a variety of soil conditions. It will not tolerate alkalinity, so make sure to test and amend your soil if necessary.
Other Common Names: Swamp Oak, Swamp Spanish Oak
Growing Zones: 4-8
Average Size at Maturity: 60-80 feet tall, with a 40-50 foot spread
Fruiting Season: Fall
3. Japanese Pagoda (Styphnolobium japonicum)
Despite its name, the Japanese pagoda is actually a native of China. It is a truly lovely species that is prized as a design tree due to its rounded crown, bright green compound leaves, and pea-shaped white flowers which will fill a property with its delicate fragrance. It can grow up to a foot per year.
While it grows at a decent rate, the same can’t be said for its flowers – it takes 10 years for a Japanese pagoda to produce its first round of blooms! Its wood can be somewhat weak too, and structural pruning is sometimes required to prevent breakage. It takes some time and effort to reap the benefits of this tree’s beauty.
In most other respects the Japanese pagoda is an easy tree to grow and care for. It is highly adaptable and able to grow in a wide range of soil types including compacted and poor-quality soil. It is also highly tolerant of air pollution, making it an excellent tree for urban gardening.
Other Common Names: Scholar Tree, Chinese Scholar Tree
Growing Zones: 4-8
Average Size at Maturity: 50-75 feet tall, with a similar width
Fruiting Season: Mid-Summer
4. Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
A classic beauty grown throughout the American landscape, the Red maple is one of the fastest-growing trees native to the US, adding an extra 1 to 2 feet of growth to its height each year.
Naturally, it is best known for its incredible fall foliage, which will dominate the landscape with its brilliant shades of red, scarlet, orange, and even yellow. Its twigs and flowers even provide a light red tint in spring and summer.
This maple tree also has upright, spreading branches which combined with its leaves provide excellent shade through summer. It is also a useful wildlife tree (providing shelter and supporting pollinators with its red spring flowers), an obvious focal point, and in groups it works well as a screen or native grove.
Plant the red maple in sandy or loamy well-draining soil with an acidic pH and full sun exposure.
Other Common Names: Swamp Maple, Water Maple, Soft Maple
Growing Zones: 3-9
Average Size at Maturity: 40-70 feet tall, with a 30-50 foot spread
Flowering Season: Spring
5. Southern Catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides)
A southeastern native, the Southern catalpa is a medium to large deciduous tree with a broad, irregular crown and heart-shaped bright green leaves. However, it is best known for its highly ornamental trumpet-shaped white flowers and long green seedpods, which is how it earned the alternate names ‘smoking bean’ and ‘Indian bean tree’.
With its spreading branches, it can be grown as a shade tree or even a street tree, though its awkwardly shaped canopy can be off-putting to some. Its leaves and flowers can also cause a mess in fall, which may be an issue if planted near sidewalks.
The Southern catalpa is long-lived and highly adaptable, able to grow in exceptionally harsh conditions. It is tolerant of drought and occasional flooding and can grow in compacted clay soil and wet soil, though it prefers rich, moist, well-draining soil with full sun exposure.
Other Common Names: Catawba, Eastern Catalpa, Cigar Tree, Indian Cigar, Smoking Bean, Indian Bean Tree, Common Catalpa, Bureaucrat Tree
Growing Zones: 5-9
Average Size at Maturity: 30-60 feet tall, with a 20-40 foot spread
Fruiting Season: Late Spring to Early Summer
6. Lombardy Poplar (Populus nigra )
With a growth rate of 6 feet per year, the Lombardy poplar is a very popular choice for zone 8 gardeners who want a privacy screen, hedge, or street tree that can be established quickly on their property. Its columnar, upright growth habit, symmetrical crown, and bright yellow fall foliage also provide considerable visual appeal.
However, interested gardeners should know that the Lombardy poplar comes with its fair share of disadvantages, the most notable being its susceptibility to pests and disease.
The worst culprit is stem canker disease which is virtually untreatable – considerable time and care are needed to prevent these trees from falling victim to it. On average these trees only live for around 15 years as a result.
If you’re willing to take on the challenge of maintaining Lombardy poplar trees, make sure to plant it in sandy or loamy well-draining soil in a location with full sun exposure.
Other Common Names: Black Poplar
Growing Zones: 3-9
Average Size at Maturity: 40-60 feet tall, with a 10-15 foot spread
Flower Season: Late Winter to Early Spring
7. Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)
The largest conifer in the eastern US, the eastern white pine is an impressively sized specimen with an equally impressive growth rate of around 2 to 3 feet per year. However, this is its growth rate in youth – it will slow down as the pine ages. With its rounded, pyramidal shape and soft blue-green needles, this enormous conifer will add a majestic touch to your property.
The eastern white pine can be used as a large informal screen, a focal point, a single privacy tree, or even a shade tree among other uses. It looks lovely in parks and large lawns, and gardeners can expect it to be a semi-permanent fixture on their property as it lives for up to 200 years.
Though it is a low-maintenance and adaptable conifer, there are some conditions the eastern white pine won’t tolerate. Compacted soil, alkalinity, or considerable air pollution should all be avoided.
Other Common Names: Northern White Pine, Soft Pine, North American White Pine, White Pine, Weymouth Pine
Growing Zones: 3-8
Average Size at Maturity: 50-80 feet tall, with a 20-40 foot spread
Fruiting Season: Fall
8. Heritage Birch (Betula nigra ‘Cully’)
A cultivar of the River birch, a mainstay in US landscape planting, the Heritage birch is a lovely, delicate birch tree that grows at a minimum of 2 and a half feet per year. Aside from its fast-growing nature, the Heritage is known for the breezy, dappled shade it provides in summer and for its signature peeling bark.
This bark is much lighter than the River birches, with its dark and shaggy outer layer revealing a smooth, tan inner layer that will have a striking effect on the landscape. Its glossy dark green leaves turn gold and yellow in fall.
As well as its use as a shade tree the Heritage birch is often used in natural groupings on commercial plots, and as privacy screens or shelterbelts. Like the River birch, this cultivar looks excellent planted near a water feature and will thrive in the consistently moist soil around it.
Other Common Names: Heritage Birch Tree
Growing Zones: 4-9
Average Size at Maturity: 40-60 feet tall, with a 25-40 foot spread
Flower Season: Spring
9. Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica)
An undeniable icon in landscape gardening around the world, many gardeners will be surprised to know that the Weeping willow is one of the world’s fastest-growing trees.
When planted in ideal conditions it is able to grow up to 10 feet per year! It’s a no-brainer for zone 8 gardeners who want to quickly establish a gorgeous ornamental on their property.
The most notable feature of the Weeping willow is its rounded canopy, dramatically arched weeping branches, and long, feathery foliage, all of which combine to create a romantic image in any landscape. It can be used as a shade tree, specimen, or privacy tree to block any unappealing sights on your property.
The most striking place to plant a Weeping willow would be near a water feature such as a pond, stream, or lake. These trees love moist or even wet soil, and their dense root system can be used to prevent erosion.
Other Common Names: Silver Willow, Babylon Weeping Willow
Growing Zones: 5-9
Average Size at Maturity: 30-50 feet tall, with a similar spread
Flower Season: Spring
10. Green Giant Arborvitae (Thuja standishii x plicata ‘Green Giant’)
With its vibrant evergreen foliage, hardy and adaptable nature, and fast growth rate, the Green Giant Arborvitae is an easy choice for US gardeners. This large attractive conifer can add softness, color, fragrance, and structure to your zone 8 landscape.
The Green Giant can be used as an evergreen tree, privacy screen, a backdrop, a living fence, or even as a single specimen. It can be pruned and sheared into any size or shape you want, though it naturally needs very little altering due to its neat and uniform growth habit. It is a low-maintenance plant, and according to the NC State Gardening Extension it is resistant to drought and most pests and diseases.
Plant the Green Giant Arborvitae in loamy soil that is moist, fertile, and well-draining, in a location with full sun or partial shade. Do not plant in any location where it may be exposed to salt or spray.
Other Common Names: Thuja Green Giant, Tree of Life, Western Red Cedar
Growing Zones: 5-8
Average Size at Maturity: 40-50 feet tall, with an 8-12 foot spread
Fruiting Season: Cones emerge in Summer
Establish Beautiful Trees in No Time At All
These fast-growing trees are guaranteed problem solvers for gardeners who need shade, privacy, and more in no time at all. Species like the red maple will give you a shade tree or street tree in just a few years, while the gorgeous weeping willow will be taller than you after its first year of growth!
Of course, not all fast-growing zone 8 trees will be ideal for your environment. Some types, like the Lombardy poplar or Japanese pagoda, come with their own unique set of challenges, and it’s up to you to figure out if they will work for your property.
With enough research and consideration, you’ll have ideal fast-growing trees taking off on your property.
- 16 Popular USDA Zone 8 Trees to Consider Planting Today
- 14 Ornamental Flowering Trees for USDA Zone 8 Landscapes
- 9 Palm Trees for USDA Zone 8 Gardens & Landscapes
- 16 Best Bountiful Fruit Trees for USDA Zone 8
- 7 Trees You Can Grow in Full Sun in USDA Zone 8
Shannon has always loved looking after trees and plants since as long as she can remember. She grew up gardening with her family in their off-grid home and looking after her neighbor’s plant nursery.
As a child she also participated in native tree replanting, and as an adult has volunteered in reforestation programs in northern Vietnam. Today, she puts her horticultural efforts into tending her vegetable and herb gardens, and learning about homesteading and permaculture.
When she’s not reading, writing, and gardening, she’ll be out fishing and foraging for edible flora and fungi in the countryside around her home.