Fast Growing Shrubs

Jeanne Grunert
Leyland cypress provides fast screening

Fast growing shrubs provide privacy and screening near homes and property, and can grow anywhere from one to several feet per year. There are many beautiful shrubs to choose from in this category, ranging from evergreen varieties such as Leyland Cypress to flowering shrubs such as the forsythia. If you've just moved into a new home or need to screen something quickly with shrubs, this list of fast growing shrubs will get you started quickly towards a beautiful landscape.

Shrubs That Fill Landscapes Quickly

Fast growing shrubs grow at a rate of one to several feet per year, depending upon the shrub and the growing conditions. Whether you want beautiful foliage or flowers, there's a fast growing shrub waiting for you. You can choose one or more from the following list, or use the resources link to see many other fast growing shrubs and find one that will thrive in your garden landscape.

Leyland Cypress

Among fast growing shrubs, nothing tops the Leyland (or Leland) Cypress. These evergreen shrubs, native to North America, can grow up to four feet per year, especially when they're young. They tend to grow taller rather than wider. Plant them six feet apart to form a natural fence. Leyland Cypress thrive in zones 6 to 10 and in most garden soils. They prefer full sun to only partial shade. They will easily grow up to 60 feet tall and sometimes 20 feet wide. To check their growth, simply prune them back aggressively each year. Most homeowners prefer to let Leyland Cypress grow in their natural, rugged shape, and trim only to maintain their desired height.

Be careful when planting Leyland Cypress if you live in a community where houses are packed closely together. Since the Leyland Cypress grows quite tall, and casts dense shade, you can easily upset the neighbors when your Leyland Cypress ends up shading their prize rose bed. Be kind and plant these beautiful evergreens far enough away so that you won't block the light to a neighbor's property.

Clemson University provides a Leyland Cypress information page and a link to more information on diseases that affect Leyland Cypress.

Forsythia

Nothing shouts 'springtime' like a burst of cheery yellow flowers on a forsythia. These incredibly fast-growing shrubs provide a burst of springtime color when everything else is still brown and dormant, and leaf out into glossy green foliage. They're easily planted, hard to kill, form excellent fences, and grow rapidly. Forsythia will grow one to two feet per year and easily spread out that much or more.

Forsythia like full sun to partial shade, and aren't fussy about the garden soil, although they prefer well-drained soil amended with compost or manure. They are hardy in zones 4-9 and unchecked can attain a mature height of eight to ten feet. You don't need to fertilize them or give them any special care. The only time they require any attention is during periods of prolonged drought when they benefit from a good drink of water. They are even very tolerant of city pollution. Many highway departments now plant forsythia along the media of major interstates to add beauty and color to the roadways and the plants thrive despite the constant bombardment of fumes from car exhaust.

The Garden Helper provides a brief resource article on the care and propagation of forsythia.

Nellie Stevens Holly

With its lustrous dark green foliage and bright red berries, the Nellie Stevens Holly provides an attractive, fast growing shrub that also attracts birds. Birds love to eat the berries, and the glossy foliage is a welcome respite from the doldrums of winter. Nellie Stevens Holly can be grown in garden zones 6-9. It grows about one to two feet per year, and easily attains a maximum height of 30 feet with a spread of 15 feet.

Not only are Nellie Stevens Holly very fast growing, they're also low maintenance and easy care. They have a natural pyramid-like shape, and don't require any pruning unless you want to check their growth or cut some boughs to decorate for Christmas. They prefer full sun to partial shade and a slightly acidic soil pH.

Although most hollies require both a male and female plant to attain the bright red berries, Nellie Stevens is an exception to this rule. The plant is called a parthenocarpic plant, and does not require a male cultivar to set fruit.

The University of Florida provides a free publication on Nellie Stevens Holly.

Butterfly Bush

This plant's name pretty much says it all. It's not uncommon to see a dozen or more butterflies of all different types converge on the Butterfly_Bush when they are at their peak blooming time, usually in July and August. Butterfly Bush, or Buddleia, are robust, fast growing shrubs that provide big spikes of colorful flowers and attract butterflies and hummingbirds galore. While they don't do much to provide privacy or block out noise, they do grow fast - very fast. Butterfly Bush is extremely easy to grow. It's not fussy about soil, but does prefer full sunlight. It will grow up to a foot or more every year and will spread out about that much too. Butterfly Bush experiences few diseases or pests, and it is hardy in most garden zones in the United States.

Butterfly Bush is not a neat plant. Some people find its sprawling, rather messy form attractive, while others prefer a plant they can shape. It can seed itself throughout the garden. If you don't want volunteer seedlings, simply pull them up. Make sure you get the roots of the seedlings out or the plant will simply sprout again.

The Butterfly Website has a list of Butterfly Bush cultivars to try.

Check Your Local Nursery

Be sure to select fast growing shrubs that will flourish in your climate. Your local nursery will offer varieties that are best suited to your region.

Fast Growing Shrubs