7 Types of Fast-Growing Shade Trees

Tuliptree with wide-spread canopy of bright green leaves in garden

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

If you're in a hurry to provide shade for your home or an outdoor living area, you'll want to plant a few fast-growing shade trees, which boast the height and/or canopy needed to protect your lawn or home from the sun. The good news: There are plenty of options out there, ranging from blooming beauties to foliage stars that come alive each autumn. These picks all grow at least a foot or more a year and will not only provide you with a shady retreat quickly but will also add a dose of visual interest to your landscape.

  • 01 of 07

    Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

    red maple tree with brilliant foliage

    The Spruce / Autumn Wood

    Native to North America, the red maple tree is prized for its vibrant red-orange leaves that emerge each autumn. In addition to their eye-catching foliage, these trees are also fast-growing. Red maple trees grow up to 24 inches per year, with some reaching nearly 120 feet tall with a 50-foot spread at maturity. The foliage favorites are also surprisingly easy to care for, tolerating both full sun and partial shade, as well as moist or dry soil.

    • Native Area: North America
    • USDA Growing Zones: 2–9
    • Size: 40–120 ft. tall, 30–50 ft. wide
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun, partial shade
  • 02 of 07

    'Autumn Blaze' Maple (Acer x Freemanii)

    Image of fall foliage color of Autumn Blaze maple tree.
    'Autumn Blaze' is valued for its spectacular fall foliage color. Brian North/Getty Images

    Like red maple trees, the autumn blaze maples are known for their outstanding fall foliage. There are a couple of reasons why you might opt for this relative newcomer over its better-known cousin, the red maple. Autumn blaze maple trees can grow up to 3 feet each year—faster than red maples—and their fall foliage color is more reliably red (red maple's leaves often turn yellow in fall). Additionally, they're just as easy to grow, requiring little care beyond moist soil and additional watering during periods of drought.

    • Native Area: North America
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–8
    • Size: 45–70 ft. tall, 35–50 ft. wide
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun, partial shade
  • 03 of 07

    Sawtooth Oak (Quercus Acutissima)

    Sawtooth oak tree in a park.

    Harley Seaway/Getty Images

    Gardeners and homeowners looking for extra coverage will love the spreading canopy of the beautiful sawtooth oak trees. Another bonus: You will not have to wait forever to enjoy it—the fast-growing varietal can increase anywhere from 13 inches to 24 inches per year. The sawtooth oak prefers a lot of sun, so be sure to choose a spot in your yard that boasts plenty of rays, as well as rich, well-draining soil. In a little over a year, you'll be enjoying shaded picnics beneath its branches—and the yellow and golden brown hue of its leaves come fall.

    • Native Area: Asia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 6–9
    • Size: 30–75 ft. tall, 30–60 ft. wide
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 04 of 07

    Leyland Cypress (Cupressus × leylandii)

    Leyland Cypress trees
    Feifei Cui-Paoluzzo / Getty Images

    Native to England, Leyland cypress trees are tall and narrow, often used to cast shade by being planted in rows to form a living wall. Their height can vary greatly depending on where they're planted and how they're cared for (pruning can keep them more shrub-like if desired). They generally grow around two feet or more a year. The Leyland cypress is tolerant of a range of soil types—including clay, loam, sand, and more—but should be planted somewhere where it can reap full sun the majority of the time.

    • Native Area: England
    • USDA Growing Zones: 6–10
    • Size: 60–70 ft. tall, 10–15 ft. wide
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
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  • 05 of 07

    River Birch (Betula Nigra)

    The river birch has interesting peeling bark.
    Image by F.D. Richards under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

    These fast-growing shade trees (which will add anywhere from 13 inches to 24 inches a year) bear vibrant green leaves in the spring and summer and golden-yellow foliage in autumn. Native to North America, river birch trees have seen increasing popularity in recent years, partially due to the fact that they can be grown across a wider swath of hardiness zones than their cousin, the paper birch, can. When it comes to a landscape tree that offers shade and beauty, the river birch tree is a no-brainer—its expansive canopy will cover plenty of land, while its exfoliating bark—which peels to reveal layers of cream, salmon, and black—will catch plenty of eyes. Be sure to keep the soil of the river birch very moist—as its water-logged name implies, it does not tolerate periods of drought well.

    • Native Area: North America
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–9
    • Size: 40–90 ft. tall, 40–60 ft. wide
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun, partial shade
  • 06 of 07

    Tuliptree (Liriodendron Tulipifera)

    Tuliptree branch with variegated green leaves and cream-colored tulip-like flowers

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Named for the shape of their flowers, which resemble tulip flowers, tuliptrees need plenty of space to grow and are often too large for smaller yards. Due to its growth potential (it adds more than two feet a year to its height), tuliptrees are more suitable for large acreage and park areas than near a house or patio. The more sun this light-loving tree gets, the more blooms it will boast—but keep in mind, its flowers tend to be high up in the canopy on mature plants, so appreciate them while your tree is still young and short.

    • Native Area: North America
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4–9
    • Size: 70–130 ft. tall, 30-60 ft. wide
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 07 of 07

    Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia Indica)

    A tiger swallowtail butterfly drinks at the font of a white-flowering crepe myrtle bush.
    David Beaulieu

    A beloved and fragrant southern cultivar, the fast-growing crape myrtle is a tree whose stature truly matches its beauty. Native to Asia, crape myrtle can be grown as a tree in warmer zones, or pruned to a more shrub-like stature in colder climates. It relies heavily on sunlight to bloom each summer (and add up to 2 feet of height a year), so plant it somewhere in your landscape that boasts at least six hours or more of direct light daily. Other than that, the crape myrtle is relatively easy to care for and, for all your TLC, you'll be gifted with gorgeous clumps of buds in white, pink, lavender and red hues.

    • Native Area: Asia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 7–9
    • Size: 8–40 ft. tall, 15–25 ft. wide
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun