Horticulture Magazine

10 Fast-Growing Trees For Garden Privacy

two types of thuja used as a garden hedge

If our bodies are temples and our houses are castles, then gardens must be our sanctuaries.

Though many of us love showing off our gardens to friends and family, a garden should also be a secluded space just for you.

Many of us choose fences or walls to secure our personal perimeter but sometimes that doesn’t feel quite enough.

Trees are one fully-natural solution to this problem, but who wants to wait ten to twenty years for your privacy to be perfected?

using a shovel to plant a tree in the ground

Thankfully, for those of us keen to hurry the process of privacy along, there are some speedy trees that will satisfy even the most impatient gardener among us.

Choosing the best fast-growing trees

We examined research by the Urban Forest Research Group which observed the growth rate of trees in urban British environments, before comparing these findings with research from various horticultural research bodies and tree nurseries. [source]

From this research, we then identified ten trees which have a high annual growth rate in the UK.

Here is each type of tree, ordered by their average growth in height each year:

TreeAverage Tree Height Increment Per Year (Centimetres)Maximum Height (Metres)
Silver Birch1,00030
Ash92635
Nellie R.Stevens Holly9149
Italian Cypress91115
Sycamore84035
Weeping Willow82512
Golden Bamboo75012
Beech64340
Tulip Poplar60940
Pleached Hornbeam50030

You can see from these findings that Silver Birch, Ash and Nellie R.Stevens Holly are three of the fastest-growing trees to grow in the UK climate.

Below we introduce each type of tree in more detail, including imagery, growth statistics and growing advice for each.

1) Silver Birch

sunlight glistening through silver birch trees
  • BOTANICAL NAME: BETULA PENDULA
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7
  • ESTIMATED ANNUAL GROWTH RATE: 1,000CM
  • MAXIMUM HEIGHT: 30M
  • YEARS TO EVENTUAL HEIGHT: 30-50

According to PFAF, Betula pendula (more commonly known as ‘Silver Birch’) can grow up to 1M in height per year. [source]

That is a staggering rate of growth, though if you’re interested in growing new trees for privacy reasons, you should bear in mind that the foliage of silver birch can be sparse, especially as a deciduous tree that drops its leaves each year.

With an ultimate maximum height of 30 metres, it shouldn’t be grown in small spaces unless confined to a container. [source]

2) Ash

a large ash tree with smaller ones in the background
  • BOTANICAL NAME: FRAXINUS EXCELSIOR
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • ESTIMATED ANNUAL GROWTH RATE: 926CM
  • MAXIMUM HEIGHT: 35M
  • YEARS TO EVENTUAL HEIGHT: 30-50

Ash trees were named in the study by the Urban Forest Research Group as the tree with the highest Average Tree Height Increment per year – at 0.926m. [source]

These medium-to-large sized trees form a domed canopy with light green, oval foliage. The trees are deciduous and will usually lose their leaves in Autumn.

They will usually take 30-50 years to reach their eventual height which should top-out at 35 metres. [source]

3) Nellie R. Stevens Holly

holly with blue sky in the background
  • BOTANICAL NAME: ILEX ‘NELLIE R.STEVENS’
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • ESTIMATED ANNUAL GROWTH RATE: 914CM
  • MAXIMUM HEIGHT: 9M
  • YEARS TO EVENTUAL HEIGHT: 15-25

Holly trees are a favourite amongst us Brits, especially during the festive season, when their red berries attract bold robins into our gardens.

There are many types of Holly, but if it’s speed you’re after then look no further than the Nellie R. Stevens cultivar.

Growing up to 0.9 metres per year and up to an admirable height of nine metres, this tree is perfect for providing privacy to both upper and lower windows. [source / source]

And, come Christmas time, the branches can be pruned and fashioned into adorable, handmade, decorations.

What’s more, those spiky leaves act as a natural security system!

4) Italian Cypress

tall and thin italian cypress trees with a border of flowering plants at the front
  • BOTANICAL NAME: CUPRESSUS SEMPERVIRENS
  • HARDINESS RATING: H5
  • ESTIMATED ANNUAL GROWTH RATE: 911CM
  • MAXIMUM HEIGHT: 15M
  • YEARS TO EVENTUAL HEIGHT: 20-50

The Italian Cypress is a wonderful screening tree.

While most evergreens grow in a pyramidal shape, this specimen grows straight up in a narrow column.  

A resilient tree – particularly to drought – the Cypress is also extremely low maintenance.

The only attention it needs is a little pruning, and all that requires is cutting the head off when it has reached your desired height.

Most importantly, this tree grows at an annual rate of roughly 0.9 metres. [source]

At full maturity, it can reach a height of up to fifteen metres. [source]

5) Sycamore

large sycamore tree
  • BOTANICAL NAME: ACER PSEUDOPLATANUS
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7
  • ESTIMATED ANNUAL GROWTH RATE: 840CM
  • MAXIMUM HEIGHT: 35M
  • YEARS TO EVENTUAL HEIGHT: 50+

Next up is the Sycamore – the second tree praised for its growth rate in research by the Urban Forest Research Group.

They found that this tree would grow at a rate of up to 840cm per year. [source]

As a native of North America, the tree is very much at home here in the UK climate, with a hardiness rating of H7.

The maximum height of 35 metres means this tree should only be grown in an area with room to accommodate its height and spread. [source]

6) Weeping Willow

weeping willow tree in the park
  • BOTANICAL NAME: SALIX BABYLONICA
  • HARDINESS RATING: H5
  • ESTIMATED ANNUAL GROWTH RATE: 825CM
  • MAXIMUM HEIGHT: 12M
  • YEARS TO EVENTUAL HEIGHT: 30-50

The Weeping Willow is a champion of fast-growing trees.

Ideal for larger gardens, this swift growing sapling can grow a whopping 825cm a year, reach lofty heights of twelve metres and span an astonishing ten! [source / source]

You can expect to see foliage as early as February, and in April and May you will be treated to delicate yellow blossoms.

Do take care of where you plant this glorious giant, as its roots have a tendency to spread far and wide.

This is a beautiful solution for those looking to regain their privacy.

7) Golden Bamboo

tall golden bamboo plants
  • BOTANICAL NAME: PHYLLOSTACHYS AUREA
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • ESTIMATED ANNUAL GROWTH RATE: 750CM
  • MAXIMUM HEIGHT: 12M
  • YEARS TO EVENTUAL HEIGHT: 8-10

A quirky alternative to more traditional trees, this evergreen grows at an impressive rate of between 0.6-0.9 metres a year. [source]

It can very quickly grow to a height of up to 12 metres, but its fast-growing properties mean it is actually classed as an invasive plant by the CABI. [source]

Growing in pots offers an ideal compromise, as this prevents the spread of bamboo rhizomes underground.

Though not technically a tree, bamboo certainly fits the bill for screening your garden.

This sturdy plant is extremely easy to grow and requires little-to-no maintenance.

The stems and lush leaves emerge green but, given enough sunlight, will turn a golden yellow as it ages, hence the name.

8) Beech

a very large beech tree in a field with blue sky in the background
  • BOTANICAL NAME: FAGUS SYLVATICA
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • ESTIMATED ANNUAL GROWTH RATE: 643CM
  • MAXIMUM HEIGHT: 40M
  • YEARS TO EVENTUAL HEIGHT: 20-50

Fagus sylvatica – or the Common Beech – is a large deciduous tree that will lose its leaves in autumn.

It has a broad crown and produces flowers in spring and edible beechnut fruit in autumn, making them extremely popular with local wildlife.

These trees grow at an annual rate of roughly 0.6 metres, meaning they will soon grow to a reasonable size. [source]

After 20-50 years, they should reach their staggering ultimate height of up to 40 metres! [source]

9) Tulip Poplar

row of tulip poplars
  • BOTANICAL NAME: LIRIODENDRON TULIPIFERA
  • HARDINESS RATING: H6
  • ESTIMATED ANNUAL GROWTH RATE: 609CM
  • MAXIMUM HEIGHT: 40M
  • YEARS TO EVENTUAL HEIGHT: 20-50

Not only is this tree ideal for concealing whatever unsightly thing has stolen your view, but the Tulip Poplar is also a real statement piece.

Blossoming in spring, it boasts glorious yellow and green flowers.

Then, during the summer months, its lush leaves provide cooling shade.

Finally, come Autumn, it’s leaves turn to glorious golden hues.

Growing at a satisfying 0.6 metres a year and reaching heady heights of up to 40 metres, this deliciously fragrant tree will be your saviour – obscuring any unsavoury view whilst simultaneously impressing any green-fingered friends. [source / source]

10) Pleached Hornbeam

hornbeam hedging
  • BOTANICAL NAME: CARPINUS BETULUS
  • HARDINESS RATING: H7
  • ESTIMATED ANNUAL GROWTH RATE: 500CM
  • MAXIMUM HEIGHT: 30M
  • YEARS TO EVENTUAL HEIGHT: 50+

Whilst the aim of the game may be to camouflage your window, you also don’t want to completely block out the light.

A row of Pleached Hornbeam is an ideal solution, giving you excellent coverage without throwing you completely into darkness.

Growing up to half a metre annually this Hornbeam isn’t our fastest growing tree, however it really is perfect for more modest-sized gardens, and is particularly popular among city gardeners. [source]

Important Considerations

Once you have chosen the best fast-growing tree for privacy, there are a few things to consider before you start the planting process.

The tips below allow you to maximise your privacy without causing any unintended, but undesirable effects.

Avoid blocking out yours (or your neighbour’s) light

Placement is the first thing to consider with this particular issue – the last thing you might want to do is to cast large areas of your garden into shade.

When choosing your tree, consider how dense the branching is as this may influence your final decision.

Good pruning can also effectively help you maximise your privacy whilst also letting the sunshine through.

With this in mind, make sure you have a good understanding of how to maintain your tree to avoid it taking over your garden and leaving you in the dark.

Neighbourly love

First and foremost, the neighbourly thing to do would certainly be to pop over and have a quick natter to explain your plans.

Most people will probably appreciate the chance to enjoy some free privacy for themselves but it’s always best to notify them to avoid future disputes.

As with the issue of light, pruning will also help prevent your tree from creeping into your neighbours garden and that will certainly keep things peaceful!

Maintenance

Proper tree maintenance is absolutely key.

While it might seem counter-productive to cut back old growth, this process actually prompts new growth in many trees, helping to speed up any growth.

If you want to see speedy results, then taking good care of your trees will ensure optimal growth so you can satisfy your need for privacy as quickly as possible.

Ready, steady, grow!

There you have it: everything you need to know about the best fast-growing trees for privacy.

So don your gardening gloves, race into your garden, get planting, and bask in your newfound privacy!

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