12 Fastest Growing Deciduous Trees (And Where To Plant Them)

Paper birch tree on edge of water in lawn

Choosing a tree for your yard or garden can be difficult given the seemingly infinite number of choices you could make. Trees add dimension to any landscape through height, color, and texture. They also stabilize the soil and provide shade as well as a habitat for local wildlife. 

Some of the fastest-growing trees are Weeping Willows, Hybrid Poplars, Red Alders, and American Elms, although there are many other fast-growing trees that you could plant.

These trees will all grow quickly and mature in a relatively short amount of time.

There are many characteristics of each of these deciduous trees other than the growth rate, and we want to help you make the best decision for your own yard!

Read on to discover the 12 fastest-growing deciduous trees, their lifespan, height at maturity, ideal hardiness zone, and the best way to plant and care for them. If you are not sure which tree will work best for you and your landscape, make sure to contact a professional!

Just to add – when you shop using links from Tree Journey, we may earn affiliate commissions if you make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

What Makes A Deciduous Tree Deciduous?

Sunny autumn landscape with pond in park and trees with yellow autumnal foliage. Deciduous trees.

The simplest way to define deciduous trees is that they have leaves that change color and they lose their leaves in the fall.

Most deciduous trees are broadleaf trees, but there actually are a couple of species of deciduous trees with needles, including Larches and Dawn Redwoods. 

While the rule is that deciduous trees lose their leaves, we all know every rule has an exception. Check out our article to learn about the six deciduous trees that keep their leaves year round.

Deciduous Trees Are Known For Their Beautiful Fall Colors

Deciduous trees are known for their beautiful fall foliage, including red, orange, and yellow leaves that appear each fall.

The reason this change of color occurs is that each winter as the days get shorter and darker, the chlorophyll breaks down. Chlorophyll is used by trees to convert sunlight into energy, and without the light, the trees go into a sort of hibernation. 

As you may guess by their seasonality, many of these trees will grow best in regions with plenty of rainfall and distinct seasons, but many of them are actually quite tolerant of drier, more arid climates. 

The major types of deciduous trees include poplars, maples, and oaks. You are probably familiar with many of these trees, even if you don’t know them by name.  

Which Deciduous Trees Will Grow The Fastest In My Yard?

View of bare deciduous tree tops and the sky looking up from the forest floor.

Deciduous trees can provide beauty, shade, and interest to your landscape. The fall foliage is attractive for many people who are drawn to the beautiful colors of the foliage as the weather changes. 

Keep in mind that some of the fastest-growing trees are relatively short-lived because the wood of fast-growing trees is often weaker. 

Depending on your needs, you may be looking for the fastest-growing tree or just a balance between growth rate and lifespan.

Read on to discover the 12 fastest-growing deciduous trees and their characteristics to help you make the right decision for your landscape.

Fastest Growing Deciduous Trees Ranked: Complete Growth Chart

Here’s a quick summary table on the fastest growing deciduous trees to help streamline your view – you can then keep on reading for a detailed breakdown on each tree!

Fastest Growing Deciduous Trees

Weeping Willow120”30 years50’6-8
Hybrid Poplar96”60 years50’3-9
Red Alder72”100 years70’-120’5-8
American Elm72”300 years70’-120’4-9
Black Cottonwood60"200 years150’5-9
Bigleaf Maple36”300 years100’5-9
Quaking Aspen24”150 years40’1-7
Paper Birch24”160 years70’2-7
Dawn Redwood24”100 years70-100’5-8
Pin Oak24”100 years70’4-8
Ginkgo24”3,000 years50’-80’3-9
White Ash24”300 years50’-80’4-9

1. Hybrid Poplar

  • Height: 40-50’ 
  • Spread: 30’
  • Growth Rate: Between 5’-10’ per year 
  • Hardiness Zone: 3-9
  • Lifespan: 60 years
  • Cold And Drought Tolerance: Not very cold or drought-hardy and prefer temperate, moist climates.
  • Soil: Fertile and moist alluvial soils (loose clay or silt deposited by a river)

Hybrid Poplar trees are fast-growing specimens that are quick to mature and provide shade but are relatively short-lived.

This type of poplar has green, silvery leaves that have a lighter underside. These trees grow quickly in full sun and are usually harvested for firewood within the first ten years of life. 

They are not the most tolerant of species, preferring rich, fertile soil and a temperate climate with plenty of precipitation. Hybrid poplars are also prone to limb breakage and are not a good choice to plant in an area where children or animals will frequently occupy, or too close to buildings and sidewalks. 

2. American Elm

  • Height: 80’-130’
  • Spread: 60’-120’
  • Growth Rate: 3’-6’ per year
  • Hardiness Zone: 4-9
  • Lifespan: 175-300 years
  • Cold And Drought Tolerance: Moderately tolerant of most conditions, though they will thrive in moist soil in full sun.
  • Soil: Well-draining, fertile soil but tolerant of most soil conditions. 

American Elms are among the taller of the elm species. They are well known as common street trees and landscape trees due to their towering form and long lifespan when planted in full sun to partial shade. 

Elms produce small flowers and fruit in the spring and summer and have showy fall foliage that ranges from yellow to deep purple.

American Elms have shallow root systems and so while they are great street trees, they are known to cause some sidewalk lifting and so should have a vault if planted near infrastructure. 

A drawback of the American Elm and any other elm species for that matter is the Dutch Elm Beetle. This pest has devastated a huge percentage of elms in the U.S. and around the world and many trees need to be inoculated.

3. Black Cottonwood

Black cottonwood (populus trichocarpa) trunks and leaves seen looking up from below
  • Height: 125’-150’
  • Spread: 100’
  • Growth Rate: 5’ per year
  • Hardiness Zone: 5-9
  • Lifespan: 200 years
  • Cold And Drought Tolerance: Moderately tolerant of climates that range from arid to humid, and can tolerate wet winter conditions. 
  • Soil: Cottonwoods prefer moist, deep alluvial soils and are limited by soil acidity and poor drainage and nutrients.  

Black Cottonwood is actually a type of poplar tree and is one of the largest species within this type of tree. Native to the Northwestern U.S., this tree requires full sun and is intolerant of shaded growing conditions. 

Cottonwoods usually grow near streams or rivers, and when grown on their own, take a towering form with a single trunk and significant canopy spread.

Cottonwoods can tolerate a wide array of growing conditions but will not thrive in poor soils, needing nutrient-rich, well-draining soil to thrive. 

Cottonwoods are also prone to limb breakage and as their name suggests, their seeds take the form of fluffy white puff balls. While some find this charming, the trees can be quite messy when they go to seed, so they may not be ideal for the low-maintenance gardener. 

4. Weeping Willow

  • Height: 50’
  • Spread: 35’
  • Growth Rate: 10’ per year
  • Hardiness Zone: 6-8
  • Lifespan: 30-40 years
  • Cold And Drought Tolerance: Weeping willows are not cold-hardy and are moderately drought tolerant.
  • Soil: These trees prefer moist, acidic soils. 

Weeping Willows are known for their long branches that hang low toward the ground almost like a swinging vine.

They are one of the fastest growing deciduous trees, but their rapid growth rate has a trade-off of their short lifespan, only living about 30-40 years.

These trees prefer full sun to partial shade and acidic soils. They are not tolerant of cold weather and have weak wood, meaning they may not be ideal for gardens where children or pets will frequently play. 

Despite their short lives, these trees mature to provide shade quickly and have an iconic silhouette that has inspired poets and visual artists for centuries. The weeping willow is also one of the best fast growing large trees to plant in your yard!

5. Quaking Aspen

  • Height: 40’-50’
  • Spread: 30’-40’
  • Growth Rate: 2’ per year
  • Hardiness Zone: 1-7
  • Lifespan: 150-200 years
  • Cold And Drought Tolerance: Quaking Aspens are typically high-elevation trees that can tolerate cold but are not tolerant of hot, dry conditions. 
  • Soil: Prefers moist but well-draining, nutrient-dense, loamy soils.  

Quaking Aspens are tall but compact trees with leaves that appear darker on top with lighter green undersides. 

The defining characteristic of these trees that give them their name is the long petiole that holds the leaf to the branch. These petioles cause the leaves to rustle in the breeze, giving the trees the appearance of “quaking,” with a lot of movement and a pleasant sound as the leaves move. 

These trees prefer full sun and very moist, acidic soils. Quaking Aspens are long-lived, making them good landscape trees if your yard meets the conditions in which they thrive.

Because they are so long and slender, they might not be the best option if shade is your goal. However, if you are looking for the fastest-growing shade trees, head over to our article to find a list of 19 shade trees to plant ASAP!

6. Big Leaf Maple

  • Height: 50’-100’
  • Spread: 50’
  • Growth Rate: 3’ per year
  • Hardiness Zone: 5-9
  • Lifespan: 300 years
  • Cold And Drought Tolerance: Can be extremely drought tolerant when mature, tolerating climates ranging from temperate and moist to hot and dry. 
  • Soil: Prefers deep, moist soils but will tolerate poor soil conditions, although this may limit its height and spread at maturity. 

Big Leaf Maples provide some of the best fall foliage with leaves that average about 12 inches across and turn colors ranging from bright yellow and orange to deep red.

These trees are tolerant of many different conditions from heavy precipitation to more arid climates but aren’t particularly cold hardy.

Big leaf maples are probably the most shade-tolerant species on this list and can easily be planted in shaded yards.

They are also incredibly long-lived, reaching upwards of 300 years of age. These trees will be the focal point of any yard and are beautiful deciduous trees that will grow in many conditions. 

For more details on maples, check out our article on why maples are some of the best shade trees out there!

7. Paper Birch

  • Height: 50’-70’
  • Spread: 35’
  • Growth Rate: 2’ per year
  • Hardiness Zone: 2-7
  • Lifespan: 140-200 years
  • Cold And Drought Tolerance: Paper Birch grows best with regular moisture but can be drought tolerant. 
  • Soil: Prefer acidic, sandy, clay soils. 

The most defining characteristic of the Paper Birch is its smooth, white bark that peels off in paper-thin strips as it ages. This long-lived species can be drought tolerant and requires full sun to thrive. 

This tree is also commonly planted in landscapes and as street trees because of its distinctive bark and the golden yellow color of its fall foliage.

The Paper Birch tree is very popular with wildlife, attracting birds who feast on its long seed pods in the summer. You may not know it, but there are actually other types of birch trees that don’t have white bark!

8. Dawn Redwood

  • Height: 70’-100’
  • Spread: 25’
  • Growth Rate: 2’ per year
  • Hardiness Zone: 5-8
  • Lifespan: 100-400 years
  • Cold And Drought Tolerance: This is a very tolerant species that can withstand many conditions from drought to high moisture.
  • Soil: Prefer acidic soils of all types from sandy and loamy to wet clay soils.

The Dawn Redwood is the only tree on this list that does not have broad leaves and is actually only one of two needle-bearing tree species that lose their foliage in the fall.

This tree will grow tall and can live upwards of 400 years but does require space to thrive. This means you shouldn’t plant it within a dense stand of trees or other shade plants. 

Dawn Redwoods are an extremely tolerant species that can withstand many harsh conditions from dry, hot summers to cold, wet winters. They require little maintenance, making them a great landscape trees if you have enough space. 

9. Pin Oak

Red oak leaves close up on a branch.
  • Height: 70’
  • Spread: 40’
  • Growth Rate: 2’ per year
  • Hardiness Zone: 4-8
  • Lifespan: 120 years
  • Cold And Drought Tolerance: Tolerant of drought, cold, and pollution. 
  • Soil: Prefers well-draining soil but can tolerate dry, compacted conditions as well. 

Pin Oaks is another showy fall tree that has lobed leaves that turn bright yellow and orange in the autumn months. This tree requires full sun and is actually incredibly drought tolerant, growing in dry, arid climates. 

In addition to climate, this species can also tolerate high levels of pollution, making it a good choice for city landscapes.

It can grow in soils ranging from acidic and loamy to very compacted. Another benefit of Pin Oak is that it provides dense shade and can cool down a very sunny yard. 

There are quite a few other oak trees that grow fast as well! For more information on that, head on over to our other article about the fastest-growing oak trees for an in-depth look!

10. Red Alder

  • Height: 70’-120’
  • Spread: 30’
  • Growth Rate: 6’ per year
  • Hardiness Zone: 5-8
  • Lifespan: 100 years
  • Cold And Drought Tolerance: This species is not drought tolerant and will only grow in temperate, wet climates. 
  • Soil: Can tolerate a wide range of soils but prefers a well-draining sandy, loamy soil. 

Red Alders grow tall and slender with a conical-shaped canopy and leaves with deep ridges and veins.

Alders are actually the only broadleaf trees that produce cones, making them unique on this list and among deciduous trees. 

These trees prefer to grow near water and can tolerate poor-draining soil, but are not drought-hardy and won’t grow well in dry, arid climates.

Because of their fast growth rate and shorter lifespan, they will mature and provide shade quickly and are also great trees to help control soil erosion because of their shallow root systems.

11. Ginkgo

  • Height: 50’-80’
  • Spread: 30’-40’
  • Growth Rate: 1’-2’ per year
  • Hardiness Zone: 3-9
  • Lifespan: Up to 3,000 years
  • Cold And Drought Tolerance: These trees are drought, heat, pollution, and salt tolerant.
  • Soil: Ginkgos can tolerate most soil types that are well-draining, and cannot tolerate oversaturated soils. 

Ginkgos have been around since the dinosaurs, and this prehistoric tree has fascinating fan-shaped leaves that drop quickly in the fall.

They have a high tolerance for many adverse conditions, even withstanding high salinity in the soil which is a unique attribute. 

These low-maintenance trees would be a great choice for landscape or street trees that receive full sun.

The only thing to keep in mind is that the female trees produce fruit that is unpleasant smelling at best, so make sure to get a male specimen to avoid cleaning up stinking fruit each summer.

12. White Ash

  • Height: 50’-80’
  • Spread: 40’-50’
  • Growth Rate: 1’-2’ per year
  • Hardiness Zone: 4-9
  • Lifespan: 300 years
  • Cold And Drought Tolerance: This species is moderately drought tolerant but prefers moist soils.
  • Soil: Can tolerate many soil types from acidic to alkaline, wet, to dry, loamy, and sandy soils. 

The White Ash is unique looking, with long, thin leaves that grow in clusters that turn yellow to deep maroon in the fall. This tree requires full sun but is not the most tolerant and does not thrive in harsh conditions, only moderately drought tolerant. 

A popular landscape tree, the White Ash has recently fallen victim to an invasive pest insect called the emerald ash borer beetle, which targets all species of ash and is widespread across North America and beyond. 

Take care to grow a strong and healthy tree that will be more resistant to pests and other diseases. 

Which Deciduous Tree Is Right For My Yard?

Choosing which tree to plant in your yard is really going to depend heavily on the conditions of your yard. Luckily, we have summarized the ideal growing conditions of 12 types of deciduous trees in this article for you!

Read through each type carefully and then assess the characteristics of your yard!

  1. How much sun does it get?
  2. What type of soil do you have?
  3. Is the climate arid or do you receive a lot of rain?
  4. Are you looking for the tallest tree or the one with the most shade?

If you can answer these questions, you can make an informed decision and choose the tree that best fits your space as well as your needs and wants. 

Use tools to help you assess your yard, such as this SONKIR Soil pH Meter which measures soil moisture, soil acidity, and the amount of sunlight easily.

And hey, if you have a smaller sized yard, you still deserve some nice shade! Check out our article about the fastest-growing shade trees for small yards – so that you can find the perfect tree to fit in your yard!

How To Care For Your New Deciduous Tree

Beautiful multicolored alder leaves with shallow depth of field in the autumn forest

Now that you have chosen a tree, make sure to take special care of it while it is a young sapling.

Young trees are especially vulnerable to extreme temperatures, drought or overwatering, and nutrient levels in the soil. 

Planting A Young Tree

When you plant your tree, dig a hole large enough to have a few extra inches on all sides of the root ball, and plant the tree so that the start of its trunk is flush with the ground, avoiding burying the trunk or leaving roots exposed. 

After planting, make sure to water really well. Right after planting is when your sapling will be most vulnerable, and you want to ensure you avoid stressing it more during this stage of life. 

You can give your tree a solid foundation first and foremost by being diligent in your watering routine.

Especially in the dry summer months, you can use a Treegator Original Slow Release Watering Bag for Trees to ensure the slow, consistent release of water, eliminating the risk of over or under-watering your young tree. 

Protecting Your Tree During Harsh Weather Is Important

During storms, high winds, or even just for extra security, consider staking your tree with KOGEN Tree Stakes Kit. This will also help your tree to grow straight, strong, and tall. 

During the harsh winter months, cover your young tree with old bed sheets or plastic sheeting to avoid frost damage. After a few years, your young tree should be strong enough to handle harsh conditions on its own. 

Check Your Tree For Pests!

Finally, check your tree regularly for pests such as borer beetles, aphids, scales, or other insects that could cause damage to your tree.

If you notice yellowing or browning of the leaves, wilting foliage, branches, or other signs of distress, ensure that you treat your tree for pests using neem oil or other methods of remediation. 

That’s A Wrap!

The deciduous tree is a category that encompasses a wide variety of trees that are all unique in their characteristics and environmental needs.

Making an informed choice about which tree to plant in your own yard should include not only its growth rate but its needs including light, water, soil, and local climate. 

Hopefully, this list has helped you gain a better sense of what deciduous trees there are and what they can offer your landscape. 

Whatever tree you choose will surely add interest, color, and depth to your landscape in addition to trees adding wildlife habitat, erosion control, and carbon sequestration among their many benefits. Thanks for following along!


  1. Dakis-Yaoba Ouédraogo et. al. (2013) Slow-growing species cope best with drought: evidence from long-term measurements in a tropical semi-deciduous moist forest of Central Africa. Journal of Ecology. 101(6): 1459-1470.
  2. Davey, P.A. et. al., (2006) Can fast-growing plantation trees escape biochemical down-regulation of photosynthesis when grown throughout their complete production cycle in the open air under elevated carbon dioxide? Plant, Cell & Environment. 29(7): 1235-1244.
  3. Fadón, E., Fernandez, E., Behn, H., & Luedeling, E. (2020). A Conceptual Framework for Winter Dormancy in Deciduous Trees. Agronomy. 10(2): 241.
  4. Madejona, P., et. al. (2016) Three-year study of fast-growing trees in degraded soils amended with composts: Effects on soil fertility and productivity.  Journal of Environmental Management. 169: 18-26
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