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Trees in a Hurry

It's an arboreal conundrum. Most of us want trees that fill out fast, but the same qualities that make a tree gain height quickly often render it a pest or weakling. Consider the fast-growing silver maple, with its greedy surface roots and weak wood. Then there's the princess tree, touted in newspaper and online ads, that grows up to 15 feet a year but spreads to such an extent that in some states it's known as the worst sort of weed.

Conventional wisdom says that slow-maturing trees live longer and are stronger. So can you grow a tree that'll shoot up without toppling onto your house?

Yes—with some careful vetting. First, refine your notion of fast growing to a growth rate of 1½ to 2 feet per year. Or, as Warren Roberts, longtime superintendent of the UC Davis Arboretum, puts it: "A fast-growing tree is one you can sit in the shade of, five to six years after planting." Keep in mind that most trees grow fastest when young and when planted in soil that supplies optimum moisture and nutrients. Choose well, and you can enjoy your tree in both the short and long term.

We canvassed tree experts to find good choices for shade, for screening, or for outstanding ornamental qualities that'll grow in various areas of the country (check your Plant Hardiness Growing Zone). Read on for a dozen fast-growing trees with staying power.
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