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When it comes to fast growing trees; two species are the undisputed kings; Willow, and Poplar.

While many trees are considered “fast growing” when they stretch 1′ per growth season, some of the more prodigious poplar and willow trees consider the season a bust if they don’t put on six feet of new wood. Anyone who has, for example, owned a columnar aspen will attest to the truly staggering growth rate of these remarkable plants. I wanted to take a look at some of the lesser known kings and queens of altitude.

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Pros And Cons Of Rapid Growth Trees

Planting a shade tree for the next generation to enjoy is all well and good, but shouldn’t we all get the chance to also enjoy the majestic glory of our hard earned yards?

That’s why the trees on this list are often chosen by Alberta yard planners to accomplish in 2-3 years what others require decades to achieve.

This incredible growth does however come at a price. Often more akin to garden weeds than monument yard trees; these trees have chosen the evolutionary strategy of “get big fast, reproduce prodigiously, die, repeat”. 

With their softer, air filled wood, and often evasive reproduction practices, proper placement and proper maintenance is critical to ensuring your rapid growth tree doesn’t become a rapid growth hazard 20 years down the road.

That said, a little bit of attention goes a long way. A proper pruning and inspection every 2-5 years is often sufficient. 

These are the Edmonton Arborist top picks for fast growing Alberta trees.

Norway Maple

Why Its Great:

  • Gorgeous signature large maple leaves
  • Stable durable wood (less broken limbs)
  • Shade tolerant and hardy

A timeless combination of practical and beautiful; This tree is known for its gorgeous, dense canopy of broad, green leaves that turn a striking yellow or gold in the fall, providing spectacular seasonal color. It grows quickly, offering shade and privacy in a relatively short time, making it an attractive option for homeowners looking to enhance their landscape. Additionally, the Norway maple is adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions and urban environments, including resistance to pollution, which makes it a versatile choice for city parks and streets. Its durability and low maintenance requirements further add to its appeal for those seeking a robust, attractive tree for their outdoor spaces.

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Brandon Elm

Why Its Great:

  • Uniform well behaved growth habit
  • More compact and manageable than the common American Elm
  • Very hardy and long life (great legacy tree)
  • Relatively low maintenance for a large tree

This is a popular choice for a fast-growing shade tree. It can grow up to 3-4 feet per year and has a vase shape with arching branches and beautiful green leaves that turn golden yellow in fall. It’s tolerant of drought and pollution once established.

Autumn Blaze Maple

Why Its Great:

  • Signature red foliage & large leaves
  • One of the hardier maples 
  • Medium growth rate and doesn’t sucker aggressively 

The Autumn Blaze Maple can be a fantastic addition to your yard. It’s a fast grower, providing welcome shade in just a few years. Plus, it boasts stunning red fall foliage that will light up your landscape. This tough tree is tolerant of drought and pollution, making it a low-maintenance choice for busy homeowners. Just be sure to consider its mature size and give it ample room to grow in your yard.

Amur Cherry

Why Its Great:

  • Signature glossy copper bark
  • Not prone to common cherry diseases (black knot)

This multi-season beauty reaches a mature height of 15-25 feet. It has attractive white flowers in spring, followed by small red cherries in summer that turn black in fall. As well as a glossy copper bark that gives the tree a bronze garden statue vibe. Amur Chokecherry is also tolerant of drought and cold.

Eastern White Pine

Why Its Great:

  • Fast growing exotic limb shapes
  • Soft needles make it a magnet for birds and wildlife 

A tree with its roots so deep in the history of the west, that some historians have credited it with being the final spark that ignited the American revolution. 

With its incredible strength to weight ratio, and unparalleled arrow strait growth habit, this tree was tailor made for naval masts. So crucial did it become to  projecting power across oceans, that the British crown sent representatives to braze the seal of the crown on the trunk of each mature pine, decreeing unlawful plundering of the stands to be punishable by death. The settlers didn’t take too kindly to this… and the rest is history.

A staggering beauty even if you’re not building ocean fairing war ships, this pine can grow three feet per year, and is a refreshing departure from the ubiquitous blue and green spruce.


Why Its Great:

  • Extremely fast growth makes it great for large spaces 

The mighty poplar has been widely admired for centuries. And in that time, it’s since been engineered into cultivars of just about every shape you can imagine. Yet they all have on thing in common, they get big, fast. Many reaching a mature height of 60′-100′ in as little as 30 years. Creeping upward at a rate you can almost pull up a chair to watch, these trees are tailored to the impatient.

Tip: Sundancer poplar is a great hybrid cultivar due to its distinctive disease resistance. Desirable since poplar pests such as borer beetles have been quite bad around Alberta in recent years.

Tip 2.0: Considering Swedish aspens for your yard? Once they reach around 20′ tall note their shape. This is when they tend to show their true colours. We run into a lot of Edmonton home owners who bought friendly, harmless little aspens, but were actually took home Lombardy or Towering poplars (honest mistake by the nursery). A dinosaur tree, that looks identical to a Swedish as a sapling, but matures to around 5 times the size!

Acute Willow

Why Its Great:

  • Medium size makes it a more manageable willow for city yards
  • Beautiful draping foliage catches the eye from blocks away

Want a fast growing tree that won’t contend for the deed to your house in 30 years? The acute willow can reach skyward at an impressive 2-6′ per year to its maximum height of only around 35′. Although, since trees never stop growing while they’re alive (they do slow down) this means it  will continue to grow horizontally and likely require relatively heavy pruning.

Norway Spruce

Why Its Great:

  • Fast growing 
  • Ads some year round colour to your landscape 

In the interest of mixing things up a bit; Norway spruce is the conifer king of rapid growth. With an enviable vertical ascent of up to 3′ per year (compared to the typical 1′ per year growth of many common spruce). 

Norway Spruce is a familiar face on our tree lists for a reason. When it comes to aesthetically beautiful, low maintenance trees for the Alberta climate, its a tough beast to contend with.

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