2021 Q3 Toolbox Essentials
Fast-Growing Evergreens to Spruce up Your Yard

Fast-Growing Evergreens to Spruce up Your Yard

Evergreens are great plants to keep on your property if you want to have a colorful landscape all year. Evergreens will keep their leaves all year long and are known for growing quickly. They’re often used on the border of properties as privacy hedges, but they can also be used for decorative landscaping.

Luckily for homeowners, there are several fast-growing evergreen options to choose from in each USDA hardiness zone. So, if you need a new privacy hedge because you don’t like your new neighbors, you may be able to have one tall enough in as little as one year. Let’s take a look at some evergreen options.

All About Evergreens

An evergreen is a plant that keeps its leaves all year long. It will shed leaves consistently throughout the year as leaves grow old instead of all at once when the temperatures get cold as other trees do.

Evergreens can be shrubs or trees. Many people may not realize that the evergreen classification isn’t just limited to pines and spruces. Magnolias, coconuts, live oaks, and eucalyptus trees are all evergreen.

Why Choose Evergreen?

Evergreen plants have several uses in yards besides being pretty to look at. Some of those uses might be:

  • Keep some color in the yard in the winter
  • Serve as holiday decor
  • Serve as a privacy hedge
  • Protect property from wind and blowing dust

If you take a drive out in the country where homes are spread out and surrounded by fields, you may see that there’s a line of pine trees on at least one side of the home. That’s usually to keep dirt levels down around the house or to keep strong winds from blowing through.

Where Can They Grow?

The location of where they can grow will depend on the species. Several types can grow in different USDA hardiness zones. The hardiness zone map shows different colors across the United States, and each color shows the average annual lowest temperature. The American Horticultural Plant Heat-Zone Map is a lesser-known resource that’s also useful.

If a plant dies in temperatures warmer than what’s in your USDA zone, then you won’t be able to grow it unless you have a greenhouse or bring the plant indoors. If you want a tree in your yard or a privacy hedge, you’ll have to pick something suitable for your climate.

In the following sections, we’ve listed out evergreen species suitable for cold, mild, and hot climates. Some trees have a wide climate range, so we categorized them based on the lowest temperatures they can handle.

Evergreens for Cold Climates

Eastern White Pine
USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-8
Average Yearly Growth: 2+ feet
Daily Sun Needed: 4+ hours of full sun

The Eastern White Pine is a hardy tree that can survive in most of the contiguous United States. It can survive temperatures as low as -40°F (-40°C) and thrive in warmer temperatures up to USDA zone 8.

This tree has bluish-green needles and can grow up to 80 feet, although it may grow even taller if it has enough space. This tree is frequently used as a Christmas tree or a windbreaker. You can expect this tree to grow more than 2 feet each year in full sun or partial shade.

Holiday Norway Spruce

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-8
Average Yearly Growth: 1+ feet
Daily Sun Needed: 6+ hours of full sun

The Holiday Norway Spruce is native to Europe and is one of the oldest living trees. Although they’re not native to the US, they’ve been established in several states and can thrive in fairly warm temperatures better than many other spruce varieties. In cold places, the tree is known to be invasive, but not so much in warmer areas because the seeds don’t germinate as well in warm climates.

This is a fast-growing tree but it may be a bit slower than others. You can expect it to grow as little as one foot to over two feet each year. The tree can’t tolerate nutrient deficient or dry soils very well, so its surroundings may affect its growth substantially.

White Spruce

USDA Hardiness Zones: 2-6
Average Yearly Growth: 1-2 feet
Daily Sun Needed: 6+ hours of full sun

This cold-tolerant White Spruce can grow in the northernmost parts of the US and won’t survive anywhere warmer than zone 6. It prefers full sun and moist soils, but it can tolerate some shade and drought. This tree is a bit smaller than other spruces, reaching about 60 feet tall and 15 feet wide.

This tree is a popular choice for a Christmas tree and windbreaker since it grows up to two feet each year, making it a great option for impatient growers.

Evergreens for Mild Climates

Green Giant Arborvitae

USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-7
Average Yearly Growth: 2+ feet
Daily Sun Needed: 4+ hours of full sun

The Green Giant Arborvitae can grow up to 60 feet tall. Reaching its full height can take as little as 20 years since it can grow up to 3 feet each year. If you want to use it for landscaping or a privacy hedge, it won’t take long to become tall enough to start serving its purpose.

This Green Giant can survive in temperatures as low as -20°F (-6°C). It’s ideal for zones 5-7, which is essentially the center strip through the US. It can survive in partial shade, so it will work well against a fence as a privacy hedge, but keep in mind its width can reach up to 20 feet.

Loblolly Pine

USDA Hardiness Zones: 6-9
Average Yearly Growth: 2+ feet
Daily Sun Needed: 6+ hours of full sun

The Loblolly Pine is native to the United States and is best suited for mild climates that don’t often reach temperatures below zero. However, it can withstand as low as -10°F (-23°C) in extreme situations.

This tree is highly tolerant of most conditions. If the soil gets too wet or dry, it will survive. This tree can be huge, with mature height being as little as 60 feet tall and 25 feet wide. At its largest, it may reach up to 100 feet and 35 feet wide. Expect this tree to grow more than two feet per year.

As this tree gets older, the lower limbs die, so it’ll eventually become an excellent shade tree for yards.

North Privet

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-8
Average Yearly Growth: 2+ feet
Daily Sun Needed: 4+ hours of full sun

North Privet isn’t a tree but is instead a shrub. Depending on the conditions, this shrub can behave as either evergreen or deciduous, meaning that it may lose its leaves in the winter. However, its fast growth rate of up to 3 feet per year makes it the perfect choice for privacy hedges, even if it does lose some of its leaves.

This shrub needs at least four hours of direct sunlight, which means it can spend most of the day in the shade, making it the perfect choice to use near fences and homes.

Evergreens for Hot Climates

Arizona Cypress

USDA Hardiness Zones: 7-9
Average Yearly Growth: 1-2 feet
Daily Sun Needed: 6+ hours of full sun

The Arizona Cypress gets its name from being native to the Southwest region of the United States and in the northern part of Mexico. It’s limited to just three USDA zones, but it’s a reliable tree that can withstand drought conditions common to its native area.

It has soft grayish needles and can reach up to 50 feet tall, growing 1-2 feet per year. This sun-loving tree will need at least six hours of direct sunlight, so it should be kept away from shady areas, such as between houses.

Leyland Cypress

USDA Hardiness Zones: 6-10
Average Yearly Growth: 2+ feet
Daily Sun Needed: 6+ hours of full sun

Heat doesn’t scare the Leyland Cypress, so it can live in areas as hot as zone 10, which never sees freezing temperatures. This slender tree keeps its deep green color all year long, so it’s perfect if you live in an area that has crunchy brown grass all winter long instead of snow. Its narrow shape is perfect for privacy hedges or on the side of houses.

It can reach up to 70 feet tall at full maturity and grow up to three feet per year.

Live Oak

USDA Hardiness Zones: 7-10
Average Yearly Growth: 1-2 feet
Daily Sun Needed: 4+ hours of full sun

Live Oaks will stick around for generations. When they’re young, they can grow up to two feet per year, eventually reaching between 40 and 80 feet tall. If left untrimmed, the tree can be as wide as 100 feet. They can survive in full sun or partial shade, but they’ll be sure to deliver full shade to anyone sitting underneath.

The tree keeps its leaves throughout the winter but will drop them in the spring when new leaves form. They also drop acorns, so you may have plenty of squirrels and birds visiting your yard when they drop.

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of evergreen options for you to choose from no matter where you are in the United States. It’s best if you choose something that suits your region, but some evergreens may be able to adapt to the local climate. Fast-growing evergreens can reach great heights in just a few years, and they’ll stay put as long as the conditions are right.