Fast growing evergreen shrubs are on everyone’s wish list because they can quickly create a tall privacy screen or landscaping hedge. But while there are certainly many to choose from, certain species are a better choice for some locations than others. Let’s look at 18 of the quickest-growing evergreens so you can find the right plant for your space.
1. Green Giant Arborvitae
Green Giant Arborvitae (Thuja standishii x plicata ‘Green Giant’) is one of the fastest-growing shrubs available (evergreen or not). This extra-large hybrid can grow 2-3 feet taller each year until it reaches its mature size of 40-50 feet tall and 8-12 feet wide. While they are shaped like shrubs, their final height makes them seem more like fast growing evergreen trees!
‘Green Giant’ is used most commonly as a privacy screen, large hedge, or as an accent specimen. This variety certainly is fast growing, but it should only be used where there is space for them to be 30+ feet tall at maturity, unless you can commit to shearing them a few times every year. For a low-maintenance alternative in a smaller space, choose ‘Emerald Green’ (discussed later in this article).
Arborvitae grows most quickly when planted in a full sun location where the foliage receives a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. They will also tolerate partial shade, but the growth rate will be noticeably slower.
Green Giant Arborvitae can be grown in Zones 5-8 (check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map if you don’t yet know your local zone number). If you live in an area with harsh winters, this plant is perfect for you as it can resist both heavy snow and high winds.
2. Leyland Cypress
Leyland Cypress (Cupressus × leylandii) is a fast-growing coniferous plant used commonly in landscaping for low-maintenance hedges and privacy screens. This vigorous hybrid has a shrub-like shape, but can grow to be taller than many landscaping trees. Leyland Cypress trees routinely grow 3-4 feet per year, reaching a massive mature size of 60-70 feet tall and 15-20 feet wide.
Because they are such fast growing evergreen trees, Leyland Cypress plants are most commonly used as a tall hedge or perimeter plant on large-scale properties. The rapid growth rate and tall mature height make this tree an ideal choice for blocking out unwanted views or noise. This species is also tolerant of shearing, so it can be easily shaped into a more manicured look if desired.
This plant prefers a sunny planting location, but can tolerate partial shade (although the growth rate will be slower as sunlight availability decreases. Due to their large size and long limbs, these trees are not the best choice in windy areas or climates where ice tends to form on the branches (choose Green Giant Arborvitae for a stronger option where a large shrub is desired).
Leyland Cypress can be grown in Zones 5-9.
3. Spartan Juniper
Spartan Juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘Spartan’) is a popular coniferous evergreen. While not the fastest growers on the block, they do grow a respectable 12-18 inches per year. These plants reach a mature size of 15-18 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide.
These fast growing shrubs are most commonly used as privacy screens, foundation plants or medium-tall hedges. The dense foliage provides year-round screening and can withstand heavy shearing if needed. Junipers are also one of the most deer-resistant choices in terms of evergreens.
Spartan Junipers prefer full sun but can tolerate partial shade. Avoid planting them in full shade. For fastest growth, work in some organic matter to the soil prior to planting and then keep them well-watered for the first 1-2 years after planting.
Spartan Junipers can be grown in Zones 4-9.
4. Prague Viburnum
Prague Viburnum (Viburnum x pragense) is a hybrid cross between two other Viburnum species. These medium-sized shrubs typically reach 8-10 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide at maturity. The rate of growth is rapid, with Prague Viburnums adding about 2 feet of new growth each year.
This plant can act as a hedge, screen, or windbreak. It also makes an excellent accent plant. The lustrous, dark green leaves of the beautiful evergreen shrub remain throughout even the harshest Midwestern winters. In early spring, lovely pink buds develop into lightly fragrant, creamy white flowers.
Viburnum grow most rapidly in full sun, but are tolerant of partially shady conditions. Prague Viburnums can be grown in Zones 5-8.
5. Moonglow Juniper
Moonglow Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum ‘Moonglow’) is a tall evergreen shrub with attractive silvery-green foliage. With a growth rate of about 2 feet in height each year, these popular plants reach a mature size of 18-20 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide.
‘Moonglow’ is most commonly used as a hedging plant or for a tall privacy screen. The plants have a natural pyramidal form and are very low-maintenance (unless being sheared regularly into a formal hedge). Juniper is also common as a grouped planting in wildlife gardens, as this native plant is a favorite songbird habitat.
Moonglow Juniper grows best in full sun, and is not tolerant of shady conditions. That said, this plant is very cold-hardy and can be grown in Zones 3-7.
6. Emerald Green Arborvitae
Emerald Green Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald Green’) is an evergreen conifer with dense, lush green foliage. This popular landscaping plant can grow 1-2 feet taller each year in optimal conditions. This variety of Arborvitae reaches a mature size of about 10-15 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide.
‘Emerald Green’ is used most commonly as a hedge plant because it creates such a dense hedge. The mature height of just over 10 feet makes them perfect for privacy screens in urban locations. These shrubs can also be used for topiary and can withstand container planting for several years if required.
Emerald Green Arborvitae grows most quickly when the plant receives full sun (a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight daily). Specimens grown in partial sun to shade don’t grow as vigorously. Optimal growth also requires adequate soil moisture.
Emerald Green Arborvitae can be grown in Zones 4-8.
7. Sprinter Boxwood
Sprinter Boxwood (Buxus microphylla ‘Bulthouse’) is one of the fastest-growing boxwood varieties available. These quick-growers reach their mature size of 2-4 feet tall and 2-4 feet wide in only a few years. The rate of growth depends upon growing conditions, and can vary from about 4 inches per year in poor conditions up to 10-12 inches per year in an ideal environment.
This boxwood cultivar is commonly used as a foundation planting, hedge plant, border shrub, or specimen planting/accent plant. The shrubs can be left unpruned for a natural look or sheared into a tight linear form.
Sprinter Velvet Boxwood grows best in full sun but is tolerant of partial shade. It can be grown in Zones 5-8.
8. Hicks Yew
Hicks Yew (Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’) is a dark green needled shrub often used for hedges or privacy screens. These shrubs grow more slowly than Arborvitae or Juniper, but still put on a respectable 6-10 inches per year (depending upon conditions). Mature Hicks Yew can reach 10-15 feet tall and 3-6 feet wide.
‘Hicks’ is most commonly used as a barrier planting. Yew is particularly good at filling in dense foliage on bare limbs, making it somewhat self-healing. So while they don’t grow in height as fast as arborvitae, they may be a better long-term choice. These plants can also be sheared into topiary shapes.
Hicks Yew is tolerant of a wide range of sun exposure, from sunny all day to partial shade. It can be grown in Zones 4-8.
9. Nellie Stevens Holly
Nellie Stevens Holly (Ilex x ‘Nellie Stevens’) is a hybrid holly that is prized for its dense, glossy green foliage. Nellie Stevens Holly can grow 2-3 feet each year, reaching a mature size of 15-25 feet tall and 8-15 feet wide.
This holly cultivar is commonly used as a privacy hedge or as staggered plants along a fenceline or walkway. Its use in garden design is quite versatile, as it can be left unpruned for a natural look or sheared into a formal hedge.
Nellie Stevens Holly grows best in full sun but will certainly tolerate some shade. These shrubs are hardy in Zones 6-9.
10. Cherry Laurel
Cherry Laurels (Prunus laurocerasus) are tall broadleaf evergreen shrubs known for their shiny dark green leaves and showy white flowers. These fast-growing flowering evergreens typically grow about 2 feet per year to reach a mature size of 10-12 feet tall and 8-10 feet wide.
Cherry Laurel shrubs are commonly planted as a fast growing lowering hedge or evergreen living fence. Cherry Laurel makes a great year-round privacy screen. A single plant can also be planted alone as a specimen shrub. The flowers attract pollinators, and then the blossoms ripen into small red fruits that feed the birds.
These shrubs grow best in full sun, but are also tolerant of partial shade. Laurel is also semi-tolerant of salty soil. Cherry Laurel can be grown in Zones
11. Sunshine Ligustrum
Sunshine Ligustrum (Ligustrum sinense ‘Sunshine’) is a small evergreen shrub known for its bright golden-green foliage. A variety of Privet, this fast-growing shrub grows about 1 foot a year to quickly reach a mature size of about 3-4 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide.
Sunshine Ligustrum is resistant to many common pests and diseases, and also resistant to many environmental conditions. It is resistant to deer and pest insects, as well as to mildew fungal diseases. Ligustrum is typically both drought and heat tolerant once established. This small shrub can be planted as a single specimen, a grouping of specimens, or as a low border along a walkway.
Sunshine Ligustrum grows best in full sun. This plant can be grown in Zones 6-10, but will likely only be evergreen in Zones 7 and up. Gardeners in Zone 6 can expect some leaf drop during wintertime due to cold temperatures.
12. Manhattan Euonymus
Manhattan Euonymus (Euonymus kiautschovicus ‘Manhattan’) is a fast growing evergreen shrub. These vigorous plants look a bit like giant boxwoods but grow twice as fast. In good conditions they put on about 1 foot of height per year, eventually reaching a mature size of 6-8 feet tall and 4-6 feet wide.
Euonymus shrubs make wonderful informal hedges and can be used on their own or as a backdrop plant for a garden bed. They can also be trimmed into a more formal look or trellised along a wall.
Manhattan Euonymus grows best in full sun but is quite tolerant of shade. While the plant won’t grow as vigorously in full shade as it would in full sun, it still manages to put on quite a bit of growth each year. This plant thrives in Zones 5-8.
13. Victory Pyracantha
Victory Pyracantha (Pyracantha koidzumii ‘Victory’) is a fast growing flowering shrub known for its thorny stems and brightly colored red berries. This cultivar grows about a foot per year in good conditions. It reaches a mature size of 8-10 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide at maturity.
In large spaces, Pyracantha is often used as a thorny barrier planting, such as a hedge, windbreak, or privacy screen. The species is also popular in wildlife gardens due to the attractiveness of the berries with the birds. In smaller sites, this plant can be grown up against a wall or fence and trained along the surface rather than left to develop naturally into a rounded bushy form.
Victory Pyracantha is best planted in sunny spots where the leaves can get enough bright sunlight for photosynthesis to create energy to produce berries. This plant thrives in Zones 7-9, and is most popular in coastal regions.
14. Hollywood Juniper
Hollywood Juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘Torulosa’) is a tall coniferous shrub with unique twisted foliage. These fast-growing shrubs put on 1-2 feet in height yearly to reach a mature size of about 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide.
This juniper cultivar is a superstar! It is most often used as a feature plant to mark gateways or to soften the look of privacy walls. While the natural form is rustic and gorgeous, it can also be made into a specialty topiary.
Hollywood Juniper grows best in sunny planting locations. This plant thrives in Zones 5-9.
15. Red Dynamo Photinia
Red Dynamo Photinia (Photinia glabra ‘Parsur’) is a southern evergreen that can take the heat and stay looking great throughout the year. This plant reaches a mature size of 8-10 feet tall and 5-7 feet wide, making it the perfect size for a privacy hedge at street level. It’s also a quick grower, gaining 2-3 feet of height per year when young.
This gorgeous and healthy plant is perfect for a privacy screen or hedge, as it’s resistant to pests and disease. The burgundy-red leaves are beautiful against the dense, upright form, which rarely needs pruning.
Photinia is a popular choice for hedges and landscapes in mild winter regions because of its rapid growth and colorful new foliage. You can also use it in your side yard as a living fence for some nice foliage.
Photinia is typically planted in full sun. This plant can be grown in Zones 7-11.
16. Green Velvet Boxwood
Green Velvet Boxwood (Buxus x ‘Green Velvet’) is a spreading broadleaf evergreen. These rounded shrubs typically reach a mature size of 3-4 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide. While not the fastest-growing evergreen, this cultivar is certainly one of the fastest-growing boxwoods, typically growing about 6 inches per year in good conditions.
This boxwood variety naturally grows into a rounded sphere shape. You can let the plant fill out naturally or shear it into a tight ball for a more formal look. Individual plants can be planted alone or in groupings (geometric or more organic). Green Velvet Boxwood is also quite commonly used to create a mid-height formal boxwood hedge (usually about 3 feet tall).
Green Velvet Boxwood grows best in full sun but is tolerant of partial shade. This shrub grows best in Zones 5-9 and is resistant to winter bronzing at the cooler end of this range.
17. Wax Myrtle
Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera) is a large broadleaf evergreen shrub. This quick-grower can easily put on 2-4 feet of height per year. It develops dense foliage and often reaches a mature size of about 15 feet tall and 15 feet wide.
These tall shrubs are perfect for privacy screens and tall hedges, as they keep their leaves year-round in most climates. With their dainty green-yellow flowers, they also make a wonderful living backdrop for your perennial beds or for a wildlife garden space (the birds love the fruit in the wintertime).
Wax Myrtle grows best in sun but is tolerant of partial shade. This plant is for warmer climates, and thrives in Zones 7-11.
18. Allegheny Viburnum
Allegheny Viburnum (Viburnum rhytidophylloides ‘Allegheny’) is a quick-growingj m shrub with white flowers and red fruit. These plants grow 1-2 feet per year. The mature size is generally about 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide.
Viburnum can be planted alone as a feature plant where its lovely white flowers are the star of the show, but also makes a wonderful hedge. Use it as a mid-height privacy screen or as a windbreak on an open property. The birds will also love the fruit in the fall!
Allegheny Viburnum will produce flowers best in a sunny spot but is tolerant of shade. This plant can be grown in Zones 5-8, but may loose its leaves towards the cooler end of this range (Zones 5-6), especially during harsh winters, and should be considered more like deciduous shrubs in those areas.
What are the best fast-growing tall shrubs for privacy?
Emerald Green Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Emerald Green’)
Spartan Juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘Spartan’)
Oak Leaf Red Holly (Ilex x ‘Conaf’)
Moonglow Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum ‘Moonglow’)
Leyland Cypress (Cupressus × leylandii)
What are the best fast-growing evergreen shrubs for the shade?
Rosebay Rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum)
Hicks Yew (Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’)
California Privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium)
Prague Viburnum (Viburnum x pragense)
Blue Princess Holly (Ilex x meserveae ‘Blue Princess’)
- Colorado State University Extension, Evergreen Shrubs
- University of Missouri Extension, Selecting Landscape Plants: Broad-leaved Evergreens
- University of Minnesota Extension, Choosing evergreens for your landscapes
- PennState Extension, Evergreen Native Plants
More landscaping shrubs
Time to add some shrubs to your landscape to brighten things up year-round, provide privacy, and perhaps even some flowers?