Using fast-growing evergreen trees or large shrubs allows property owners to quickly develop hedges and screens to block views of neighbours. The key to getting the lushest, fastest growth from these plants is to meet their light and soil requirements with the planting site. Generally speaking, a fertile, moist and well-drained soil is best, regardless of plant species. Make sure your plant is suitable to your climate and will survive your winter temperature regime. Learn which U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone you live by visiting the National Gardening Association website.
Awabuki Sweet Viburnum
Growing 12 to 20 inches a year, the awabuki sweet viburnum (Viburnum odoratissimum var. awabuki) matures at 10 to 20 feet tall and up to 12 feet wide. Its large, shiny green leaves produce a thick cover for the branches and do not look good sheared because of the tear wounds that brown. In chilly months, some older foliage turns tomato red before dropping. "Chindo" is a cultivar developed in North Carolina, according to Dr. Michael Dirr of the University of Georgia. Grow these viburnums in USDA zones 7 to 10.
Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) grows 3 to 4 feet each year if the soil remains evenly moist, especially in the heat of summer. Rarely needing pruning with its billowing masses of short-needled leaves, it matures at 50 to 60 feet tall and 20 to 30 feet wide. Japanese cedar tolerates harsh pruning or removal of the upper vertical branches to maintain a set height--it rejuvenates new growth from the wounds. "Yoshino" is a popular cultivar for hedges, with dense foliage that blushes bronze in the winter cold. Grow Japanese cedars in USDA zones 6 through 9.
Although susceptible to bagworms and canker disease and best never exposed to drought, Leyland cypress (x Cupressocyparis leylandii) is among the fastest hybrid needle-leaf evergreens to grow and use as a hedge or screen. A minimum of 3 feet of new growth annually is expected from these tall trees, maturing at 60 to 70 feet tall and 6 to 12 feet wide. Grow Leyland cypress and any of its dozens of cultivars with colourful foliage in USDA Zones 6 through 9.
Unfortunately, the North American native Canadian/eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) is being seriously afflicted and widely killed by infestations of woolly adelgid. If this insect pest is absent or kept at bay, a Canadian hemlock grows 12 to 18 inches annually if in a cool, fertile, acidic soil that is moist. Avoid windy and hot temperature locales. This gracefully branching tree will tolerate considerable shade. It grows 40 to 70 feet tall and 25 to 35 feet wide across USDA zones 3 through 7.
Suitable for cold, windy winter regions, white pine (Pinus strobus) often is sheared when young to create densely branching specimens to plant in hedgerows. Annual pruning of branch tips keeps this airy, needled pine more compact. Too much shade and it loses needles and the branches become overly naked and easily seen through. It grows quickly, up to 2 feet a year, and if never pruned would mature at 50 to 80 feet tall and 20 to 40 feet wide. Use in USDA zones 3 through 8.
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