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Fast growing trees for small gardens

Updated February 21, 2017

Large gardens often include trees, to provide a grand aesthetic and create shade for plants. But gardeners with small plots should not rule out trees in their landscaping either. Small gardens get the same benefit from trees that large ones do -- the trees provide shade and make the garden look more dynamic. Choose among several varieties of fast-growing trees to get your desired look quickly.

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Coyote willow

The coyote willow, also known as a narrowleaf or sandbar willow, is a small tree that grows well in coarse and medium soil conditions. The tree features fast-growing, vertical shoots. The tree's growth usually tops out at 4.5 m (15 feet), although some trees may grow about 3 m (10 feet) higher. Coyote willow flowers in early spring, and features catkins (caterpillar-like flower clusters).

Chinese elm

The Chinese elm tree, native to China, Japan and Korea, may grow to 9 m (30 feet) tall within five years, with its final height reaching between 12 and 18 m (40 and 60 feet). Its leaves are about 5 cm (2 inches) long and toothed. The green leaves turn purple and red in the autumn. Chinese elms grow well in a variety of soil conditions and are resistant to Dutch elm disease. Consider planting the tree to the side of the garden if you do not want your entire garden shaded.


The chitalpa tree grows about 60 cm (2 feet) annually, and reaches about 6 to 7.5 m (20 to 25 feet) at full maturity. It tolerates drought well, and therefore is good for small gardens in hot climates. Chitalpa blooms in late spring and throughout the summer. The flowers are pink, white or light purple and shaped like a trumpet. The leaves are lanceolate, long and wide in the middle. The open branch structure results in dappled shade for your garden.

Fig trees

Fig trees' benefits are twofold -- they provide shade to your garden while producing edible fruit. Fig trees usually grow to 6 to 9 m (20 to 30 feet), but can be kept smaller with regular pruning. The trees produce fruit twice a year. The leaves are bright green and grow about a foot long, producing a deep shade cover.

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About the Author

Tallulah Philange has worked as a journalist since 2003. Her work has appeared in the "Princeton (N.J.) Packet," "Destinations" magazine and in higher education publications. She also has edited and produced online content for those publications. Philange holds a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from American University and a Master of Arts in communication, culture and technology from Georgetown University.

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