Best fast growing shrubs – 13 recommended varieties to plant in your garden

Add interest to your garden with these best fast growing shrubs that will soon fill your yard with color and texture

Hydrangeas surrounding a bird bath and stone home
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Keen to see results quickly in your garden? Choose these fast growing shrubs in your planting plans, and before you know it your garden will be full of texture, color and form. 

Although gardening does requires a degree of patience, there are ways we can speed things up a little – one of which is by choosing the right plants. You might also be keen for evergreen shrubs and plants to establish quickly for reasons of privacy or shade.

Offering a range of leaf and flower form and color, and interest at different times of the year, these best fast growing shrubs can suit a variety of spaces as part of your garden ideas

Best fast growing shrubs to plant

Like the best fast-growing trees, some of the fast growing shrubs suggested here might require a little more attention and care than others, but on the whole, are fairly self-sufficient and will only need a touch of pruning or feeding now and again. 

1. Weigela 

pink flowers on Wiegela shrub

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'Weigela is a deciduous shrub that can reach a height of 2-3 metres within 2 years, making it an ideal choice for quickly filling up any gaps in your garden,' says Lindsay Hyland, founder of Urban Organic Yield (opens in new tab)

It has attractive pink flowers in the spring, and is hardy in many climates. Plant in full sun or partial shade.

It is a great option to plant as a low maintenance garden border idea as it is easy to grow.

2. Beauty Bush

beauty bush

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The beauty bush, Kolkwitzia amabilis, is a great easy-to-grow and fast growing deciduous flowering shrub.

It is a member of the honeysuckle family and needs medium moisture and well-drained soil in full sun to grow. 

Usually growing 6-10' tall, it has an arching, vase-shaped habit. It has showy pink flowers with yellow throats in clusters that bloom in mid-spring, the exact timing of which will differ depending on the hardiness zone where you live. This shrub also makes a great hedge plant. Generally, it is free of pests and disease and requires pruning after flowering.

3. Schip Laurel or Cherry Laurel

Cherry laurel for use as screening or privacy

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The glossy leaved evergreen schip laurel, or cherry laurel – Prunus laurocerasus ‘Schipkaensis' – is a popular shrub that can be used for fast-growing hedges.

'This evergreen will easily grow into tall and narrow hedges, and only needs pruning once per year, with occasional shaping if necessary,' explain the experts at Instant Hedges (opens in new tab).

It has a fast growth rate, reaching up to 2 feet in a year, so is one of the best fast growing plants to use as a shrub for privacy among other garden privacy ideas

It grows well in hardiness zones 6-9, prefers dappled to full shade, but can cope with a range of soil types, so is a versatile choice for establishing a dense hedge quickly. 

For added interest, 'in the spring, the schip laurel produces attractive stalks of aromatic white flowers, and red berries in winter,' explain the Instant Hedges experts.

4. Photinia

A photinia fraseri red robin tree with both red and green leaves and white flowers

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Low maintenance evergreen photinias are one of the best fast growing shrubs – or can be trimmed to become an attractive fast-growing tree – added to which 'the green foliage turns red in the spring, summer or fall,' explains Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love (opens in new tab).  It is therefore excellent as a shrub for leaf changing color.

Quick growing, the evergreen shrub can either be used as a standout feature, to serve a supporting role in your garden, including use as a hedge for privacy or to separate garden areas, or for flower bed ideas.

'Clusters of small white flowers in the spring or summer are then followed by red berries,' adds Jeremy.

Photinias require minimal pruning, but the occasional trim in spring or summer will help to promote dense growth and maintain a good overall shape in the shrub.

These fast growing shrubs will grow well in full sun or partial shade, but prefer clay, sand, or loam soil that drains well. 

5. Buddleja 

purple buddleja flowers with a butterfly

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The mostly pink, magenta and purple conical shaped flowers of buddleja are a favorite plant for pollinators, so excellent to include as one of your wildlife garden ideas.

'This hardy deciduous shrub has beautiful, fragrant flowers in the summer and grows 3 to 6 feet high. Buddleja prefers moist soil in full sun or partial shade,' explains Lindsey Hyland.

Vigorous growers, buddlejas are easy to grow and maintain. They are also known as the butterfly bush, so if you want to know how to attract butterflies, planting one of these best fast growing shrubs in your garden would be an excellent first step.

Do, however, be aware that buddleja are considered invasive in some areas, so always check before planting.

6. Forsythia

Forsythia shrub

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Low maintenance and fast growing – growing at least one foot a year – forsythia can tolerate a wide array of growing conditions so is one of the best fast growing shrubs for versatility, as well as for its colorful spring blooms.

'These yellow-flowering beauties blossom in the spring and are straightforward to care for and nurture,' explains Ellen of Outdoor Happens (opens in new tab)

Forsythia grow up to 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide, so leave space for this colorful shrub to spread, especially if you want to use it as hedging or perhaps as a garden wall idea to disguise an unsightly boundary.

'Space the shrubs at least six feet apart if possible, and prune them regularly to prevent the maze like structure of stems looking untidy,' adds Ellen.

Alternatively, if you prefer the wilder look, then leave them to grow as nature intended and enjoy the burst of cheery, breathtaking blooms every year.

7. Sea Berry

sea buckthorn with orange berries

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'One of my absolute favorite best fast growing shrubs to include in almost any landscape, and good for zones 3-8, is sea buckthorn, Hippophae rhamnoides, also known as sea berry,' explains Diane Kuthy, founder of How to Grow Everything (opens in new tab) 

This deciduous hardy shrub, which is particularly suitable for windy, coastal gardens, is both ornamental and has edible berries. 'The plant produces delicious, bright orange, vitamin C packed berries which are most popularly used in jams, juices, and even skin care.

'Sea buckthorn has bush-like growth, so is ideal for hedges, and can grow to 30 feet tall without pruning,' adds Diane. 

If male and female plants are planted together the shrubs should start producing fruit after 4 or 5 years. 

8. Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas in a garden border

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Hydrangeas are well loved for their large, magnificent flower heads in a range of colors, making this flowering shrub such a popular addition to many gardens.

It is important that you know how to prune hydrangeas to keep these fast growing shrubs looking their best, as pruning helps to promote good shape and the forming of new flowers.

Easy to grow and quick to establish, there are many varieties of hydrangeas that produce flowers in summer and fall.

Hydrangeas can be a bit choosy about their location, so one of the most important tips to remember for how to grow hydrangeas is to take care when planting and put them in the correct position that suits that particular species.

As long as their basic needs are met, they are pretty easy to care for.

9. Viburnum tinus

Viburnum spring flowers

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The evergreen Viburnum tinus can grow to a height of 13 to 16 feet, so is one of the best fast growing shrubs to add height to your back yard. 

Using tall plants is among the many vertical garden ideas that can make a small back yard appear larger, training the eye upwards.

'It has beautiful clusters of white flowers in the winter, and is hardy in many climates. Viburnum tinus prefers moist soil and loves sun or partial shade,' explains Lindsey Hyland.

10. Lavender

Lavender lining pathway in garden

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

It is worth learning how to grow lavender so that you can enjoy the aromatic properties and beautiful flowers of this shrubby herb.

Bearing lovely purple, blue, pink or white flowers throughout the summer, there are many different varieties of these drought tolerant, best fast growing shrubs. They are also definitely a plant to include if you're investigating how to plan a dry garden.

Evocative of mediterranean style gardens, but also a stalwart of cottage garden ideas, lavender prefers well-drained soil, in full sun.

They can vary in height, growing from 1 to 3 feet, and can be dotted among flower beds, used for hedging when designing a parterre garden, or used in the kitchen garden as an aromatic herb.

11. Elderberry

elderberry shrub with berries

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Elderberry is one of the best fast growing shrubs for a back yard as it bears both edible berries and lovely blossom.

'You can grow your own elderberries and make an immune-boosting elderberry syrup at home using the berries,' explains Diane Kuthy.

'These deciduous perennial bushes are hardy in zones 4-7 and grow well in shade or sunny locations,' she adds.

The fast growing shrubs will bloom from late spring, producing masses of tiny white flowers that can be picked and used to make delicious elderflower cordial or fizz.

The berries, which are bursting with immune boosting vitamins A, C and D, come next, ripening between July and September, depending on where you live. These can then be harvested and turned into healthy treats, such as elderberry jelly, pies or preserves. Why not add them to your kitchen garden ideas?

WARNING: The berries of some varieties of elderberry are toxic when eaten raw, so to be on the safe side always cook the elderberries before you try to eat them 

'With proper pruning, elderberry plants can remain as short shrubs or grow to  over 10ft tall. Elderberry plants are best purchased as young plants and will bear fruit when those plants are 2-3 years old,' explains Diane.

12. Cornus or Dogwoods

Dogwood Cornus Midwinter Fire covered in frost

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

It's not just interest and color from flowers and foliage that you should consider when looking for the best fast growing shrubs – stem color can make a real impact, too. Among the best winter plants for pots and borders are cornus, or dogwoods.

These fantastic and fast-growing deciduous shrubs are highly versatile and loved for their vibrant displays of bare stems during winter ranging from yellow, through orange and red to deep crimson. 

The stems are then clothed in white flower heads in spring and pale green leaves throughout the summer, so offer differing interest in a border throughout the year.

13. Mock Orange

close up of mock orange shrub with flowers

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Mock orange, or philadelphus, is a vigorous and fast growing shrub that flowers from about mid June to August depending on the climate where you live. 

The wonderfully sweet scented blooms are a delight to walk past as a sensory garden plant, so this is a lovely shrub to grow near an outside seating or dining area, or position where you can enjoy the fragrance to the full.

It is happy in sun or part shade in well-draining soil and requires very little maintenance.

What is the fastest growing bush for privacy?

One of the fastest growing bushes for privacy is the wax myrtle.

'They can grow insanely fast – sometimes exceeding two feet per year, or potentially faster if they acclimatize well to your soil,' explains Ellen.

This evergreen is therefore one of the best fast growing shrubs, and as well as providing a habitat for wildlife, produces abundant berries in the winter if both female and male plants are planted next to each other, so is a source of food for birds, too.

This tough shrub can tolerate most soils, including slightly salty conditions, and will withstand full sun to part shade.

When planting wax myrtle, make sure you keep them well away from barbecue areas or where you might be planning outdoor fireplace ideas, as 'the waxy leaves are famously flammable,' explains Ellen.

Mahonia repens is a shrub to use in a shady garden

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What is a fast growing shade shrub?

A fast growing shrub for shade that is a good choice to plant is Mahonia x media

This evergreen has dark green glossy leaves and produces sprays of wonderfully fragrant yellow flowers from November to early spring, depending on the variety. Sometimes these are followed by clusters of black or purple berries.

Mahonia x media will cope well with partial or full shade, so is a good choice for a north facing back yard or plot. It tolerates sand, chalk, clay or loam, as long as they are well draining.

What's the fastest growing evergreen bush?

There are many fast growing evergreen shrubs that you can plant in your garden for year round interest. Among those listed above are the schip laurel, photinia and Viburnum tinus, but there are many other options you can plant to suit the particular conditions in your garden.

A useful method is to see what is growing well in neighbors yards as they will probably enjoy similar soil types and conditions, and you can also get an idea of how it might look in your garden setting.

Rachel is senior content editor, and writes and commissions gardening content for homesandgardens.com, Homes & Gardens magazine, and its sister titles Period Living Magazine and Country Homes & Interiors. She has written for lifestyle magazines for many years, with a particular focus on gardening, historic houses and arts and crafts, but started out her journalism career in BBC radio, where she enjoyed reporting on and writing programme scripts for all manner of stories. Rachel then moved into regional lifestyle magazines, where the topics she wrote about, and people she interviewed, were as varied and eclectic as they were on radio. Always harboring a passion for homes and gardens, she jumped at the opportunity to work on The English Home and The English Garden magazines for a number of years, before joining the Period Living team, then the wider Homes & Gardens team, specializing in gardens.