When looking for a fast-growing tree, you'll find several maples (Acer spp.) that grow at least 25 inches each year. Fast-growing maples are also known as "soft maples" because their wood is weaker, making their limbs prone to break during ice or windstorms. These varieties are not as long-lived as the hard maples.
The silver maple (A. saccharinum) gets its name from the silver underlining found on its leaves. Its tolerance of poor, compacted soils and air pollution make it a good choice for urban conditions. However, its roots are vigorous and have cracked sidewalks and clogged drains. This variety grows about 50 to 80 feet high, with a 35- to 50-foot spread. It is hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9.
The red maple (A. rubrum) doesn’t grow quite as fast as some other maples, but what this tree lacks in speed, it makes up for in color. The red maple has some form of red growing on it all year, including red buds, red flowers and red leaves. It grows about 60 feet tall with a 40-foot spread. It tolerates a variety of soils, but prefers wet soil. It does have some drought and pollution tolerance. It is hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9.
The Norway maple (A. platanoides) is easy to grow since it adapts to almost any soil type and tolerates hot, dry conditions. Unfortunately, this gives it invasive tendencies that are less than desirable. It usually grows about 40 to 50 feet tall with a similar spread, but can reach heights of 90 feet under the right conditions. Although fall color is not particularly showy, it does have some cultivars that have red and purple leaves such as Crimson King and Schwedler. It is hardy in USDA zones 3 through 7.
Although it is not called a maple, the box elder (A. negundo) is in the maple family. It is easy to grow and adapts to almost any soil type, including dry and wet. Unfortunately, the wood is extremely brittle and some areas have placed restrictions on planting box elders. It grows about 30 to 50 feet tall with a slightly smaller spread. Leaves turn yellow and orange in the fall. It is hardy in USDA zones 2 through 9.
- Photo Credit Colorful autumn maple tree in the country. image by William Berry from Fotolia.com red maple, green fir image by Scott Bufkin from Fotolia.com
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