13 of the Fastest Growing Shrubs
Explore our list of the UK’s best fast-growing shrubs and plants – perfect for filling garden space in a hurry
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Whether you want to improve your garden’s privacy or fill space in flowerbeds quickly while waiting for slow-growing plants to establish themselves, we think you’ll find my list of fast-growing shrubs insightful.
Update 2023: I’ve expanded this topic further by revealing the very best plants for garden privacy, this updated list includes shrubs and hedges that grow tall and dense, not just quickly.
Pro Tip: Use RootGrow
Once you’ve chosen a plant from our list of fast-growing shrubs, be sure to dip the root ball in mycorrhizal fungi such as RootGrow.
If you’ve never used a root development product like this before, check out the reviews on Amazon.
This stuff works incredibly well, we use it on all of our new plants and it’s endorsed by the Royal Horticultural Society. You can expect the shrub to grow faster, look healthier and have better resistance to diseases.
Hydrangeas are an extremely fast-growing shrub and often fill spaces in borders within one season.
Plant from pots and use RootGrow to accelerate the root development which forces the shrub to grow faster.
Hydrangeas can also be grown from cuttings but will only reach their void-filling potential during the second or third season.
This fast-growing shrub performs well in partly shaded areas of the garden, so it is perfect for borders and gap filling.
If you’re looking for a low-maintenance shrub, Hydrangeas are for you. They require very little attention, just deadhead last years flowers in early spring and don’t let the soil become too dry in the summer. Use mulch such as bark to keep moisture in the ground if you’re worried about the soil drying out.
Some Hydrangea varieties will benefit from more aggressive pruning, including taking some stems down to the root and some to the second bud down from the flower. This pruning only needs to be done in the spring, if at all.
Hydrangeas grow fast, some grow tall, some have wide lateral spreads and all require only essential maintenance, once per year in early spring. Expect lots of large green leaves and plenty of flowers later in the summer and into Autumn.
Some Hydrangeas will grow up to 15 feet (4.5 metres) but for improved density and flowering most (but not all) will require some essential yearly pruning to maintain a frame.
My experience: When I last moved home, the first shrubs I planted were hydrangeas as I knew they would fill space quickly and they didn’t disappoint. I have four varieties and I like the huge leaves as much as the flowers.
My favourite? The compact Macrophylla “Ab Green Shadow”.
2) Cherry Laural
Cherry Laural is a fast-growing evergreen shrub that gardeners often plant as a privacy hedge and screen.
You’ve probably seen this popular shrub on many occasions, and you can prune it into many different shapes with varying thicknesses.
Expect up to 25 inches (60cm) of growth per year, not only is this shrub a fast grower but with regular yearly pruning, you can expect the Cherry Laural to form a thick, dense bush.
This shrub is perfect for those of you that would like some privacy in your garden.
If left unpruned, expect this shrub to grow up to 8 metres tall with a spread of up to 9 metres.
While the Cherry Laural may lack the colourful blossoms of Hydrangeas, it does have thick woody branches and broad, shiny green leaves all year round. Small flowers and non-edible fruits complement the leaves in the spring and summer.
This shrub will perform well in all growing conditions, such as full sun, partial shade and also full shade. Expect Cherry Laural to thrive in almost all soil types.
Beyond yearly or twice-yearly pruning, this shrub will require very little maintenance, and you won’t need to spend anything on fertilisers or feeds, which are rarely needed.
Be warned though; with such a high growth rate and enormous height/width potential, this shrub can become a nuisance if left unpruned.
My experience: Daniel, my colleague here at DIY Gardening, has specified this bush dozens of times in his previous role as a landscape gardener. He stated that it’s a go-to bush for filling space quickly and is popular as it’s cheap and requires little attention beyond pruning.
3) Fast Growing Bamboo
While not technically a shrub, bamboo, which is a grass, shares many characteristics with its woody companions. Bamboo has thick wood-like stems, grows tall and fast and produces plenty of green leaves.
You can split bamboo into two varieties; clumping and running.
Running bamboo can be a nuisance as the roots, known as rhizomes, can grow laterally for many metres and colonise surrounding areas. Expect running bamboo to grow vertically by up to 1.5 metres each year.
Clumping bamboo is quite different; the rhizomes grow in a “u” shape, so the next stem grows vertically and not horizontally. Clumping bamboo has a lateral spread of around 10cm per year but grows vertically by up to half a metre per year.
Both types of bamboo are popular with gardeners looking for a fast-growing plant that functions as a screen or wall. I have bamboo in the corner of our garden, and it screens our space from the neighbour’s window.
I’ve also grown bamboo in containers as a feature in my garden.
I’ve never felt the need to use fertiliser or water the bamboo and it’s always done its job of filling space fast.
Pyracantha is a thorny fast-growing shrub that you’ll find in many ornamental gardens; it’s also frequently used by homeowners as a security barrier – the thorns are sharp and sturdy enough to penetrate the skin. The plant is dense enough to act as a screen against intruders.
Grow Pyracantha in almost any type of soil; the shrub performs well in clay and well-drained ground material, it also tolerates the UK temperature extremes well.
From my experience, you can expect growth of between 40-60cm per year, even in the shade. Choose a sunny or part-shade area, and the shrub will reward you with plenty of colourful berries which will persist into the winter, providing your garden with bright cool-season colour.
The fruit is also consumed by birds and other animals, while bees love the small summer flowers. The thorns and density even provide protective cover for nesting birds. Plant Pyracantha if you want to encourage more wildlife into their garden.
Pyracantha can be grown as a standalone hedge up to 3-4 metres in height, trained along wires, fences, walls or pruned as a freestanding shrub.
My experience: I don’t have pyracantha in my garden, but my colleague, Daniel, has specified it for use on new-build housing projects he worked on.
5) Rambling Rector
As the name suggests, the Rambling Rector is a fast-growing shrub that can reach its full potential of 7 metres high and 6 metres horizontally within six years if the conditions are optimal.
Expect yearly growth of up to a metre per year or if the conditions are less than perfect, a still impressive 0.5 metres.
While this rambling rose may lack the density required by homeowners for year-round privacy, it produces dense bunches of flowers once per year and also emits a strong, pleasant musk fragrance.
Grow into trees, along walls and fences, or over garden arches, this rambler is easy to train; leaves and flowers will also cover the twiggy frame during the warmer seasons.
The Rambling Rector is tolerant of most soil types, performs well in full and partial sunlight and can survive in the shade too.
This fast-growing shrub requires only essential maintenance such as yearly pruning, winter mulching and training along wires if needed by the gardener.
My experience: I’ve had to cut back and control this shrub on a few occasions and have seen it damage flimsy fences, so be careful and only plant it if you’re prepared to control it.
6) Fast Growing Shrub: Beauty Bush
Beauty Bush is a fast-growing deciduous shrub which originated in China and is now often found in many ornamental gardens.
Reaching a height and width of around 3 metres, this popular shrub flowers during the spring and grows at a rate of up to 0.5 metres per year.
As this shrub loses its leaves during the colder season, Beauty Bush might not suit those wanting winter privacy, but during the growing season, expect a dense thicket of leaves up to 7cm long with clusters of flowers forming on arching branches.
Suitable for both sheltered and exposed locations, this fast-grower performs well in full sun and part-shade.
For best results, grow in well-drained soil and keep pruning to a minimum, Beauty Bush is widely considered by gardeners to be a low-maintaince shrub.
My experience: I had a beauty bush several years ago, and while it grew quickly, I found it a little flimsy for my garden, and I removed it as I wanted something that would fill the space in winter too.
7) Irish Ivy
Hedera Hibernica is a fast-growing climbing shrub that you’ll find in many cottage gardens, forecourts, and along walls, fences and other vertical structures.
This shrub is easy to train along any surface and produces dense, large glossy green leaves up to 12cm in width. During the winter you’ll be rewarded with plenty of non-edible dark fruits that’ll add colour to your garden when it needs it the most.
If you’re looking for a fast-growing plant that produces a thick, dense cover of leaves all-year-round, then consider Irish Ivy.
Not only is this a fast-grower, but it also made it onto my list of the best plants for privacy. Irish Ivy clings to frames and surfaces, making it perfect for hedging/screening.
This climbing shrub is incredibly easy to maintain, gardeners can prune it at any time of the year, and the plant performs well in all soils and growing conditions, including shade and part-shade.
Expect Irish Ivy to grow up to 12 metres tall and a possible spread of 8 metres. Full growth takes the plant around ten years, so you can assume a yearly growth rate of up to around a metre, if conditions are favourable.
My experience: I’ve previously grown this ivy around an outbuilding to hide it, and while it did the job, it quickly grew out of control. Consider ivy, but only if you have the time to keep it check with pruning and training, as it can also choke out other plants.
8) Eucalyptus Gunnii
Eucalypti are a species of hundreds of trees and shrubs, many fast-growing and popular with gardeners looking to fill space reasonably quickly.
Eucalyptus Gunnii is a tree that if you left unpruned, will grow up to 35 metres tall at a rate of around 1.5m per year.
However, with coppicing, the tree’s growth can be kept under control, and you’ll find yourself with a beautiful multi-stemmed shrub-like plant.
I’ve found that Eucalyptus Gunnii performs best in full sun and also in a sheltered location, so careful garden planning is required if you want good results.
Coppicing is a technique used to keep trees short and bush-like and is a widespread technique deployed by gardeners with small gardens.
To coppice a Eucalyptus Gunnii, one must cut back the main stem of a young tree to a stump just above ground level; this encourages lots of new shoots, which will quickly grow as bushy vertical stems.
Coppiced eucalyptus trees can be grown as a boundary screen, hedge or freestanding plant in a border, patch or large pot.
Coppicing also encourages new leaf growth, which is favoured by gardeners as juvenile and coppiced leaves have a desirable blueish/white colour and distinct aroma.
Regular pruning is required to encourage new stem growth and to achieve that bushy look, but otherwise, no special maintenance is required.
My experience: I’ve previously chopped down an Eucalyptus Gunni as it out of control and far too tall, but I’ve seen coppiced trees, and they look great and fill space quickly.
9) Russian Vine (Fallopia-baldschuanica)
Fallopia-baldschuanica is a fast-growing plant of the Knotweed family.
Hardy and very easy to grow, this plant will perform well in any soil condition, in the shade, full or partial sunlight. Plant in sheltered or windswept locations, Fallopia-baldschuanica will grow almost anywhere.
Expect rampant growth, thousands of beautiful, tiny white flowers and plenty of foliage.
You can train Fallopia-baldschuanica to proliferate over almost any surface; fences, walls, outbuildings, sheds, drainpipes and even roofs.
This climbing vine does come with a warning though; it grows at such an incredible rate (several metres per year in all directions) that it will smoother and choke any other plants in its way.
Fallopia-baldschuanica, which is also known as “Mile a Minute” is often used to hide unsightly walls or structures quickly and is best planted well away from the home and other plants.
You can prune this climber in spring but don’t assume this will be an easy task, it grows into cracks and crevices where it can be destructive, a nuisance and very difficult to remove.
Complete removal of the plant by organic methods alone is nearly impossible, and you’ll probably need to use a broad-spectrum herbicide such as Glyphosate.
Are you looking for a plant that grows at an incredibly fast rate? This climber is for you. Just do your research first; otherwise, you could find yourself taking on far more than you can handle.
My experience: I once had to remove this climber from a property (took ages) as it was a nuisance, so I only recommend it if you have the time to maintain it.
10) Common Elder (Sambucus nigra)
Common Eder, also known as Sambucus nigra, or Elderberry, produces fragrant summer flowers, plenty of foliage during the warmer seasons and lots of small black elderberries which are rich in vitamin C.
Common Elder is another fast-growing plant, which, if left unpruned, can reach a height of 4-8 metres and a lateral spread of up to 3.5 metres within 12-18 years.
Common Elder grows at a rate of between 0.4 and 0.6 metres a year and is often pruned into a medium-sized bush at around 1.5metres or grown in batches to form a hedge.
Deciduous, Common Elder has green leaves in the summer which turn yellow in the autumn. New leaves start to form in early spring, and by summer, plenty of red berries will be visible amongst the fragrant cream-coloured flowers.
Grow in the sun or part-shade in well-drained soil; this fast-growing shrub copes well in both sheltered and exposed locations and most soil types.
11) Mock Orange
Growing up to 3 metres tall and with a spread of up 2.5 metres, this fast-grower makes it onto number 11 in our list.
Expect plenty of dense large deep green leaves throughout the summer, which will turn a bright yellow in autumn.
Summer also brings pure white cloves of flowers that each produce an intense fragrance.
As Mock Orange is a deciduous shrub, it loses its leaves in the winter, which means it isn’t the best option for privacy.
If planted in an ideal location, such as in full or part-shade and in fertile soil, expect growth of over half a metre per year. To achieve a dense, bushy appearance, you should prune one-quarter of the stems down to ground level each year, usually after the last flowers have fallen off.
If you’re looking for shrubs that attract bees to your garden, consider Mock Orange.
12) Fast Growing Chinese Wisteria
Although known as a vine rather than a shrub, you can train this climber and prune it to grow in many different ways; along sturdy fences, walls, up and along pergolas, tree trunks or even as a freestanding bush, called a Standard Wisteria.
Expect fast growth of up to a couple of metres per year and a final reach of up to an incredible 20 metres.
While this impressive fast-growing climbing vine lacks year-round density, you can expect beautiful deep-coloured flowers during spring. Unfortunately, Chinese Wisteria won’t flower until the 3rd or 4th season after planting.
Plant in full sun for the best results, you should regularly train the stems towards your preferred direction, then prune twice a year once it’s grown as far you want, this will encourage flowering.
My experience: This is another plant I’ve had to remove from a property as it kept climbing up the drainpipes and into the guttering. While it grows quickly, it can be a real pest. Grow in a spot where you can contain it.
13) Red Dogwood
Red Dogwood is a shrub that really shines in the winter and if pruned hard, expect new growth of bright red stems which add plenty of fiery punch to the garden during the cold, bleak winter months.
We love this woody shrub so much that we even included it in our list of favourite shrubs and plants for winter colour.
Dogwood is easy to grow but for bright red stems to appear, plant in a sunny or part-shaded spot and don’t prune for the first two years, then prune hard once per year.
Red Dogwood made it onto our list of fast-growing shrubs because you can expect yearly growth of up to 60cm per year.
Plant as a standalone shrub, as foreground interest in front of evergreen hedging or even mix it with hedging; Red Dogwood adds plenty of colour to hedges that often look dull in the winter months.
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Meet The Author: Hannah Miller
Hannah is a former NHS administrator, mother of two and keen qualified gardener who loves growing new plants and experimenting in the garden.
She enjoys gardening as much as she cares about the environment and likes to share her knowledge with others.
This year is all about pollinators, and Hannah has set herself the goal of only buying new plants that attract pollinators; she aims to make the garden as bee and butterfly friendly as possible.
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Hannah Miller has been a gardening enthusiast for over 12 years and is constantly growing new plants, and frequently writes for us.
As accuracy is important, we asked qualified horticulturist Elizabeth Smith to review and fact-check this guide.
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