If you’re tired of paying high utility bills and staring at a flat, boring lawn, you may be considering planting some ornamental trees around the perimeter of your property to generate some shade, muffle street noise, and serve as a home for birds, squirrels, and other wild creatures that can provide you with hours of television-free entertainment.
While there are many trees that can weather Chicago’s chilly winters and its sweltering summers, some of these trees are extremely slow-growing, which means you may be waiting years or even decades for a bit of lawn shade.
Fortunately, there are several species of trees that perform well in this temperate climate and can generate up to two feet of growth per year, providing you with tall and well-leafed trees just a few years after planting. Read on to learn more about five types of trees that thrive in Chicago weather and can provide you with shade, wildlife, and privacy.
Coniferous or Deciduous?
Before you make a tree selection, you may want to spend some time thinking about whether you’d prefer a needled tree that retains its green year-round or a deciduous tree that loses its leaves each autumn. Both tree varieties have advantages and disadvantages that make it difficult to put forth a one-size-fits-all recommendation.
Deciduous trees generally provide more shade coverage during the spring and summer months, as these trees’ leaves can cover a greater span of sky than conifers’ needles. However, these leaves will eventually fall to the ground, generating a fair amount of raking if you live in a neighborhood subject to homeowners’ association regulations or local ordinances regarding leaf disposal.
Most conifers (except a few varieties of cypress) won’t lose their needles, but can generate cones, small berries, or other debris that may require some raking. Conifers are also generally more resistant to insect infestation and various tree diseases than deciduous trees, making them a good choice for areas prone to flooding or high moisture levels that can lead to root rot.
When selecting your tree, you’ll also want to keep age and soil quality in mind. Trees grow most quickly when they’re fairly young, so paying a premium for a tree that’s just a foot or two taller than a sapling may not be money well spent. By that same token, planting a young tree in less-than-ideal soil can slow its growth rate, so using potting soil or peat moss to supplement the dirt that is already in the ground can provide your new trees with an added boost of nutrition.
If you’ve decided conifers better fit your lifestyle or landscaping scheme, there are a few types guaranteed to provide you with feet of growth within just a few years, including:
Eastern White Pine
This attractive pine tree can generate 12 to 15 inches of growth per year, with thick, wide-spaced branches providing plenty of shade. Like other pine trees, the Eastern White has long, thin needles and paper-thin bark that creates the refreshing smell of pine in the air. This tree can reach a maximum height of 100 feet or more, so you’ll want to ensure you plant it in an area with plenty of space for its roots to expand (and far away from any power or telephone lines).
With its tightly-knit needles, this classy tree can provide your home with an instant burst of sophistication. Although the cypress tree drops small cones, it won’t lose its leaves and can be trimmed or molded into a wide variety of shapes to complement any decor.
Fast-Growing Deciduous Trees
If you’d like more shade than a set of conifers can provide and are also looking forward to an array of autumn colors, there are a few trees that may fit the bill, including:
Silver or Red Maple
These trees are thickly leafed during summer and transform to a blazing red or bright yellow during autumn, providing your yard with some well-appreciated color. Although silver maples can grow up to 20 inches per year, they’re not the best for poor or rocky soil; their root structures tend to be on the shallow side, which makes high-quality soil a must to prevent the tree from toppling in a storm or languishing during a drought.
This redwood tree can thrive far from its California roots, growing up to two full feet per year for several decades before reaching its adult height of around 80 feet tall. This tree thrives in moist soil, perfect for yards with poor drainage or located near a creek or other body of water.
This tree is one of the fastest growers available, adding up to three feet of height per year and reaching a maximum height of anywhere from 25 to 70 feet. Gum trees can generate quite a bit of debris and detritus, so you’ll want to locate them away from your home’s roof, driveway, or other areas where this debris can present problems.
Regardless of whether you’re seeking conifers, deciduous trees, or both, choosing from one of these species can ensure rapid, disease-free growth that will allow you to relax in your shade-filled backyard within just a few years of planting.