Gardeners need to be patient as they wait for trees and shrubs to bloom and hedges to grow. But do we really have to wait ages for a beautiful garden? The good news is there are fast-growing plants out there that can quickly fill up empty spaces.

Block out the neighbours

One of the first plantings most new gardeners need is for privacy. Fast-growing screening choices include shrubs, small trees and climbers, which provide the quickest cover of all and can be trained on a fence, screen or lattice. Training a climber over a small pergola in the garden can provide an area of privacy within an exposed garden while longer-term screening plants get growing. Climbers also cover unsightly structures such as sheds, walls and fences.

Size matters

Another fast way to achieve growth is to invest in mature plants. Mature plants that are already several metres high have already achieved several years of growth. Mature plants cost more than starting small but provide instant greenery. Investing in several large feature plants in addition to smaller plants gives a mature look to a new garden. As well as paying more for a large plant, it is important to be able to dig a hole that’s large enough to accommodate the root ball, manage the weight of a large plant and be able to care for it so that it gets established in its new location.

Plant choices

Evergreen perennial plants provide year-round leafy cover, while deciduous plants are bare in winter. Some plants are herbaceous, which means they’ll grow quickly from spring to summer but die down in autumn and winter. Annuals provide growth and colour for a season and need to be replaced, but can be the fastest and cheapest way to get instant colour. They are available as advanced plants in bloom but can also be grown from seed or seedling.

Here’s a selection of fast-growing permanent plants for almost instant coverage in your garden.

A selection of fast-growing climbers and shrubs in an array of colours and forms. 1. Star jasmine; 2. Wisteria; 3. Lilly pilly; 4. Port wine magnolia; 5. Pandorea; 6. Camellia sasanqua.

Climbers

Climbing plants can cover several metres in a single season of growth. Most need a support to climb on and some need to be trained – that is, tied to a structure or directed to give coverage where it is wanted. Fast-growers include:

Bower of beauty (Pandorea jasminoides), wonga vine (P. pandorana)

These native evergreen climbers are among the fastest of all to cover a screen and have pretty pink, white or yellow flowers mainly in spring.
Sun requirements: Best in sun, but tolerate light shade.

Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea Bambino Series, ‘Raspberry Ice’ and other dwarf forms)

This vigorous climber provides fast growth and vibrant colour. Large growers can scale high walls, but the compact forms are more easily managed and even grown in a container.
Sun requirements: Full sun.

Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)

Evergreen, spring flowering climber with clusters of very fragrant white flowers and spot flowering in summer. Star jasmine can also be used as a groundcover.
Sun requirements: Sun or shade.

Other climbing options include jasmine, banksia rose, nasturtium (annual), wisteria, Clematis montana (cool climates only).

Shrubs

Tall shrubs (2-3m high and higher) can be trained as hedges or privacy screens and maintained by pruning. Shrubs take three to five years to reach full growth and are usually planted around 1m apart for hedging. Closer spacing gives a dense hedge faster, but requires more maintenance and watering.

Hedging bamboo (Bambusa multiplexa)

All bamboos are fast-growing, but select a compact clumping bamboo for fast but manageable growth.
Sun requirements: Full sun to part shade.

Lilly pilly, riberry (Acmena smithii, Syzygium luehmannii)

There are many named varieties of lilly pilly in several genera. All make excellent dense evergreen hedges for privacy and are fast growing. Prune regularly to shape and keep well watered for fast growth.
Sun requirements: Full sun to part shade.

Murraya (Murraya paniculata)

This fast-growing dense evergreen shrub has fragrant cream flowers in spring with spot flowering throughout the year.
Sun requirements: Best flowering in sun, also tolerates shade.

Sasanqua camellia (Camellia sasanqua)

This fast-growing dense evergreen shrub has red, pink or white flowers from late summer onwards.
Sun requirements: Best flowering in sun but also grows in part shade.

Other fast-growing evergreen options include photinia, pittosporum, port wine magnolia, dwarf conifers, sweet viburnum, hakea, grevillea and banksia.

An array of fast-growing groundcover and feature tree species with beautiful flowers and fruit. 1. Frangipani; 2. Purple fountain grass; 3. Groundcover rose 'Flower Carpet'; 4. Lemon tree; 5. Myoporum; 6. Crepe myrtle.

Groundcovers

The fastest groundcover of all is turf (lawngrass) but there is a range of evergreen plants to fill the bare ground between other plants as they establish. Mulch and weed bare areas until the groundcover planting is able to exclude weeds. These plants will quickly cover around 1m and many can grow bigger with time.

Boobialla, myoporum (Myoporum parvifolium)

Fast growth, fine leaves and small, white flowers in summer make this a good choice for a slope or to spill over a wall or beside a pool.
Sun requirements: Full sun.

Convolvulus (Convolvulus sabiaticus)

A drought-tolerant mounded ground cover with silver foliage and small round morning glory-like flower. This is a good edging plant.
Sun requirements: Full sun.

Groundcover grevillea (Grevillea ‘Poorinda Royal Mantle')

This variety and other prostrate grevilleas give fast coverage of bare ground. Red flowers for much of the year.
Sun requirements: Full sun.

Other fast growing groundcovers and perennials include ornamental grasses such as purple fountain grass, acanthus, Westringia ‘Flat n Fruity’, shore juniper and groundcover roses such as Flower Carpet.

Feature tree

Trees can take decades to reach maturity, but some fast-growing trees give impact, shade and some privacy in three to five years reaching around 3m high. Advanced trees are also available for instant effect.

Crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia Indian Summer Series and other cultivars)

These deciduous trees have great garden presence with masses of pink, lavender or white flowers from late spring to autumn and autumn foliage.
Sun requirements: Full sun.

Grafted flowering gum (Corymbia ‘Summer Red’ and other cultivars)

While many gum trees are fast growing, most get too big for gardens however there are compact named varieties which make rapid growth including grafted red flowering trees such as ‘Summer Red’.
Sun requirements: Full sun

Lemon tree (Citrus x limon)

All citrus trees are surprisingly fast growing and have the benefit of crops.
Sun requirements: Full sun.

Other fast-growing feature trees include frangipani, native blueberry (Elaeocarpus reticulatus), wattles, native frangipani (Hymenosporum flavum), banksia, evergreen magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ and other cultivars), weeping birch (cool climate only), ash trees, loquat, plums (ornamental and fruiting) and banana.

 

When fast-growing plants are a little too fast...

While it's great to know that you can establish a garden quickly, this good news comes with a warning: Some fast growers can quickly outgrow their welcome, so balance fast growth with ongoing maintenance. Fast-growing plants that may become difficult to control after planting include those that sucker, spread by runners or cast lots of seed.