There’s an increasing need for trees to counteract the pollutions and contaminations from human development and industries. But as you plan to plant a new tree in your yard or even in the forest, you may be wondering how long it will be before it can reach its full height. A tree grows larger with each passing year by adding a further layer of wood, commonly known as growth rings. These rings can be counted to determine the age of a tree. Did you know that the bristlecone pine tree in California is the oldest tree in the world at an estimated 5,000 years old? Before we get into the nitty-gritty of growing trees, let’s answer one important question that probably made you click on this page.
How long does it take for a tree to grow? There’s no definite answer for this because there are thousands of tree species and they all grow differently and mature at different rates. Some can reach full growth in just 3-5 years while others can take several hundred years to reach full maturity.
Planting a tree is one of the most altruistic actions humans can take to benefit ourselves and the future generations as well. Trees absorb the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that contributes to climate change while releasing oxygen for us to breathe in. Other benefits include purifying air, preventing water pollution, preventing soil erosion and reinforcing soil, providing shelters for wildlife, providing extra shade during the hot summers, and so on. Trees can also bring economic benefits by raising house prices on aesthetic grounds and reducing green-space maintenance costs. If you are ready to cash-in on all these benefits, stay with as I take you through the growth of trees.
How Long Does It Take For a Tree to Grow?
As I had mentioned earlier, there is no single answer to how fast trees can grow. There are over 60,000 tree species worldwide and they vary in appearance, size, as well as growth rate. Some trees reach maturity quickly (as fast as 3-5 years) while others grow very slowly, taking hundreds of years to mature. That being said, even within the same tree species, there are a number of things that will determine how fast a particular tree reaches full growth. This includes:
The tree’s location affects its growth rate because it influences several factors. For starters, it determines the climate that a tree grows in. Trees in tropical climates will generally grow faster than those in colder regions. For instance, trees growing near the equator often record growths of several meters annually and tend to reach maturity in as little as 10-20 years. The same type of tree in the northern latitudes will grow a lot slower (about a meter or two per year) and usually takes 30-40 years to reach maturity.
Equatorial trees benefit from having a much longer growing season of about 12 months thanks to more sunlight for photosynthesis and higher temperatures that facilitate tree growth. Latitudinal areas, on the other hand, only offer three months growing period.
Speaking in a more precise context, certain factors around the location of a tree can still influence its growth. For example, a tree planted in the shade will grow slower than one in open sunlight just a few metres away. Elevation also influences how fast a tree grows. The same tree species growing at the top of a hill/mountain could grow at different rates from those at the bottom.
Water plays an important role in the growth of tree and plants in general. It is the primary component in respiration and photosynthesis, a solvent for carbohydrates and minerals moving through the tree, the source of pressure to move roots deeper into the soil, and is responsible for turgor pressure in plant cells, among other things. It goes without saying that trees in rainy areas will experience faster growth than those in hot, dry conditions.
Trees need several elements for normal faster growth. This includes carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen, which are found in air and water, as well as macronutrients such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, nitrogen, sulphur, and phosphorus, which are found in the soil. Trees planted in areas with all these nutrients will obviously grow faster. Most trees can grow on their own but if you want it to reach maturity much faster, you can include fertilization. This is the term used when the above-mentioned nutrients are added to the environment around the tree.
Trees require a lot of tender loving care to grow, and regular tree maintenance is necessary if you want to keep them in prime condition. Pruning, for starters, involves removing dead and dying branches, which in turn stimulates new growth by enhancing overall air circulation and sunlight penetration. By keeping a close eye on your tree’s growth, you will ensure that it has the greatest possible growing conditions so it can reach maturity faster and thrive for many years to come.
Most trees take quite a long time to grow. Luckily, if you’re looking to realize the benefits of a mature tree sooner rather than later, there are some fast-growing tree species that mature within a short time. Homeowners, in particular, usually want fast-growing shade trees in their landscape to reap the benefits sooner. Some of the most popular trees today are the fast-growing kind. Once they are properly planted, in the right conditions, they will grow several feet per year. These trees include:
- Hybrid Poplar: This tree can grow 5-8 feet annually and matures at about 40-50 feet high. This means that, with the right conditions, it can reach full growth in as less as 4-10 years.
- Nuttall Oak: Oak trees are loved by many for their longevity and several other benefits. They naturally take many years to mature but if you’re looking to plant one, you should consider this one as it has an average growth rate of 2.5 feet annually and reaches maturity at 70 feet height.
- Weeping Willow: These tree species can grow from 3-8 feet per year and reaches maturity at 60 feet in height. They will grow especially fast and well in wet areas but there are a variety of hybrids that can do well in drier conditions.
How to Make Your Trees Grow Much Faster
Trees will grow just fine when left to take their natural course, but what if you are looking to speed up the growth process? Perhaps you just bought a new home and want to spruce it up or are considering selling your home and want to upgrade the landscape to add value to it. Whatever your reason for wanting to speed things up, here are a few tips to get you there.
First off, choose a fast-growing tree as I’ve discussed above. Once you’ve selected the tree, the next logical step is to find out its soil, sun, and water requirements because without those you will not get your desired results even with a fast-growing tree. Different trees require different pH levels and nutrients, which makes it very important to test the soil before planting the tree. If there are any deficiencies, make sure you correct the situation by adding those nutrients to the soil.
It’s important to keep fertilizing even after you’ve planted to ensure the contents of the soil meets the needs of the tree at all times. One of the most trusted means for achieving this is using organic mulch. Spread them in the soil around the tree and ensure there are no weeds or grass as they will compete with your tree for the nutrients.
Dead or decayed branches can be detrimental to the overall health of your tree, so consider pruning to stimulate new growth and speed up general growth. Keep in mind that some trees thrive under significant pruning while others only need pruning once in two years.
Do Trees Ever Stop Growing?
The answer is yes and no. The growth rate in trees slows down as they age, just like human beings, and essentially stop gaining height once they get to a certain age. Let’s take an example of the mountain ash. This tree can grow about 7-10 feet every year during its early years, but by the time its 90 years old, its growth rate would have slowed down to about a foot and a half annually. The height growth will virtually stop at around 150 years even though the tree can live another 100 years.
When you look at several mature trees of the same species, you will notice they are similar in height. But while they stop growing in height, trees continue to add width to their trunks and add new rings every year. These rings are what can be counted to determine how old a tree is.
On another note, your tree may have reached a desirable height at which point you would like to slow down or stop its growth. There are plant growth hormone regulators that you can apply to a tree, which will slow down its ability to produce the hormones that stimulate rapid growth.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.