The Best Fast-Growing Shrubs And Bushes For The South

Super-powered shrubs that will thrive in record time.

Viburnum opulus


Whether you’re looking for a fast-growing shrub for privacy, an evergreen shrub that will provide year-round color in your yard, or a flowering shrub to bring a gorgeous display of blooms in the spring and summer, this roundup of enthusiastic growers will make your dreams a reality in no time. These shrub varieties range from true, low-lying varieties to small trees that can be shaped and pruned to suite your space. 

For each plant variety we’ve given hardiness zones, sun exposure needs, and other notable details that can help ensure you find a fast-growing shrub that’s well suited for your needs and climate. And, as you’ll find, there’s a wide variety to choose from. Now let’s talk about growth. Each and every one of our picks clock in between two feet to more than three feet of growth per year. If you’re looking to put your garden on the fast track, these super-powered shrubs will get you there in no time.

01 of 16

Crepe Myrtle

Lagerstroemia (Crepe Myrtle)

Shuiping Wang/Getty

  • Lagerstroemia
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-9
  • Sun Exposure: full 
  • Growth Rate: 24” annually 

While there are a variety of crepe myrtles to choose from, most fall within the shrub or small-tree category. They’re easy to grow and produce long-lasting blooms that start in June, though their exfoliating bark is the true calling card of this Southern classic. 

02 of 16

French Hydrangea

French Hydrangeas
Ralph Lee Anderson
  • Hydrangea Macrophylla 
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9
  • Sun Exposure: partial
  • Growth Rate: 24” annually

The French hydrangea (also known as bigleaf hydrangea) is a showstopping shrub that produces profuse blooms in either mopheads or lacecaps in the summer. If you want the blooms to keep popping throughout the growing season, select a repeat-blooming variety that will flower on both old and new growth.

03 of 16

North Privet

Ligustrum Plant

Dennis Gross / EyeEm / Getty

  • Ligustrum x ibolium
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-8
  • Sun Exposure: partial to full
  • Growth Rate: 3’ per year

The fastest growing shrub on this list, north privet matures rapidly to a height of up to 8- to 12-feet tall and 4- to 6-feet wide. Its appearance is characterized by a pyramid-like shape and glossy, dark green leaves. Beware of confusing north privet with its invasive cousin, Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense).

04 of 16

Old Fashioned Weigela

Weigela florida

Federica Grassi/Getty

  • Weigela florida
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9
  • Sun Exposure: partial to full
  • Growth Rate: 13” to 24” per year

While certainly not the fastest grower on this list, weigela shrubs are still a good choice for dense growth and relatively quick spread. They can reach their mature size within a few growing seasons. Bell-shaped rosy pink flowers appear throughout April and May.

05 of 16



Elena Popova/Getty

  • Forsythia x intermedia
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-8
  • Sun Exposure: partial to full
  • Growth Rate: 24” per year

With upright, sometimes arching branches and a cloud of yellow blooms that flower on last year’s wood, the forsythia is an iconic sight in the South. It will grow in a rounded shape and reach a height of 8- to 10-feet in maturity. If you’re looking for a smaller variety, opt for a more compact form like the Show Off Sugar Baby

06 of 16

Beauty Bush

Kolkwitzia amabilis

Kevin Kobs/Getty

  • Kolkwitzia amabilis
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-8
  • Sun Exposure: partial to full
  • Growth Rate: 24” per year 

Best suited for the Upper South, the beauty bush is beloved for its abundant pink flowers that complement the deep green foliage. It can be used as either a focal point in the garden or as a stunning hedge. When it reaches maturity, it can reach from 6- to 10-feet tall and wide. 

07 of 16

Chaste Tree

Vitex agnus-castus


  • Vitex agnus-castus
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-9
  • Sun Exposure: full
  • Growth Rate: 24” per year

If you’re planting a chaste tree, just make sure these large, rounded shrubs have plenty of room to grow. They feature grayish-green leaves and fragrant panicle blooms in shades of white, pink, or lavender. 

08 of 16

Snowball Bush

Viburnum opulus


  • Viburnum opulus 
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-8
  • Sun Exposure: partial to full
  • Growth Rate: 24” per year

While they might have blooms that look similar, don’t mistake viburnum with the mophead hydrangea. Viburnum opulus, the most recognizable of viburnum varieties, can grow up to 12-feet tall with a spread of 12 to 15 feet. They’re not extremely fast growers, but the cloud of flowers that appear in May are worth waiting for. 

09 of 16

‘Grosso’ Lavender

'Grosso' Lavender

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  • Lavandula × intermedia 'Grosso'
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 
  • Sun Exposure: full
  • Growth Rate: 24” per year

Not all lavender varieties are well-suited for the South, nor are all varieties as quick to spread as ‘grosso’ lavender. It features silver foliage and fragrant purple blooms. While mature ‘grosso’ lavender only reaches about 30-inches in height, it can spread up to 48 inches, making it a great option for an area where you need a swath of color—and quick.

10 of 16

Cleyera Bigfoot

Bigfoot Cleyera

Southern Living Plants

  • Ternstroemia gymnanthera 'Sotall'
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 7-10
  • Sun Exposure: partial to full sun
  • Growth Rate: 18” per year

Cleyera bigfoot are a favorite for hedges and privacy screens due to their fast-growing nature and appealing, glossy green foliage. They’re upright growers that are low-maintenance and provide year-round color thanks to their evergreen leaves. They will reach a height of 15 to 20 inches and 5- to 6-inches wide. 

11 of 16

Butterfly Bush

Buddleia 'Blue Chip' Lo and Beh


  • Buddleia 'Blue Chip' Lo and Beh
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9
  • Sun Exposure: full sun
  • Growth Rate: 24” per year

If you’re looking to attract hummingbirds and butterflies to your yard and need a fast-growing shrub, you’ll find both in the butterfly bush. Fragrant, star-shaped flowers with a barely blue appearance in a clustered spike require no deadheading and provide a pretty counterpoint to dark green leaves. Plant in well-drained soil. 

12 of 16


Callicarpa americana


  • Callicarpa americana
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-10
  • Sun Exposure: partial to full sun
  • Growth Rate: 13” to 24” per year

Tiny, bright purple berries that appear in fall and winter and pale purple or pink flowers that burst forth in the summer months make this a fast-growing shrub with year-round appeal. They’ll attract a wide variety of winter birds to your yard throughout the season. If you’re looking to up the berry production, consider planting beautyberry en masse. 

13 of 16


Loropetalum chinense

Elizabeth Fernandez/Getty

  • Loropetalum chinense
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-10
  • Sun Exposure: partial to full sun
  • Growth Rate: 6” to 24” per year

The evergreen shrub features green foliage on arching branches and spidery flowers that appear both at the top of shoots and between the shoot and leaf (known as the leaf axil) in color ranging from off-white to pink. Opt for loropetalum to bring color and texture to your garden early in the spring when other flowering shrubs haven’t yet begun their show. 

14 of 16

Cherry Laurel

Prunus laurocerasus


  • Prunus laurocerasus
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-10
  • Sun Exposure: partial to full sun
  • Growth Rate: 24” per year

Cherry laurel is a popular shrub in the South, oftentimes used for hedges. While it can grow up to 20-feet tall, but can be maintained in a smaller size if needed. Spiky, white flowers appear in midspring but can sometimes be hidden behind the glossy and elongated foliage. Black berries appear in the fall for an interesting encore. 

15 of 16

Fragrant Lilac

Syringa vulgaris

By Eve Livesey/Getty

  • Syringa vulgaris
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-7
  • Sun Exposure: partial to full sun
  • Growth Rate: 13” to 24” per year

Fragrant lilac will start off as a fast grower, tapering off as it nears maturity. You might catch a whiff of lilac before you catch sight of its fragrant, lilac blooms that appear in April and May. While it’s always tempting to try lilac in warmer USDA zones, this variety isn’t suited for the humid conditions of the lower South. 

16 of 16

Red Twig Dogwood

Cornus sericea


  • Cornus sericea
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-8
  • Sun Exposure: partial to full sun
  • Growth Rate: 24” per year

Ideal for the Upper South, this dogwood that’s named for its red bark is the outlier in a family of otherwise slower-growing varieties. It’s a great choice both for its resiliency and versatility whether as a true shrub or hedge. Once mature, it will reach a height of 7 to 9 feet and 10-feet wide. 

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