I'm searching for species that would grow fast to become field windbreaks and I have found a lot of articles on the web about this.

However, I'm more interested in knowing if any of you have had or have actually grown them (in USDA hardiness zone 6). What species would you recommend based on such expertise?

  • @bamboo sun chokes (they get to be like a seasonal bush), among other things, what do you want to do with it? Feb 13 '17 at 20:47
  • 2
    Because it seems like an interesting science project with low costs and I am a prying student. :)
    – Alina
    Feb 13 '17 at 22:01
  • 1
    How about Ulex europaeus, that's pretty fast growing dendro.cnre.vt.edu/dendrology/syllabus/factsheet.cfm?ID=933
    – Bamboo
    Feb 13 '17 at 22:44
  • 1
    1: assuming you have a field and want a windbreak (evidently not if you are tissue culturing in a lab?) 2. fast growing is often not long-lived, so a mixture of species is usually a better bet - the fast and weak can be pruned out as the slower and stronger grow. 3. I tend towards the multi-purpose approach where much of the row is also producing fruits or nuts. 4. hybrid poplar is the speed champ last I knew, but I'm not overly fond of it. Then again, I don't live on the windswept plains.
    – Ecnerwal
    Feb 14 '17 at 1:55
  • 1
    Thank you all for giving me ideas. If you'd like, feel free to post your comments as answers because they are helpful and worthy of being read even after this post gets old.
    – Alina
    Feb 14 '17 at 6:10

There may be some difference between a fast windbreak and an ideal windbreak. Since many fast growing deciduous trees provide little wind breakage in the winter months, my go-to choice for screening/windbreaks is Thuja (standishii x plicata) 'Green Giant'. I am in USDA hardiness zone 6 and they thrive here in Pennsylvania. Here are some reasons why I prefer this tree over some others (such as leyland cypress).

  • The plant can easily put on 3 feet a year or more
  • Adaptable to all soil types (sand, clay, shale, low nitrogen, dry, etc) except for saturated.
  • Very uniform grower in a group planting such as a windbreak
  • Flexible branches can easily withstand 2' of snow
  • Bright green year round
  • Deer resistant (as compared with emerald arborvitae)
  • Very disease/pest resistant - generally carefree
  • Thrives in dappled to full sunlight

The downside is the cost, which is high if you are getting large trees to start with, like most people prefer to do. But if you start with 3' trees, you have a 20' windbreak in less than 10 years, and 30' ten years after (with proper spacing). That is fast for a conifer.

If you need a deciduous tree for some reason, i would choose the 'Hybrid Willow', for fast growth. They advertise 12-20' of growth a year, but when I've planted them, they pushed 6-10' a year for the first few years. Still pretty fast though. Because this isn't a long lived tree, and won't look so great after 30 years, I'd plant a second row of trees (something slower and more substantial) in the back. When they reach the height you need, you could cut back the willows (In that case prepare for insane regrowth).

Here's a list of good windbreaks that take longer to grow (only species which I've used for this in zone 6 where I live):

  • Blue Spruce, Very dense, generally carefree, not uniform if grown from seed
  • Eastern White Pine, faster growing, less dense. Can be picky with soil
  • Dawn Redwood, good apical dominance, grows in damp or dry soils. Less dense, deciduous. Fast growing
  • Bald Cypress, similar to Dawn Redwood, slower growing, can grow in wet soil/standing water
  • Norway Spruce, one of the best adapted conifers to this climate. Dense with sufficient moisture (dry soil causes shedding of branchlets)'
  • Street Keeper® Honeylocust. Very happy with the growth rate, density, structural integrity and pest/disease resistant. Adaptable with an aggressive root system.

And some which I did not prefer (ended up being high maintenance or needing replacement with a different species)

  • Lombardy Poplar, short lived, disease prone, prone to storm damage (also cottonwood)
  • Douglas Fir, not well adapted to this climate. Needs yearly spraying for needle cast and other diseases
  • Siberian Elm, not very dense, prone to storm damage
  • Black Locust, low foliage, disease prone
  • 1
    Thuya plicata virescens...more columnar, I'd say conical. And very thick yet very strong. Wind breaks in my opinion should not be too thick as they 'catch' the wind. More airiness makes a far better wind break. Thinning trees works far better but is a lot of work. My choice, Salix purpurea 'nana' is very dense yet the branches are flexible! It doesn't get weaker with age either.
    – stormy
    Feb 15 '17 at 22:06
  • @stormy it is suceptible to borers and anthracnose where I live. I haven't needed to plant any, but a few have fallen into my care
    – J. Musser
    Feb 16 '17 at 5:23
  • Mine were wonderful but I did have one that flagged.
    – stormy
    Feb 16 '17 at 16:32

Depends what you want in the way of thickness of foliage blocking the wind or whether the barrier should be effective against other things such as deer. I have light sandy type soil and wanted to plant white pine as a windbreak and later for lumber. But the deer ate all the seedlings except one. Then I planted white spruce which the deer left alone; they produced a nice thick barrier which is very good against wind and somewhat effective against deer.

An alternative that gorws fast, makes a less thick barrier but is vulnerable to beaver damage here is white poplar. (Zone 3)


My favorite is Blue Arctic Willow, Salix purpurea 'nana'. Not 'nana' at all. Full of foliage, flexible fine branches, grows quickly...looks spectacular summer and winter (glossy copper fine branches that don't break). Easy and fun to prune, heck, I made hedges out of them...if one doesn't hedge, they grow to 30 feet by 30 feet. Blue green foliage, tiny leaves, forget about cleaning leaves off lawns, etc. Terribly hardy down to zone 1B!! Not enough woody trunk or stems for beaver to care about. They might want to use stems for weaving...dunno. Deer? Dunno, lots of branches and foliage but I've never seen any deer damage. That copper shines in the winter. So easy and actually fun to prune. Moves in the wind. Check out this wonderful shrub!!

I can send pics if you'd like!

  • Hi stormy. I think pictures would be great. I've never even heard the term "windbreak" and I'd like to see something that's actually growing. Also, pictures are always helpful to all the people who'll see this for years! Thanks! Feb 15 '17 at 20:52

I can recommend Colorado Spruce - Picea pungens.

It is grown in our gardens as an ornamental tree in 99% of cases. However, it is less known that it is one of the best windbreak trees ever. It will calm down the strongest winds, almost unbelievable effect.

Plus, there are numerous cultivars for every taste.

It does grow a bit slower than average, but if you are patient, give her a chance!


It would be very helpful to know several more factors about Alina's field site. "USDA Zone 6" refers only to average minimum and maximum temperatures. I didn't see any mention of state and region--but I am very new to this blog. The woody plants that contributors have mentioned will not grow equally in all climates and soils in Zone 6. We readers need to know:

  1. Amount of precipitation, by season. The West, for instance, has very little rainfall in summer, which often severely limits which species will thrive. The very fertile Palouse region (Zone 6) of northwestern Idaho and neighboring parts of Washington have historically used Black Locust on ridgetops. This has been successful, though this species is now succumbing to an exotic borer insect. Colorado Spruce, as VividD noted, is dense--and it is also somewhat drought-tolerant as well as disease and pest resistant in the West.
  2. If the windbreak will be on a ridge. If so, adequate moisture becomes even more essential.
  3. Will the windbreak be some distance from the field? If not, rhizomatous trees (e.g. certain poplars) may invade the field, sometimes during a single fallow season. However, with luck, the rhizomatous feature could serve to increase the density of the windbreak.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.