How Long Does It Take For A Tree To Grow?

How long it takes for a tree to grow depends entirely on the type of tree, the specific variety, and their growing conditions. Each tree will take its own time and generally takes a couple of decades.However, there are general guidelines that will help you determine how many years until your tree has reached maturity.

I’ll share with you the average age to maturity of the most common large trees in the United States and Europe. Plus, I’ll share some insight into what factors affect tree growth. From wind-breaks to forested areas, large trees play an essential role in the landscape. This way you can plan for the long-term growth of your property.

How long does it take for a tree to grow

How long it takes for a tree to grow depends entirely on the type of tree and growing conditions. For obvious reasons, the type of tree will directly affec the growth rate. Some trees, like eucalyptus, are infamous for their extremely fast growth. They can reach impressive heights in just a few years and mature in 10 years.

So, a eucalyptus tree growing in Portugal, where the growing season is 9 months long, will reach 30 meters in under ten years. To contrast, an oak growing in northern United States or Canada can take up to 40 years to grow 10 meters. Both the type of tree and climate conditions will define tree growth.

Additional, external circumstances like drought or pest pressure can also affect how fast a tree grows. For simplicity, the growing times mentioned in this article assume no added stress from extreme weather, pests, or disease. Keep in mind, however, that these factors will retard tree growth substantially. 

Growing time for large trees or small trees

It takes more time for a large tree to grow because they require an enormous amount of maintenance respiration. Maintenance respiration refers to the amount of energy the tree is spending to maintain existing growth and does not relate to new growth.

Small trees and shrubs grow much faster and don’t need such developed root systems. In this article, focus on the most common large trees in North America and Europe. These large trees will often take decades to mature, but serve crucial roles in the ecosystem.

Do Different Varieties Mature at Different Times

Depending on the variety, it will require a different amount of time for the tree to grow to maturity. I am growing a dwarf variety of Japanese maple on my balcony that reached maturity in about 5 years because it only grew to be about 5 feet tall. Non-dwarf Japanese maples that reach upwards of 60 feet will need more than 30 years to mature. 

This is also the case for red oaks, for example. The Texas red oak is a much smaller variety which reaches maturity in about 15 years, versus their larger northern and southern sister varieties that will take upwards of 25 years.

The information given below is an average for the trees listed. This doesn’t mean that every variety of the species grows at the same rate. Keep this in mind and search for smaller, dwarf varieties if you want less time to maturity.

How Long Does it Take Large North American Trees to Grow

Like we’ve already reviewed, tree growth can very a lot depending on the climate. Below I’ve noted the average amount of years to maturity for the most common trees in North America. However, please remember that trees in colder climates or higher altitudes will take longer to reach maturity than in temperate climates.

Silver Maple

The Silver Maple is a beautiful majestic tree that grows relatively fast in comparison to other large deciduous trees. Silver maples grow on average of five feet per year, so it takes about 10 years to reach maturity. This means the person who planted it can enjoy its shade within their lifetime. That statement might sound absurd, but this is not the case for most trees on the list.

Silver maple leaves
Silver maple trees have intricate fine bright green leaves

If you’re looking for a fast-growing tree variety that will provide some shade in your garden, a silver maple is a great choice. You can transplant trees that already have a few years growth to speed up the process. Once established, silver maples will continue to live for 30 to 130 years. 

American Beech

American beech trees are slow-growing and are vulnerable to many factors that will slow growth even more. Under the best conditions, beech trees will grow between 8 to 12 inches per year.

american beech trees in a forest with rusty coloured leaves
Beech trees have a beautiful smooth grey bark

If everything goes well, American beech trees can live up to 400 years and reach over 120 feet tall! These impressive trees might be extremely slow-growing, but undeniably majestic. 

American beech trees are sensitive to heat and will slow growth in hot summers. Additionally, they are particularly prone to pests and diseases. Before planting an American beech tree, research it well and decide if it’s the right species for you.

White Ash

White ash trees can take anywhere from 16 to 60 years to reach maturity. It grows around 13 to 24 inches per year. White Ash trees are great for providing shade. If you’re looking for a beautiful tree your children will be able to sit under, this is a great choice.

If they stay healthy, white ash trees can live to be 200 years old. Keep them in a sheltered position since the white ash’s soft hardwoodwood can’t withstand strong storms.

Red Oak

Red oaks are native to the United States. They can be divided between the northern, southern, and Texas red oaks. All the red oaks leave’s turn beautiful shades of red and are a beautiful addition to the garden.

a red oak in a forest with red leaves
Red Oak leaves turn an amazing red colour in autumn

The northern red oak are found in colder climates and grow about 24 inches each year. The southern red oak is sensitive to the cold and grows 12 to 36 inches a year.  Both the northern and southern red oaks reach 60 to 80 feet, but this can take at least 30 years.

The Texas red oak, on the other hand, is smaller and tends to only grow to 35 ft tall. It also develops much faster, growing 2 feet per year. In 15 to 20 years you’ll have a beautiful and lush oak. If you’re looking for a variety that will reach maturity in your lifetime, the Taxas red oak is a beautiful option.

Douglas Fir

When you hear the name douglas fir, you might think of christmas. This is because douglas fir trees make up most of the christmas trees grown in the United States. Douglas firs make the perfect christmas tree due to their rapid growth – growing between 12 to 24 inches per year.

Douglas fir trees growing in a forest with straight thick trunks- fully grown
Douglas Fir trees have strong straight trunks and will grow for hundreds of years

If allowed to grow to maturity and beyond, douglas fir trees can reach up to 200 feet!

This is because Douglas firs require 100 to 200 years to reach maturity. If you don’t believe me, check out this study which tracked the difference between young trees, mature trees, and old-growth trees.

A Douglas Fir tree can go on to live for up to 1000 years.

How Long Does it Take Large European Trees to Grow  

Just like with North American trees, where you are in europe will impact the rate of growth. Trees will not grow as quickly in Norway and Sweden as they do in Portugal or Spain. The figures given below are an average estimate.

Fertilize soils and long growing seasons can speed things up while poor soils and cold weather will slow growth. Be patient with your large trees and appreciate the decades (or even centuries) it took for established trees to get to their current height.

Oak

Oaks are one of my favorite trees. There are over 600 varieties of oak trees in the world, each with their own growing patterns and suited to different locations. Oaks are an extremely versatile and abundant tree that can live up to 1,000 years old.

Oak tree in a grass field on its own
Oak trees are majestic and live for a very long time

The bark is used to make cork and acorns provide food, but it takes the oak trees 50 years to reach maturity. Once the tree reaches 700 years it’s considered old growth. Mature trees grow to 45 meters tall and will give over 10 million acorns.

Beech

Beech trees are slow growers but can reach up to 40 meters. They typically grow around 12 to 16 inches per year which means it will take up to 60 years to reach 60 feet. Some varieties and locations can even take 80 years to reach their full height.

Slow growing beech trees are definitely worth the wait. They provide beautiful leaves and lush foliage that will give you plenty of shade.

Birch

Birch trees are one of the fastest growing trees on this list. Silver birch trees are the most common variety of birch tree in europe.

Silver birch trees in a cluster beside a lake
Silver birch have a beautiful silver peeling bark and bright green small leaves

These Silver birch trees can reach up to an impressive 82 feet tall. For smaller gardens, you can get a Himalayan birch that will grow to 50 feet.

Because birch trees grow so fast, they are usually planted for windbreaks that will be effective in five years. Once established, birch trees will live to be between 100 and 150 years old.

Horse Chestnut

In Europe, horse chestnuts are only native to greece and Albania. Though they have been widely naturalized into roadsides and parks. The trees are now famous for their conkers (seeds) and the wood which is perfect for carving.

fully grown horse chestnut tree in a grass field
Horse Chestnut trees are massive when fully grown

Horse Chestnuts are another impressive tree with a long lifespan. Mature horse chestnut trees can grow between 30 to 40 meters tall and live for over 300 years. These long-lived trees grow quite slowly, however, and will only grow about 13 to 24 inches per year.

Table showing growth rate, height, and lifespan of trees

Tree VarietyHeight in 10 YearsFully grown heightLifespan
Silver Maple20ft – 6m80ft – 25m130 years
American Beech8ft – 2.5m120ft – 35m400 years
White Ash15ft – 4.5m80ft – 25m200 years
Red Oak15ft – 4.5m80ft – 25m500 years
Douglas Fir20ft – 6m200ft – 60m1000 years
Oak8ft – 2.5m150ft – 45m1000 years
Beech8ft – 2.5m130ft – 40m300 years
Birch15ft – 4.5m80ft – 25m150 years
Horse Chestnut15ft – 4.5m130ft – 40m300 years
Table showing 10 year growth rate, fully grown height and expected lifespan

Conclusion

Have you ever heard the proverb, “a society grows great when old men plant trees in whos shade they know they shall never sit”.  As I was writing this article, this proverb stuck in the back of my head. If you’re looking to grow something on your property that your grandchildren will enjoy, these slow growing trees are a beautiful heritage.   

Trees take their time to grow and many can take from several decades to over one hundred years! Slow and steady growth is a characteristic trait for key species in the North American and European landscape.

Slow-growing trees are vitally important for these ecosystems. Deep roots contribute to soil health, falling leaves add organic matter, and huge structures provide shelter to insects, animals, and other plants.

To most gardeners who are used to waiting a maximum of three years to enjoy their plants (i.e. asparagus), a decades wait seems unbearable. The year-round beauty, shady canopy, and refuge for local wildlife will make the wait well worth it.