Development zones are important growth poles for promoting regional economic development. However, the spatiotemporal relationship between development zone construction and urban land growth is still unclear. This paper analyzes the spatiotemporal changes of national-level development zones (NDZs), approximately 219 national economic development zones, and 156 high-tech development zones during 1990-2018 in China. The impact of development zone establishment on the growth of surrounding urban land was quantitatively explored using circle buffering analysis and time series comparative analysis. The results show that China’s NDZs spread from the southeast coast to the inland area from 1990 to 2018, and the establishment of the development zones has an obvious promoting effect on the surrounding urban land growth. The scope and intensity of influences of the development zone established in different periods present distinct nonstationarity in space and time. Overall, the impact on urban land (IU) of China’s NDZs established in different years was mostly highest at the 100 m buffer zone radius, while the slope of the IU was mostly negative, which meant that the 100 m buffer zone radius of the development zone center was the most efficient scale to promote urban land growth. In the meantime, the curve of IU of NDZs established before 1990, during 1996-2000 and 2001-2005 has a clear inflection point, which indicates that the most efficient scales of NDZs established before 1990, during 1996-2000, and 2001-2005 are 1300 m, 900-1000 m, and 800 m, respectively. NDZs established in other periods do not have the most obvious efficient scale. The development zone played the greatest role in promoting urban land growth from 2000 to 2010. Three association modes, including post-growth, pre-growth and steady-growth, were identified based on the differences in geographical location, establishment time, and type of development zones. We quantitatively identify the impact of the growth pole of NDZs on urban land growth from the perspective of spatiotemporal evolution. The findings would provide decision-making support for optimizing the spatial relationship between development zone construction and urban land growth.