Larch or “Larix” are one of the commonly used trees for Bonsai. These are a very good species to work with for Novices through to expert level Bonsai projects. It’s generally a very forgiving tree and lends itself well to Bonsai.
It is a Conifer though is Deciduous, so allows you the chance to get inside the foliage during the Winter months to work on the branch structure. Due to the easy to spot buds/node it can make wiring easier for a beginner and the wood is fairly soft and pliable, so makes bending branches easy. It can mark easily though if you leave the wire on for too long, but a healthy tree that is young and growing with vigour can grow out any wiring scars if that happens.
For a more detailed overview: Wikipedia article about Larch.
Why I grow Larch trees for Bonsai Material?
Larix decidua (European) & Larix leptolepis (Japanese) are the varieties I grow from Seed. These will be some of the main stock I use for Bonsai Therapy and for selling eventually as my current stock matures and becomes ready to be crafted into Bonsai.
- Position – Full Sun (Some shade at hottest part of day may be required.)
- UK Hardy (Down to – 15 degrees Celsius.)
I like the versatility of Larch, its speed of growth if given the right conditions, how fast they can grow from seed and the bark can throw up some lovely markings. It makes a great Bonsai on its own but can really shine as a group planting. Some of the loveliest Bonsai I have seen are mini Larch forests.
As I like to grow my own material from seed, Larch is a stand out species for me though. The seed tends to germinate well and very quickly, usually within 2 weeks you have healthy seedlings showing and they are easy to work with once they pop out from seed. They are not overly fussy and a warm windowsill and some water a few times per week is more than enough usually to get them to start germinating and growing on.
The Foliage/needles are however one of the main draws with the use I have in mind for them. The Foliage is very soft and has a highly tactile nature/appeal for working with them. While they look like they make be spiky much akin to a Christmas tree/Pine, they are ever so soft and are very pleasant to run your fingers through. They also often have stunning markings on the bark, almost like Tiger stripes in younger trees which later will toughen up and develop into another tactile element as well as visually pleasing.
I’ve got several Larch in the ground growing on to fatten up that came from seed that are perhaps 4 years old and some are over 6 foot tall and are gaining a nice fat trunk and have thick branching already starting to develop. The roots are not wild and deep so it lends itself well for this kind of growing cycle. It doesn’t take much to dig one up even if it has been in the ground for a few years maturing. (Depending on your soil type and quality!)
The trees in the picture above were not grown from seed by myself, these were bought in stock that were initially bought as Bonsai “starter material” so came in plastic pots and I decided to grow them on after they spent a year or so in a Bonsai pot while I was learning the basics of caring for them and when I started on my journey into keeping Bonsai trees..
Due to the requirement to move them and get underneath to root prune them as you can see, they had a vigorous pruning after being dug up. These trees will bounce back quickly once Spring gets underway and will quickly put out new growth and get established again with basic aftercare.
Things you need to know about Larch.
Doesn’t like having it’s roots disturbed! – They resent being root pruned or moved about once settled. So ensure any work of this nature is done at the end of the growing season once the foliage has fallen off and the tree is dormant or just before the buds break in late Winter/Early Spring. Try and avoid bare rooting the tree if at all possible.
They also resent being rootbound, so a pot full of roots will make for an unhappy tree. This may mean annual/biannual repotting.
Can be very thirsty if placed in a Full Sun position, so daily watering may be required during the hotter periods of the growing season.
Larch has very few other issues and only suffers with Aphids and Scale insects.
It can grow rapidly!