The larch (larix)  is a very popular tree for bonsai, if the number of trees brought along to meetings are anything to go by!

There are two main types of larch that are used in bonsai—the European larch and the Japanese larch. The easy way to see the difference between the two is the colour of the bark. The European larch has a greyish colour, the Japanese is reddish brown. It is also commented that the European larch has a slightly coarser, longer needle, whereas the Japanese almost has a rosette of neat needles.

Shohin larch

Larches can cope with being kept in semi shade or full sun, but the needles will scorch, if the tree is not kept moist. Larches like to be kept pretty moist. It is essential for repotting  to be done before the needles break, but when the buds have swollen and they are just showing a tiny tip of green, but no later (The larch shown above has too much green showing to be safe to repot!)  Pruning also needs to be done before the buds have broken to reduce the stress on the tree. If the pruning is done late winter, then this will encourage the tree to produce new buds ready for spring. Pinch out new growth once the shoot has extended. Studying the growing shoot can reveal the swollen axils where the next buds will come through and you can pinch back to one of those.  Wiring is best done in spring before buds break so that the branch can be seen easily. Be careful not to knock off buds. Another tip is to apply the wire early, but wait to adjust its position once buds start to swell, this way the branch is likely to be slightly more pliable. Larches can thicken quickly, so be sure to check your wire regularly to ensure that it is not digging in.

The larch is a very versatile type of tree and can suit almost every style. The main exception is the broom style. I’m sure someone out there could prove me wrong, but that is the fun of bonsai!


Autumnal larch