Larch trees (Larix) are amongst of the few deciduous conifer. The blue to green needles become yellow in fall and eventually shed to regenerate themselves next spring. The cones of the larix trees are small and are beautifully in proportion on any sizes of bonsai tree. Some species are very hardy to cold which makes them popular in some cold regions of the world. The trunk thickens very quickly which once again makes it a great bonsai tree candidate specie. The larix genus is composed of 10 species of tree found in the northern hemisphere of the globe.
This specie is also know as Larix leptolepis or Japanese larch for itís common name. It is native of Japan, but it is also found in many countries as forestry material. It will produce bluish-green needles of a ligther green then other larch tree species. It is very similar to the European larch but the way to differentiate them occurs in winter. The new twigs of the Japanese larch are reddish and the twigs of the European are more of a yellow.
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This specie of larch is found in high altitude mountains in Europe. It is resistant to colder climate then the Japanese larch but not as hardy as the tamarack larch. The bark is greyish and will form cracks on older mature trees. It is the fastest and more vigorous growing larch in is early days and will eventually be the tallest of the larch. It will adapt nicely to bonsai techniques such as dwarfing. Very similar to Larix Kaempferi, see above.
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The coldest tolerant larch of the larch family of trees. Very popular replacement for other species of larch in cold climate region of the world. It is also known as the tamarack larch or the eastern larch. As a mature tree, it is the smallest of the larch trees. The bark is gracious in color, generating a pinkish-brown tone on both juvenile and mature bark.
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Larch Bonsai care
Larch bonsai do prefer a full sun position but will also grow well in a semi-shaded area of your bonsai garden.
Larches are naturally growing in very wet soil. This means you should not let the soil dry in between watering. You can gradually reduce the watering level with time. This will result in shorter needles over the years.
Feeding and Fertilizer
To promote vigorous growth in early spring it is recommended to feed heavily with an high nitrogen content fertilizer. You should be reducing the fertilizer dosage in mid summer. Low nitrogen in the end of summer is recommended to strengthen the larch tree for the upcoming winter season. Mature bonsai tree will require less fertilizer and cutting down on fertilizer will produce smaller needles.
Larch Bonsai Techniques
Repotting often is considered a good habit for larch bonsai. They do not like to be root bound and will show sign of distress when they are root/pot bound. Repotting should be done in early spring before the buds open.
Less fertilizer will reduce the growth rate which is good for trees we want to keep to a bonsai-like size.
Wiring should be done in late summer as an early wiring will kill the fragile cambium.
Pruning should be done in late summer but always leave 2-3 buds on a branch to prevent die back. To preserve style, simply pinch new shoots.
Larch Bonsai pests and diseases
Larch tree are prone to scale and aphids, but these pests are easily removed with conventional treatments.
Larch trees are affected by a few diseases such as the honey fungus and the dreaded "mysterious wilting disease" which is always fatal to larch.
Larch Bonsai propagation
Seeds: Larch Seeds must be sown in early spring and may take a while to germinate. The seedlings are vigorous.
Cuttings: Larch cuttings can be taken in mid summer. Rooting is difficult and may require rooting hormones. Soil should be kept moist to promote rooting.
Air Layering: Air layers can be done in early spring in order to give time in summer to develop enough roots. Collar or peel bark methods are effective with larch bonsai trees.
Yamadori: Larch can be collected in the wild and this method is popular in Canada where larix laricina trees are native.