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Larch bonsai pruning

The way to create a good larch bonsai (Japanese larch, Larix kaempferi, Larix leptolepis) is long and consists of many sections. The styling of the basic structure of the crown followed by its refinement are important stages on this path. The structural pruning of fast growing shoots (long shoots) plays a central role in refining the crown of a bonsai. Here we show you what is important when pruning a larch bonsai.

Why is growth control necessary ?

Japanese larches, like all bonsai trees, need light. To get the light they have to grow quickly. If the larch grows too slowly it is overgrown by other plants and usually dies.

In order to gain height quickly, the Japanese larch, especially as a young tree, must grow at the top very fast. For this purpose, larch shoots growing below are inhibited in their growth by growth hormones formed in the top shoots. The tree does not want to waste reserves on branches that will soon get too little light in the lower crown area.

This dominance of the tree top (also called apical dominance) varies depending on the tree species. The stronger a tree is apically dominant, the faster a shoot takes over and suppresses the rest. Larches, both the European larch (Larix decidua, light gray shoots in winter) and the Japanese larch (red-brown shoots), are strongly apical dominant.

When styling a bonsai, especially when refining a bonsai crown, the apical dominance is very disruptive. If we did not intervene regularly by cutting back the strong shoots, the crown growth would be very one-sided. Again and again the strong shoots grow stronger and the weaker ones die. It is not possible to build a fine crown without pruning the strong growing shoots.

The larch bonsai is often pruned in the middle of the growing season. Than new shoots quickly form. A good time to prune a bonsai is early June. New shoots can harden (mature) well until next winter.

Pruning the long shoots - Example 1


  • 2002-2003 sowing, put through a clay disc as a seedling for air-layering (forming of nice roots - Nebari)
  • 2005-2008 The trunk of the prebonsai was wired, roots were corrected annually
  • 2008-2014 Growth in a plastic cultivation pot with annual pruning of the main shoots
  • 2014-2015 Repot into a bonsai pot, first design (picture)

Pruning the long shoots - Example 2

Identical history, also 13 years old: Japanese larch bonsai, before and after the initial design of the tree crown.

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