Larch bonsai care
Larch bonsai care
Larch bonsai are extremely hardy in winter and shows very attractive budding in spring. Once established in the bonsai pot, this bonsai species are very straightforward. Only when repotting a larch bonsai the time in early spring must be kept exactly.
Larch bonsai care in a nutshell:
- Fertilisation: Fertilize in the growing season with an organic bonsai fertilizer like Biogold or Hanagokoro
- Irrigation: Never let a larch tree bonsai dry out, preferably moderately moist
- Overwintering: Tolerates even wintering outdoors without protection
- Repotting: Repot the larches in a well-drained bonsai soil (for example Akadama) only if the buds becoming thick (short before opening in march).
Diseases, Pests |
Due to their fast-growing habit, larch bonsai (especially in the start-up phase) need a relatively large amount of nutrients. Organic bonsai fertilizers (e.g., Biogold and Hanagokoro) are administered every 4 weeks during the growing season (spring to early September). On a 5x5cm substrate surface press every 4 weeks a pellet of eg. Biogold or Hanagokoro into the bonsai soil.
Liquid bonsai fertilizers are also suitable, but are used less often. Since the nitrogen content is low here, you can double the application in the growth period compared to the instructions on the bottle.
Keep the bonsai soil always moist (but no waterlogging). Since the Japanese larch can (and should) be placed in the sun, it may even have to be watered twice a day in midsummer. In winter irrigation is significantly reduced. Nevertheless, dehydration must also be avoided here.
Larch trees are hungry for sunshine. Place your larch bonsai to a sunbathing spot, even in midsummer.
Healthy specimens are completely hardy bonsai in our latitudes. It is best to put them in the open air during the cold season. Hibernation at temperatures above 0°C has no advantages.
Larch bonsai are one of the few bonsai species that we have been able to hibernate outdoors for many years without problems. For this purpose, we simply put the larches on shady and wind protected place. Even longer periods of frost keep a larch bonsai looking good.
The only exception we make during the wintering of larch bonsai in the open air: If a bonsai has been freshly wired and the branches are more bent we place the trees into an unheated foil tent in winter. Here, no water can enter the microcracks in the bark of the branches, which could eventually lead to damage due to freezing.
Japanese larches have a strong root growth. Therefore, depending on age, they are repotted every year (1-3 year old young plants) until every 5 years (finished, older specimens). Akadama is suitable. We have had very good experience with bonsai substrates like lava rock. They hold the structure for as long as you like, leaving a lot of air at the roots. In a cultivation pot, we use lava rock almost pure.
We repot all bonsai at the beginning of March. Exactly when the buds start to open. At this time Japanese larch bonsai can tolerate a root cut very well. Only a month before or later, the risk of the larch bonsai taking damage increases significantly.
Larch bonsai are almost never attacked by pests. We have never noticed anything for the Japanese larch. Also no fungal diseases.
⧉ Larch infested by Spruce aphid
European larches get aphids from time to time. These are usually recognized very quickly and well by kinked needles. The most common species is the Green spruce gall aphid (Sacchiphantes viridis). It uses the European larch as intermediate host. An infestation with it is not further tragic for the larch bonsai. Since it looks ugly, it is recommended to treat the tree with commercially available insecticides against sucking insects when it first appears. Similar to an infestation with another Spruce aphid (Adelges geniculatus). Again, a quick application against sucking insects help.
Larches are reproducible by tree seeds. But since they are already available in tree nurseries as 1-year-old seedlings for less than 1 Euro, sowing does not make sense for the layman.
Larch bonsai styling
Larch bonsai styling in a nutshell:
- Wiring: Branches are very soft - the bonsai wire has to stay on the tree longer
- Pruning: Wound healing is very good, even without wound sealant. Older larches with short shoots need only little pruning. Use a bonsai scissors for pruning the young shoots and a sharp concave bonsai cutter for removing stonger branches
What are the advantages of a larch bonsai ?
- Larch Bonsai are absolutely hardy. For example we overwinter Larix kaempferi trees outside (sheltered, shady) without problems
- Wounds close quickly and well. Without wound wound sealant paste. Free growth = fast wound closure
- Rough bark: From 15 years slowly visible. In the plant container culture the rough bark appears earlier than in the field culture
- Very attractive sprouting out in the spring. Older larch bonsai with many short shoots
- Fast growth allows creating a bonsai from young plants in a relatively short time
- Larch cones are often found on trees older than 15 years
- The surface roots near trunk basis (Nebari) of young larch trees can easily improved by air layering or tourniquet method. The new roots are formed within 1 year
- Japanese larch bonsai are hardly affected by pests
- Branches remain flexible for a long time. This makes it possible to form even older larches as bonsai well
Bonsai pots |
Flowers, Fruits |
Bark, Roots |
Bonsai wiring is best done in autumn after the fall of needles. If the bonsai does not grow too much the bonsai wire can often stay on the tree until next fall. When the wire starts to push into the bark - unwire the bonsai. It is best to rewire immediately afterwards (if the branch does not hold the position yet).
Even stronger branches are still bendable so that even with older larch bonsai there are few problems with wiring the bonsai. If a branch is bent more, the larch bonsai should be protected from rain next winter. In the open air rain penetrates the cracks and can peel off the bark of the bonsai when frozen. Then sometimes the branch dies.
Tolerates branch and shoot pruning very well with perfect wound healing. Young shoots can be shortened all year round with a sharp bonsai scissors. For a more radical shape cut the early spring (before budding) is the best time. At young larches you can find many long shoots, which must be shortened (pluck or cut). Older bonsai increasingly produce short shoots, so that a frequent cutting is rarely necessary.
Larch bonsai are suitable for most of the bonsai styles, with the exception of the broom shape. This species is particularly well suited for informal upright bonsai designs. With young plants, group plantings (forest style) can be realized quickly.
Matching bonsai pots
Larch bonsai, like most conifer bonsai, fit best in an unglazed bonsai pot. Glazed bonsai pots are usually too conspicuous and would attract too much attention. If glazed, then the glaze should be very dull and rather dark.
Since larches belong to the hardy outdoor bonsai, a frost-resistant, handmade bonsai pot should be selected if possible. The cheap bonsai pots (made for indoor bonsai) are in our experience almost 100% frost resistant. However, we do not guarantee frost resistance with these pots. Many offered larch bonsai are Yamadori (trees taken from nature). The quality of the inexpensive pots is then not suitable for a frequently expensive larch Yamadori. For larger Yamadori or large Japanese bonsai you will find suitable pots under Large bonsai pots.
Larch bonsai with a harmonious shape fit well in an oval bonsai pot. Rectangular bonsai pots are also suitable if they have slightly rounded corners. Rectangular bonsai pots without round corners are more suitable with dramatic designs.
Higher, round bonsai pots are particularly fine for larches in a semi-cascade or cascade style. Flat, round pots for the literati style. Bonsai pot drip trays are not needed because larch bonsai can not be kept in the apartement.
For larch prebonsai in the first years the plastic bonsai pots are fine. The dark brown color fits with a needle tree and looks not bad, the pots are UV-stable and a cheap alternative for a handmade pot.
Flowers occur on larch bonsai for the first time at about 15 years on, but then regularly. Larch bonsai regularly develops cones that look very decorative.
⧉ Larch bonsai with bark
The bark becomes rough and barky after a few years of cultivation in the nursery.
The surface roots near trunk basis (Nebari) of young larch trees (both Japanese larch and European larch) can easily improved by air layering or tourniquet method. The new roots are formed within 1-2 years.
Species and varieties
Certain varieties are not important in the bonsai design of larches. In the tree species, the Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi) is preferable to the European larch (Larix decidua). It grows much less complicated, gets no aphids and the green of their needles looks much fresher.
Larches (genus Larix, family Pinaceae) are excellent conifers for the bonsai design. In winter, without needles, possibly with a few cones on the branches, larch bonsai look particularly attractive. And every year in spring the sprouting out impresses again and again.
Larch trees are especially found in the cooler areas of the northern hemisphere and are one of the predominant tree species in the forests of Russia, Canada, Scandinavia. Larches are usually 20-40m high. They shed their slender needles (2-5cm) in the fall and are extremely hardy.
Larch bonsai have 2 different types of shoots:
- Long shoots: Up to 50cm long, needles single, spiral shaped. Especially on fast growing, young larch bonsai
- Short shoots: Extremely short, needles are tuft-shaped (20-50 pieces). Short shoots work better on bonsai. Mainly on older trees
Larch bonsai - Pictures
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
What to do if my larch bonsai looses the needles ?
In fall you do not have to do anything. A larch drops the needles in autumn and goes into hibernation.
If a larch bonsai looses the needles in the spring or summer it is very bad. Maybe it was too dry. Larches need a lot of water. Or the bonsai was repotted too late. Larches should only be repotted immediately before the buds opens.
In both cases, you can do not so much. A larch bonsai, which looses the needles in the growing season is often lost.
Keep it moderately moist, place it wind-protected and partially shaded. Do not repot, do not fertilize. Just leave alone.
If the bonsai is still alive, sooner or later it will sprout out again. Then give more water and fertilize.