Updated: Feb 9, 2020
A native of central Europe, the European Larch can grow to about 30 meters, a fast-growing deciduous its leaves are soft and grow in whorls held on short woody knobs. Its bark is dark brown in mature trees, greyish in younger trees. Stems display dimorphic characteristics with long shoots that have many buds and small shoots that have just one bud which opens into a single whorl of needles. The needles smell strongly of turpentine.
Styles and Sizes: They make medium to large-sized upright style bonsai and are very popular in forest groups.
Position: Full sun, intolerant of shade and will lose its lower branches if grown in a shady location. Protect small bonsai pots, if the temperatures are like to fall below freezing. Store in an unheated greenhouse during freezing winters.
Watering: Larches are thirsty plants and need copious amount of water. Keep soil moist. Water thoroughly in the morning, so the bonsai has the water when it needs it during the day, and it does not stand in wet soil overnight.
Feeding: Feed in spring and late summer. Feed with a balanced organic fertiliser, if using a liquid fertiliser feed every couple of weeks if using a pelletised version feed every 2 months.
Repotting: For younger bonsai, every year just before buds show in spring, older plants repot only when soil shows signs of depletion. The Larch likes a loam, well-drained, neutral to acidic soil. Use a free-draining loamy soil, use 1part peat or leaf mould, 1 part loam, 1 part sharp sand. Alternatively, use 2 part Akadama and 1 part pumice.
Pruning: Heavy structural pruning should only be carried out once plant is dormant in late autumn early winter. Prune current years shoots when they have fully extended to leave three lateral shoots or active buds.
Wiring: Larches are best styled with the ‘clip and grow’ approach. If wiring needs to be resorted to, wire in autumn, and remove wire when spring growth starts to avoid branches being scarred.