Larix bonsai is widely known to be one of the most popular species for bonsai. They are native to much of the cooler temperature of the Northern Hemisphere. You can typically find them in lowlands in the north and high on tall mountains in the south. Larix trees are very frost hardy. It is quite easy to obtain Larix’s raw material and tree trunks, owing to its splendid reputation among vigilant bonsai cultivators.
One of its advantages is that its foliage can have a radical change in appearance throughout the changing seasons. Particularly in the season of spring, the Larix’s small cones appear to be purple in color before browning and persisting on the tree for a number of years before dropping. If one is to keep an eye out for the start of its spring growth, then look out for small whorls of bright green on its branches—which actually resemble shaving bushes.
Naturally from the Northern Hemisphere, Larix is a genus of around 10 species of deciduous, monoecious, and upright trees from coniferous forests. Its young foliage is very pleasing to the eye and attractive. Autumn is its season for displaying brilliant color.
They are one among the most dominant plants in the boreal forests of Canada and Siberia. Although conifers, they are actually deciduous trees that lose their needles in the season of autumn.
As a genus of tall coniferous and deciduous trees, Larix is popular in bonsai for very good reasons.
- They have quickly thickening tree trunks
- Flaky autumn yellow bark
- Small cones and fine bare ramification in winter.
Being one of the most sought-out bonsai, Larix is a gorgeous plant to watch grow up and look after. Its tallest species, Larix occidentalis can reach up to 50 to 60m (165 to 195ft). Its tree crown is sparse and scanty—and the branches are grown and brought horizontal to the stem. Bearing several buds in very dense clusters, the shoots of the tree are dimorphic—with the leaves borne singly on long shoots. As mentioned earlier, the leaves are needle-like because of its long and slender proportions.
The ones that are native to the Northern Hemisphere tend to have small cones with short bracts. On the other side, the Southern Hemisphere have longer cones with exerted bracts—with the longest cones and bracts produced by the southernmost species. The root system of the Larix is deep and broad—and the bark is finely cracked and wrinkled.
How long does it take to grow a Larix bonsai?
The Larix bonsai’s roots typically begin to grow in about 6-12 weeks—by air layering or other methods, the new roots are formed within 1-2 years.
A 2-3ft potted plant can be 12ft tall in 5 years considering it is well looked after.
How to plant and grow Larix bonsai trees?
Before we dive deep into the care and guide of the Larix tree—which we are aware you are patiently waiting for. Let us first take a look at its basic specifics:
Larix trees grow outdoors in all the temperature-cold zones of the northern hemisphere, from North America to northern Siberia, passing through Europe, China and Japan. They live in pure or mixed forests together with other conifers. Due to their fantastic autumn color, Larix is also popular as a bonsai.
Larix trees are hungry for sunlight. They grow best in full sun. Semi-shade is also preferable for this kind during the hottest hours of summer. As mentioned earlier, Larix trees are very frost hardy trees, but it is studied that the plant should be protected from excess rain during the cold seasons.
Basically let the bonsai sit in a sunbathing spot during summer and even midsummer. In the winter months, however, it is best to put them out in the open air. Larix bonsai are one of the few bonsai which has been able to hibernate out in the open for many years without any sorts of problems. A shady and wind protected place will do the trick. Apparently, longer periods of frost keep the Larix tree looking very good.
Larix are cold weather trees. The colder and drier the climate, the more compact the needle growth will be. They require absolutely no winter protection until temperatures drop below -15˚C to -20˚C. But do not fret, bonsai cultivators—Larix grow really well in semi-shade and full sun.
The soil one uses for growing the Larix bonsai is very important. Mainly because not only are we holding the tree back and stunting its growth of the trunk and branches but also the roots as well.
A bonsai soil mix can be purchased as it is. But for the ones who prefer another option, particularly the bonsai cultivators who like to make their own rich mix. Use a mix of grit, organic potting soil, lava rock, pumice, and Akadema, hard baked clay that provides water drainage when mixed with other materials. This type of soil mix is quite brilliant in allowing the roots to split and merge with the rocks.
It is advised to keep the bonsai soil always moist, but do remember that water-clogging is not ideal. They are very sensitive to water and should never be allowed to dry out or stand in water. If one wants shorter needles, then they can try to raise the bonsai with less water. Since Larix bonsai tree should be placed out in the sun to achieve adequate growth, it is also advised to water it twice a day during midsummer.
Do remember, Larix kept out during summer is a very thirsty plant. One good trick is to allow the plant to sit in a very shallow water bowl to ensure sufficient moisture on hot days.
Larix bonsai tree has a habit of growing very quickly. Due to such a habit, the bonsai needs a relatively large amount of nutrients during the start-up phase. Using a high nitrogen product first helps the new and upcoming shoots to develop quite vigorously. A balanced product can be used at the latter stages.
Organic bonsai fertilizers are used every 4 weeks during the growing season—that is from spring to early September. Liquid bonsai fertilizers are also suitable.
Larix trees are naturally defiant to being pot-bound. They have a strong root growth, so depending on age they are repotted annually or bi-annually. They resent root disturbance. Do not bare-root and do not root prune heavily.
Although the foliage grows at a much greater rate than the root ball, young and unrestrained Larix trees grow much quicker as a result. Such quick growth can be slowed down using various bonsai techniques. Repotting should be done in early to mid-spring, or late summer.
It is recommended to repot when the bud starts to gradually open up as at this particular time they can handle root cut very well.
Pruning, Wiring and Styling
They take pruning really well. If there are larger branches than needs to be pruned—this should be done before the tree starts growing. Winter or early spring will definitely do the trick. The branches may also be pruned during autumn-winter, but always leave 2-3 buds on the branch. Avoid cutting mature trees at the same points repeatedly as this produces ugly knobs. Odd and badly positioned buds should be removed before they open. Even without the use of a wound sealant, the plant’s capabilities to heal are very good. Keep in mind, older plants with shorter shoots need only little pruning. Use bonsai scissors for young shoots and sharp concave cutter for stronger branches.
Wire from late spring-autumn. Do not wire before bud bursts as this unfortunately tends to kill cambium. It is studied that the plant responds relatively well to wiring during the growing season. The branches are also very soft, so the bonsai wire has to stay on the tree for longer time. Younger branches of the plant are quite flexible and can be easily shaped with wires and guy wires.
All of the regular bonsai styles are suitable for Larix bonsai tree—except for the broom style. These species are particularly well suited for informal upright bonsai designs.
Larix bonsai can be in danger of black aphids, mealy bugs, tiny aphids which leave drying and kinked needles. Caterpillars, gall midges, bark beetle larvae, saw fly and fungal diseases like grey mold rot and needle cast are also a threat. Try to protect your tree by improving its living conditions by using a specific pesticide.
Sow seed in early spring. Semi-ripe cutting can be difficult to root through, so should be done in summer. Hard wood cutting is easier in winter. Air-layering is successful.
In conclusion, the Larix bonsai tree is a fantastic cultivation. We hope you have as much fun in growing and taking care of it as we did!
Also note some of the other siblings of the Larix tree:
- Larix decidua/European Larch
- Larix kaempferi/Japanese Larch
- Larix x eurolepsis syn L.marschlinsii/Dunkeld Larch
- Larix laricina/ Tamarack (American or Eastern Larch)