Larch from Seed

When I told of of my bonsai friends that I was planning on starting some larch from seed, he looked at me like I was dense and asked “Why?”

It is a fair question since we have access to very good wild larch in this part of the world. However, the good larch grow in rocky soil and larch in rocky soil send out just two or three large roots, therefore almost always having a bad nebari. Furthermore, collected larch have a rough and wild appearance. You will never find a collected larch with the features needed to make a “softer” classic upright bonsai. I’m not saying the classic look is better than the wild look. They are just different… and different is good in a bonsai collection.

Newly collected larch. The appearance is coarse and wild, with sharp curves and great bark. The nebari is buried, but trust me – its bad. Note the natural sacrifice branch :)

The question still remains – why larch? Why not something more classic like maple or black pine? There are three answers for that: 1) I see larch as one of the most beautiful species on the planet, 2) Larch can growvery fast in my climate when you want them to, and 3) Larch are bomb-proof and idiot-proof (so long as they are established). I am very lazy and hate dealing with exotic species that require special attention in the winter.

The only drawback I see in American larch is the slow bark development. For that reason, I am also growing some Japanese larch as apparently they bark up faster.

Basically I just want to produce some very nice shohin larch and also have some larch to plant in the ground as longer term “bigger” projects.

The process starts by making seedling-cuttings. The idea is you remove the taproot a few weeks after germination to promote lateral root growth early in the life of the tree.I’ve never done this with larch, but don’t see why it won’t work.

Little seedlings waiting to have their roots removed.

The best time to do this for pines is when the stem has turned reddish-purple, so I’m assuming the same applies to larch. Rooting hormone was applied after this step.

They were planted in a mix of turface fines and perlite. A top layer of something finer like sand would have been better, but I didn’t really have anything available. The seedlings are now in part shade and covered in a dome to increase humidity.

6 Responses

  1. crust

    After all the stuff I have tried this is one thing I wish I had done this more 30 years ago so bravo! It will be interesting to see if good well distributed roots develop. This year I bought 25 larch bareroot ( 6-12 inch) seedlings through our county and trimmed up the roots aggressively and replanted them with the same plans. Here is a tree I started from a seedling long ago. I grew it in the ground for a long time.[IMG]http://i.imgur.com/AScUi.jpg[/IMG]

    May 16, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    • Cool tree and thanks for the support. How long did it take before it started showing nice bark?

      May 16, 2012 at 8:44 pm

  2. crust

    I can’t say for sure but I think about 12 years before i had decent bark. I first grew it in a pot then grew it in the garden. Most of the taper was built using one escaped branch as the main growing force and trained a wee side branch into the future tree.

    May 16, 2012 at 8:55 pm

  3. Very interested to see how this works out for you. Keep us posted.

    I use Japanese Larch a lot and the bark does mature quite quickly compared to our European Larch. The trees we collected recently had only been in open ground for 10 years but the bark was already plating up nicely, albeit that they were growing in harsh conditions.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:33 am

  4. “I’m not saying the classic look is better than the wild look. They are just different… and different is good in a bonsai collection.”

    Very well said Aaron.

    “3) Larch are bomb-proof and idiot-proof (so long as they are established). I am very lazy and hate dealing with exotic species that require special attention in the winter.”

    An honest man is a man that I can trust!

    Your blog is fun to read! Take care!

    May 17, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    • Thanks Peter! I appreciate the comments 🙂

      May 18, 2012 at 10:44 pm

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