Larix bonsai maintenance – Plucking growing tips

I have a few larch in my bonsai collection. To be honest, I think Larch has one of the most beautiful spring foliage. A fresh bright green glow in the morning sun. There is however a downside to Larch. They do not create new buds on old branches. So once a bud or small branch dies, you lose the foliage in that location. New branches only set buds a few cm away from their origin, so slowly the foliage moves away from the trunk. How do you keep your Larch bonsai compact with inner buds?

Larch bonsai
Larch bonsai

When larch branches or buds get shaded too much, they will die off. As such it is really important to keep light reaching the inside of the canopy. And in order to avoid the budding part of the crown to outgrow the desired canopy size, one needs to ensure buds are formed close to last year’s buds.

One of the techniques I use on larch is plucking of new growth. Effectively, in early spring you pull out the growing tips as they start to extend. As soon as the young growth takes the appearance of a fluffy brush, I take hold of the inner needles with one hand. With the other I support the base of the shoot and I pull the tuft of green out. If done carefully the shoot will break at a weak spot and no other damage will be done. It does take a bit of practice: Initially I had lots of damaged needles turning brown after a day or two.

With this technique you do 2 things. You reduce the amount of extension growth and with this, you keep the canopy open. But more importantly, just below the breaking point new buds are formed which will be very close to last year’s buds.

I do this multiple times a season (Actually, I check my larches weekly and do this on all growing points that I do not want to extend).