Larch Repot with Problems.

I’d been keeping a close eye on my very large Larch; new growth has started with swelling buds starting to show signs of green from about ten days ago but very little advancement since then despite it warming up some.

I decided to run with it and remove the tree from the pot to see what was going on down under!

The Larch had been re-potted three years ago and the pot was more than enough to last for a period of three years. Whilst Larch are generally good with frosts and cold weather I was not prepared for what was going to greet me after removing the tree from its current home.

Once removed which was simplicity, most of the soil fell away quite easily and on first glance no alarm bells started ringing.

There are great swathes of black roots which clearly have taken a beating during the December freeze.

Before I went any further I had wanted to remove this crossing root for some years, so decided now was the time. I must be honest as this progresses, I’m not actually expecting the tree to survive; now then seemed a time for, ‘oh well,might as well get on with it’.

I’m using cutters to ensure a sharp cut. Once removed the end will be sealed.

Here is the initial pile of dead and decaying roots. By the time I’m finished it was twice the size.

These are simply dead.

I’m now starting to get rather disheartened; clearly the tree has greatly suffered over two horrendous winters. I am now at the stage having removed by hand all dead and decayed roots of the remaining root ball. ‘Ball’ is definitely not the correct word to use.

I cut back to the live areas. The rear 25% of the tree has no roots whatsoever. A significant branch died after the winter of 2008/9. The bottom of the trunk is bare so at least earlier works conducted over twenty odd years have given me just lateral roots.

The pile is now enough to pack into a large bucket. The spray bottle can be seen next to the dead roots.

I’ve now removed all the obvious dead roots. You can see the absence at the rear of the tree in this next image, and what I am left to work with. I still need to go slightly further in on the roots and cut out the remaining decayed areas with a small pair of scissors.

I’ve now completed removal of everything dead, and this is what I am left with.

I still have a small amount of snipping to finish off with. I have been keeping the roots moist throughout the process; I can’t afford to lose anymore than is essential! My soil mix is fairly open and contains copious amounts of previously moistened sphagnum moss. I have decided to use a spare round Mica pot that I have. This is a 21″ diameter pot. The Larch is secured into the soil and I then spend a while making certain all roots are well covered.

I have located the tree in the shade and under cover. I can now do absolutely nothing but wait. if nothing is happening (from a positive standpoint) in 3-6 weeks then sadly after twenty-five years it will be time to say goodbye to an old friend. I had intended to air-layer the top third in late spring to create a much smaller Larch. I had then in mind to carve the remaining tree top to make a smaller (in height) tree.

Heavy pruning in hard this year as new growth arrived to replace some of the thicker areas was also on the cards.

Those plans will have to wait however.



14 thoughts on “Larch Repot with Problems.

  1. vincent

    I’am sorry for your lost larch tree. But unfortunately you have removed healthy roots which only appear to be rotten. Those black rotten like roots are common for larch(and larch trees only) tree and are 100% healthy. So next time you find them just leave them there…

    1. mozzytheboy

      Sorry trying to teach me to suck eggs is complete insult. Your comment regarding black roots is a complete and utter load of cobblers. Like anyone removes healthy roots and leaves dead roots. Jeez now I know why I have not been here in months šŸ˜¦

    2. Ben

      Colin Lewis, also talks about this in one of his books so perhaps Vincent has a point, your reply to him is at the very least extremely rude and not something I would expect on a site like this

    3. mozzytheboy

      What would you expect on a ‘site like this’ Ben? Would you have preferred me to say …”Oh right, I’ve been removing all the live roots that are black, decayed and quite dead. I’ll know for next time.”

      i’ve allowed your comment on the basis I don’t censor when I feel like it. I can assure you, Vincent and anyone else that the roots removed were bordering on complete collapse after the most brutal winter conditions the UK had ever seen. The mistake I MADE, was to not take the bull by the horns and over winter the tree in temperatures more suitable for it. Whilst i accept usually the larch is pretty much bomb proof, a ravaging winter with just a thin skin of clay protecting the majority of roots, will indeed mash those Larch roots down to little more than a sludge. The indicator to be sure those roots are quite dead is to touch them; not pull or wiggle, just touch them. If they come away then they are dead.

      My point to Vincent … and it is my site so I can say what I like; is after thirty odd years of Bonsai I can work out the difference between live and dead roots.

      Still appreciate you taking the time to look and leave a comment.


    1. Mike Jones

      Sadly despite much care it did not come through John. Such is life as they say šŸ˜¦

      Best wishes


  2. George

    A last remark: potassium is supposed to be important for the strength of larch for the following winter. You may fertilize your bonsai until end of September using water with some diluted K in it.

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