Larches are unusual conifers in that, unlike nearly all others, they are deciduous. Their natural habit is a slender, conical silhouette with gracefully dropping branches. As bonsai, they lend themselves to many different styles.
They are fast growing and, as they will bud back easily from bare wood, they are forgiving bonsai subjects for the beginner. Being vigorous growers they do, however, need fairly regular attention to stop them becoming too rampant once the growing-on phases has stopped and the final bonsai styling has started.
There are 14 recognized species of this Northern Hemisphere genus but only two are regularly used for bonsai in Australia: European larch (Larix decidua ) and Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi ). Both have soft green needles which turn rich yellow in autumn before being shed. They produce attractive "aged bark", even as quite young trees. Many larch bonsai will produce small cones.
The two species are separated by the colour of the young twigs (lighter in the European species, darker and tending to a purple-brown in the Japanese one) and leaves (brighter green in the European species with those of the Japanese species tending more towards a slight blue-green shade).
Bonsai styling for beginners - larch - Video of an large larch being restyled by Graham Potter
Developing bonsai from seedlings - A Graham Potter video where he uses larches as his subjects
Identifying larch: European and Japanese - A useful video even though not on bonsai.
Larch progression - An excellent photographic record of the development of a larch bonsai from Bonsai Empire
Larch with taper - An excellent guide by Nick Lenz published in the on-line Bonsai Journal