An interesting type of tree, larch (Larix spp.) is a conifer, or cone-bearing plant, that loses its needled foliage each winter. Native to the cold winter climates of the Northern Hemisphere, gardeners in Ohio enjoy these trees if they have the proper soils and climate. Ohio falls in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 and 6 and is suitable to at least one species of larch.
The eastern larch, or tamarack (Larix laricina) is the only larch native to Ohio. It grows in the wet, acidic lakeside soils in Summit, Portage and Stark Counties. Rarely is this species grown as an ornamental in Ohio gardens because of its need for a cool year-round climate, wet acidic soil and ample space. It grows best in USDA Hardiness Zones 1 through 4, although it does survive in the coldest parts of Zone 5.
From central and northern Europe, this larch (Larix decidua) grows well on heavy loam soils that are moist, making the European larch a great match for Ohio. This species must not be grown in compacted soil. Although growing tall like the eastern larch, ornamental cultivated varieties (cultivars) are usually grown, including weeping or dwarf selections that are the appropriate scale for most yards and gardens. In fact, 'Pendula' is a weeping cultivar that is exceptional as a focal plant in a spacious rock garden or building foundation bed. Grow this larch in USDA Hardiness Zones 2 through 6, which includes all of Ohio.
Also appropriate for gardens in all parts of the state is the Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi), hardy in Zones 4 through 7. This species resembles European larch to the untrained eye but has slightly more drooping twigs on its open branches. This species cannot tolerate alkaline or dry soil. Choose from any cultivar that grows to a size within the constraints of your garden's space. The Blue Rabbit variety is shrubby with bluish needles, while the Diane variety has twisting, corkscrew-like branches.