China Doll Plant Care and Grow Guide

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The China Doll Plant has quickly become a favorite houseplant among gardeners. It is easy to grow, attractive in appearance, and produces large leaves that are long-lasting.

The plant can be grown from seed or cuttings. This article will help you learn how to care for your China doll plants, so they live longer.

China Doll Plant Overview

Native to mountain areas in Southern China, Taiwan, India, Bhutan, Vietnam, and Burma, the China Doll Plant, botanically named Radermachera Sinica, is a member of the Bignoniaceae family.

In its natural environment, it can grow to impressive heights of as much as one hundred feet tall. Even when cultivated to its average 25 feet, it makes for an impressive tree. Now it is often cultivated as an indoor plant.

This lovely houseplant is characterized by abundant glossy green leaves and exceptionally fast growth. Typically, a compact plant in appearance when first acquired, the China Doll will rapidly grow in every direction as it would in its natural outdoor habitat.

Even so, as it grows and opens, it takes on a feathery appearance thanks to delicate lace-like leaves, making it a beautiful houseplant for any room with good access to light.

Also known as the Emerald Tree or the Serpent Tree, the China Doll is a broadleaf evergreen tree.

China Doll Plant Care Guide

These plants do very well in an environment with bright light and temperatures that average between 65° and 75° Fahrenheit. They do need protection from potentially cold windowsills or drafts from windows, doors, and hallways as this can cause leaf drop.

One thing to keep in mind is that this houseplant, like a croton plant, does not like change. Significant modifications in temperature, light, water or even soil bed can lead to extensive leaf drop.

For outdoor cultivation, you will need to reside in USDA hardy zones 10, 11, and 12.

Growing Medium for the China Doll Plant

Good drainage is the key when preparing growing medium for the China Doll plant. The addition of sand, perlite, or even stones or pebbles to the bottom of the pot will go a long way in ensuring good drainage.

Ideally, a rich potting soil is good, with a bit of sand or perlite mixed in is recommended.

When growing as a potted plant, be sure the pot has good drainage holes. 

Light for the China Doll Plant

For the China Doll plant to thrive, it needs bright indirect light. At least five hours daily of bright light will keep your China Doll plant healthy and thriving.

If you want to cultivate this plant, but your windows do not provide adequate bright indirect light, you can use an artificial plant light to satisfy its needs.

If you take it outside in the spring and summer months, be sure to give it partial shade.

Water and Humidity for the China Doll Plant

These are better kept on the dry side, allow the top half of the soil bed to dry out before watering.

If this plant is thirsty, you may notice leaves becoming a paler green. It is important to water the entire soil bed evenly, so the plant’s entire root system is reached.

Never leave a China Doll plant sitting in water or soggy soil, as this will lead to root rot. Poor drainage is often the cause.

Average house humidity is more than adequate for these plants to thrive.

Fertilizer for the China Doll Plant

China Doll plants can be fed monthly during their growing season in the spring and summer. During winter dormancy, feeding can be reduced to bi-monthly.

An all-purpose 10-10-10 plant fertilizer can be used diluted to half of the recommended strength. If you have repotted a China Doll successfully, avoid feeding it for four months.

Repotting and Pruning the China Doll Plant

The China Doll plant will not require regular repotting as it thrives when slightly rootbound. As a plant that does not appreciate change, repotting and moving the plant regularly can cause stress. That can lead to negative consequences such as leaf drop.

If your China Doll plant experience significant leaf drop, don’t worry. Prune back plant stems by at least half of their length to as much as two-thirds.

In any case, pruning regularly will contribute to your China Doll’s health. You should prune if you notice it getting leggy.

Also, should your plant appear to have lots of foliage on the top but very little on the bottom, you can prune two-thirds of the plant back and ensure that it is in a sunny spot.

China Doll Plant Bloom and Foliage

The China Doll will flower, producing white blooms when it is cultivated outdoors. Indoors, it does not usually produce blooms.

They are loved for their dark green foliage that appears polished. The glossy leaves will be separated into leaflets that are both delicate and elegant looking.

Propagating the China Doll Plant

Admittedly, this is not an easy plant to propagate, however, it is also not impossible.

You can take stem cuttings as long as they are green and not woody. Place your cuttings into small containers filled with a mix of potting soil and compost. To develop roots, your cuttings will need high humidity.

Cover them in plastic bags and position them in a location with access to bright, indirect sunlight. The growing medium needs to be kept evenly moist for at least a month when roots should be sprouting.

China Doll Plant Pests and Problems

Like so many houseplants, the China Doll is susceptible to infestations of aphids, mealybugs, scale, and spider mites. Often, the elimination of these pests is challenging due to the abundance of foliage that the plant has.

It’s a good rule to check often for traces of pests. An organic insecticide such as neem oil or insecticidal soap should resolve the problem.

These plants are also prone to fungal infections and disease. Leaf Spot is a common threat. To prevent this, ensure that your plant is in an area with good air circulation and avoid wetting leaves during watering.

Leaf drop is a possible risk due to temperature, drafts, or change in general. Trim back plant stems by half to two-thirds in length and reduce watering because leaf drop increases the plant’s risk for root rot.

Yellow leaves that are brittle to the touch will indicate a lack of water, while blackened leaf tips imply you are overwatering.

Drooping foliage may indicate root rot. If it is advanced, you will probably not be able to save the plant. You can attempt to prune it and allow the soil bed to dry out totally in the hopes that the plant will revive.

China Doll Plant Care Final Thoughts

The China Doll plant is admired for its abundance of beautiful green foliage. Although it may seem a bit capricious, especially because it doesn’t like change. It does have the advantage of its tolerance for the warm, dryer air that is common in most households.

If you want an unique, low maintenance indoor plant that looks great year round, then consider adding a China Doll plant today!

For more houseplant guides, check these other articles out: 

China Doll Plant Care FAQs

Can you grow China doll plants outside?

Yes, you can grow China doll plants outside if you live somewhere where temperatures do not fall below freezing. They prefer warmer climates than colder ones. In fact, some people even keep them outdoors all winter. However, make sure that there is adequate light exposure and protection from wind and rain. The best USDA plant hardiness zones are 10, 11, and 12. 

How do you care for a China doll plant?

Care for your a China doll plant by keeping it well watered but don’t let it sit in standing water. Water regularly until the top inch of soil feels slightly damp. This helps maintain healthy growth and prevents wilts. Keep the soil consistently moist but never soggy. Avoid overwatering which causes root rot. Remove any dead or dying parts of the plant promptly. Fertilizing encourages new growth and blooms, and can be done monthly with all-purpose, balanced fertilizers.  

How big do China doll plants grow?

China doll plants can grow as big as 100 feet tall in its native habitat. Most varieties reach up to 25 feet tall outdoors. 

What kind of light does a China doll plant need?

A sunny window sill provides ideal growing conditions for a China doll plant. Plants grown indoors require bright indirect sunlight. Direct sun can cause scorching on the surface of the leaves.

Is a China doll plant poisonous?

No, the China doll plant is non-toxic. There are no known health risks associated with this plant. Feel free to grow it if you have pets and small children at home. 

Is China doll plant fast growing?

Yes, the China doll is a fast-growing plant. Some varieties take only two months to bloom. Others flower within three weeks after being planted. A mature plant should produce flowers every six to eight weeks during spring and summer.

Why is my China doll dropping leaves?

Yoiur China doll plant could be dropping leaves because it’s getting too much direct sunlight. It could also be because it’s stressed from a recent repotting or transplant. Also, be sure that the soil is moist and it’s getting enough water, while also ensuring it’s not in soggy soil.

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Written by:

Amy Walsh
Amy Walsh is a passionate indoor gardener, deeply engrossed in the world of houseplants and herbs. Her apartment is a lush sanctuary of foliage, reflecting her journey from hobbyist to devoted botanist. She's constantly exploring the latest in smart garden technology, eager to share her insights on nurturing green spaces indoors. Alongside her botanical pursuits, Amy enjoys connecting with nature and friends, continually enriching her lifestyle with greenery and growth.

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