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China Doll Plant: Grow & Care for Radermachera sinica

Written by Iris

Jul 30 2021

China Doll Plant: Grow & Care for Radermachera sinica
China Doll Plant is an underrated houseplant. China Doll Plant are beautiful, lush houseplants that can brighten any home. The plant looks so happy and fresh. As the name suggests, it originated in China and the Philippines. In their natural home, these plants, or rather trees, can grow up to 90 feet tall! Now, if you happen not to own a 90-foot house, don't worry, this plant can grow smaller and thrive indoors

China Doll Plant Propagation

Although it can be less successful than with other types of plants, rooting a China doll trees cutting can result in a new plant. Cut 2 inches of new growth toward the tip of the plant (green wood only, nothing old and tough). Remove the lower leaves from your cutting, leaving just a few leaflets attached at the tip. Dip the bottom half of the cutting in a rooting hormone powder and tap off any excess. Then stick the cutting in moist potting mix and cover it with a plastic bag to trap as much humidity as possible. Keep the bagged cutting in a bright, warm spot and give it a gentle tug every few weeks to see if it is rooting. As soon as the cutting roots and begins to grow, pinch the tip to encourage good branching.
China Doll Plant

How to Care for China Doll Plant (Radermachera sinica)

China Doll Plant Care - Light

For best growth, give your china doll plant a lot of bright (but indirect) sun. It needs at least 4-5 hours of sun per day, even indoors. If you don't have a spot in your house that gets that much light, you should consider purchasing indoor grow lights to supplement.

China Doll Plant Care - Soil

A light, well-draining soil is best. Using a mixture that holds moisture but doesn't become sodden and compact is the easiest way to maintain the correct watering balance.
China Doll plants don’t need anything fancy, though. A quality retail potting soil is fine. A mix with peat moss is usually suitable. If the medium needs more drainage, add perlite, coarse sand, or another aerating amendment. Read more about choosing houseplant soil here.
While China Doll trees aren’t hypersensitive to chemicals in the soil, they don’t like heavily mineralized or “softened” water sources.
Also, because they prefer staying in one container for several seasons, their soil can suffer a buildup of residual fertilizers. The excess salts can cause leaf tip burn and other problems, so flushing the soil with excess water every month or so is a good practice.

China Doll Plant Care -  Watering

When watering, be careful. Too little or too much can wreak havoc on your china doll plant. The soil should be kept moist, but the roots shouldn’t be allowed to sit in water. Water only when the top inch of the soil is dry to the touch.
Add rocks, perlite, sand, or another type of growing medium to the bottom of your pot if the soil doesn't drain well.​
If your china doll plant develops brittle leaves that turn yellow, it not getting enough water. Too much water is indicated by black colored tips.
When new foliage is developing, watering can be slightly increased and decreased again once the plant has become dormant.​
China Doll Plant

China Doll Plant Care - Temperature & Humidity

Average room temperatures 65-75°F/18-24°C. China doll plant will tolerate a minimum of 50°F/10°C. Try to maintain 40% relative humidity around your plant. Indoor air can become extremely dry in winter; it's a good idea to use a humidity monitor rather than guess. Use a humidity tray or a cool-mist room humidifier, if needed.

China Doll Plant Care - Fertilizer

During its growing period (spring and summer), your China doll plant should be fed monthly with a balanced liquid fertilizer that has been diluted by half. Once the plant's growth has slowed for the year, you can decrease your feeding cadence to once every other month.

China Doll Plant Care - Pruning

Since you're basically keeping your potted China Doll plant indoors as a perpetual baby tree, you'll need to prune regularly to keep it bushy and compact. China Dolls respond well to trimming, however, and are easy to maintain with some routine attention.
The trick is to trim your plant before it looks like it really needs it. You can cut them back to any height. Prune dead or bare stems back to the main trunk.
New growth comes from the tips of a stem. Prune a branch down to the place you want a fresh start. Cut a half-inch above a leaf – even cutting back one inch will promote new growth. It's best to leave some foliage on the stem to help it recover.
You can prune China doll plant creatively to encourage the look you want. For more thickness, trim stems that point inward so they will branch and fill in the space. Cut back errant, outward-growing branches. or, if you want a more open style, cut back the inner-facing stems instead.
Often you'll notice one stem feels the need to sprint ahead and dominate the others – simply trim back each new growth spurt.
Outdoor trees are best pruned in the spring or early summer, but an indoor houseplant can be trimmed anytime. Monitor the soil closely after a major trim, because the loss of foliage can result in less water use.

China Doll Plant Care - Pests & Diseases

China doll plants don't have too many problems with pests or diseases, but there are a few pesky pests that affect almost all houseplants, china doll included.​
When it comes to scale insects, the best approach to prevention and treatment is a systemic insecticide. This is an insecticide that gets into the plant’s system, so any plant material that scales feed on becomes toxic to them. You’ll know if your plant is suffering from scales if there are a lot of little round oval-shaped bugs on the underside of your leaves near the stems.​
There are a few fly species that like to attack the China Doll, including fungus gnats. The general treatment for fly infestations is a lower-humidity environment and treatment with beneficial nematodes. Also see my guide on treating and preventing fungus gnats.
Most of the diseases affecting the china doll plant fall under the fungus category, meaning the treatment is a lower-humidity environment. If the disease is particularly bad, you’ll need to get an organic fungicide to clear it out.​
China Doll Plant

China Doll Plant (Radermachera sinica) FAQ

Can You Grow China Doll Plants Outside?

Growing china doll plants in gardens is feasible only in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11. However, china doll has become a popular houseplant, valued for its glossy, divided leaves.

Does a China doll plant bloom?

The China doll is popularly known for its dainty leaf appearance. As a bushy houseplant or container plant indoors or out, it has noticeable finely-divided, glossy leaves. Although these plants are decorative, they will not bloom as houseplants. China dolls grow 4 to 6 feet tall and are shrub-like.

Is China Doll plant poisonous to cats?

A China Doll plant is a non- poisonous. The cuttings can be planted in small pots that you have filled with some moist compost or potting soil.  If you have kids or pets the China Doll Plant is an ideal plant for you as they are non-toxic to humans, cats, and dogs.