China Doll Plant Care: How to Care for & Propagate China Doll Plant

Written by Iris

Dec 24 2021

China Doll Plant Care: How to Care for & Propagate China Doll Plant
China Doll Plant (Radermachera Sinica) is an underrated houseplant. China Doll Plants 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 fast-growing plant can grow smaller and thrive indoors in low light conditions. Let's take a look at how to grow and care for China doll plants.
Botanical/Scientific Name Radermachera sinica
Common Names China Doll Plant, serpent tree, emerald tree, China Doll Tree, Chinese Doll Plant
Plant Type Broadleaf evergreen
Hardiness Zones 10–12 (USDA) when outdoors
Native Area Asia
Mature size 4–6 ft. tall (indoors), 1–3 ft. wide (indoors)
Lighting Requirements Full sunshine
Soil Care Loose and fertile, good drainage, rich in organic matter culture soil
Watering Keep soil moist
Temperature Suitable temperature for growth is 65-75°F/18-24°C; a minimum of 50°F/10°C
Pruning Outdoor trees are best pruned in the spring or early summer, but an indoor houseplant can be trimmed anytime.
Propagation Propagated from cuttings or seeds
Poisonous non-toxic to humans, cats, and dogs

China Doll Plant

How to Propagate China Doll Plant

China Doll Plant Propagation from Cuttings

Although it can be less successful than with other types of plants, propagating China doll trees from cuttings is feasible. In spring, when the ambient temperature reached about 15℃, 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. The lower cut had better be located at 0.5 cm below the node. 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. The depth of the cuttings is about 1/3 to 1/2 of the spike length. 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. When it grows out of the root system, it can be transplanted with soil mass on the pot.

China Doll Plant Propagation from Seed

In winter, when the capsule is close to dehiscing and the seed is fully mature, the long-strip capsule can be harvested, dried and the winged seed can emerge, rubbed and removed the membranous seed wing fragments, and the dry capsule can be stored until the next spring for sowing. Dry china doll plant seed, in spring, soak 3 to 4 hours first, after fishing out its slightly spread air, and then mixed with sand and soil after sowing at the good seedbed, light cover thin soil, cover with film to protect moisture, wait for its seed after the emergence of thin film.
China doll plant

How to Care for China Doll Plant

China Doll Plant Lighting Requirements

China Doll Plant is a light-loving plant, also a little shade tolerant, full sunshine, half shade environment. The seedlings are more tolerant to shade, and should be sheltered in summer. Potted plants should be placed in a well-lit window or room during indoor display. If it is placed for a long time in the dim indoor light, it is easy to cause fallen leaves. Domestic potted, during overwintering can put it at the window or the taller place before the balcony, letting its accept illumination more.

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. Your can consider to buying a indoor lights to supply enough lighting for China doll plant.

China Doll Plant Soil Care

Loose and fertile, good drainage ventilation, rich in organic matter culture soil is best for growing China Doll Plant. 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. 

Loosen the soil once a month during the growing season to ensure that the roots are always in a good state of permeability. In the plum rain season, the potted plants placed in the open air should be checked in time after each heavy rainfall, and the water in the pot should be removed as soon as possible, and the potted soil should be turned over and replaced after the potted soil is dried. Under normal circumstances, as a family pot plant, small plants can be repotted once a year when out of the house in spring, in order to meet the requirements of the annual growth of soil fertility.
China doll plant

China Doll Plant Watering

When watering China doll plant, 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, in order to make it does not grow too tall, in the spring when the new shoots are pumped, can be properly controlled watering but keep the pot soil moist. In addition to the requirement to keep the soil moist, China Doll Plant should be sprayed with water 2 to 3 times a day during the high temperature season. In summer and autumn, if kept the plants outdoors, you must strengthen humidity of the surrounding environment to create a cool and wet suitable environment. Put the plants indoors in winter, because the general indoor temperature is lower than 10℃, the plant into dormant state, not too much water, so as not to appear water rot root, but every 2 days to 3 days at noon in fine weather, with slightly warm water spraying plants once, in order to maintain its delicate appearance, can also increase the environmental humidity. In addition, China Doll Plant can be used for hydroponics.

China Doll Plant Temperature & Humidity Care

China Doll Plant likes warm and hot environments, the suitable temperature for growth is 65-75°F/18-24°C. China doll plant will tolerate a minimum of 50°F/10°C. During the summer heat, when the ambient temperature of 30 degrees above, to be appropriate to shade, increase the environment and foliar water, or move it to a thin shade ventilated cool place over the summer. At the end of autumn, when the ambient temperature drops to about 10℃, China Doll Plant should be moved to the shed in time. During the winter, it is best to maintain a cabin temperature of not less than 8℃, the lowest should not be less than 5℃, so as to avoid cold damage to leaves or fallen leaves. Home potted plants can be moved to the room with air conditioning or electric heater, to ensure that the room temperature is not lower than 8℃, so that China Doll Plant can be safely through the winter.

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

China Doll Plant Fertilizer Care

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.

For potted China Doll Plant, in addition to adding the proper amount of decayed cake fertilizer and 3% of multi-compound fertilizer to the culture soil, top dressing fertilizer should be continuously given. Growth season can be poured every month with a quick - effect liquid fertilizer, usually available decayed cake fertilizer water. A small amount of potted China Doll Plant in the family, or for a long time for public display of large pot plants, can be regularly buried with a small amount of multivariate slow-release compound fertilizer particles, can also be used 0.2% urea and 0.1% potassium dihydrogen phosphate mixture pouring. Potted plants in northern areas can be continuously applied with 0.3% potassium dihydrogen phosphate solution for 2 to 3 times after Mid-Autumn to increase the cold resistance of plants, which is conducive to their safety through winter. Top dressing should be stopped when the temperature is higher than 32℃ in summer and lower than 12 ℃ in late autumn and early winter.

China Doll Plant Pruning

If the trunk grows side buds or small branches, it can not be pruned, because more the side branches grow, more vigorous and beautiful the plant is. But some branches need to be pruned to make the plant more robust. If you're keeping your potted China Doll plant indoors as a perpetual baby tree, you'll need to prune the plant 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. Outdoor trees are best pruned in the spring or early summer, but an indoor houseplant can be trimmed anytime. The best time to prune indoor China doll plant is in July and December in winter. It grows fast in July and it is the time suitable for pruning. The plant will grow very lush and dense. While there are no pests in winter, after pruning, China doll plant will grow better in next spring. So how to prune China doll plant?
  • 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.
  • Monitor the soil closely after a major trim, because the loss of foliage can result in less water use.
  • If the new branch is growing really fast, cut off about a third of the top. This has the advantage of removing the tips of the plants, supplying nutrients to the entire China doll plant, and encouraging the lateral buds below to bud.
China doll plant

China Doll Plant Care - Pests & Diseases

There are a few common pests that affect China doll plant, but actually it doesn't have too many diseases problems to care for.

Leaf spot

In the environment of high temperature, high humidity and bad ventilation, chinese doll plant leaves are susceptible to leaf spot infection.

Prevention and control methods: whether grow Chinese Doll Plant indoors or outdoors, should strengthen ventilation and light, avoid long time water stagnation on the leaf surface, reduce the possibility of leaf spot disease. If a small amount of disinfected leaves are found, remove and burn them in time, and regularly spray 50% carbendazim WP 600 times liquid, once every half a month, 3 to 4 times consecutively. Home potted, a small number of individual plants appear on the leaf spots, daub daconil cream ointment.

Scale insects

Under the condition of high temperature, high humidity, poor ventilation and ventilation, especially during the long time in autumn and winter, the stem and leaf of Chinese Doll Plant are prone to scale insect harm.

Prevention and control methods: strengthen ventilation and light, pay attention to control environmental humidity for Chinese Doll Plant. Found a few live insect bodies, also can use transparent tape to stick it. Productive cultivation, the nymphs can be hatched in the peak period, with 25% of the wettable powder 1500 times the solution spray.


The main harmful symptoms for the new leaf wrinkle, curly, uneven leaf surface. Generally, the time of occurrence is from summer to autumn. High temperature and dry conditions are conducive to the occurrence of a large number of this insect pest on Chinese Doll Plant, and the occurrence of insect pests is less in humid conditions.

Prevention and control methods: mainly use daktarin, nisolon and other acaricide agents.


The most common type of aphids is the green peach aphid. Symptoms include Chinese Doll Plant leaves that are wrinkled and deformed, often with crystal spots of honey dew. Aphids can be seen with the naked eye.

Prevention and control method: spray with zinc, sulfur, phosphorus, dimethyl oxide, enemy kill, etc.

China Doll Plant

China Doll Plant Care 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 plants is popularly known for its dainty leaf appearance. As a common houseplant or container foliage plant indoors or outdoors, it has noticeable finely-divided, glossy leaves. China doll plant will not bloom as houseplants, which will grow 4 to 6 feet tall and are shrub-like. A mature Chinese doll plant will produce large trumpet-shape white flowers when grown outdoors.

Is China Doll plant poisonous to cats?

A China Doll plant is a non- poisonous plant. 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.