China Doll Plant

This popular, pretty houseplant deserves a spot in your collection.

China Doll Overview

Description China doll is often grown as a houseplant for its abundant glossy-green, fernlike leaves. Adapted from its origin as a large tree, this fast-growing plant now happily tolerates indoor-growing conditions. Although China doll doesn't bloom indoors, a mature plant will produce large trumpet-shape white flowers when grown outdoors.
Genus Name Radermachera sinica
Common Name China Doll
Plant Type Houseplant
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 1 to 3 feet
Width 1 to 3 feet
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Special Features Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Propagation Stem Cuttings

How to Care for China Doll Plants

Somewhat temperamental about water, a China doll needs consistent moisture, but be sure to let it dry out slightly between waterings to avoid rot and other problems. If the plant has lived in the same container for a long period of time, the soil may have built up excess salt, which can cause leaf-tip burn. You can repot the plant with fresh soil mix, or try flushing the soil with a lot of water to remove the excess salt. This simple process, called leaching, is done by placing the pot in a drip pan, or in the sink, and running tap water through the soil until the water runs clear. It may take more than one flushing, and if so, empty the drip pan each time. Leaching is especially important when a plant has been watered with chemically softened water. If that's the case, flush the soil with rainwater or distilled water.

China doll also appreciates lots of humidity. In an extremely dry environment, increase the humidity around this plant by placing it on a saucer filled with pebbles and water. As the water evaporates, the level of humidity around the plant will rise. Avoid letting the pot sit directly in the water, as constantly soggy soil can lead to root rot.

As an indoor plant, China doll fares best with 4-5 hours of full to part sun exposure a day. With too much shade, this plant quickly becomes lanky and will need constant pruning to look maintained. Even when grown in ideal conditions, this plant requires regular trims due to how fast it grows. To keep China doll looking healthy, provide it with an occasional dose of liquid fertilizer, or use a slow-release fertilizer every few months. Fertilizing encourages new growth, though, so keep those pruning shears handy.

How to Propagate China Doll

Although it can be less successful than with other types of plants, rooting a China doll 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.

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