How to Grow China Doll Plants Indoors

A China Doll Plant sits in a white pot on a white desk next to an iMac desktop.

 The Spruce / Cori Sears

With their dark, glossy, lace-like leaves and compact shape, China Doll Plants make attractive additions to any home.

China Doll Plants are in fact evergreen trees native to the subtropical regions of south-east Asia, specifically China and Taiwan. They are a part of the Bignoniaceae family, and in their ideal outdoor conditions they can grow up to 90’ tall. Indoors they tend to stay between 4’ to 6’ at mature height.

Botanical Name Radermachera sinica
Common Name China Doll Plant, Serpent Tree, Emerald Tree
Plant Type Houseplant, evergreen tree
Mature Size 4-6’  indoors
Sun Exposure Medium to bright indirect light (indoors), direct sun (outdoors)
Soil Type Moist, well-draining
Soil pH 5.5 to 7.5
Bloom Time Early spring to summer; does not flower indoors
Flower Color White, yellow
Native Area China, Taiwan
A close up of the leaves of a China Doll Plant.
 The Spruce / Cori Sears

How to Grow China Doll Plants

China Doll Plants require specific growing conditions in order to thrive indoors and can be fussy if these conditions are not met. The most important thing to remember when growing China Doll Plant is that they require lots of light and moisture and do not react well to changes in their growing conditions. Leaf drop commonly occurs in China Doll Plants if growing conditions are not right or change too quickly.

China Doll Plants are susceptible to the usual range of houseplant pests including aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, scale, and greenflies.

Light

China Doll Plants require medium to bright indirect light to thrive indoors. Exposure to full sun can burn the leaves and cause leaf drop. If you do not have enough light in your home to support a China Doll Plant, light can be supplemented with an artificial grow light to help them thrive.

Soil

Plant your China Doll Plant in a well-draining soil mix. Commercially available potting mixtures are adequate for China Doll Plants. If you notice that the soil is not draining well, perlite or sand can be mixed in to help improve drainage.

Water

Regular watering is vital to achieving a happy, healthy China Doll Plant. China Doll Plants should be watered once the top one inch of soil is dry, the frequency of which will vary depending on the season. At the same time, care needs to be taken not to overwater China Doll Plants as they cannot handle ‘wet feet’ and will easily develop root rot if their roots are left sitting in water.

Temperature and Humidity

Due to their subtropical origins, China Doll Plants appreciate warm and humid conditions. They should be kept in temperatures between 65F to 75F, and while they can survive in the typical dry household conditions, they will thrive when given extra humidity. Try increasing the humidity around your China Doll Plant by misting the plant daily or by placing the plant near a humidifier in your home.

Fertilizer

During their growing periods (spring and summer) China Doll Plants should be fed monthly with a balanced fertilizer. Outside of the growing season, fertilize the plant every other month with a balanced fertilizer mixed with water.

Potting and Repotting

Less is more when it comes to repotting China Doll Plants. They appreciate being rootbound, and frequent repotting can lead to leaf drop. Only repot China Doll Plants when absolutely necessary, and be sure to increase pot sizes by only one to two inches when you do. An alternative to repotting is root pruning, which can also help to control the size of your China Doll Plant.

Propagation

China Doll Plants propagate through stem cuttings. While propagating China Doll Plant is difficult, it can be achieved with a little extra time and care. When taking stem cuttings, ensure that they are green and not from the woody portion of the plant. The stem cuttings can be placed directly in moist soil and covered with plastic to retain humidity. The soil around the cuttings should be kept evenly moist at all times. If the propagation was successful roots should begin to grow within three to four weeks.

Pruning China Doll Plants

When growing China Doll Plants indoors, pruning them regularly is vital if you want them to maintain their compact shape and prevent them from becoming leggy. Regular pruning also helps to control the size of the plant indoors. When pruning China Doll Plants, ensure that you leave a couple of leaves on each stem to provide the roots with food and encourage continual growth.

Toxicity of China Doll Plants

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. However, snacking on China Doll Plants is still not recommended so children and pets should be supervised around them at all times.