China doll plants (also know as Radermachera Sinica) are evergreen trees that can be grown as a tropical houseplant indoors.
The plant is native to tropical areas of Southeast Asia and rampantly found in China and Taiwan.
Indoors, the China doll plant remains a baby tree and does not flower. The plant remains compact (about 4-6 inches).
China Doll plant is named as a ‘doll’ due to its shiny, lace-like leaves. The leaves are delicate and further divide into leaflets. It has rounded, woody stems that grow upright.
Advantages of Growing China doll plants
China doll plants are compact and can be kept as an attractive decor on desks and tables. They look fabulous on kitchen countertops and window sills.
Slightly bigger China doll plants can be kept to cover empty corners or blank walls.
They are beautiful and attractive species with lush foliage. The leaves divide into leaflets giving the plant a delicate appearance.
As they grow, the stems become woody and the foliage gets thicker. The plant starts to look like a mini tree.
The reason for it being a cherished house plant is its ability to shine and remain glossy even in dry heated indoor environments.
You can prune it to any shape you desire. It can remain small and compact with lush and glossy foliage.
With the right amount of care, you will be rewarded with years of companionship.
Care Guide for a China doll plant
China doll plants are very sensitive to the exact growing environments. Once all the growing conditions are met, they thrive rewarding you with thick, glossy growth.
They do not like changes in their ideal growing environments. China doll plant displays its displeasure immediately with ‘leaf drop’.
Let us look into the growing condition requirements in detail.
How to Water China Doll Plants?
China dolls plants are tropical plants and like their soil to be moist but not wet or soggy.
Feel the soil before watering the China doll plant. The top inch should feel dry.
Always water in the morning to allow the plant to dry out a bit in the day time. Cold weather and wet soil in the night can make the plant sick.
Use room temperature water or the plant might go into stress.
Water thoroughly each time to flush the residual fertilizers from the soil.
It is always better to underwater the China doll plant. Overwatering can lead to root rot. If the tips of the plant become black, it is a sure sign of overwatering.
How Much Light Do the China Doll Plants Need?
China doll plant loves bright indirect light.
If you do not have sufficient light indoors, use artificial grow lights for China doll plants. The plant grows quite well under artificial grow lights. You can also use bright fluorescent lights.
They need five to six hours of light for healthy and thick foliage.
Direct sun can burn the leaves and cause stress to the plants. It will lead to a massive ‘leaf drop’.
If you do have direct sunlight in your room, use sheer curtains or move the pot a little away from the window (an area in partial shade if possible).
An hour or two of direct sunlight from the east or west-facing window works as well for the China doll plant.
You can also put the China doll plant outdoors in summer. Make sure there is a fence or another tree next to the plant to filter the sunlight.
In case you live in a hot sunny climate, you can also keep your plant in partial shade.
Soil Requirements of China Doll Plant
Use a commercially available well-draining soil mix. The China doll plants need well-drained soil, as logging of water inside the soil causes root rot.
If you use general-purpose potting soil, add sand or perlite to improve the drainage capacity. Mix it well.
Peat moss can also be used to keep the soil slightly moist if it becomes dry.
Temperature Requirements of China Doll Plants
As the China doll plants belong to the tropical regions, they thrive in warm conditions.
An ideal temperature for them is between 65 degrees Fahrenheit to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (18C to 24C).
The plant comes under USDA zone 10 to 12.
Keep them away from drafts and cold temperatures.
China doll plants are very sensitive to sudden temperature changes. It triggers the shedding of leaves from the plant.
The temperature zone should not go above 28 degrees C or below 10 degrees C.
Cold temperatures slow down their growth in winters however, you can grow them all year with artificial grow lights and in warm indoor temperatures.
Whenever China doll plant experiences any change in its environment related to water light or temperature, they start shedding leaves. The leaf shedding stops once the plant gets used to the new environment.
Do China Doll Plants Require Humidity?
China doll plant thrives in humidity.
Mist them daily or keep a humidifier near them. Alternatively, you can place a pebbles tray with water underneath the pot.
Grouping the plants can also increase humidity due to transpiration process. Make sure to make some room for good air circulation while grouping the plants.
The ideal humidity ratio for them is 40 to 50%.
China doll plants can also tolerate dry air conditions inside homes.
Fertilizer Requirement of China Doll Plants
The China doll plants need to be fed monthly with a balanced fertilizer during their growing period.
Their growing period is spring and summer. Outside the growing season, fertilize the plant every three months and gradually taper down when the temperatures drop in chilly winters.
A balanced liquid fertilizer with a ratio of 10-10-10 NPK is sufficient. Use half the strength mentioned in the manufacturer’s instructions.
Under proper conditions, china doll plants become lush with thick foliage. They need to be trimmed occasionally to keep them compact and of the desired shape.
You can shape the China doll plant according to your preference. Prune away their length and width. The plant does not mind pruning and instead rewards you with new growth.
Pruning also helps to remove the dead leaves, stems and promotes new growth.
China doll plants can be pruned at any time of the year. Let a few leaves stay on each stem for good healthy growth.
New growth emerges from the tips of the stems. Prune away the branch till the place where you want new growth. You can also cut back the dead stems to the main trunk.
Pests and Bugs in China Doll Plant
China Doll plants cannot tolerate cigarette smoke. They tend to become brown and eventually die.
Root rot and fungal disease are quite common with China doll plants and are a result of overwatering. The fungal infection develops as brown ‘leaf spots’ while root rot leads to massive leaf shedding.
Use an organic fungicide to get rid of fungal infection. Place the plant in a well-ventilated area where it gets good air circulation. Cut back the leaves with leaf spots.
Root rot does not, unfortunately, have much chance of recovery for the plant. Let the plant dry out completely.
Being tiny, they can be discovered with regular inspection.
Pests can be found on the underside of leaves and along the stems. Using an organic insecticide like neem oil spray takes care of pests. You can also take the plant to the bathroom or outdoors and use a hose pump to spray a strong jet of water on the plants. The pressure will knock away the pests.
If they are few, you can also try dabbing the insect directly with alcohol dipped cotton swab.
If it’s a large infestation, use organic pesticide and soapy water every three days until the infestation goes away.
China doll plants are a beautiful addition to your homes. They are lush, glossy, and remain healthy for many years under the right conditions.
Give China doll plant some bright indirect sunlight and moist soil (but not overly wet as they don’t prefer soggy soil). Check for the top one inch to be dry before watering the plant. Keep in a temperature of 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit.
China doll plants thrive in humidity but can survive in dry home environments. They respond to pruning with new growth. Keep them away from any environmental changes that can stress the plants. Do not smoke near the China doll plant.
Now that you know how to care for the China doll house plant, you can ensure that your plant looks great all year long.
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