Native to subtropical regions of Asia, the China doll plant (Radermachera sinica) is a broadleaf evergreen that's known for its glossy leaves and speedy growth. Like a money tree or parlor palm, these beautiful trees are ideal large plants to fill an empty corner: They grow a mature height of four to six feet tall indoors, and they have a stunning, feathery look. China doll plants can be tricky to grow indoors due to their specific lighting and watering needs, but any plant parent who's looking for a challenge can do it. Our China doll plant guide explains how to care for these tropical plants and help them thrive indoors and out. Read on to learn everything you need to know about caring for a China doll plant.
Can You Grow a China Doll Plant Indoors?
Yes. Despite being more common outdoors, China doll plants can do well indoors. That being said, they are pretty finicky, and they really don't like change. We recommend placing your plant near an east- or west-facing window for optimal results. If you've just moved your China doll plant indoors from outdoors, know that it may take your plant a few weeks to adjust to the new environment, and try to avoid moving it all around the house. That can stress it out and cause it to start dropping leaves.
How to Care for a China Doll Plant Indoors
This plant loves at least four to five hours a day of bright indirect light. Windows that face south, east, and west can all provide this amount of light, but if you find that your plant is struggling to get enough natural sunlight, you can use a grow light to supplement it, especially in the dark winter months. (About 12 hours under a grow light is the equivalent of six hours in the sun, depending on the intensity of your grow light.) Keep your China doll plant out of direct sunlight, which can burn and scald its leaves. We also recommend rotating your plant every week or so to encourage even growth on all sides.
Regular watering is ideal for these moisture-loving plants. We recommend watering as soon as you notice the top inch of soil losing moisture. Just be aware: China doll plants are highly susceptible to root rot, and it's very easy to overwater them. To avoid this issue, choose a pot with plenty of drainage holes on the bottom. If your pot doesn't have drainage holes, add one or two with a drill or fill the bottom with rocks before you pot your plant to help with drainage. If you notice the leaves turning yellow or crunchy, that's a good indication your plant isn't getting enough water. On the flip side, leaves with black tips can be a sign that it's getting too much.
Temperature and Humidity
These plants love a warm environment—we're talking 60 to 75 degrees warm indoors. Extra humidity isn't always necessary, but these plants love to be moist, and they thrive when given it. It's important to keep your plant at a constant temperature. The China doll plant doesn't handle drafts or bursts of air well, so keep it away from fans, heating and air-conditioning vents, and any windows you open regularly.
Soil and Fertilizer
Well-draining, moisture-focused potting soil is ideal for China doll plants. To help promote initial growth spurts, feed your plant monthly with a liquid plant food or fertilizer. In the winter, or anytime you notice the growing rate has slowed down, you can decrease feedings to every other month or once a quarter.
You don't need to worry about pruning your China doll plant regularly, but you can give it an allover trim to encourage new growth if you want. If your plant hasn't been getting enough light and is looking a little scraggly, a good trim can help it grow in more evenly.
What Size Pot Should You Plant Your China Doll In?
China doll plants actually love tight quarters and being rootbound, so opt for a planter that's a similar size and height to its original one from the nursery. That'll also help your plant adapt to its new container since it won't be a drastic change. Always choose a planter with drainage holes; terra-cotta is especially helpful for controlling moisture levels.
How to Grow a China Doll Plant Outdoors
When you're trying to get a China doll plant to adapt to growing outdoors after being indoors, it's important to start gradually. Remember: This plant really doesn't like change. Put it in a fairly shady spot once the temperature consistently reaches 60 to 65 degrees in the spring; it should dip no lower than 50 degrees overnight. After a few weeks, you can move the plant to its more permanent outdoor home in a sunny spot. If you notice the leaves going brown or crispy, move it back into the shade and allow it to settle for a bit longer.
When to Move It Back Inside
Bring your plant back inside in the fall once the temperature begins to fall closer to 30 or 35 degrees, prior to the first frost or overnight freeze.
China Doll Plant FAQs
How Much Light Do China Doll Plants Need?
China doll plants love bright indirect light and require at least four hours a day. Be sure to keep your plant out of direct sun—that can burn its leaves.
Are China Doll Plants Toxic?
No, China doll plants are safe for both humans and animals, making it a great pet-friendly houseplant to add to your collection.
What Pests Are Common on China Doll Plants?
China doll plants are susceptible to pests like scale, mealybugs, and spider mites, so it's important to treat your plant with neem oil, especially before bringing it back indoors.
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