China Doll Plant Care: How to Care for Radermachera Sinica

China doll plant is an excellent option for both indoor and outdoor space. Thanks to its touchy tropical feeling with robust and fast-growing outdoor tree features. Regular pruning and proper care make this foliage plant thrive indoors.

China doll plant care involves the provision of bright indirect sunlight, well-draining potting soil, moderate watering, high humidity, warm temperature, and moderate fertilizer application. Prune the houseplant to maintain a compact design.

Continue reading this comprehensive guide to learn how to care for a china doll plant. Besides that, it provides highlights on the common problems and appropriate measures to prevent them from happening. Take the time to read from the start to the end.

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What Does China Doll Plant Looks Like?

China doll plants are available as landscaping trees. But they got adopted as houseplants in the 1980s due to their attractive dark green foliages.

The plant stays compact with glossy leaves despite dry air in heated homes. China doll plant hails from North India to Southern China and Taiwan.

Outdoor china doll plant can reach 90 ft high and more. But the indoor china doll plant with regular pruning stays small and compact.

China doll plant has a rounded, upright growth habit and woody stems. Mature outdoor china doll plant bears white and scented clusters of blooms while the indoor counterpart does not flower.

But the provision of sufficient light will make some indoor china doll plants bloom. They bear flowers at night and drop the brief petals in a shower every morning.

China doll plants are non-toxic to pets and toddlers. But excessive consumption of foliages might cause stomach upset among pets and children.

China Doll Plant Care Details

OriginNorthern India Southern China and Taiwan
Botanical NameRadermachera sinica
Common NamesChina doll plant Serpent tree Emerald tree
Maximum Growth (Approx.)4 ft indoor and 90ft outdoor
Light RequirementBright indirect sunlight.
Watering FrequencyKeep the soil consistently moist throughout the year. Do not allow the soil to become soggy.
Humidity LevelMaintain average indoor humidity (about 40%).
Temperature RangeAverage room temperature of 65-80oF (18-24oC). It can tolerate a minimum temperature of 50oF (10oC).
Soil RequirementsWell-draining with a pH of neutral to acidic. Mix African violet potting soil with peat moss and perlite.
Fertilizer ApplicationFeed the houseplant every two weeks of spring and early summer. Use a dilute and balanced fertilizer.
China Doll Plant PropagationBy seeds and stem cuttings
Blooming TimeMid-spring and summer. Indoor china doll rarely blooms.
Pruning and MaintenanceRegular pruning to maintain compact design.
Pests and DiseasesPests: Mealybugs, spider mites, and aphids Diseases: Root rot due to overwatering
Toxicity levelNon-toxic to pets and humans. May cause stomach upset due to large quantities consumption

How to Care for China Doll Plant (Radermachera Sinica)

Best China Doll Plant Container

China doll plant is a baby tree that can thrive in a container. The potted emerald tree grows differently from the one planted outdoor.

This fast-growing deciduous plant likes to be a little bit root-bound. Ensure the container has drainage holes at the bottom to help in the elimination of excess water.

Potted china doll plants tend to grow slowly, and pruning is essential to enhance bushy shape. I recommend keeping the potted emerald tree away from the smoke to avoid leaves turning brown.

China Doll Plant Soil Requirement

A potted emerald tree does best in lightweight and well-draining soil. The potting mix should have the ability to hold moisture without getting soggy.

I recommend a mixture of potting soil, peat moss, and perlite. Peat moss holds sufficient moisture around the roots, and perlite helps to enhance proper drainage.

Re-pot the houseplant every year to avoid excessive buildup of salts around the roots. Too much salt results in leaf tip burn. Another option is to flush the soil every month.

China Doll Plant Light Requirement

Outdoor china doll trees thrive best in full sun, and the indoor emerald trees are sensitive to direct sunlight exposure. These china doll plants prefer four to six hours of direct sunlight.

Adequate light enables the trees to grow faster and bushy. I recommend the use of bright indirect sunlight to avoid scorching the leaves.

Place your china doll plant near the window with curtains to offer protection from the intense sunlight rays. Use east or west-facing window during the early morning or late evening.

Moving the potted china doll plant outside and inside often may cause leaves shedding problems. Use artificial lights when growing the houseplant in a dark room.

How to Water China Doll Plant

China doll trees do best in slightly and consistently moist soil. Too much moisture is likely to cause root rot, and this might kill the plant.

Besides that, under-watering might cause china doll tree dehydration. The emerald tree does not want its soil to dry out or sit in a soggy environment.

I recommend watering the houseplant more often during spring and summer. Reduce the watering frequency during winter due to low transpiration rate.

Humidity Requirement for China Doll Plant

China doll trees appreciate average humidity. The trees can also tolerate dry indoor air without becoming fussy. Indoor heating during winter can make the houseplant struggle.

The best humidity for indoor china doll trees is about 40 to 50%. Misting indoor emerald plant leaves won’t help the houseplant.

I recommend the use of a humidifier to help boost the indoor humidity level. Do not crowd the china doll plant with other indoor plants to create space for air circulation.

Temperature Range for China Doll Plant

China doll plant is a subtropical tree that survives in USDA zones 10 to 12. A potted china doll is a little bit temperamental and stays happy a room temperature.

Emerald trees thrive best under the temperature range of 65-75oF (18-24oC). China doll plants can tolerate higher temperatures at the day despite drooping leaves at 82oF temperature.

Frost weather can also harm your indoor emerald tree. Ensure the indoor temperature does not go below 50oF (10oC).

How to Fertilize China Doll Plant

A potted china doll stays green throughout the year despite being a seasonal tree. It is not a heavy feeder like other indoor plants.

Use balanced fertilizer to feed your emerald tree every two weeks during spring and early summer. The nitrogen nutrients help to support vegetative growth and green foliage formation.

Be sure to dilute the balanced fertilizer before applying it to your favorite indoor tree. Do not feed your emerald tree during winter to avoid the buildup of toxic substances around the roots.

China Doll Plant Flowers

Mature outdoor china doll plants do produce scented flowers in clusters along the branches during mid-spring and summer. The bloom opens up at night and drops in the morning.

The indoor china doll doesn’t bloom at all. But there are old specimens that produce transient bloom in bright indirect sunlight.

How to Repot a China Doll Plant

China doll plants hate transplants and they do display displeasure via their leaves. I recommend re-potting this houseplant in case of root-bound issues.

Re-pot the china doll plant due to overwatering, and low soil fertility to rejuvenate it. The task should be undertaken during spring and once after every four years.

Do not disrupt the re-potted plant to allow it to acclimate to the new potting soil. Provide sufficient sunlight and consistent soil moisture.

Pruning and Maintenance

Both indoor and outdoor china doll plant requires a regular pruning routine. It helps to keep the baby tree bushy and compact. These houseplants require minimal attention.

Use a sharp pruner (Check the Best Deals on Amazon) to cut dead stems back from the main trunk. The soft branches make it possible to prune to any height.

How to Propagate a China Doll Plant

Stem cuttings and seeds are the best china doll plant propagation method. But the stem cutting method is the easiest and fastest way of propagating the china doll plant.

Cut about four-inch green stem tips and remove the lower leaves. Insert the cuttings in a moist potting mix and wrap with clear plastic. Pinch the stem tips after roots development.

Another option is to plant seeds from a reputable source. Provide room temperature and sufficient light to enhance germination. Be sure to use filtered light on young trees.

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Common Problems and Solutions


China doll plants are more vulnerable to insect infestations. These sap-sucking creatures munch the leaves and drain vital nutrients from the plant.

Spider mites, mealybugs, and aphids are the leading pests that attack emerald trees. Use either insecticidal soap or isopropyl alcohol to get rid of these insects.


Emerald trees are less vulnerable to plant diseases. Root rot due to overwatering is the leading plant disease that might kill the china doll plant.

I recommend inspection of the potting soil moisture before watering the houseplant. The china doll plant does not tolerate a damp growing environment.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is China Doll Plant Toxic to Pets and Humans?

No. the Emerald tree is a non-toxic houseplant for pets and children. But it can cause stomach upset in case the leaves are consumed in large quantities.

Why Does My China Doll Plant Have Yellow Leaves?

China doll plant leaves turning yellow are due to overwatering. Other possible causes are insufficient light, low humidity, and transplant shock.

Be sure to investigate your emerald tree and identify the exact cause. The information will help to fix the yellow china doll plant leaves with ease.

Why Does My China Doll Plant Have Dry Leaves?

Underwatering and prolong exposure to direct sunlight are the reasons behind the dry leaves on the china doll plants. Soak the soil without getting soggy and provide bright indirect sunlight.

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Final Word

China doll plant is a fantastic houseplant due to its robust and attractive foliages. It helps to bring a jungle feel with lasting impressions.

China doll plant care outdoor is a no-brainer task. But regular pruning is highly recommendable to maintain a compact appearance.

China doll plant care indoor can be a little finicky. Use the above information to enhance proper growth and plant health.