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What is a China Doll Plant?

By Sonal Panse
Updated May 16, 2024
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A China Doll plant, which is known botanically as Radermachera sinica and more commonly as Serpent tree or Emerald tree, is an evergreen tree from the Bignoniaceae family. It is native to China, Taiwan and some other parts of Asia, but is able to thrive in other parts of the world as well. It is popular as an attractive garden and house plant.

The plant has a delicate appearance, with a slender stem and branches, and glossy green leaves; the leaves are bi-pinnate and, together, give the plant a feathery appearance. The China Doll plant is a fast grower, but, obviously, there is a difference in its growth rates when planted in a pot indoors and when planted in the ground outside. China Doll houseplants remain shrubs, but the ones planted outside can grow up to 30 feet (9.144 m) tall and produce white or yellow flowers; the flowers are trumpet-shaped and are not generally produced in the indoor plants. The plant can be pruned and trimmed to keep it at a specific height or to give it a specific shape.

After the flowering, the China Doll plant produces seed pods; these pods are collected, dried and then broken open to collect the seeds. To propagate new plants, the seeds are sown, allowed to germinate and then the young plants are transplanted. It is also possible to propagate a China Doll plant through cuttings, although this can be a bit more difficult.

The cuttings need to be green stems and about three to six inches (7.62 to 15.24 cm) in length. They are planted in a rich potting mix that is then covered with a plastic sheet or bag, and the plastic is fixed in place with a string or a rubber band. The plastic will retain moisture and humidity which the cuttings require to grow and develop into new plants. The cuttings should be placed in an area where they receive adequate, but not too much direct sunlight.

As far as maintenance requirements go, the China Doll plant can be rather finicky. It needs plenty of sunlight and watering, but will wilt or shed its leaves if it gets too much of either. It cannot deal well with sudden temperature changes. This is also a plant that does not seem to appreciate anyone smoking around it.

The plant is susceptible to fungus gnats, spider mites, mealy bugs and white flies, and will needed to be treated with pesticides regularly. The plant does not require to be fertilized too often; once or twice a month is usually enough. Using organic pesticides and fertilizers may be a good idea from the health point of view.

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