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China Doll Plant Grow & Care Guide

china doll plant

If you want to add a tropical yet earthy feel to your home then Radermachera Sinica also known as the China Doll plant is just for you. Other common names include serpent tree or emerald tree. The China Doll plant is just now gaining popularity amongst plant lovers. It originates from the subtropical mountainous regions of Asia, particularly China (surprise!) and Taiwan.

It is well known for its glossy, forest green leaves and during summer it has blooming white petals with a yellow heart, which give off a sweet subtle fragrance. Although, the plant rarely blooms indoors.

Emerald tree plant will fit right in on your work desk, windowsill, or even kitchen. Its simple look will leave a chic yet subtle sense of nature all around you. This plant is not poisonous, so you can keep it around pets and children without a worry

How to Grow?

Taking care of the China Doll plant may seem tedious. The plant is quite fussy but once you get used to its needs and wants. Don’t worry, caring routine will blend into your daily life. 

And if you’re extra caring and of course lucky, you’ll enjoy the scenery and scent of serpent tree plants’ beautiful white petals.


The China Doll plant loves to bathe in bright but indirect sunlight for at least four to five hours a day. If there isn’t enough natural sunlight coming through your windows, the plant will also accept artificial plant light.

If the plant won’t get its needed sunlight, it will quickly turn lanky and lifeless. Best to keep the China Doll plant in a sunny spot with slight shade.

china doll plant
China doll plant in a pot Source: Tatters


China Doll plant is one of the plants that can not handle too much water. If you water the plant too frequently, its roots will most likely rot. The safe way to know when to water is by touching the soil, specifically the top inch of the soil.

If the soil on top is dry then the plant needs water. China Doll plants’ water needs vary with the seasons and the environment surrounding them so don’t forget to check on the dryness of its soil.

Soil and Fertilizer

The best soil for the China Doll plant would be a peat moss-based mix with added vermiculite or perlite, such as the African violet potting mix. You can add perlite to improve drainage and help keep root rot away.

You need to feed the plant with fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season (from spring to fall). It needs to be a balanced water-soluble fertilizer diluted by half. 


China Doll plant originates from subtropical mountainous regions, so it does love humidity and warm weather. It thrives when the temperature is 65-75 °F (18-24 °C). Serpent tree plants can grow outside in USDA Hardiness zones 10-12.

If it is not possible to recreate the ideal climate for the plant, that’s ok. China Doll plant will do just fine in a drier, slightly colder household. However, make sure to keep the plant away from drafts and the windier parts of your home. 


Propagating the China Doll plant is fairly easy:

  • Take some of the stem cuttings from new growth
  • Place them in fresh moist soil
  • Remember to keep the soil moist at all times
  • New roots should grow in no less than five weeks


One thing the China Doll plant absolutely can’t stand is being repotted. The China Doll plant does best root-bound. Repotting may damage the plant and its roots. It might never thrive as it did before the repotting. If repotting is necessary, then make sure you’re repotting it into a pot only one or two inches bigger.

china doll plant
Leaves of a china doll plant growing outdoors Source: Starr


The China Doll plant grows fast and might even get to be six feet tall. If you don’t want a six feet tall plant in your home you can always prune it. 

Select a long stem and cut it back. New growth will begin just under the cut. It’s important to remove the brittle and lifeless stems. If necessary, prune the stems growing in the wrong directions.

You can prune an indoor China Doll plant anytime. If you decide to grow it outside, the best time for pruning is either spring or summer. 


Sadly the China Doll plant is prone to fungal infections which can cause the houseplant disease called Leaf Spot. To keep this fungal infection away from your China Doll plant you need to keep the leaves dry and provide good air circulation.

If the fungal infection does however reach your China Doll plant, there are some things you can do to help the plant. Prune any of the infected stems and cut them back by two-thirds to one-half. Reduce watering for a while.


China Doll plant attracts spider mites, aphids, and mealy bugs. As a precaution, you should check your China Doll plant every week. It will be hard to get rid of the pests due to the abundance of leaves the plant has.

If pests are spotted earlier you can use rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and rub any of the unwanted guests away. If the rubbing alcohol seems to have little to no effect, you can use neem oil and spray your whole plant.


The China Doll is a beautiful and chic plant to have in your home or garden. It’s safe for you and your pets and can create an earthy yet fresh vibe in your home or garden.

If you’re lucky enough to witness the China Doll plant in bloom, the pleasant smell and sight will not disappoint.

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