China Doll Plant: How To Grow and Care For Rademachera

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Radermachera [rad-er-MOK-er-uh, SIN-ee-ka] is a genus of flowering plants, containing about 17 species native to southern China and Taiwan and belonging to the Bignoniaceae family.

The most popular of these species is Radermachera sinica.

Potted China Doll Plant -RademacheraPin

It comes from mountainous regions where the woody stems eventually grow to become compact trees with thick canopies of green foliage.

Radermachera sinica has several common names:

  • China doll plant
  • Emerald tree
  • Serpent tree

It’s an evergreen tree eventually reaching 80’ feet in nature. 

Luckily, as a houseplant, it rarely exceeds 8’ feet, and trimming helps control the height.

The beautiful, China doll plant may last for many years with proper plant care.

China Doll Plant Care

Size and Growth

In its native habitat, the China Doll Plant grows to become a tall tree. When cultivated, it typically reaches 4’ – 6’ feet, but may eventually top out at 8’ feet without grooming.

The plant produces woody stems and glossy green leaves. The small leaves grow to about 2” inches long. 

The evergreen foliage stays on the plant year-round. The attractive foliage is the main highlight of this plant. 

As the plant grows taller, the stems spread out and the leaves create a thick canopy.

Flowering and Fragrance

The plant blooms in the late spring or early summer producing trumpet-shaped flowers, measuring about 3” inches long.

The fragrant flowers bloom in panicles and last throughout the summer, followed by small fruit growing in slender capsules. 

The flowers are typically white or yellow.

Light and Temperature

The China doll plant is winter hardy to USDA zones 10 to 12, where it grows well in partial shade to full sun. 

In colder regions, grow it in a pot and place it in a window getting plenty of sunlight throughout the day. 

It should receive at least four to five hours of bright, indirect light, whether planted indoors or outdoors.

For indoor plants, maintain the normal room temperature and avoid drafts. 

If possible, keep the room between 65° – 75° degrees Fahrenheit (18° – 24° C).

The plant can spend the summer outdoors. 

In fact, the warm outdoor air encourages healthier growth, but it needs overwintering if temperatures dip below freezing.

Watering and Feeding

Check the soil before watering. Only water when the top of the soil is dry to the touch. Overwatering increases the risk of root rot. 

Use liquid fertilizer when watering during the summer months. 

Soil and Transplanting

Plant the China Doll Plant in moist soil with good drainage. The soil needs to stay mostly moist, but not too wet. 

Don’t repot the plant unless it’s outgrown its current container. Transplanting may damage the roots. 

The China Doll Plant grows best when the roots form a root ball. Use a large pot capable of supporting the thick stems and abundant foliage. 

As the plant grows taller, it will need a sturdy base to avoid tipping over. 


Pinch back the growth to encourage thicker foliage and to maintain the growth of the plant. 

Prune the plant in the spring or early summer to prevent leggy growth. 

In most homes, it’s only going to reach several feet tall. 

However, given the right environment, the plant may eventually reach the ceiling.

How to Propagate Radermachera

Propagate the plant using stem cuttings taken in the summer. 

  • Cut a stem containing a handful of leaves. 
  • Remove the leaves near the cut end of the stem.
  • Dip the cutting in root hormone powder and plant in rich soil. 
  • Don’t allow the cutting to dry out.
  • Keep the cutting indoors in a bright spot, but avoid direct sunlight. 
  • Check the soil daily to keep the plant from drying out.

After several weeks, the cutting should take root. 

Transplant it to a larger container.

Select a pot capable of supporting the plant’s growth for several years, to avoid the need for repotting in the spring. 

This gives the root system more time to establish itself. 

Radermachera Pest or Disease Problems

The typical pests may attack the plant, primarily when grown indoors. 

Aphids, whiteflies, and mealybugs may appear. Treat these infestations with water or insecticide. 

First, try spraying them away with blasts of water. If the pests remain, use a natural insecticide for plants like Neem or White oil

Other potential issues include root rot and scorching.  If the leaves develop scorch marks, it’s getting too much sun. Move it to a shadier spot.

If the plant develops fungus or root rot, it’s getting too much moisture or not enough sunlight. 

It may also require soil with better drainage. Limit watering and move the plant to a brighter location. 

Suggested China Doll Plant Uses

The China Doll plant works best as an ornamental houseplant, kept near a window, entrance, or porch. 

Keep in mind it needs plenty of sunlight throughout the day and may eventually reach several feet in height.

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