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Top China Doll Plant Care Tips You Should Know

China Doll Plant is an attractive and easy-to-care-for plant, and its unique appearance makes it a favorite among plant collectors.

In this post, we’re sharing the hows, whats, and whens of keeping your China Doll Plant happy. We will also provide various options for you to buy one for yourself. Read on to find out more about this Radermachera’s exciting features!

What Is China Doll Plant?

China Doll Plant (Radermachera Sinica) is a perennial from the Bignoniaceae that is famous because of its lacy, fern-like foliage.

It’s a compact plant that gained popularity in recent years because it tolerates the warm and humid air in most modern houses. The China Doll plant has lustrous and glossy emerald foliage that is often thin and fragile-looking and is separated into distinct leaflets.

This attractive plant is also known as Serpent Tree and Emerald Tree. It will grow well in hardiness zones 10-12 when outdoors.

China Doll Plant Origin And Family

The Serpent Tree belongs to the Radermachera genus in the Bignoniaceae family. It comes from Asia, specifically China’s and Taiwan’s subtropical mountainous areas.

This beautiful plant became popular in the 1980s and is mainly used as a lovely addition to countertops, window sills, and tables. It produces small white and yellow flowers most summers when it grows in its native habitat.

Where To Buy

You can find China Doll Plant without difficulty at a local nursery. Etsy is a great online alternative that I like to use.

Regarding pricing, China Doll Plant’s very affordable costs fluctuate between $10 for small plants and $20+ for larger or more mature plants.

China Doll Plant Plant Size

At its maturity, the China Doll Plant grows about 4-6 feet tall and 1-3 feet wide indoors. Considering this plant’s growth potential, light needs, and high humidity requirements, you can place it near an east or west-facing window.

China Doll Plant Care Needs

Your China Doll Plant will thrive beautifully when it’s properly cared for. It grows in relatively moist soil and medium to bright indirect light.

In most situations, you’ll want to water your Radermachera when the top inch of the soil is dry. We highly recommend you drench the soil and wait till you see water out from the bottom of the pot. China doll plant loves humidity.

We’re making it easier for you to care for your China Doll Plant with the extensive list of tips below.

China Doll Plant Care Difficulty

The Emerald Tree is typically considered easy to care for in most circles. For growing conditions, the primary considerations are the amount of light and the well-draining soil that this plant has.

China Doll Plant Growth Rate

When grown indoors, the Serpent Tree plant grows to 4-6 feet, and it grows the fastest during spring and summer.

Most Radermachera species, including the Sinica, have a slow-growing speed.

China Doll Plant Potting

This Sinica plant wants good drainage, and a medium-sized plastic, terracotta, or clay pot works fine.

With its need to be watered when the top inch of the soil is dry, drainage holes are a must for Serpent Tree.

China Doll Plant Repotting

To keep your plant healthy, it is a good idea to transplant it to a bigger pot once it grows to a specific size. However, repotting is not a high requirement for the China Doll plant. They like being rootbound. Frequent disturbance can lead to leaf drop.

On the other hand, soil loses its natural nutrient components over time, so it’s better to add some standard commercial potting soil if you’re repotting.

China Doll Plant Soil

Standard commercial potting soil is the most recommended option for the Emerald Tree. Use peat moss, perlite, and sand to make your soil mix. Adjust the ratio accordingly so that the final mixture is well-aerated. Remember that this plant prefers a growing medium that stays relatively moist.

The soil type should always support good drainage to avoid rot and other diseases. We suggest choosing potting mixes such as the following:

China Doll Plant pH

A soil pH of roughly 6.5-7.5, which is neutral to acidic, is ideal for the Serpent Tree. For newbies concerned about the soil’s acidity, you can buy a simple pH meter device to evaluate it.

To lower pH levels, use sulfur or aluminum sulfate. On the other hand, use baking soda, calcitic or dolomitic lime, or wood ash to increase pH levels.

China Doll Plant Water

Proper watering is essential for Serpent Tree. If you water too much, you risk causing diseases such as root rot. If you water too little, your plant’s roots may dry out, especially during warm days. In general, the Serpent Tree should have a growing medium that is relatively moist.

There is a simple way to determine if your plant needs to be watered. You can stick a wooden skewer or a pencil into the pot and see if wet, muddy soil is still sticking to it. Or, you can use your finger to feel for moisture. When it’s dry, it’s time to water your plant.

A porous pot with drainage holes and an aerated, chunky soil mix can help eliminate excess water and moisture.

China Doll Plant Light

China Doll Plant prefers medium to bright indirect light for approximately at least 4-5 hours of sun daily. Remember that you’re attempting to replicate how it grows in the subtropical mountainous areas of Asia (China and Taiwan). Occasionally, placing this plant near an east or west-facing window works fine.

When its leaves get scorched, you’ll know your China Doll Plant is getting too much light. Conversely, if its stems become leggy, the plant needs more light.

China Doll Plant Fertilizer

Feed your Emerald Tree to give it some extra nutrient boost. Experts suggest using water-soluble fertilizer once a month during spring and summer.

Here are some plant food options you can use:

In the winter months, when growth naturally slows down, less fertilization is needed; you only fertilize once every other month.

Propagating China Doll Plant

If your China Doll Plant has grown too tall, you may prune back the stem and set the cuttings aside for propagation! Below, we’ve listed step-by-step guides for different propagation methods.

Stem Cuttings In Soil

Most plant enthusiasts agreed that the easiest method to propagate a Serpent Tree is directly planting stem tip cuttings into soil. This plant’s growing season is in the early spring, so it’s best to make cuttings during this time.

1. Cut. Cut a portion of the stem with new leaves and at least one node attached. Without a node, your cutting won’t be able to sprout new leaves.

2. Disinfect. If you have cinnamon or rooting powder, dip the cutting to disinfect the wound and encourage faster rooting.

3. Plant. Stick the disinfected cutting into your potting mix. Pro tip: Make sure that the nodes are buried.

4. Water. Drench the soil with enough water and always keep it moist (but not soggy).

5. Maintain. The China Doll Plant roots grow within 2-3 weeks. We recommend placing your new plant in a bright, shaded area with good airflow.

Photo Title Price Buy
Miracle-Gro Indoor Potting...image Miracle-Gro Indoor Potting Mix 6 qt., Grows beautiful Houseplants, 2-Pack $13.37 ($0.03 / Ounce)
Burpee, 9 Quarts...image Burpee, 9 Quarts | Premium Organic Potting Natural Soil Mix Food Ideal for Container Garden-Vegetable, Flower & Herb Use for Indoor Outdoor Plant $12.99 ($0.04 / Ounce)
Sun Gro Horticulture...image Sun Gro Horticulture 8-Quart Black Gold 1310102 Purpose Potting Soil With Control, Brown/A $16.28 ($0.06 / Fl Oz)
Miracle-Gro Potting Mix,...image Miracle-Gro Potting Mix, Potting Soil for Outdoor and Indoor Plants, Enriched with Plant Food, 2 cu. ft. $34.26
FoxFarm Ocean Forest...image FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil Mix Indoor Outdoor for Garden and Plants | Plant Fertilizer | 12 Quarts | The Hydroponic City Stake $23.99 ($0.06 / Fl Oz)

Humidity And Aeration for China Doll Plant

China Doll Plant is a charming perennial that loves high humidity. We recommend keeping the air humidity levels around 50% or higher for the best results.

Aside from absorbing water through its roots, your plant will also need nourishment from the consistent moisture in the air. You can keep bowls of water to evaporate nearby, or you can invest in a humidifier that is more consistent in improving humidity for your plant and providing it with good air circulation.

China Doll Plant Temperature

Generally, warm temperatures are best for your Serpent Tree plant. This can range between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit.

The more significant consideration for this plant is consistency. Sudden temperature changes can heavily damage the Serpent Tree. Protect your plant against cold drafts in cold weather by closing windows and sealing any openings. Do not place it near air conditioners; keep it away from heat vents that can dry the foliage.


If you’re lucky, you might witness your Serpent Tree blooming with yellow and white flowers most summers (under the right conditions). However, this doesn’t typically happen in an indoor growing location.


Emerald Tree is not considered toxic to humans, dogs, or cats! This means it’s a great option to place in your home whether you have fur babies or not!

Toxic To Pets? Care Specifics
Botanical Name China Doll Plant
Common Name Serpent Tree, Emerald Tree
Plant Family Bignoniaceae
Origin Asia (China and Taiwan)
Plant Type perennial
Leaf Shape fern-like
Leaf Color glossy emerald
Recommended Home Placement near an east or west-facing window
Growth Rate slow
Light medium to bright indirect light
Soil standard commercial potting soil
When To Water Water when the top inche of the soil is dry.
When To Fertilize once a month during growing season
Preferred pH 6.5-7.5
Humidity Range 50% or higher
Toxic To Pets? No
Common Pests & Diseases spider mites, brown tips, fungus gnuts, scale insects, yellow leabes, root rot, aphids, mealy bugs, drooping leaves

Pests, Diseases, And Other Problems for China Doll Plant

In most situations, the China Doll Plant is disease-resistant and pest-resistant. There are, however, some common issues that can affect it. Below we’re discussing common problems and solutions to protect your China Doll houseplants.

Spider Mites

China doll plants can sometimes bring unwelcome pests to your home. The spider mite is one of the problems. Adult mites can be seen easily. However, its larvae will not be visible.

Spraying diluted neem oil on your plant’s leaves can help eradicate spider mites at their larval stage. There are also organic Pyrethrin sprays that are effective in killing adult mites. When spraying any pesticide indoors, make sure you choose products that are non-hazardous for humans when inhaled.

Fungus Gnats

Fungal infections can affect your plant. Fungus gnats frequently attack the Serpent Tree. These insects give birth to larvae which primarily feed on organic waste in soil, but they will also eat the roots of your plant.

Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical solution that will not only eliminate fungus gnats, but it will also reoxygenate your plant’s roots. Apply a solution of four parts water and one part hydrogen peroxide to your soil.

Because fungus gnats constantly love damp conditions, keep your soil dry by lengthening the time between watering schedules. These bugs might try to enter through the drainage holes of your pot, so cover those holes with synthetic fabric that will still allow water to pass through.

Scale Insects

Adult scales are sedentary and covered in a waxy coating, but they will give birth to tiny crawling bugs.

Armored scales can be scraped off, but you must do it gently using an old ID card or with your fingers. Take care not to rip the glossy leaves of your China Doll Plant.

Use insecticidal soap, horticultural, or neem oil to suffocate scale insects. When you see active crawlers, spray your plant with a general pesticide. Follow it up with a second application after a week. We recommend some products below:


Aphids are usually found as a cluster of bugs on your Emerald Tree. They could be colored green, black, red, brown, yellow, orange, or white. They multiply extremely fast and can weaken your plant within a matter of days!

Aphids are particularly attracted to new shoots, flower buds, and areas of fresh growth. They will leave behind unsightly black and white splotches as they feed on the sap.

If you spot these icky crawlers, immediately isolate your infected plant from the others. Give your plant a strong spray of water to dislodge the aphids, but remember to cover the soil with plastic to catch any falling bugs and their eggs. Dispose of the plastic somewhere far away from your garden.

An insecticidal soap spray, neem oil, or horticultural oil can solve the problem. Still, you may need to repeat this several times until the aphid population has been completely eradicated.


Mealybugs are white, fuzzy insects that suck the nutrients from plants and are the botanical equivalent of head lice on humans. These pests can stunt plant growth or kill your healthy China Doll Plant.

To send these nasty crawlers packing, you can directly spray them with neem oil (but remember to dilute it in water first). Another option is to take a cotton ball, soak it in Isopropyl alcohol, and rub it over the leaves and stem.

If you have several houseplants, you may need to quarantine your infected Serpent Tree until there are no more signs of mealybugs.

Brown Leaf Tips

Build-up salts and minerals can cause browning leaf tips. So be careful not to put too much fertilizer or tap water that is chemically treated.

The second most common cause of browning edges is no plant moisture. Always water your plants regularly.

Drooping Leaves

The leaves of your China Doll Plant might start to droop if it’s not getting the proper moisture and light needed. Check out or Water and Light sections above to see the recommended care practices for your plant.

Drooping leaves can also be an issue with low humidity, so check the humidity levels in your area and ensure that it matches your plant’s needs.

Yellow Leaves

Sometimes, you may see yellow leaves on your Emerald Tree, which can signify trouble. Factors that cause this problem include moisture stress, improper lighting, nutrient imbalance, inconsistent temperatures, insect infestations, bacterial or viral infections, and many others.

To narrow down the problem, you must consider recent weather changes or how you care for your plant.

Root Rot

An overabundance of water, which leads to root rot, is often fatal for the Serpent Tree. Once decay starts to set in, it is difficult to control. Your best chance is to completely cut off the root system and restart your plant when propagating a cutting.

Of course, you can always take certain precautions to prevent root rot. Start by giving your plant a fast-draining, well-aerated soil mix. You can add chunky materials to create air pockets and allow the roots to breathe.

Next, make sure you choose a pot for functionality, not just for aesthetics. The essential requirement for houseplants is drainage. If there are no drainage holes in your chosen pot, don’t be afraid to use your driller!

Finally, hold off on giving your plant a drink until you are entirely sure that the soil is no longer wet from your last watering. Stick your finger into the soil, or use the classic wooden skewer trick to check for moisture.

Similar Plants to China Doll Plant

Love Serpent Tree? Here are some other similar plant options you should try:

Asparagus Fern – A tropical plant with distinctive qualities, this is an excellent addition to the collection of any plant enthusiast. Despite having fern-like leaves and its common name, this plant is not a real fern.

Philodendron Mayoi – Plant lovers who like delicate-looking plants will like the Mayoi’s magnificent leaves. It’s also simple to maintain, which is a beautiful added benefit!

Indoor Fern – One of the modern, often simple-to-care-for houseplants that can improve any indoor garden is the indoor fern. Due to its unique look and texture, this houseplant is well-liked by plant collectors.

Sansevieria Fernwood – This plant has magnificent brilliant green tiger-print stripes on its dark green foliage, making it a must-have for indoor gardens.


With its lacy foliage, the China Doll Plant grows beautifully indoors.

It’s easy to care for. It loves medium to bright indirect light, high humidity, relatively moist soil, and warm temps.

So if you’re looking for a new addition to your collection or are just getting started as an indoor gardener, use these instructions to grow your own China Doll Plant!

Help us grow! This post contains affiliate links, which means we receive a percentage of the sale if you click a link and purchase something recommended. All opinions, however, are our own, and we do not accept payments for positive reviews.

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