China doll house plant in a grey pot
(Image credit: Alamy)

The China doll (Radermachera sinica) is a fairly new houseplant that has become very popular and widely available. This plant is like a tree, with attractive, glossy, mid-green leaves divided into leaflets. This plant remains fairly compact and it's easy to look after. While their care can be a bit tricky, once you know the basic growing conditions for China doll plants, you can enjoy their presence in your home.

How to Care for a China Doll Plant

Consider your light sources

China doll plants need plenty of bright, but indirect, light. They need at least four to five hours of this kind of light a day. If the windows in your house are unable to provide suitable light, then you may want to use an artificial plant light to add additional light. 

Choose the perfect room temperature

They are also fussy about the temperature that they thrive in. These plants prefer to live in temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees F. (18-24 C.). They will not tolerate drafts, so make sure that wherever you put your China doll, it remains free from drafts and wind. 

Water just the right amount

China doll plants need moist, but well-drained, soil. Water when the soil on the top of the pot is dry to the touch. Be careful not to overwater the plant, as it does not like this and can develop root rot if left sitting in water due to poor drainage. This plant should not be repotted, as it grows best when its roots are rootbound

Be aware of change

The most important thing to keep in mind is that China doll plants do not like change. A change in light, water, temperature, or repotting the plant will cause a massive leaf drop. If your China doll plant does drop its leaves, don't panic. They will grow back if proper steps are taken. The first thing you should do is trim the remaining stems back by two-thirds to one-half. Cut back watering some to help prevent root rot, which is something this plant is particularly susceptible to in this state. Regular pruning is also a part of how to care for a China doll plant. 

The China doll plant may be a little on the finicky side, but they are certainly lovely plants that will add to the beauty of your home.

Heather Rhoades
Founder of Gardening Know How

Heather Rhoades founded Gardening Know How in 2007. She holds degrees from Cleveland State University and Northern Kentucky University. She is an avid gardener with a passion for community, and is a recipient of the Master Gardeners of Ohio Lifetime Achievement Award.