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China Doll Plant Propagation

China Doll Plant Propagation


By: Nikki Tilley, Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden

China doll plant (Radermachera sinica) is a popular and beautiful houseplant. However, this delicate-looking plant frequently requires regular pruning to keep it from becoming scraggly. Although it can be somewhat difficult, these pruned off cuttings can be used for starting additional China doll plants.

Propagating China Doll Plant

China doll cuttings are not always easy to propagate, as this is a finicky plant. Nonetheless, China doll plant starting is possible given the right conditions. When propagating China doll plant, use only the green stem cuttings, not the woody ones. These cuttings can easily be taken from the ends of the plant’s stems while pruning. Avoid using any long cuttings, sticking to those that are 3 to 6 inches in length instead.

Insert cuttings for China doll plant propagation into small pots filled with damp potting soil mix or compost. Place a clear plastic bag over top of the pots to help retain moisture levels, as this plant requires a lot of humidity in order to put out roots.

Alternatively when propagating a china doll plant, you can cut the bottoms of 2-liter bottles and place them over the cuttings as well. Move the cuttings to a bright location with indirect sunlight for about three to four weeks, making sure the soil remains moist during this period.

China Doll Plant Starting Care

China doll plants require bright light and moist conditions. When China doll plant starting, heated sunrooms and greenhouses make suitable locations for the cuttings. Once the cuttings are putting out roots, they can be transplanted to another container and care should be given just as with the mother plant. Keep the soil moist, occasionally allowing it to dry some to avoid any potential problems with fungus. Increase watering as new foliage develops, decreasing once the China doll plant goes dormant.

With a little patience, China doll plant propagation is not only possible but well worth the additional effort.

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1. Light Requirement

You’ll want to keep your China Doll plant in bright but indirect sunlight. If you are growing it outside, keep it in a decently shady area. Too much direct sun can scorch the leaves of this plant, damaging it badly in a very short amount of time.

If you are growing this plant inside, you can use a grow light to ensure that its needs are met. Just make sure that you choose a light that is very bright. This is a very important part of keeping this particular plant healthy, both initially and over time.

2. Water

It is crucial that you do not over water this plant, as it is prone to root rot. You should wait until the first inch of soil is dry before watering it. During the warmer and dryer months, you’ll want to water it more.

When the winter months come, you won’t have to water this plant quite as much. Do not allow the soil this plant is in to become too dry before watering it. Too much water is definitely bad, but so is not enough.

3. Climate

China Doll plants can be grown in USDA hardiness zones of 10 and 11. These plants prefer warm climates and regions that get lots of sunlight most of the year.

4. Soil

It is imperative that you put this plant in a well-draining soil mix. If the soil you have put this plant in doesn’t drain very well, you can put some sand in. This should be fairly effective when it comes to achieving adequate drainage.

Make sure that you also give your plant fertilizer during the periods of active growth. You’ll want to choose a fertilizer that is nice and balanced. When it is not a time of active growth, you can limit fertilizing to once every couple of months.

5. Temperature

These plants tend to do well within a temperature range of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are going to keep this plant indoors, you should avoid any drafty areas. A regular draft can make it difficult for your plant to stay healthy over the long term.

6. Repotting

It is not a good idea to repot these plants very often, as this can cause the leaves to droop quite a bit. You’ll only want to do this when you absolutely have to. You might want to simply prune to the roots instead of repotting. This can help with keeping the overall size of the plant under control.

7. Speed of Growth

China Doll plants grow fairly quickly, especially when they are grown in a climate that is warm and sunny year round.

8. Height and Spread

These plants can grow up to 8 feet tall with a spread of 3 feet. Make sure that you keep a distance of at least several feet between this plant and any others in your garden. This will help with reducing the chances of tangled roots.

9. Flowers

You can expect your China Doll plant to begin flowering in the early spring to summer months. The flowers this plant produces are typically white and yellow. Keep in mind that it is nearly impossible to get it to bloom when kept inside.

10. Trimming

You’ll want to make a point of trimming any stems on this plant that do not have foliage. You should also focus on areas that have little foliage. You can trim back to the main branch when necessary.

Any dead stems on this plant should be removed altogether. This will help to keep the plant healthy and prevent disease from spreading. Cut the stems of the plant back to half an inch above the leaf to the height you want.


China Doll HELP!

Gardening Reference » Gardening in 2005

about a week ago i bought a China Doll plant. it was about a foot tall, looked healthy. it was in a tiny pot, only 4"

my mom used to have a china doll and it was very pretty and i really liked it, so i got one of my own. when i got home, i transplanted it into a sealed 8" terracotta pot. i put stones in the bottom of the pot to allow for drainage and there is a hole in the bottom as well.

well, only a couple days after i bought it, it started dropping leaves, now it's dropping more and whole branches are falling off and leaves are turning yellow before they fall off. i thought it was too cold by the window, so i moved it to the middle of the room where it's a more even temp, but it doesn't seem to be doing any better.

is it just in shock? what am i doing wrong? i'm usually great with plants, but i don't know what to do with this one and i don't want it to die.

the soil was damp when i planted it, and i haven't watered it since, as it's still nicely damp, but not soaked. someone told me that the pot might be too big and i should put it in something smaller. there is NO fertilizer in the pot.

i don't know what else to do! please help!

China dolls are one of my favorite plants but they are very finicky, shedding leaves whenever they are unhappy about their environment. They require bright indirect or direct light (protected from hot midday sun) away from warm or cold drafts, and evenly moist but not soggy soil. Expect the China doll to shed leaves for a few weeks as it acclimatizes to the new environment in your home. Pruning might be helpful.

Repotting was not a good idea for two reasons. Never repot a plant until it is fully acclimatized to its environment. Also, generally plants don't need to be repotted unless they require watering more frequently than every three days, and then to a pot only 1-2" larger. Over potting frequently leads to over watering which in turn causes root rot. Your friend was correct in suggesting to down pot.

Many people don't like China dolls because they are so finicky but unlike plants that silently suffer with few symptoms until it is too late, China dolls' dramatic reaction to unfavorable conditions provide opportunity to make necessary adjustments to their environment. But prima donnas are notoriously unpredictable so don't be discouraged if the plant doesn't make it.

Someone more experienced might have further suggestions but I hope this helps for now. Best of luck with your China doll and please keep us informed how it fares.

I had a China Doll that croaked despite my best efforts (and my usually green thumb). Months later, while in an out-of-town library browsing through houseplant books, I read that this plant has a fatal allergy to cigarette smoke! I'm a heavy smoker, so this plant's not for me til I quit. None of my other plants seem to mind.

Odd thing is, I had read about China Doll in numerous other books, and web-searches, without any mention of this allergy, until I saw this one book.

No, I don't remember the name of the book or the author. I was out-of-town visiting, my sister had business to conduct at this place (the library of an inner-city gardening beautification project)and when she was done we had things to do, so I had to quickly re-shelve all the houseplant books I had strewn all over the table :-)

The book, from what I remember, was an ordinary houseplant care guide, though better than average in its info and advice. The cigarette allergy of China Doll was stated matter-of-factly, I don't think it went into detailed scientific data to support it. It rang true to me, simply because I've never had a plant decline so dramatically, even those reputed to be difficult. It described the exact symptoms my plant had exhibited (browning and dropping leaves) as resulting from smoke exposure. But as I said, I've never read this elsewhere, even after googling "China Doll" and "smoke".


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This is a common question, and an important one to answer! Being a member of the Aracaeae family, the zz plant contains calcium oxalate, which is toxic to pets.

To remove any risk, simply keep them in an area that’s inaccessible to your pets! And even if a pet does nibble on it, you’ll rest easy knowing it’s not a fatal poison. It will cause diarrhea and potentially vomiting if ingested, so keep a watchful eye.

Q. A branch broke off of my ZZ plant…can I use it to propagate a new plant?

A. The answer is YES, but it takes a long time. The best way to propagate is to root the branch in water or damp soil. Make sure you have ample light and warm temperatures…but be prepared to wait. It can take a long time for the zz plant to set out new roots.

Q. My Zamioculcas Zamiifolia has stems that keep drooping over, but I’m not over or under watering. What’s wrong?

A. Although zz plants don’t need fertilizer often, if you’ve had the plant a while it may be time for a light dose of fertilizer​. The other issue could be a lack of light. In extreme shade, zz plants like to droop a bit. Try moving it to a sunnier spot.


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