Growing a China Doll Plant: A Complete Guide

china doll plant in eramic pot

China doll plants are a popular plant to grow both indoors and outdoors. Their beautiful green leaves and impressive size makes them an excellent choice for gardeners in all different locations. They’re also relatively easy to care for and don’t require too much maintenance to stay healthy.

If you’re looking into buying a china doll plant, you’ll need to learn how to care for your new addition properly. Though china doll plants aren’t particularly fussy, they do require you to invest a bit in their care. If you don’t provide the proper conditions for your plant, it may struggle to grow and lose much of its beautiful luster. In some instances, the plant can even die. 

This guide discusses everything you need to learn before you buy a china doll plant. We’ll address all of the different ways you should care for your china doll plant, including light requirements, watering, fertilizer, diseases, and more. Read ahead to figure out how you can nurture your new purchase into a beautiful, majestic plant for your home or garden.

What Is a China Doll Plant?

china doll tree with flowers
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Image source: Flickr

The china doll plant is a foliage plant hailing from Asia. It originates from the hilly regions of southern China, Taiwan, and the Philippines. In their traditional habitat, some plants reach nearly 90 feet tall!

These plants are known for their green, pointed leaves. They also grow flowers in certain conditions, generally outdoors. Unfortunately, it’s uncommon to see indoor china doll plants produce flowers. Thankfully they still retain their beautiful color!

In a suitable environment outdoors, china doll plants will grow between 15 and 25 feet; some specimens reach even larger sizes. Indoors, they remain much smaller. It’s rare to find an indoor example of a china doll plant that stretches more than five to ten feet tall. 

Whether grown indoors or outside, these plants sprout many different vines, each one covered in leaves. The plant produces more vertically than horizontally, though it may spread beyond the boundaries of its enclosure depending on the size of the pot and space where you keep it. 

China doll plants are relatively hardy and don’t require too much care to survive. However, it’s essential to pay attention to the needs of your plant. If you neglect to water it or don’t expose it to the proper amount of sunlight and fresh air, it may struggle to survive.

When agitated or not cared for correctly, china doll plants begin to drop their leaves. Thankfully, they can recover rather quickly once you start caring for them again. Some leaves may turn yellow before they fall off -- this is a significant warning sign! Check your plant for yellowing leaves; if you find any, you should immediately step up your care to ensure that the plant remains healthy.

If you grow your plants in an outdoor area, they may also lose their flowers if they become stressed. When you see the flowers begin to wither and fall off, check the plant to make sure it’s healthy. 

How to Care for Your China Doll Plant

If you’ve just purchased a china doll plant, you’ll need to learn how to care for it properly. The plant requires the right amount of sun, water, fertilizer, and other components to stay alive and thrive. Read ahead to learn about everything you need to do.

Indoors versus Outdoors

The first thing you’ll need to decide is whether or not to grow your china doll plant outdoors. Though outdoors plants are much larger and grow flowers, they require more work to maintain than indoor specimens. Depending on your local climate, a china doll plant may also wither or die if left outside. 

To determine whether or not you live in the proper climate to support a china doll plant outdoors, evaluate the USDA hardiness zone chart. This map displays the particular features of each environment across the United States in a simple format that’s easy to read. 

If you live outside of the United States, you’ll still be able to determine your zone with the USDA map. Look at your longitude and reference your local weather features with the descriptions of each region found below the map. In many cases, your own government’s agriculture department will provide its zone measurements. In those cases, the process is even more natural.

China doll plants grow best in USDA zones 10 and 11. Outdoors, they require plenty of sunlight and may not withstand some cold, rainy climates. If you get any snow or frost, forget about growing a china doll plant -- the species cannot tolerate frost or ice. 

You should also ensure that your climate isn’t too windy to grow a china doll plant. If you receive a lot of strong winds over a year, it might be best to keep your china doll plant indoors. It may not survive outside in your garden. 


No matter where you grow it, a china doll plant needs significant sun exposure. Outdoors, they prefer bright, dry light. Don’t try to improve them in an area that’s too shady! Partial shade may be a good idea, however. These plants can wither if left fully exposed in the sun for the entire day. 

Indoors, keep your china doll plant out of direct sunlight but in a well-lit room. The plant will need plenty of natural light to help it grow properly. Keep it out of any hot areas, and don’t place the pot near windows where it could burn! Your china doll will collapse and die that way.

Instead, move it to a location that receives a stable supply of bright light without too much direct sunlight. Many growers recommend placing your plant against a window that faces either east or west. This way, the china doll will get more direct sunlight at the beginning or end of the day. It won’t be fully exposed during the midday hours when the sun is at its hottest.

Your china doll plant may wither or droop in the absence of sunlight, or if it’s left in too much light. If the problem is severe, the leaves may yellow or fall off. When you notice any of these signs, make sure that your china doll receives the proper amount of light.


Like any plant, china dolls benefit from regular watering. They require a significant amount of moisture in the soil -- you should never leave the plant dry. If you can’t feel any wetness throughout the ground when you press your finger into the pot, water your plant.

While you don’t want to leave your plant thirsty, you also need to be careful not to overwater it. Let the very top of the soil get dry before you water it, and don’t leave the hose on forever -- you’ll clog the roots and damage the plant! 

For outdoor plants, many growers recommend between one and two inches of water each week. This water can come from rainfall or your watering -- don’t feel any pressure to water your plant after a rainy week. 

The leaves of china doll plants enjoy a bit of humidity in the air. If you live in a dry climate, you can compensate by misting the blades regularly. Whenever you water or mist the plant, use lime-free water. Any additives or chemicals in your water may damage the plant.

Finally, you can slightly reduce your watering when the plant isn’t growing. Make sure you provide it with enough water during the spring and summer. The china doll requires less attention during the fall and winter.

Soil and Fertilizer

To maintain your china doll plant indoors, you should keep it potted in a soil-based mixture. You’ll need to choose a mix that allows enough water to get to the roots. However, the plant will suffer if its roots are waterlogged. To prevent the roots from dying off, make sure that there’s adequate drainage. Don’t let water pool at the top or bottom of the pot!

Outdoors plants benefit from a layer of mulch atop the rest of the soil. This mulch will keep the roots protected from any extreme heat. For best results, use a mulch layer that extends between two and three inches above the rest of the soil. 

No matter where you’re growing it, you should fertilize your china doll plant regularly. Size increases the most during the spring and summer. At these times, feed the plant every two to four weeks with a potent fertilizer mixture.

In the offseason, china dolls don’t require as much fertilizer in the soil. You can reduce your fertilizing schedule during the fall and winter; once every six to eight weeks should be plenty. Some growers advocate switching to a half-strength fertilizer mixture during these periods, though it’s not necessary. You can try different strengths and see what works best for you and your plant.


plant leaves
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Image source: Flickr

The china doll plant is a hardy and versatile option to grow as a houseplant or the centerpiece of your garden! If you need to care for your plant, our guide covers all of the information you need. 

Featured Image: Flickr


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