The Q&A Archives: Caring for China Doll' (Radermachera Sinica)

Question: I purchased a tree-like houseplant about 3 months ago that the clerk at the nursery called a 'China doll.' I'm having several problems with it, and what the nursery told me isn't really helping. My first problem in trying to find an answer on the net is that there doesn't seem to be a plant called china doll. It's sort of a ficus-like tree, but shorter, with smaller leaves. Here's what's happening: * the plant is losing a lot of leaves (which makes me think that it is related to a ficus, since I know they are notorious for losing leaves) -- they turn yellow and fall off. It does have quite a lot of new growth at the top, but it looks so much more sparse than when I purchased it. * another thing -- some of the leaves on top are now colored with a dark gray. The guy at the nursery told me just to keep the soil moist and that it could take lots of, and even direct, sunlight. The sunlight seems to make it worse! Help! This is my grand experiment with houseplants and I'd hate to kill off such a lovely plant. Thanks for your help, Kitty Spooner Palo Alto, CA

Answer: Your 'China Doll' is a Radermachera sinica. It likes 2-3 hours of curtain-filterd light a day, evenly moist soil, 60F to 70F temperatures and the leaves tend to drop if the soil dries out between waterings. So, your nurseryman was right about the constant soil moisture, but wrong about the light. Move it to a bright spot, out of direct light unless filtered and hopefully it'll grow back.

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