How To Care For A China Doll Plant
China dolls are one of the most popular decorative objects in Chinese culture. They have been used since ancient times and they continue to be cherished today. There are many different types of china dolls, but all of them share some common characteristics:
They’re made from wood or other natural materials.
The eyes and mouth are usually covered with a thin layer of paint so they don’t show too much. Some even use real blood! (Yes, it’s true!)
There may be a small flower attached to the top. These flowers represent love, happiness and luck in Chinese culture.
Chinaberry plants are commonly used in their decoration. Chinaberry plants grow in tropical regions around the world and they’re very easy to care for. You’ll find them growing wild throughout many parts of Asia, Africa, Australia and South America.
They’re native to Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.
If you live near a beach where there’s sand or shallow water nearby, chinaberry plants make wonderful houseplants!
The chinaberry plant you choose to decorate your china doll should be healthy and very easy to care for.
You’ll find them at most home and garden centers. Just make sure that the one you pick has:
Firm branches (without too many soft or mushy spots) A greenish-tan trunk or stem with a light brownish color on the outside (avoid any that look gray or black). Small (less than an inch long) yellow flowers. (These will bloom from April through June and they smell like honey).
Stuff You’ll Need:
China doll plant pruning shears (or sharp, clean scissors)
A large container (such as a bucket or flower pot) with drainage holes
Potting soil (you can buy this at any home and garden center. You only need enough for the container you choose to use).
How To Care For A China Doll Plant:
Step 1: Find A Good Location
Since chinaberry plants prefer partial shade, it’s best to keep them indoors in a room that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight. A southern or eastern exposure is ideal. If you have trouble finding a good location, fluorescent lights (set on a timer) can provide all the light they need.
These plants do best when the temperature stays between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep your chinaberry plant away from heat vents, fireplaces or air conditioning units. If the temperature drops below 60 at night, you may want to place a small (heat)pad under the container and turn it on for a few hours (as long as the temperature stays above 40).
Step 2: A Healthy Chinaberry Plant Should Have:
Firm branches without too many soft or mushy spots.
Greenish-tan trunks or stems with light brown bark on the outside (avoid any that look gray or black).
Very few insect pests (for example, root maggots, spider mites and mealy bugs).
A small amount of fine white webbing (called galls) on the upper sides of the leaves. This is a normal occurrence and it doesn’t hurt the plant.
Step 3: Watering Your China Doll Plant
Use room temperature water whenever possible. (Your tap water should be fine if it hasn’t been treated with chlorine recently). Cold water will shock the roots and cause the plant to lose too many nutrients, while hot water can burn the roots.
Water your chinaberry plant whenever the top inch of soil is dry (usually once a week). Don’t let the container stand in water.
Too little water causes wilting.
Too much water causes root rot.
Poor drainage can cause root rot.
Step 4: Fertilizing Your China Doll Plant
Fertilize your chinaberry plant when you water it, using a very diluted solution. Use liquid fertilizer (such as Miracle-Gro) at half the strength recommended on the label. Using more than this can damage the roots.
Too much fertilizer causes yellow leaves towards the bottom of the plant.
Too little has no affect on the plant.
Step 5: Pruning For Shape And Size
Use your pruning shears or scissors to trim away any branches that are smaller than a pencil in diameter. These weak branches will not support the weight of the flowers. You can also cut back long, straggly branches and shape your chinaberry bush into a tree, if you like.
Pruning away old, dead branches can prevent disease from attacking the plant.
Dead branches are identified by their gray or dark brown color and woody texture.
Step 6: Repotting
Your chinaberry plant should be repotted every 3 years. Choose a container that has at least one inch of drainage holes in the bottom. This will prevent root rot and your chinaberry bush from dying.
Get a container that’s at least 2-1/2 to 3 times bigger than the current one.
Use a well-draining soil (such as a 50/50 mixture of peat moss and grit).
The roots should fill no more than 1/3 of the container.
Step 7: After Repotting
Put your chinaberry plant where it gets the best amount of light exposure (the more light, the faster it will grow).
Don’t add any fertilizer for up to three months, then give it a weak solution (such as 1/4 strength) and gradually increase the strength after that.
Step 8: Common Diseases And Problems
The leaves turn yellow and drop off.
The plant might be getting too much or too little water. It can also be caused by moving it from a sunny spot to an area that gets very little light.
The leaves turn yellow and the tips of the branches die.
This is caused by over-watering. Get a soil test done to make sure you’re using the right fertilizer and not over-watering.
The leaves turn brown near the edges before they fall off.
This is caused by fluctuating temperatures or over-fertilizing.
The center of the plant is mushy and the bark of the main stem is starting to flake off.
This is gray mold disease, which is common and can be prevented by keeping the soil moist but not wet and by eliminating any dead or dying branches.
The main stem has a swollen, dark-colored gall, about the size of a golf ball.
This is gall mite and can be fatal if not treated quickly. The only way to treat is to completely destroy the plant and everything it’s come into contact with (including the soil) and wash your hands after handling.
The edges of the leaves have brown spots and the tips are dying.
This is called burnt leaves and is common in very dry areas. Simply increase your watering.
Chinaberry plants produce small, purple flowers in the spring and summer.
Chinaberries are related to the apple and Plum trees.
The berries make great jams and jellies.
Chinabeer wine is popular in some areas.
The wood makes good farm fencing.
The flowers can be dried and used for decoration.
The berries have been used to make dyes in the past.
Only female plants will produce berries for you.
Female plants can be identified by looking for small, white bumps that look like grains of rice on the branches. Only some of the branches will have these. In the spring and summer, these bumps will turn into small, light green orbs.
As the berries ripen in the fall, they turn a deep red color. These berries can be harvested and saved to plant next year or you can eat them!
If you live in an apartment, chinaberry can still grow for you, but you’ll need to keep it in a large pot and take care of it like any other houseplant.
If you’re having trouble finding chinaberry plants, many garden centers or nurseries that have a good selection of local plants or trees. If they don’t have it, ask them to order it for you.
Besides the chinaberry plant, be sure to look over their selection of plants and trees to see if there are any other varieties that you like. Most nurseries will order plants for you if they don’t have them in stock.
Purchasing a tree “mail order” is a good choice if you have very little to no gardening space. It’s also a good choice if you’re not sure what kind of trees will grow in your area and you want to try several different kinds.
When purchasing a tree mail order, be sure to read the description and any instructions that come with it. Trees sent through the mail can sometimes become “leggy” and have long trails of roots because they aren’t in the ground. This can be fixed by cutting all the limbs and roots off.
Smaller trees are easier to plant and will get a head start on their growth. Trees that are several feet tall can take months to settle in properly and may even topple over in strong winds or heavy rains if you don’t stake them.
Trees sent through the mail are often very small and may take several weeks to months to fully grow. Nurseries usually have a much larger selection of trees and the trees are usually the right size to plant.
Your local nursery will most likely carry trees appropriate for your area. They may not have all the varieties you want, but they should have a good selection. If you would like to try a wide range of trees to find your favorite variety, you can always order a tree “mail order”.
There are several mail order companies that offer very wide selections at reasonable prices.
Many trees need to be planted at specific angles. Take a moment to look over your tree before you dig your hole. Most trees prefer to be on a slight incline so a shallow hole needs to be dug for them.
Dig the hole twice as wide as the root ball and just as deep. Don’t forget to take into account the height of the tree when you’re digging your hole. Your hole should be a bit deeper than the previous ground level and twice as wide.
Plant your tree as soon as you can. Storing the tree for long periods of time can lead to roots coming out of the bottom of the root ball which can kill the tree. Just take the tree out of the container it’s in, make a hole, and plant it.
If you are planting your tree in the fall, you should do so at least 6 months before you want to see it flower.
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