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Radermachera sinica. Flickr
Recommended for your garden in the south of Spain: The china doll plant
Gardening

Recommended for your garden in the south of Spain: The china doll plant

Radermachera sinica, commonly called the emerald tree, china doll or serpent plant, is a member of the Bignoniaceae family

Denise Bush

Malaga

Friday, 9 February 2024, 19:15

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Often sold as a houseplant, Radermachera sinica, commonly called the emerald tree, china doll or serpent plant, is a member of the Bignoniaceae family. It is one of around 17 species in the genus and is native to the subtropical mountains of Taiwan and China.

In the wild this evergreen tree can reach up to 30 metres but on the Mediterranean it is unlikely to reach a third of that height.

It is a popular tree for bonsai as it has attractive, glossy bipinnate leaves and, with the right growing conditions, creamy-white trumpet flowers that are lightly scented.

It needs a rich, free-draining acidic soil, which must be kept moist, and a location where it will receive lots of indirect sunlight. Unfortunately it will not withstand drought or very cold temperatures.

The lightly scented flowers form from spring to late summer in panicles. They open at dusk and start to wilt by dawn.

Seeds form inside long, thin, twisted bean-like pods which give it the name the serpent tree. The pods turn brown when mature and burst open and release papery seeds to be dispersed in the wind.

Radermachera sinica seed pods.
Radermachera sinica seed pods. Flickr

During the growing season the soil needs to be kept moist but not waterlogged and avoid using tap water where possible which may be high in lime. During dormancy (the winter), it is best not to water at all. Feeding twice a month during the spring will help to keep it healthy.

Radermachera sinica can be propagated from tip cuttings but best results are obtained if a rooting hormone powder or solution is used. It can also be grown from seed but may take some time before it flowers.

No part of the plant is toxic and, in traditional Chinese medicine, all parts are used in remedies for different illnesses and treatments, from snake bites to inflammation and stomach disorders.

To promote dense growth it can be clipped regularly. Dead leaves and branches should be removed as they appear.

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