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China Doll HELP!

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by Sorathien on September 24, 2005 05:52 AM
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!
by Cricket on September 25, 2005 03:47 AM
Hi Sorathien,

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.

by Karamy on September 27, 2005 12:38 PM
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.
by Cricket on September 27, 2005 01:01 PM
Karamy, do you remember the name of the book or author? I am interested to read any scientific research supporting a plant allergy theory.
by Sorathien on September 27, 2005 01:15 PM
my husband is a mom's china doll lived for about 2 or 3 years and got about 2 feet tall. maybe that's why mine isn't doing well....
by Karamy on September 28, 2005 12:31 AM
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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