Radermachera is a house plant of the eighties – it was introduced to Europe from Taiwan at the beginning of the decade, and its popularity as a specimen indoor tree has increased. It may be labelled simply as ‘foliage plant’, but you can’t mistake the large compound leaves bearing shiny, deeply-veined leaflets with long tapering points. Central heating is no problem because it tolerates dry air.
A small, evergreen shrub, it has long, bipinnate leaves with glossy, deeply veined leaflets that are about 2 in (5 cm) long. Young plants are compact with branching, woody stems. Fast-growing, this plant will quickly become leggy if not pruned back.
In its native habitat of subtropical Southeast Asia, mature plants will produce fragrant, yellow bell-shaped flowers. But plants grown indoors rarely flower!
There is much confusion over the naming of the Radermachera grown as a house plant. It may be labelled as Radermachera sinica (also known as China Doll), Radermachera Danielle or R. Stereospermum suaveolens. A variegated form is available.
Secrets of success
Temperature: Average warmth; minimum 50° – 55°F in winter. They will not tolerate drafts, so make sure that wherever you put your Radermachera, it remains free from drafts and wind.
Light: Bright, but protect from midday summer sun.
Water: Keep compost moist at all times; avoid waterlogging.
Soil: Any good potting mix.
Repotting: Repot, if necessary, in spring.
Propagation: Take stem cuttings in summer.
If your Radermachera does drop its leaves, don’t panic. They will grow back if proper steps are taken. The first thing you should do is trim the remaining stems back by two-thirds to one-half. Cut back watering some to help prevent root rot, which is something this plant is particularly susceptible to in this state.