The kentia palm is one of the world's most popular indoor palms. While perhaps not the most eye-catching indoor palm tree out there (that accolade probably goes to the Chinese fan palm), it still has everything you could ask for in an indoor plant—it's shade tolerant, cold tolerant, and doesn't grow overwhelmingly large. Under the right conditions, a kentia palm will grow slowly into a magnificent specimen that can reach up to ten feet tall (and even higher outdoors).
Native to the islands of the South Pacific, the kentia palm is usually sold with two to five palms planted together, giving it the appearance of having multiple stems, all topped with graceful, arching foliage. It has a long history as a parlor palm (Queen Victoria added them to all of her homes) and was the feature of palm courts at hotels like The Ritz Hotel in London, England and The Plaza Hotel in New York, New York.
While the kentia palm can live outdoors in tropic-like environments in USDA zones nine through 11, it's typically enjoyed as a houseplant, where it can be planted and enjoyed all year long.
|Botanical Name||Howea forsteriana|
|Common Name||Kentia palm|
|Mature Size||3–12 ft. tall (indoors), 2–4 ft. wide (indoors)|
|Sun Exposure||Partial shade, shade|
|Soil Type||Sandy, well-drained|
|Hardiness Zones||9–11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||South Pacific|
Watch Now: How to Grow and Care for a Kentia Palm Indoors
Kentia Palm Care
To keep your kentia palm happy, think tropical. In order for your plant to thrive, you need to mimic its natural conditions as closely as possible, including its love of balmy temperatures and added humidity. The plant does well in a shadier spot, which means you can place it pretty much anywhere in your home, from your bathroom to your bedroom.
Once your kentia palm is established, it will require very little care. Be sure to wipe the fronds clean periodically as they can collect dust indoors. Avoid replanting the palm unless absolutely necessary. Pruning is also excessive, and unnecessary unless you notice brown or yellow fronds that can then be trimmed.
Kentia palms prefer indirect sunlight. Do not expose the plant to direct sun unless it is acclimated as a seedling to direct sun—otherwise, it will likely scorch. While kentia palms can grow in low light conditions, you will get more foliage if they get soft, filtered light, so aim for at least six to eight hours a day.
When it comes to planting your kentia palm, they're not particularly picky with their soil. They can adapt to a variety of mixtures, including clay, loam, and sand. However, it's important that whatever mixture you choose is well-draining, as the palm is susceptible to root rot.
The kentia palm prefers to be well-hydrated, but never soggy. Water your kentia palm weekly in the spring and summer, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. During the fall and winter months, you can likely slow your watering cadence down a bit, but look to your plant as an indication. If you notice yellowing leaves, that can signal too much water and/or root rot. Likewise, brown tips on the plant's fronds can be a good indication that the palm needs more water.
Temperature and Humidity
Like any tropical, the kentia palm prefers warmer temperatures and lots of humidity. Though it's hardier than most other palms and can tolerate temperatures as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit, it will always perform better if its home maintains an environment of about 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Additionally, the kentia palm can benefit from added humidity, so plan to spray the leaves lightly at least once a week. If you have a particularly dry home, you can also increase the plant's humidity by placing its container on a bed of wet rocks.
Fertilize your kentia palm monthly, but only in the spring and summer, with liquid fertilizer or slow-release pellets (a specially-formulated palm fertilizer is preferable). If you fertilize it too much, you may see the tips of the lower leaves turn brown.
Kentia palms are also prone to potassium deficiencies, which can reveal itself as necrosis on the tips of the oldest leaves first. In order to ensure your palm gets enough nutrients, it's recommended that you also feed it with a control release potassium supplement.
Common Pests and Diseases
Like with many indoor plants, mealybugs and spider mites are the most common pests for the kentia palm. When treating your palm for these pests, it's best to avoid any alcohol-containing products, which can dry out the delicate fronds. Instead, use an insecticidal soap or neem oil instead. Additionally, you can clean the fronds once a month with a spray of water and a damp cloth to remove dust and help prevent spider mites.