The Kentia palm (Howea forsteriana) is a majestic palm tree that thrives in tropical climates and is a popular houseplant. This palm is slow-growing but ultimately can reach 40 feet high. It has arching, erect, feather-like fronds with green leaves that stretch around 10 to 12 feet long. The fronds grow from a slender single trunk that matures from green to dark brown. Insignificant creamy white flowers form on spikes at the end of the year, and they give way to small oval fruits. This palm is best planted in the spring.
|Common Name||Kentia palm, thatch palm, sentry palm|
|Botanical Name||Howea forsteriana|
|Mature Size||Up to 40 ft. tall, 6–10 ft. wide|
|Soil Type||Sandy, loamy, well-drained|
|Hardiness Zones||9–11 (USDA)|
Watch Now: How to Grow and Care for a Kentia Palm Indoors
Kentia Palm Care
This palm loves balmy temperatures. But it can adapt to a range of conditions, including fairly low light, dust, various soils, and moderate cold.
Once your Kentia palm is established, it will require very little care. Plan to water during dry spells, fertilize seasonally, and prune just the dead (or diseased) fronds. Also, try to avoid replanting your palm or digging around it unless absolutely necessary to prevent root damage.
Getting the light just right is important to growing Kentia palms successfully. Too little light can limit frond growth, and the palm probably won’t produce flowers. Too much light or exposure to harsh light can scorch the fronds. Mature Kentia palms can tolerate full sun, but palms less than 5 years old should only be placed in indirect light.
Kentia palms prefer a well-drained sandy or loamy soil. But they also may adapt to clay soils as long as there’s still adequate drainage. An acidic soil pH is best, but they can tolerate a neutral to slightly alkaline pH.
Kentia palms like lightly moist soil. They don’t tolerate severe drought or overwatering well. Plan to water when the top inch of soil dries out. But make sure the soil doesn’t become soggy, as that can lead to root rot. You can slightly back off on watering during the fall and winter months as the palm's growth slows for the season.
Temperature and Humidity
Kentia palms can tolerate temperatures up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and down to about 25 degrees Fahrenheit for brief spells. But they prefer the temperature to be above roughly 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Moreover, a moderate humidity level is sufficient. These palms struggle in very high humidity, as well as in dry weather. If there’s dry air around your palm, you can mist the fronds to raise humidity.
Use a slow-release fertilizer in the spring and summer to support growth. Select a fertilizer specifically formatted for palms, and follow label instructions.
Pruning needs for a Kentia palm should be minimal. Trim off dead fronds once they’re brown and dried up. While they’re in the process of turning from green to brown, they can still provide the tree with nutrients. Also, you might have to prune off diseased fronds as they arise to prevent the disease from spreading.
Propagating Kentia Palms
Kentia palms are commonly sold in groups of two to five palms potted together, giving the tree the appearance of having multiple stems. So you can propagate your palm simply by division of the multiple trees. This can be done anytime, though the best time is in the spring or summer. Here’s how:
- Gently loosen and remove the root ball from the pot.
- Then, select a palm that you want to remove from the group. Slowly tease apart its roots from the rest of the root ball, aiming to keep all of the roots as intact as possible.
- Replant your separated palm in a suitable growing site. And either replant the rest of the palms together as they were, or continue separating them.
How to Grow Kentia Palms From Seed
Kentia palm seeds mature slowly and end up as a deep reddish-burgundy color. They should be planted promptly after they mature for the most success.
Plant seeds in a shallow tray of moistened seed-starting mix. Place a clear plastic bag around the tray to trap moisture, and place the whole tray in indirect sunlight. Also, use a heat mat to keep the soil between 85 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make sure the soil remains lightly moist but never soggy. Germination can take anywhere from three months to over a year.
Potting and Repotting Kentia Palms
When growing a Kentia palm in a container, ensure the pot has ample drainage holes. An unglazed clay pot is ideal because it will allow excess soil moisture to evaporate through its walls. Choose a pot that’s at least a couple inches wider in diameter than the palm’s root ball, and use a quality palm potting mix.
Because this palm grows slowly, you might only need to repot every few years. It’s best to minimize repotting only to when it’s essential—when you can see roots growing out of the drainage holes and popping up out of the soil—as the palm doesn’t like its roots to be disturbed. Choose a container that’s at least a couple inches larger in diameter than the plant's current pot. Gently ease the palm out of its old container, and set it at the same depth in the new one, filling around it with fresh potting mix.
Kentia palms generally don’t need any special overwintering as long as you live within their hardiness zones. If you’re bringing a potted palm outside for the summer months, plan to bring it back inside before the temperatures fall below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Common pests that can affect a Kentia palm are spider mites, mealybugs, and scale. This is especially true of indoor palms that don’t have strong rains and winds knocking pests off the fronds. You sometimes can treat a minor infestation simply by spraying the palm with a strong stream of water. Otherwise, you can use insecticidal soap or neem oil. Avoid any alcohol-containing products, which can dry out the fronds. Prevention is also possible for indoor palms simply by wiping down the fronds with a wet cloth at least once a month.
Diseases that can occur in Kentia palms include leaf spot and other fungal issues. These more commonly affect outdoor than indoor palms, and they often can be treated with an appropriate fungicide.
Common Problems With Kentia Palms
When grown in the environment they like, Kentia palms tend to thrive with few issues. But unsuitable growing conditions can cause some common problems.
Leaves Turning Yellow
Yellowing palm fronds can be a sign of overwatering and root rot. Make sure only to water after the top inch of soil dries out. And monitor the soil after watering to ensure that it drains properly.
Browning tips on the fronds can be a sign of underwatering. In hot, dry water especially, you might have to increase your watering cadence. Browning tips also can indicate overfertilization. So you might want to do a soil test to find out the nutrient balance of your soil.
What’s the difference between Kentia palms and areca palms?
Kentia and areca palms are both popular houseplants, and they might look similar at first glance. However, areca palms have multiple stems, which are green with reddish spots. Kentia palms grow from a single trunk, and the stem matures from green to brown. Kentia palm leaves are also wider than those of the areca palm.
Can Kentia palms grow indoors?
Kentia palms can do quite well indoors, as they can tolerate low light, container growth, and even some neglect. But you might need to increase humidity for them indoors, and they won't reach anywhere near their full size potential.
Where should I place a Kentia palm in my house?
The best spot for a Kentia palm indoors is by a window that gets bright indirect light. Also, keep the palm away from heating and cooling vents to protect it from temperature extremes.