The Kentia palm’s (Howea forsteriana) slender trunks and bright green fronds make it a popular houseplant. But these plants aren’t always green. If you notice your palm’s fronds slowly losing their green luster or quickly turning yellow, determining the cause of discoloration is the first step. I will cover some common reasons why Kentia palms are turning yellow.

My Kentia Palm Leaves Turning Yellow

1) Overwatering

Let’s face it: we’ve all overwatered a houseplant at least once. Overwatering comes from a place of good intentions, but it can lead to an unhappy plant.

If you water your Kentia palm too often, the soil will remain moist for longer than it should. As the plants’ roots sit in wet soil, they may develop root rot. That means they won’t be able to properly take up water, complete gas exchange, or absorb nutrients.

If your palm has developed root rot, you may also notice symptoms such as wilted leaves and stunted growth.

The solution to overwatering is easy: decrease the amount you water! A good rule of thumb is to water your palm when the top two to three inches of soil is dry.

2) Underwatering

That’s right, underwatering can also lead to yellow leaves. While Kentia palms can typically go two or three weeks without water, consistently underwatering your palms can lead to wilted, crispy, and discolored leaves.

If your palm doesn’t have access to enough water, you will likely notice the tips turn yellow and then brown. This discoloration can eventually spread to the entire frond.

Remember that environmental factors impact the ideal watering schedule. High heat, low humidity, and bright light all increase your plant’s water needs.

One way to check if you need to water your palm is to stick your finger into the top two inches of the soil. If it’s dry, water. Make sure to thoroughly saturate the soil when you water. 

3) Poorly Draining Soil

Like most palms, Kentia palms prefer well-draining soil that allows excess water to escape. A proper potting mix should hold a little moisture but let most water exit through the pot’s drainage holes.

If you use a potting mix that doesn’t provide enough drainage, your plant’s roots will sit in moist soil. Over time, the roots may become soggy or develop a fungal infection known as root rot. Both of these are stressful events and can cause plant leaves to become yellow.

The best way to remedy poorly draining soil is to repot your palm using a better draining mix. A potting mix that’s specially designed for palms is a great option.

You can also use a standard houseplant potting mix and add a few extra handfuls of perlite or sand. Both of these materials will increase drainage.

4) A Lack of Nutrients

Kentia palms aren’t heavy feeders, meaning they don’t need tons of nutrients to remain healthy. However, these long-lived plants will eventually show signs of nutrient deficiency if they don’t receive the necessary fertilizer.

A lack of nitrogen, magnesium, and manganese can all cause yellowing fronds.

If you think your palm lacks nutrients, you can apply a low-dose fertilizer. Both granular fertilizers and liquid products (via Amazon) can work well.

The best way to prevent a nutrient deficiency is to apply fertilizer on a regular basis. Apply a small dose of fertilizer every month from the spring through the middle of the summer.

5) Low Temperature

Kentia palms are native to Australia. Although they prefer warm temperatures, they can tolerate temperatures that dip a few degrees below freezing.

That said, a sudden drop in temperature or prolonged exposure to temperatures below 50°F can lead to stress. This may result in yellowing leaves.

Do your best to keep your palm in an area that remains between 60–90°F. And make sure to avoid sudden changes in temperature and cold drafts.

6) Too Much Direct Light

Kentia palms like a lot of light but don’t like exposure to direct rays. If you sit your plant near a south-facing window or suddenly move it to a location that receives direct light, the friends can become scorched.

Exposure to direct light typically leads to leaves that suddenly turn yellow. If you notice your leaves are scorched, move them to an area without direct light.

7) Not Enough Light

On the other hand, too little light can also be a problem! Kentia palms are not great plants for low-light areas; they’re not afraid to let you know this.

If you stick them in a dim corner or room without windows, the plants will likely become stunted and eventually develop yellow leaves. The solution? Move your palm to a brighter area!

Try placing your plant near a west-facing or east-facing window or a few feet away from a south-facing window. You can also tuck in the middle of a well-lit room.

Remember that Kentia palms prefer indirect light to direct light, so try to keep your plant out of direct rays. If you have the perfect spot near bright windows, slowly acclimate your palm to this bright area over time.

8) Plant Is Rootbound

Kentia palms can grow up to 40 feet tall outdoors, but they typically remain under eight feet tall when they’re grown indoors. As the palms’ trunks and fronds grow, so do the roots.

Keeping your plant in the same pot for years can lead to a rootbound plant. When plants become rootbound, they experience stress and may have difficulty taking up water and nutrients. These factors can lead to yellow leaves.

Repotting your palm will help prevent and fix issues that come with it being rootbound. If you notice roots growing out of the bottom of the planter, it’s time to repot. You can also follow a schedule repot your Kentia palm every three to four years.

When you repot, choose a container that is a few inches larger than the original and use fresh potting mix. Remember that repotting is a stressful process, so your plant may appear limp or discolored in the weeks after you repot it.

9) Change in Location

Moving your plant to a new location can cause stress. If you moved to a new home or just relocated your palm from one room to another, your plant is likely dealing with different temperatures and/or light.

After you move your plant, give it a few weeks to adjust to its new environment. Avoid overwatering and overfertilizing, and just let your plant be.

If you don’t see your plant perk back up in a few weeks, you can begin to investigate if there are problems with the plant’s new home.

10) Too Much Fertilizer

While Kentia palms need various nutrients to thrive, applying too much fertilizer can lead to fertilizer burn and/or a buildup of salts. Both of these can result in yellowing leaves.

If you think you added too much fertilizer, you can attempt to water your plant and wash out the fertilizer. Another option is to repot your plant in fresh potting soil.

However, a better option is to avoid applying too much fertilizer in the first place! Remember to only fertilize your palm in the spring and fall and follow product instructions to determine the proper dose.

Kentia Palm Leaves Turning Yellow – Wrapping Up

If your Kentia palm’s fronds have changed from vibrant green to yellow, something is awry. Improper environment, too much water, and sudden changes can all lead to discolored leaves. After you’ve diagnosed the cause of the yellow leaves, you can work to remedy the problem.
For more, see our in-depth guide to Kentia palm care at home, managing common Kentia palm pests, the amazing benefits of Kentia palms, and the best types of potted palm trees.

Contributing Editor | Full Bio | + posts

Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

Author Briana Yablonski

Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

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