The Kentia Palm (Howea forsteriana) brings a touch of the tropics to any home with large feathery leaves that sit atop long stalks. In this guide, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about Kentia Palm care and how to nurture these exquisite plants at home.
Kentia Palm Care – Key Takeaways:
|Common Name:||Kentia Palm, Sentry Palm, Thatch Palm|
|Scientific Name:||Howea forsteriana|
|Native Range:||Lord Howe Island (Australia)|
|Soil:||Well-draining potting mix with organic matter; prefers slightly acidic to neutral pH (5.0-7.0)|
|Light:||Bright, indirect light; can tolerate lower light conditions, but growth may be slower|
|Watering:||Allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering again (usually every 10 to 15 days in spring and summer and 15 to 20 days or so in winter).|
|Temperature:||Ideal range is between 60-80°F (17-27°C); does not tolerate temperatures below 55°F (13°C)|
|Fertilizing:||Feed with a balanced liquid palm fertilizer diluted to half strength once every 2-3 months during the growing season (spring and summer)|
|Pruning:||Prune dead or yellowing fronds to maintain appearance; use sharp, sanitized shears.|
|Pests:||Common pests include spider mites, mealybugs, and scale insects; they can be managed with regular cleaning, appropriate watering, and insecticidal soaps or neem oil if needed.|
|Toxicity:||Non-toxic to pets and humans; however, it’s always best to keep plants out of reach from pets and small children.|
How to Grow Kentia Palms Indoors at Home
Are Kentia Palms Considered an Easy House Plant to Grow?
The good news is that Kentia palms are considered easy to grow indoor plants at home. That doesn’t mean you can set it and forget it, but these palms are an excellent choice for people new to plant care or looking for a generally low-maintenance plant.
How Big and How Fast Will the Plant Generally Grow Indoors?
While these palms can grow over 30 feet tall in their native habitat, a Kentia palm indoors will be around 12 feet tall. They are a slow grower compared to other indoor palm tree species (such as Cat palm, Paradise palm, Chinese Fan palm, Bamboo palm, or Tropical palm) and will grow no more than a foot each year.
What To Do Before Planting
Since Kentia palms don’t like direct light, find a spot that doesn’t receive any direct sun. These palms can handle part shade as well as indirect light.
Along with choosing a spot with the right amount of light, you also want to ensure your palm has enough space. Take note of your plant’s height and ensure the ceiling is tall enough. Since the Kentia palm is slow-growing, you can always move your palm to a new spot if it outgrows its current location.
For more, see our in-depth guide on where to position Kentia palms for optimal care and feng shui benefits.
What’s the Best Kentia Palm Soil Mix?
Kentia palms prefer a well-draining potting mix with a slightly acidic or neutral pH. They aren’t too particular about the exact composition of the mixture, as long as it provides good drainage.
Pre-mixed potting soils can be easily modified to support Kentia palms. To create a soil mix your palm will love, blend the following:
- 2 parts compost-based potting soil
- 2 parts coarse sand
- 1 perlite
- 1 part peat moss
How to Plant Kentia Palms
Kentia palms have sensitive roots, so make sure you handle the roots with care while you are planting. Other than this, they are easy to plant.
When looking for a container, choose one a few inches larger in diameter than the plant’s current pot. Ensure the new container has drainage holes to allow excess water to escape.
Once you have your new container, fill it with a well-draining soil mix, such as that detailed above. Place your palm’s root ball in the container and fill the remaining space with soil. When you finish, the palm’s trunk base should be even with the soil surface.
Gently tamp the soil around your plant’s root ball, but don’t compact the soil. Once it is ready, give it a good drink.
In suitable climates, these also make excellent potted palm trees for outdoor areas.
Kentia Palm Light Preferences
Finding a spot in your home where this palm will thrive is pretty easy. The most important thing is that you keep it out of direct light. So, don’t place it near a bright, south-facing window.
While the Kentia palm doesn’t like bright light, it can handle both indirect and low light. That means it can thrive in a dim corner of your house and in front of a north-facing window covered with curtains.
Kentia Palm Temperature & Humidity Preferences
The Kentia palm prefers temperatures between 60-80ºF. These plants don’t like hot or cold drafts, so keeping them away from vents and exterior doors is best.
They prefer humid conditions but can also tolerate moderate humidity. They generally don’t require a humidifier, but you can spritz them with water once a week if your home has low humidity.
How to Care for Kentia Palms at Home
Watering Kentia Palms
Like many plants, Kentia palms don’t like their soil to dry out completely, nor do they like continuously saturated soil. Therefore, you should aim to water your plants when the soil is partially dry.
To determine if your palm needs a drink, stick your finger into the soil near the palm’s base. When the top two inches of soil are dry, it’s time to water. When you water, thoroughly soak the soil so your plant can get a good drink.
The length of time you should go between waterings depends on various factors.
- Temperature: As the temperature increases, your plant will lose more water through transpiration, and the soil will lose more water through evaporation. Therefore, you’ll need to water more often in warmer temperatures than in colder temperatures.
- Humidity: You will need to water more often in drier conditions than you will in humid conditions.
- Time of Year: Kentia palms slow their growth during the winter. Therefore, they require less water in darker and colder months.
Generally, you’ll need to water your Kentia palm every 10 to 15 days in spring and summer and every 15 to 25 days in winter.
Kentia palms can be sensitive to salts and contaminants in the water. Consider using distilled tap water or rainwater if your water contains chemical residues or high amounts of chlorine.
Fertilizing Kentia Palms
Generally, Kentia palms actively grow from mid-Spring through mid-Fall. During this time, you should fertilize your palm once a month during this growing season. Use a houseplant fertilizer that is diluted to 1/2 the recommended strength.
You don’t need to fertilize when Kentia palms slow their growth in the winter.
Pruning Kentia Palms
These palms don’t need pruning and are happiest when left alone. However, if you notice any diseased or yellowing leaves, you can use a sharp knife or pair of scissors to remove the damaged tissue.
Propagating Kentia Palms
Propagating Kentia palms at home is uncommon since these palms are propagated from seed.
Plants rarely produce flowers and fruit when they are grown indoors, which means they don’t produce seeds. If you did obtain a seed, you would have to wait anywhere from three months to a couple of years for it to germinate!
When and How to Repot Kentia Palms
Kentia palms don’t like being repotted, so you should only switch containers when absolutely necessary. This includes when the plant has root rot or is severely root-bound.
To repot your Kentia palm, follow these steps.
- Obtain a pot that is one to two inches larger than the current pot.
- Fill the bottom inch of the new pot with soil.
- Carefully remove the plant from its current container while gently handling the sensitive roots.
- Shake off any old soil and remove any rotted roots with a pair of sharp shears.
- Place the palm in its new container.
- Fill the container with soil and gently press the soil around the plant’s roots.
- Water thoroughly.
Common Problems & How to Treat Them
If you notice your palm’s leaves are starting to turn yellow (or potentially even dropping), you are probably overwatering.
Ensure you only water when the top two inches of soil are dry. Additionally, check that your pot has drainage holes and you use a potting mix that drains excess water.
Faded or Scorched Leaves
Patches on leaves that appear faded or burnt are likely a symptom of too much direct light. Even an hour of bright, direct sunlight can damage your plant’s leaves.
Move the plant to a spot that doesn’t receive direct light, or cover your windows with curtains to tone down the light’s intensity.
Yellow or Brown Leaf Tips
While yellow leaves are a sign of overwatering, sometimes only the tips of the leaves turn yellow. If this is the case, you are likely underwatering your plant.
Make sure you are checking your plant’s soil regularly for moisture. Once the top two inches are dry, it’s time to water!
When you water, you want to soak the entire root ball. Sometimes, water can run through dry soil rather than soaking into it. If so, try putting an ice cube on the soil’s surface. It will slowly melt and release water into the soil.
Red Spider Mites
The red spider mite can be particularly bothersome in low-humidity environments. Boosting the relative ambient humidity around the plant (via a humidity tray, in-room humidifier, or gentle spritz with a water bottle can help to keep the little terrors at bay).
About Kentia Palms
The Kentia palm’s scientific name is Howea forsteriana. Its species name is an ode to Johann Reinhold Forster and Georg Forster, father and son naturalists who explored areas of the Pacific Ocean, including Lord Howe Island.
Origins & History
The Kentia palm plant was originally from Lord Howe Island off of Australia’s Eastern Coast. This little island is only one mile wide by seven miles long, but it’s home to four indigenous palms.
Starting in the mid to late 1800s, the Kentia palm began appearing in hotels and parlor rooms worldwide. Queen Victoria loved indoor palm trees and had them throughout her home, which may have contributed to their popularity.
The seed was shipped worldwide, and people began growing and selling new plants. In the 1970s and 1980s, Lord Howe Island residents began exporting sprouted Kentia palm seeds and then small seedlings.
Kentia Palm Uses & Benefits
The Kentia palm is an exquisite ornamental plant and is well regarded for its ability to purify the air.
Why are Kentia Palms So Expensive?
Growing Kentia palm is a slow and laborious process. Kentia palms are typically propagated from seed rather than from cuttings or divisions.
When you combine these two factors, it takes a while to grow a large enough plant to sell. That means a substantial amount of labor and growing space are required to produce new plants, and these costs are passed on to buyers.
Kentia Palms Meaning & Symbolism
In some parts of the Western world, the Kentia palm is seen as a symbol of immortality. While any natural plant has its lifespan limits, the Kentia Palm has long symbolized enduring strength and vitality.
Kentia Palm Care FAQs:
Is Kentia Palm Poisonous to Humans and Pets?
No, Kentia palms are non-toxic to humans and pets.
How Long Do Kentia Palms Typically Live?
With the proper care, Kentia palms can live for over 50 years indoors!
Are Palm Trees Considered Good Luck?
In Feng Shui practices, palm trees are perceived to bring luck and prosperity to their owners and keep hold of their wealth.
How much light does a Kentia palm need?
Kentia palms don’t like bright, direct light, so it’s best to find a spot in your home that predominantly receives indirect light and low light. That means it can thrive in a dim corner in your house as well as in front of a north-facing window that is covered with curtains.
Is Kentia palm a good air purifier?
Kentia Palms are considered excellent air purification plants due to their ability to remove known, harmful airborne toxins.
If you’re looking at the best options for growing palms at home, the Kentia palm is always a great choice. While it can be hard to find at times and is often on the pricey side, with due care and attention, these beauties will happily grow old with you as long as you provide the proper care and attention. Enjoy!