The Kentia Palm (Howea forsteriana) brings a touch of the tropics to any home with large feathery leaves that sit atop long stalks. Also known as a thatch palm and paradise palm, it delights plant lovers with a dramatic yet graceful appearance. Not only are these palms beautiful, but they’re also easy to care for. The Kentia palm tree is slower growing than many other palms and requires less light. However, they are difficult to propagate, which can make them expensive and hard to find. Here we’ll take you through everything you need to know about Kentia Palm care, their origins & history, uses & benefits, and how to grow and nurture these exquisite plants at home.
- Kentia Palm Care Basics
- About Kentia Palms
- How to Grow Kentia Palms Indoors at Home
- How to Care for Kentia Palms at Home
- Common Problems & How to Treat Them
- Essential Tools for Kentia Palms
Kentia Palm Care Basics
Kentia palms prefer partial shade and indirect light and do poorly if exposed to direct light. Plant them in well-draining soil with a pH of 5.0-7.0. Keep Kentia Palms in an area where the ambient temperature remains between 60-80ºF, and water when the top two inches of soil are dry, about every two weeks in summer and four weeks in winter.
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 sometime in the mid to late 1800s, the Kentia palm began showing up in hotels and parlor rooms around the world. Queen Victoria loved indoor palm trees and had them throughout her home, which may have contributed to their popularity.
The seed was shipped throughout the world, 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 in addition to being 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 plant that is large enough 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. Whilst any natural plant has it’s own lifespan limits, the Kentia Palm has long symbolized enduring strength and vitality.
How to Grow Kentia Palms Indoors at Home
Are Kentia Palms Considered and Easy House Plant to Grow?
The good news is that Kentia palms are considered and easy to grow indoor plant at home. That doesn’t mean you can set it and forget it, but these palms are a great choice for people new to plant care or are 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 max out at 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 that has the right amount of light, you also want to ensure your palm has enough space. Take note of your plant’s height and make sure 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.
What’s the Best Kentia Palm Soil Mix?
Kentia palms prefer a well-draining potting mix that has a slightly acidic or neutral pH. They aren’t too particular about the exact composition of the mix, 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 you are looking for a container, choose one that is 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 are finished, the base of the palm’s trunk 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
It’s pretty easy to find a spot in your home where this palm will thrive. 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 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.
Kentia Palm Temperature & Humidity Preferences
The Kentia palm prefers temperatures between 60-80ºF. These plants don’t like hot or cold drafts, so it’s best to keep them away from vents as well as exterior doors.
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 you have particularly low humidity in your home.
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 soil that is continuously saturated. 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 is dry, it’s time to water. Each time you water, make sure to thoroughly soak the soil so your plant can get a good drink.
The length of time you should go between waterings depends on a variety of 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.
Kentia palms can be sensitive to salts and contaminants in the water. If you know your water contains chemical residues or high amounts of chlorine, consider using tap water or rainwater.
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.
When Kentia palms slow their growth in the winter, you don’t need to fertilize.
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, you are probably overwatering.
Make sure you are only watering when the top two inches of soil are dry. Additionally, check that your pot has drainage holes and you are using 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 this is the case, you can 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, particularly 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).
Essential Tools for Kentia Palms
Kentia palms don’t require any special tools. A large pot with drainage holes and a good soil mix are all you need to care for this plant.
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 a bit 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!
Kentia Palm Care FAQ:
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 in addition to keeping 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.
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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