Kentia Palm Guide: How to Care for a Howea Forsteriana Tree

Kentia Palm Guide: How to Care for a Howea Forsteriana Tree

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Kentia palms have royal roots, famously decorating the parlors and homes of British monarchs. In fact, Queen Victoria loved them so much that she arranged for them to surround her coffin.

Luckily, Kentia palms don’t just thrive in burial chambers, they also flourish in most indoor spaces. Being a very tolerant and resilient plant, that grows slowly and prefers indirect light, Kentia palms are one of the best plants to grow indoors.

This complete guide will outline their low-maintenance care requirements, explaining how to grow Kentia Palms indoors.

Kentia Palm Details

Howea Forsteriana

Ease of Care: Easy
Light: Indirect
Water: Let the Soil Dry Out Between
Temperature: 60 F – 80 F
Height: <12’
Growth Rate: Slow
Pest: Spider Mites, Mealybugs
Disease: Root Rot
Toxicity: Non-Toxic

Kentia Palm Benefits

One of the most obvious benefits of Kentia palm plants is that they decorate your home’s interior with their gorgeous green foliage, immediately brightening up your interior spaces. This, paired with the satisfaction they can give you when successfully cared for, leads to happy chemicals like serotonin being released in your brain.

Kentia Palms can also improve your physical health by filtering pollutants from the air. Through their leaves and roots they absorb gases, which they then process removing pollutants, and then release oxygen. Having more oxygen around makes breathing easier which positively impacts functions like sleep.

small netia potted palm indoor tree foliage

Indoor Kentia Palm Care

Kentia palms make incredible indoor house plants, being extremely resilient, drought-tolerant, slow growers, and requiring indirect light. Below are some of the simple care instructions to keep in mind when growing a Kentia palm indoors.

Light

Kentia palms like bright, indirect sunlight. Your plant may be able to tolerate direct light if it was exposed to it as a seedling, but otherwise, it may burn or stress out your plant. If you place your plant in a south-facing window make sure the light it receives is filtered through a curtain. Kentia palms can also tolerate low light, but they won’t grow as much foliage.

Water

Allow the top 3 inches of your Kentia palm’s soil to dry out between waterings. Your plant should never be sitting in water or have standing water on its soil. If this occurs your plant could suffer from root rot. If you water your Kentia palm too much its leaves may develop yellow tips.

Do not use water that has run through a water softener because its salt content will be too high and Kentia palms are sensitive to salt. Ideally, use rainwater, distilled water, or tap water that was left overnight to sit out so all the chemicals in it dissolved.

Humidity

Kentia palms love tropical weather so naturally, they love humidity. Provide your Kentia palm with humidity through regular mistings several times a week, which will also take care of dust build-up on your Kentia palm’s leaves. You can also set your Kentia palm’s container on a humidity tray or place your home’s humidifier near it. If your Kentia palm does not get enough humidity brown spots will appear on its leaves.

Temperature

Again, Kentia palms are a tropical plant, so they love warm temperatures.

They thrive in temperatures between 65 – 85 F, which is where most home’s thermostats sit anyways. They can withstand temperatures as low as 30 F and as high as 100 F but do not prefer them and will noticeably suffer if they are exposed to them for a long period of time.

Soil

It is crucial that the soil you use for your Kentia palms is a well-drained, well-aerated potting mix so that water can smoothly run through it, not lingering and causing root rot. To help with this, your plant’s container should have adequate drainage holes. To also aid with this, choose a mix on the sandy side.

Fertilizer

Fertilize your Kentia palm on a monthly basis during the spring and summer using a palm fertilizer. Don’t fertilize in the fall or winter. If you fertilize too much the plant’s lower leaves will turn brown. Also, fertilizers tend to leave a build-up of salts on plant’s soil. Since Kentia palms are sensitive to salt you will need to flush the container’s soil every couple of months to get rid of that salt build-up.

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Pruning

Kentia palms, like other palms, do not require much pruning. In fact, they prefer not to be pruned unless their fronds are completely brown and dead in which case you can remove them. If they are only slightly brown, leave them because they are still providing nourishment to the plant. For prune-heavy gardeners the thought of leaving slightly brown leaves on an indoor plant may seem blasphemous, but trust me, it’s better for the plant’s health as a whole.

repot a kentia palm only when the pot is too smallWhen branches do fully die, snip them off using clean, sharp pruners. The blades must be sterile to prevent the spread of disease.

Repotting

Allow your Kentia palm plant to become completely rootbound before repotting it. This could take a couple of years because Kentia palms are very slow growers.

You can prolong how long until you need to repot by initially planting it in a 3-gallon container. When you do repot it, move the pot size up to a 5-gallon container.

You must be very gentle when handling your Kentia palm’s roots because they are sensitive and quite susceptible to shock. Carefully move it to its new home and provide it with fresh potting soil. Water thoroughly after repotting.

Propagation

You can only propagate Kentia palms by using their seeds. Unfortunately, if you are growing your Kentia palm indoors it is unlikely that it will produce seeds. Even if your plant was capable of producing seeds it can take over 15 years for it to bloom.

If you do get your hands on some Kentia palm fruit soak it for 3 – 4 days in warm water. Then, remove the seeds from inside the fruit. Make sure the seeds are clean and then apply some fungicide to them.

Place the seeds in a seed starter tray full of well-drained, light potting mix. Plant them shallowly and water immediately.

Place them in a location with bright, indirect sunlight and water them regularly.

It could take anywhere from 3 years to 3 months for the seeds to germinate, which I realize is a huge range of time. Propagating Kentia palm seeds is time-consuming but extremely rewarding if you are successful.

Outdoor Kentia Palm Care

Kentia palms make incredible indoor plants, however, growing them outdoors can be somewhat challenging. There are benefits to taking on that challenge though, namely that outdoors Kentia palms can grow to be 25 feet tall, and after 15 years sprout flowers, fruit, and seeds, which indoor plants are incapable of doing.

outdoor kentia palm in sunshine

That is, of course, if you are able to keep them alive outside.

For starters, you can only grow Kentia palms outdoors in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9-11.

If you do plant them outside they need to be in a spot with filtered sunlight or partial shade.

After being planted outside your Kentia palm will require supplemental watering for some time until it gets over its transplant shock. You must keep the soil around it moist, but not soggy, for a few months which can be a bit of a balancing act.

To keep your palm healthy, apply a granular fertilizer on a regular basis around it.

Although the growing process may initially be hard, eventually your plant will require less care and you will just reap the benefits of having a beautiful, towering Kentia palm in your yard.

Kentia Palm Varieties

There are several Kentia palm varieties, however, the two most popular varieties, which are also the varieties that are most commonly sold at garden centers, are thatch palms and curly palms.

Thatch Palm

Thatch palms are the more mainstream Kentia palm variety. They make excellent houseplants, with gorgeous green fronds that reach ridiculously long sizes, sometimes topping out at 3 meters long.

thatch kentia palm howea forteriana

Curly Palm

Curly palms also go by the name Belmore Sentry Palms. They have slightly curling, long green fronds and trunks that also tend to weave and bend. They were Kentia palm enthusiast Queen Victoria’s favorite variety.

kentia palm variety curly palm outdoors closeup of foliage

Where to Buy Kentia Palms

You can buy Kentia palms at your local plant nursery, but because of their rarity be sure to check in that they have some before heading over to pick one out.

You can also have this stunning house plant delivered straight to your home by ordering online.

A great online option is this 3’ Tall Kentia Palm that you can purchase on Etsy. It’s shipped in a one gallon container and is carefully boxed and wrapped so it doesn’t suffer from too much shock from traveling. This top-rated Kentia palm is sure to impress you and your guests.

Common Kentia Palm Growing Questions

Still feeling confused about Kentia palms?

Fear not, below are some of the most common Kentia palm growing questions!

What is the Growth Rate of Kentia Palms?

Kentia palms grow very slowly which makes them an excellent houseplant. If you are a gardener that likes to see results immediately that may sound like a negative, but consider this: Kentia palms can grow to be 12 feet tall indoors. Do you have a house with 12 foot tall ceilings? Probably not.

Are Kentia Palms Toxic?

Kentia palms are not toxic to humans, cats, or dogs so you can grow them wherever in your house you would like to. I wouldn’t encourage anyone or animal to eat them, but if they did nibble on your Kentia palm’s leaves they would be safe, minus perhaps finding the leaves to be unpalatable.

kentia palm in barrel planter with sleeping siamese cat underneath

What are Common Kentia Growing Problems?

The most common disease that kentia palms, and houseplants in general suffer from is root rot. To avoid root rot do not ever leave standing water on your plant’s soil, make sure that the soil you use is well-drained, and grow your Kentia palm in a container that has adequate drainage holes.

Kentia palms can also be prone to potassium deficiency which can materialize in brown spots on older leaves’ tips. To heal your plant, apply a controlled release potassium supplement to it.

Your plant may also suffer from manganese deficiencies which appear as brown spots on the youngest leaves tips. Similar to treating the potassium deficiency, you can use a controlled release manganese supplement to treat the problem.

kentia palm potted indoor plant on yellow wallWhat are Common Kentia Palm Pests?

Kentia palm plants are rarely besieged by pests, but when they are the pests are normally spider mites or mealybugs.

Spider mites tend to suck juices from Kentia palm plants and leave a fine white webbing over the plant. Mealybugs also suck the plant’s juices and are ¼ inch long cottony-looking bugs.

Both pests can kill a plant if they are left unchecked. If you catch the infestation early enough you can try wiping them off with a cloth. If you don’t catch it until the situation has devolved, use insecticidal soap or neem oil to fully saturate the fronds, hopefully killing them.

Repeat as necessary on a weekly basis until the pests are annihilated.

Conclusion

Now you have all the answers about caring for Kentia palm plants in the palm of your hand!

Kentia palms are incredible houseplants to grow, with beautiful leaves, resilience, and impressive growing capabilities. You will absolutely love yours and hopefully have little trouble helping it flourish indoors.

I hope you enjoyed this guide! If you did, be sure to share it and comment below with any questions!

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