The Kentia Palm Tree, scientific name Howea forsteriana, is by far the most popular indoor palm because of its durability and elegant appearance.
The Kentia Palm Tree doesn’t require much maintenance and can easily adapt to a wide ranges of soil conditions. The Kentia Palms grow more quickly as singles than in the plant groupings.
Kentia Palm Tree Profile
Scientific name: Howea forsteriana
Common names: It is also known as Sentry Palm and Paradise Palm.
Origin: It is native to Lord Howe’s Island that is near Australia.
Appearance: Howea forsteriana has single clean trunk prominently ringed with the scars of shed fronds, very similar to Bamboo Palm. Trunk is slender, dark green when young, but turns brown as ages and exposed to sun. It is about 5 inches in diameter with no crownshaft. When Kentia Palm is mature, its trunk slightly swells at the base.
Three dozen arching evergreen fronds form a graceful crown. Leaves are pinnate, or feather-shaped, about 7ft long, with unarmed leaf stems that are 3-4ft long. Leaves have around 90 leaflets that bend downward in a graceful fashion and are 2.5ft long and 2 in wide. Leaflets are dark green on top and lighter green on the bottom.
Flowers/Fruits:Howea forsteriana needs some sun exposure in order to produce creamy flowers that are coming from below the leaves on the 3.5ft long inflorescence. Flowering will occur each year, usually during November and December. It has male and female flowers on the same inflorescence. Adult Kentia Palms will fruit at approximately fifteen years of age. Fruit is oval, around 2 inches, pointed at both ends, and has reddish brown color when ripe.
Growth Rate: Slow. The Kentia Palm can grow up to 10 – 20 ft tall and 1-5 ft wide.
Outdoor/Indoor Use: Both. This graceful palm has a great track record for surviving low light, dust, central heating, rough handling, drought and general neglect when growing indoors. If you are growing Kentia Palm indoors, find an area in your home that receives indirect light through a window. It doesn’t necessarily need to be an extremely bright spot. In low light the palm may only hold 4 6 fronds, in medium light levels you may see twice as many fronds. So, generally the more indirect light the better.
Cold Tolerance: The Kentia Palm can tolerate cold down to 25F. It is great for growing in USDA Zones 9b (25 to 30 F) to 11 (above 40 F).
Light Req: Shade to Partial shade. Outside Kentia can adapt to full sun, but prefers light shady to shady area. It can tolerate a full sun only after about 5 years old.
Water Req: Moderate. The Kentia Palm is not tolerable to severe dryness or continual over watering. It prefers moist soil much of the time, but make sure you allow the top 1 to 2 inches of soil to dry before watering again. Do not over water, especially during the winter time. During winter months it is best to reduce amount of water and mist regularly. Misting your palm is a excellent way to provide some humidity and to remove any dust build-up.
Over watering can lead to root rot if the soil mix does not drain fast enough. In case of the under watering, Kentia Palm will develop yellow tips that will turn brown. You will also notice that fronds are not standing upright.
Maintenance: Easy. Kentia Palm require minimal pruning just to get rid of dry brown fronds. Over pruning may cause irreversible damage to the trunk. To prevent nutritional deficiency, apply good quality palm fertilizer that has continuous release formula twice a year during growing season.
Insects and Diseases: Plant diseases are very rarely a problem with indoor grown palms. Under and over watering along with insects and mites are usually the main issues. There are a couple small scale insects that attack your Kentia Palm: mealy bugs and mites. To get rid of mites use a home remedy that worked great for me, of spraying the plant twice a day with a soapy dishwater mixture.
Propagation: Propagated by seeds. Place seeds in the sandy soil during spring or summer. The best temperature for the propagation is 65F to 75F. It takes a long time for Kentia P
alm fruits to mature, around 3-4 years. Unfortunately it’s not easy to determine when fruit and seeds are fully ripe because of the color transform that slowly changes the color of the fruit from dull orange to dull red as they mature. Kentia carries 2 or 3 crops at varies points of maturity.
Warm temperature around 80F-104F (26C-40C) helps to speed up germination process. The Kentia seeds are an exception and can tolerate lower germinating temps down to around 50F (10C), probably because they are native to Lord Howe Island which is a cooler tropical island at about the same latitude as San Diego but in the southern hemisphere.
Palm seeds should be germinated in the shade or filtered low light but not in the dark. It takes 1-3 months for Kentia Palm seeds to germinate.