Kentia Palm – Howea forsteriana

The widespread popularity of the Kentia Palm results from its durability as well as its very attractive appearance. You can see it in restaurants, public buildings, and private institutions, as well as in large living rooms and atriums. Wherever it is grown its large, dark-green leaves enhance the surroundings.

Kentia Palm is a slow grower, but if you are prepared to wait for several years this magnificent palm can get large enough to become a piece of green furniture. Despite its hardiness, Kentia Palm is difficult to grow from seed. This can make it quite expensive to buy from a nursery. A constant and high temperature — 27°C (80°F) — during the period when the seed is germinating makes it difficult for the amateur to consider raising from seed. It likes moist summer conditions and relatively cool winters but it must be kept away from strong, direct sunshine. It does not like dry air so stand on trays filled with moist pebbles.

In time, the Kentia Palm can grow to 2.4m (8ft), with a spread of 3m (10ft). When it gets this big, stand the pot on the floor and give it plenty of room. The leafstalks of the Kentia Palm may get as long as 90cm (3ft) and they act as ribs that carry drooping leaflets. The plant spreads so much because the leafstalks are horizontal.

Display ideasKentia Palm - Howea forsteriana

Such a potentially magnificent palm needs careful thought to make the most of its looks. In days gone by it was the mainstay of ‘Palm Court’ hotels. It looks good, when fully grown, in central positions in large rooms.

Chemical sensitivity

Beware of using chemical pest-control agents on the leaves of Kentia Palm and do not use cleaning chemicals, as these can adversely affect them.

If you want to try any chemicals, test them on a small patch of the plant and wait for at least a week to see if the chemical damages the plant.

Looking after your plant

The benefits of regular care show up plainly with a Kentia Palm but grooming and maintenance need not take very long. If repotting the plant use soil-based compost.

Cleaning

You can clean the entire plant using a damp sponge or cotton wool. Wipe off dust and other dirt from the leaves and stems. Support the fronds from beneath with the palm of the other hand. Another good way is to stand it under a tepid, gentle shower. Check for insects and diseases and, if present, treat at once.

Root trim

When repotting, try not to damage the roots in any way. If roots have to be removed, take particular care of the plant until new roots appear.

Leaf trim

If any of the leaves develop brown patches — from air that is too dry perhaps — cut the patches off with scissors. Do not cut any of the leaf that is green, however. If a leaf looks unattractive, trim it right back to within 1 .5cm (½in) of the trunk.

Pests And Diseases

Brown soft or hard scales under the leaves mean the plant has been attacked by scale insects. Treatment: Catch this early and you can prevent a serious infestation. Use a swab dipped in diluted methylated spirits to wipe them off, or spray with an insecticide.

Yellowing leaves in the summer could be caused by too little water. Treatment: Make sure that the roots do not dry out in the warmer months.

Brown tips to leaves indicate that the air is too dry.

Treatment: Trim off the unsightly leaves with scissors to leave about 1.5cm (½in) protruding from the trunk. Increase humidity.

PLANT CARE

Kentia Palm is durable and likes medium light levels. Although it tolerates a wide range of temperatures, it can be scorched by direct sun.

  • Potting: Palms must have well-drained compost. Repot younger plants every year into pots of soil-based compost. Older plants need only top-dressing. When repotting or top-dressing, firm the compost.
  • In the summer water generously enough to thoroughly moisten all of the compost, right to the bottom of the pot. Keep compost just barely moist in winter.
  • Feeding: In the growing season give the palm a standard liquid fertilizer.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: It prefers partial shade but can do well where there are relatively low light levels. Move to brighter light for ‘recovery’ periods.
  • Temperature: In winter keep Kentia Palm above 10°C (50°F) at all times but do not allow the winter night-time temperature to exceed 15°C (60°F). In summer, normal room temperatures are fine night and day.

Buying Tips

  • You can buy a Kentia Palm at any time of the year, but be careful not to let it get cold during transportation during the winter.
  • Look for healthy green plants and avoid any with brown or withered patches. Buy small plants, several to a pot, as this rapidly gives a luxuriant appearance.
  • With proper care a Kentia Palm can live for many years.

The Kentia Palm has lush, leafy green foliage and, when mature, makes a dramatic and exciting show palm for large rooms.

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