Few plants have a rich history as an indoor houseplant like the Kentia palm tree. The upright “Howea Forsteriana” with its beautiful, arching, dark green leaves has graced the background photos of royalty in the Victorian era. There’s also another Kentia called Howea belmoreana, Belmore sentry palm and curly palm.
Recently, doing some channel surfing, I ran across an old movie. In the background was the “Kentia” one of the toughest and most elegant interior palms and plants around. Decorators love the singular, slender indoor palm trees which provide a stunning accent.
The botanical name is Howea Forsteriana, but is known more commonly as the Kentia forsteriana or the sentry palm.
The Kentia is an upright palm with beautiful, arching, dark green leaves. Its use as an indoor palm dates back to the socialite days of the Victorian era. Many call this species – “tree in a pot.”
Kentias are generally available in the 5-12 foot tall range for indoor use. Where it is native, Lord Howe Island east of Australia, the Kentia palm can reach a height of 60 feet.
Today, seed (strictly regulated) is still imported from the island and grown in both Hawaii and California.
Kentias do not have a tap root, and does very well as a containerized palm. They are usually grown as single plants until they reach a certain height.
Then they are matched up and planted as multiples of 2 to 5 plants per pot and grown on. This process can take 4 to 7 years before they are ready for sale.
Kentia Palm Care – The Light Indicator
Here is a “light indicator” for Kentia palm plant care – in low light the plant may only hold 4 to 6 fronds, in medium light levels you may see twice as many fronds. So, generally the more indirect light, the better.
These indoor palms grow pretty tall in rather small pots. When watering make sure the entire root ball is watered, and allow a least one half of the potting media to dry.
DO NOT keep the root ball moist or wet all the time or root rot will occur.
Although the Kentia is versatile and will tolerate lower light levels, a bright indirect morning sunshine location should provide enough light and intensity to sustain the plant and allow for proper care.
How Will You Know If You Over Watered Your Kentia Palm?
What Happens With Underwatering Kentias?
An under watered Howea will develop brown tips, and the fronds will not be as erect and possibly leaning.
Kentias are slow growers. While caring for them if you must prune do so selectively to the leaves and don’t remove the entire frond.
The Kentia is a great interior plant like the tough, durable Rhapis palm, and more expensive than other palms like the Majesty Palm – I would NEVER recommend using the Majesty Palm tree as an indoor plant. A properly maintained and cared for Kentia palm can be enjoyed for years and years.
The Kentia is considered as “vulnerable” by the World Conservation union, but this Australian native Kentia palm (Howea forsteriana) is still one of the world’s most beautiful palms grown for either indoors or outdoors.
Background & History of Howea forsteriana The Kentia Palm
The Kentia palm got its scientific name, Howea forsteriana, from Lord Howe Island in Australia for the Howea part and Howea belmoreana another species from Sir Isaac Bayley Balfour (1853-1922), Botany professor and keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.
Characterized by a slender trunk with slightly raised annular trunk rings and a graceful crown of dark-green drooping fronds.
It has a series of arching, feather-like, dark green, droopy leaves radiating from small trunks. Established kentia palm specimens can be expensive.
These leaves can grow up to 3 meters long on thornless petioles. While the leaves produce an airy and poised look, the finger-shaped leaflets bend downward in a fashionable two-tone look.
The kentia palm produces an inflorescence consists of white flowers and dull red egg-shaped mature fruits. Although they are slow growers, Kentia palms can grow to about 6 to 18 meters as a solitary tree.
Kentia Palm is a wonderful specimen palm, popular as an indoor durable houseplant, adding class to any setting – elegant hotel lobbies, restaurants, malls and private residences.
Smaller Kentia palm specimens require low light levels while larger ones require direct sunlight. But generally, they need exact watering, well-drained soil and moisture to grow at their best.