Kentia Palm Care: Growing The Beautiful Howea Forsteriana

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 earning the name ‘Parlor Palm.”

There’s also another Kentia called Howea belmoreana, Belmore sentry palm and curly palm.

Kenta palms grown for indoor use

Kentia Palm Plant Facts

  • Origin: Lord Howe Island, New South Wales, Australia
  • Family: Arecaeae
  • Botanical Name: Howea Forsteriana [hou’-ee-ah] [for-ster-ee-AY-na]
  • Common Name: Kentia Palm, Sentry Palm, Parlor Palm
  • Plant Type: Evergreen perennial
  • Size: Indoors 5′-12′ feet tall
  • Hardiness: USDA hardiness zone 9b -11
  • Exposure: bright location, indirect morning sunlight
  • Soil: good drainage and fast draining on the sandy side
  • Water: Thoroughly water and allow soil to dry
  • Fertilizer: slow-release
  • Propagation: seed
  • Pests & Problems: Spider mites, scale insects, mealybugs

Kentia Palm An Elegant Stunning Accent Plant

Recently, doing some channel surfing, I ran across an old movie. In the background was the “Kentia” a popular indoor palm and one of the toughest and most elegant palms for interior use around.

The Kentia is simply a great indoor plant!

Decorators love kentia palm indoors for its singular, slender shape which provides a stunning accent.

The botanical name is Howea Forsteriana [hou’-ee-ah] [for-ster-ee-AY-na], 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. It grows naturally on, Lord Howe Island east of Australia, where the Kentia palm can reach a height of 60′ feet.

The name “kentia” comes from a town Kentia on Lord Howe Island.

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 do very well as a containerized palm. They are usually grown as single plants until they reach a certain height.

Then the palms 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 the Kentia 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, root bound 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 rotting will occur.

Although the Kentia is versatile and will tolerate low-light conditions, a bright location with indirect sunlight in the morning should provide enough light and intensity to sustain this floor plant and allow for proper care.

What Is The Best Potting Mix For Kentias?

Most Kentias are grown in small pots in a somewhat root bound condition. This makes the potting mix an important part of Kentia palm care.

The soil mix should provide good drainage as well as fast drainage to prevent root rot.

The small pots need to carry some weight so the plant does not get top heavy due to the weight of the fronds.

A houseplant potting mix with additional sand added for both drainage and weight along with a slow-release fertilizer should provide the stability and nutrients this “evergreen tree” requires.

How Will You Know If You Are Overwatering Your Kentia Palm?

Look for the fronds with yellowing tips, then yellow speckling and followed by browning of the Kentia’s leaf tips. During the winter time be especially careful not to over water your kentia.

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.

Kentia Palm at Gaylord Palms Hote
Kentia Palm growing at the Gaylord Palms Hotel, Orlando, Florida, United States, November 2017

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 kentia palm outdoors.

What Pests And Diseases Are Kentia Palms Prone To?

Spider Mites are the number one pests on Kentias palms and most indoor palms. The mites enjoy the warm room temperatures, and the dry, low humidity levels found most living rooms. Look for these tiny pests on the undersides of the fronds.

Scale Insects which look like waxy, brown oval bumps tend to collect on the underside of the fronds and on the stem.

Applications of Neem Oil spray will help “discourage” spider mites, scale insects and mealybugs from sucking the plant juices from you Kentia.

Background & History of Howea forsteriana The Kentia Palm

The Kentia plant 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.