Few plants have as a rich a history as an indoor house plant as the Kentia palm. The upright “Howea Forsteriana” has graced the background photos for royalty in the Victorian era.
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 palms which provide a stunning accent.
The botanical name is Howea Fosteriana, 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.
Kentias are generally available in the 5-12 foot 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.
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.
Kentia Palm Light Indicator
Here is a “light indicator” for Kentia palm plant care – in low light the plant 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.
These 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 rotting will occur.
How Will You Know If You Over Watered Your Kentia Palm?
Look for the fronds with yellowing tips, then yellow speckling and followed by browning. During the winter time be especially careful not to over water your kentia.
What Happens With Underwatering Kentias?
An under watered Howea will develop tips that are brown, 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 Rhapis palm, and more expensive than other palms like the – never use indoors Majesty Palm. A properly maintained and cared for Kentia palm can be enjoyed for years and years.
Kentia An Aussie Native
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.
The Kentia palm got its scientific name, Howea forsteriana, from Lord Howe Island in Australia for the Howea part and Howea Balfouriana another species from Sir Isaac Bayley Balfour (1853-1922), Botany professor and keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.
Characterized by a 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 metres 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 more light.