Kentia Palm - Complete Care And Growing Guide

The tropical effect of a Kentia palm tree growing indoors is worth the cost. They aren’t terribly fussy, don’t need much light and in the right conditions, can grow tall indoors.

Potted Kentia Palm Plant
kentia palm
(Image credit: irabell)

Kentia Palm: Ultimate Care And Growing Guide

If you’re looking for an exotic yet low-maintenance palm tree, look no further than the Kentia palm tree (Howea forsteriana). The Kentia palm is an easy-to-care-for palm that exudes equatorial splendor yet prefers light sun and thrives equally as a container plant or in the garden. I’ve encountered these palms thriving in containers in malls and office buildings. They flourish in these low-light venues even with fluctuating temps resulting from AC and central heating, and they will for you too.

Quick Facts

  • Botanical name: Howea forsteriana
  • Height: 15-25 feet (4.5-8 m)
  • Spread: 6-10 feet (2-3 m)
  • Sun exposure: Part shade/ part sun
  • Soil requirements: Sandy, acidic to neutral, well-draining
  • Hardiness zones: 9b-11
  • When to plant: Spring

A Little About Kentia Palms

Native to New South Wales, Australia (Lord Howe Island), Kentia palms were named after William Forster, a New South Wales senator. They are also called Forster Sentry palms, paradise, or thatch palms.

The Kentia palm has 2 foot (61 cm) dark green fronds radiating from a ringed trunk that has been marked by old fronds. Under the right conditions, this palm will produce a flower spike that will eventually give way to immature green than red/black fruit. Hardy and able to survive under neglect, the Kentia palm is a popular container plant in commercial buildings and homes. It also looks lovely in a shaded area on a deck or patio.

Kentia Palm Care

Kentia palms are in general, low maintenance plants that can be grown outside in USDA zones 9b-11 or insides as container plants. Although they require minimal care, Kentia palm indoor plants will require a bit more vigilance in terms of water, temperature and humidity.


This palm prefers partial shade to shade but can adapt to full sun. It is also quite heat tolerant provided it is not planted in direct sun. That said, it prefers temperate regions without extremes of heat, rain, or humidity. Older plants can tolerate full sun, but those less than 5 years old should be kept in partial sun.


Kentia palms are moderately drought tolerant however, they will do better if watered on a regular schedule. Take care not to overwater container grown palms however.

Temperature & Humidity

The Kentia palm can tolerate temps down to 25 F (-4 C) and as high as 100 F (38 C) provided the plant is in shade. Mist indoor plants to provide humidity.


These palms prefer well-draining, sandy soil but are also tolerant of clay and loam, and slightly acidic to alkaline soils.


Kentia palms grow very slowly and as a result, do not need a lot of fertilizer. If you wish to fertilize these palms, use a slow-release food once a month during the growing season.

Problems, Pests & Diseases

Generally, this palm species has few issues with disease. However, fungal leaf spots can occur. Kentia palms, like other species of palm, are susceptible to potassium deficiency. The first signs of this deficiency are marginal or tip necrosis. The symptoms are worse toward the tips of the leaves. Apply control-release potassium rather than water-soluble. They are also prone to manganese deficiency when planted in alkaline soils. Boron deficiency may be another issue with Kentia resulting in stunted or distorted new leaves. These palms are also susceptible to spider mites, mealybugs, and scale, especially on indoor plants.

How to Plant a Kentia Palm

In the United States, Kentia palms can be grown in California and Hawaii, otherwise, it is best used as a container plant indoors.

Select an area outside that is in partial shade with sandy to loamy, well-draining soil. Keep the plant consistently wet but not soggy.


Only prune dead or diseased fronds. Remove these with sharp pruning shears; never tug on them which can open the trunk up to disease.


Kentia palms are propagated by seed. Palms will fruit when they are about fifteen, provided they get sufficient light. Both male and female flowers are produced.

This palm is also usually sold in groups of 2-5 plants per pot. Therefore, dividing the young palm can yield additional plants. Divide Kentia in the spring or summer.


Kentia palms do not like their root systems disturbed. It is recommended that you avoid moving or replanting Kentia palms if you are lucky enough to have one growing in the garden. However, container-grown palms will eventually (this is a slow-growing plant) outgrow their pot and must be repotted.

Only repot when you see the roots peeping from drainage holes and the top of the pot. Choose a pot that is a couple of inches (5 cm) wider across and set the plant at the same depth. Fill in with fresh well-draining potting soil.


As long as your Kentia resides in USDA zones 9b-11, there aren’t any special instructions for overwintering the plant. In areas that may get too cool, below 55 F (13 C) however, move container grown plants inside for the winter and put them back outside in the spring.

Kentia Palm Varieties

Howea is the genus of only two palms; H. forsteriana and H. belmoreana.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Is My Kentia Palm Turning Brown?

There are a few environmental reasons for a brown Kentia palm. The fronds may be browning due to too little water, dry air, cold temperatures or sunlight. Full sun can burn Kentia’s fronds.

Why Are Kentia Palms So Expensive?

Kentia palms are relatively pricey. This is because the export of their seeds is strictly controlled by Lord Howe Island, where they are native. They are cheaper in Europe where the plants are propagated and grown in Dutch nurseries.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.