Encyclopedia of Houseplants

How to Grow and Care for Kentia Palm

updated Jun 6, 2020
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kentia palm in a living room
Credit: Luoxi/Shutterstock

Doesn’t the beginning of summer just put you in a palm tree state of mind? Palm trees look happy no matter the season, but there are a lot of indoor palm varieties to sort through.  If you’re a beginner plant owner who wants to take on a larger (but still easy) type of plant, a beautiful and practical pick is the kentia palm (Howea forsteriana).  

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The kentia palm is a forgiving plant that can thrive in various spaces throughout your home, and it’s feathery leaves can grow up to a foot long, making it look like you really knew how to bring out the best in your plant, even if you forgot to water it a few times.

About the kentia palm

Originally from Australia, and now one of the most popular houseplant palm trees in the world, the kentia palm is sometimes referred to as the paradise palm.  It can withstand some neglect and tolerates dry indoor air and even low light conditions, making it the “snake plant” of palm trees.  Sometimes reaching up to 10 feet indoors, it looks great in a floor planter, and can add some height to your current plant collection.

Another plus for our furry friend owners: according to the ASPCA, the kentia palm is non-toxic to cats and dogs.

How to care for a kentia palm

While they are forgiving, it’s always best to aim for optimal care for any plant. The kentia palm prefers indirect sunlight, but can also thrive in low light conditions—never direct sunlight.  It would enjoy sunlight filtered through a curtain, but could also do well on a wall further away from your window as long as it is getting some light. 

The container for your kentia palm matters, too. You’ll want to make sure it has a drainage hole or a soil mixture (part sand) that allows for adequate drainage. When watering, check the top inch of the soil for moisture.  If it’s dry one inch down, then give it a drink. Kentia palms like to dry out in between waterings, so be careful not to overwater.

Kentia palms can take liquid fertilizer once a month, and they likely won’t need to be repotted as often as some of your other plants since they don’t grow very quickly.  Only repot your kentia palm if it is getting rootbound.

Propagating a kentia palm

Unfortunately, kentia palms do best when grown from seed, so it’s not a plant you’ll be able to propagate through a cutting or division.

Potential problems with kentia palms

While it is pretty low-maintenance compared to many other houseplants, if your Kentia palm is unhappy, it will let you know. Yellowing of the leaves could indicate overwatering. Make sure you are letting the soil dry between waterings and that the soil has good drainage. If the lower leaves of your palm are turning brown, it might be getting too much fertilizer, so cut back until it improves.

As with many plants, mealybugs and pests can be a problem. Use an insecticidal soap or neem oil to remove these from the leaves. Misting your palm regularly and washing the leaves can also help prevent these pests from making a home there.

Don’t be afraid to add an unfussy Kentia palm to your new (or old!) plant collection this year.