Kentia palms are native to Lord Howe Island in the South Pacific. These palms are also known as sentry or paradise palms. They are suitable for growing in USDA zones 9-11, but for those outside these ranges, Kentia palm plants make terrific container grown specimens. Kentia palms have the typical large palm-shaped leaves. They can grow up to 40 feet (12 m.) in height but they are slow growers, and indoor Kentia palms typically max out in containers at fewer than 12 feet (3.6 m.). Kentia plants produce a 3.5 foot (a meter or so) long inflorescence consisting of white blooms on 3-7 spikes. Both male and female flowers exist on the same inflorescence, and the resulting fruit are ovoid and a dull red in color; however, the fruit will take about 15 years to make an appearance.
Kentia palm growing can occur in USDA zones 9-11 in a shade to partial shade area or container grown inside – which is the most common growing method for most people. They adapt to a wide range of soil, from clay to loam and acidic to alkaline. Plant container grown Kentia in well-draining potting mix, preferably on the sandy side. Once established, Kentia palm plants are fairly drought tolerant, although they do not like to be overly dry, or for that matter overly wet. Water only when the top inch or so (2.5 cm.) of soil starts to dry out. Mist indoor Kentia palm occasionally to provide some humidity and to remove any dust build-up. The plants are quite forgiving and tolerant of low light conditions, but do prefer an area that receives indirect light indoors. You can also choose to keep your plant outdoors during the warmer months in a somewhat shaded location. While the Kentia can tolerate temperatures down to 25 F. (-4 C.) and up to 100 F. (38 C.), it is best to bring the plant back indoors prior to winter and offer protection from excessive heat during the summer – no direct sun. Once Kentia palm plants have established, they require very little care. Feed your container grown plants with a controlled release fertilizer with an NPK ratio of about 3-1-2. Excessive fertilization may cause the tips of lower leaves to turn brown and die. While normally carefree, they are prone to potassium deficiency. The first signs of this deficiency appear on the oldest leaves as necrosis on the tips. To manage this deficiency, apply a control release potassium supplement, as this is more effective than a water-soluble supplement. Kentia plants are also susceptible to deficiencies of manganese, which exhibits as leaf tip necrosis on the youngest leaves. Boron deficiencies may cause stunting of new leaves as well. Indoor grown palms rarely become diseased but may be plagued with spider mites, mealybugs, and scale insects. The use of insecticidal soap or neem oil can often help with any pest issues that may arise. Palms, in general, require minimal pruning. Over pruning may cause irreversible damage to the trunk. You should, however, remove old leaf bases by gently pulling; do not force them off, which can cause permanent scarring or open up injury for trunk rot disease. All in all, the Kentia palm (Howea forsteriana) will be a welcome addition to your home, creating a relaxing, tropical atmosphere. The easy nature of Kentia palm care makes it a perfect choice for a novice.
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