Howea forsteriana

kentia palm
Pert, graceful weeping fronds on thin, green, ringed trunk. Very slow in chilly fog belt but otherwise thrives in coastal California.
Howea forsterianaHowea forsterianaHowea forsterianaHowea forsteriana
height 20–30
width 10–15ft
tolerates Coast, Cool Summers, Fog, Pots, Wind
While kentia are adaptable to various soils, including clay, they prefer well drained rich soil. Your watering schedule will depend on the soils content, with heavier soils being irrigated less frequently. Typically, with good loamy soil this palm should be watered deeply every week or two once it’s established. It doesn’t want to ever dry out completely.

If you see brown crispy tips and the plant is not in direct sun then it is being under-watered. This is common on recently transplanted palms that are trying to get established.
exposure Deep Shade – Part Shade
drainage In Ground: Cactus Mix, In Pots: Cactus Mix, Tolerates Heavy Soil, Tolerates Sandy Soil
fertilizing Palm Fertilizer
origin Lord Howe Island
17, 21–24

Sunset Zones Map

Outdoor Exposure Guide


Full Sun
Six or more hours of sun beams directly landing on the plant's leaves.

Part Shade
Three to five hours of sun beams directly landing on the plant's leaves.

Part Sun
One to two hours of sun beams directly landing on the plants leaves.

Full Shade
The plant is never fully lit by sun beams, but is in a bright spot or has dappled sunbeams playing over the leaves throughout the day.

Deep Shade
The plant never has dappled light on the leaves, and is in a place that feels dim, even on a nice sunny day.


Growing Notes

Kentia palms like cool to warm temperates. Imagine a kentia germinating on the a deep, dark, forest of Lorde Howe island off of New Zealand. Over the years it grows up into bright light and eventually through the canopy into the cool, moist, island sun. This gives considerable insight into the sun tolerance of kentias. Young plants don’t tolerate direct sun. Mature plants thrive in direct sun, as long as they are in cool sun along the coast. Where inland temperatures rise (consistently into the high 70s F) they need shelter from the sun. Typically kentias that grow along the border of our marine layer in full sun present with attractive (but different) brown tinted coppery leaves. As you move inland further they have consistently dry brown tips. Similarly, kentias exposed to harsh cold will get crispy brown leaves. With a palm that grows so slowly, this damage from heat or cold is slow to be replaced by new lush leaves. This is especially problematic because many of the places that are hot are also cold, leading to a tree that survives and grows, but always has aesthetic damage on the leaves.
Kentia palms are typically slow growing, so if you’d like a larger trunked palm you should maximize growth by fertilizing consistently. We recommend feeding three times a year. Fertilizing at spring equinox, summer solstice and fall equinox will allow for a winter rest. Be sure to feed your palm with a fertilizer that contains micronutrients (especially including magnesium), especially if you see yellowing leaves or yellow spots on the leaves. Their slow growth makes kentia palms an excellent foliage feature choice for pots, as evidenced by their use as houseplants for over a century.
This solitary palm will grow only one trunk during its lifetime. If you have a pot with multiple trunks in it, that’s because multiple separate palm trees were germinated in the pot. The good news is that you won’t need to thin out suckers over time to maintain the number of trunks you started out with. Since kentias look amazing planted in tight clusters you’ll often see several in a pot.
Once it’s mature, this palm will naturally shed its leaves, leaving an apple green trunk below the palm’s crown exposed. The green trunk then ages to grey. The kentia palm is a great choice if you’re looking for a palm with a clean trunk but don’t want to deal with manually removing the leaves.

Special Interest

The kentia palm has been a staple houseplant since the Victorian age of the late 1800s, and it is reputed that Queen Victoria loved them so much that she had kentias placed around her funeral coffin. In San Francisco, many of the old victorian houses from this period have ancient kentias growing alongside them as evidence of the palms popularity. Since kentias like cool to warm temperatures, not tolerating harsh cold or heat, they are stuck indoors for most of the world. Not in coastal California though! They thrive in areas with mild marine influence that blunts cold spells and cools summer heat waves. Part of their indoor super power is their tolerance of dim rooms and long lived pot care. Both of these attributes carry to the outdoors making the kentia palm a standby for these difficult locations.

The timeless, graceful kentia palm.

More Info

This palm’s juicy lush look is an absolute must-have when creating a tropical garden in a temperate climate. Mix it with other broad-leafed flowering plants like cannas, hedychiums, philodendrons, or monsteras to complete the look.
This plant was grown for an outdoor environment, so we do not recommend moving it inside. In general we do not recommend moving plants raised for an outdoor environment indoors.
This plant would make a good houseplant if it had been grown in a controlled greenhouse with houseplant soil. This ‘greenhousing’ ensures that plants who come home with you are well acclimated to indoor life, and also that they don’t have any pests. It is common for outdoor plants to have other passengers as well, such as earthworms or centipides that don’t necessarily hurt the plant, but aren’t welcome indoors.
If you consider yourself an expert gardener, you can of course attempt to transition this plant indoors. In that case you’ll want to strip all the soil from the rootball, wash the roots clean and then spray the entire plant (leaves, undersides of the leaves, all the cracks and roots) with a mix of one tablespoon of rubbing alcohol in a cup of water. Repot the plant in the appropriate sterile soil/pot and take extra care as it transitions to the indoors, especially looking for pests and treating at the first sign of problems. Always consider the risk that any bugs could also affect other houseplants you have nearby.
For this plant, we typically sell two versions: outdoor-grown and greenhouse-grown. If you’re looking to grow this plant indoors, feel free to ask our staff if we have a greenhouse-grown version in stock!