Kentia palm (Howea forsteriana), also known as sentry palm, paradise palm, or thatch palm, makes an excellent indoor houseplant. With its upright growth habit, high tolerance for neglect, and tropical vibes, it’s the perfect candidate for adding lush greenery with a little height to dimmer spaces.
These palms are known for their ability to grow to a tall, striking height—40 feet outside, or up to 12 feet as houseplants—even indoors in less-than-ideal conditions. They have long, slender leaves on graceful palm-shaped fronds in an attractive shade of deep green.
It might take several years, but a happy, healthy kentia palm will eventually grow tall. To keep yours a manageable size for as long as possible, start with a smaller specimen only a few feet high. If your kentia palm does outgrow your space, you will have to move it.
Best Growing Conditions for Your Kentia Palm
Despite the kentia palm’s reputation for growing in low light, it will still grow best with lots of bright, indirect light. To give your plant the best chance of growing lush and full, choose the brightest spot you can give it. In an east-facing or west-facing window is an ideal spot.
It’s also important to consider the size of your plant when you decide where it will live in your home, especially if you’ve purchased a large specimen. It’s true that they are slow growers, but kentia palms can’t be cut back like rubber plants as they grow tall.
Because kentia palms can't be cut back, think about placing them in a spot in your home with a higher ceiling or perhaps an outdoor patio as a backup if your palm outgrows its initial placement.
Plant your palm in an appropriately sized container with good drainage. Use a well-drained potting soil formulated for containers. Kentia palms can tolerate a pretty wide range of temperatures, anywhere from 25 to 100 degrees, but they can’t tolerate too much bright sun. Spotting on the leaves is a sign that your palm is getting too much direct sunlight.
How to Care for Your Kentia Palm
While kentia palms are relatively drought tolerant, keep an eye on them to avoid underwatering. Yellowing leaves are a sign that the plant needs water.
At the same time, too much water isn’t good for them, either. A good rule of thumb is to water your kentia palm when the top inch of soil in the container has dried out.
In the summer growing season, that may be as frequently as once per week. An occasional soaking of the leaves in your shower with tepid water (for smaller specimens) or misting (for larger ones) will help keep the plant moist and remove dust from its leaves. In the winter, when the plant goes dormant, plan to cut back on watering.
Feed your kentia palm with standard houseplant fertilizer diluted to half-strength once per month in spring, summer, and fall. Pause feedings during the winter months. The tips of the lower leaves will turn dry and brown is a sign of overfeeding. If you notice this, cut back on fertilizer.
Avoid trimming or pruning the top of your palm, as this will kill it. However, you can gently remove the dead fronds at the bottom of the plant, but don’t yank or cut them off—just wait until they come off with a gentle tug.
Since they’re so slow-growing, kentia palms don’t need to be repotted very frequently. Every two or three years, if they’re showing signs of being root bound (water draining out of the pot very quickly or not being absorbed by the soil, roots growing out of the hole in the bottom of the pot), gently remove them from their container, taking care not to disturb the roots. Repot with fresh potting soil in a container one size larger.
At maturity, kentia palms will blossom with three-foot-long spikes of tiny white flowers, but this typically doesn’t happen until the plant is 15 years old or more.
How to Propagate Your Kentia Palm
Unlike similar plants such as parlor palms, kentia palms can only be propagated via seeds, which don’t grow well indoors and can take several months to three years to sprout. For this reason, it’s best to leave the propagation to the professionals and simply purchase an additional plant if you’re looking to add to your collection.