Kentia palm (Howea forsteriana), also called parlour palm because it is well adapted to indoor growth, is native to the Lord Howe Islands east of Australia. Trees have graceful, drooping, featherlike fronds that can reach up to 12 feet long. The single-trunk tree grows relatively slowly, reaching an average mature height of 20 feet. Long stalks produce bunches of white flowers, which turn into red, egglike, small fruits.
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Temperature, Light and Soil Conditions
Kentia palms grow best in frost-free, subtropical climates located within USDA hardiness zones 9B through 11. Those in cooler areas should grow it inside in containers for protection during winter. The palm prefers growing in areas receiving shade to partial shade -- not in full sun. Only mature, five-year-old palms can tolerate sunny conditions. Situate indoor-grown palms in areas not receiving direct sunlight, as it tolerates and prefers lowlight conditions. Kentia palms prefer growing in soil that drains very well and is rich and loamy. It tolerates a wide range of well-draining soil types, but performs best in those rich in organic materials.
Outdoor-grown kentia palms grow best with regular watering, as they have a moderate tolerance to drought. Gardeners should keep the soil from drying out completely, but not keep the area wet. Indoor or container-grown palms require watering approximately once per week. The container's soil should not be constantly wet or health problems will occur. The palm is susceptible to root rot if grown in wet conditions and will weaken and die, according to the University of Florida.
In the event of frosts or freezes, bring outdoor, container-grown Kentia palms indoors to a warm location. The palm is frost sensitive, and only mature trees will withstand occasional temperatures dipping to -3.89 degrees C, according to Floridata. Water outdoor-grown palms thoroughly before freezing weather arrives, to help insulate the root ball. If the palm is not too tall, wrap holiday lights around it for extra heat.
Keeping Trees Healthy
Fertilise Kentia palms during the growing season for maximum growth and health. Use an 18-18-18, slow-release palm special, applied according to package instructions. The fertiliser breaks down into the soil over a period of approximately three months. Spread the fertiliser under the palm's canopy and do not allow it to bunch against the trunk, or burning can occur.
The palm is prone to problems such as spider mites, scale or fungus. Treat the tree with a product safe for use on Kentia palms and apply according to the label instructions. It is best to treat any problems as soon as you notice them. The palm is susceptible to Lethal Yellowing, an untreatable disease. Do not grow palms outdoors in areas where the disease is problematic.
Kentia palms require pruning only to remove dead, brown fronds. Allow fronds that still have green on them to remain on the tree, as the tree is still drawing nutrients from them. Use pruning shears or loppers and cut the frond off close to the boot. Gardeners can also trim off fruit stalks without harming the tree's growth performance.
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