Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Kentia Palm, Sentry Palm, Paradise Palm
Howea forsteriana

Family: Arecaceae (ar-ek-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Howea (HOW-ee-a) (Info)
Species: forsteriana (for-ster-ee-AY-na) (Info)

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7 members have or want this plant for trade.

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Tropicals and Tender Perennials

over 40 ft. (12 m)

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Unknown - Tell us

Grown for foliage

Other details:
This plant is suitable for growing indoors
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

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There are a total of 63 photos.
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10 positives
6 neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral NedIowa On Sep 27, 2014, NedIowa from Des Moines, IA wrote:

Hi, I just joined this site and I have a question. What is the best way to germinate Kentia palm seeds? I got Kentia seeds and they seem dry, like if they were collected from the ground rather than from the tree. Does anyone know if these would still germinate? Thank you in advance.

Positive DaveTorquay On Feb 20, 2014, DaveTorquay from Torquay
United Kingdom (Zone 10b) wrote:

Another of the very very long list of palms that thrive in the warm, sub-tropical, frost free climate of Torquay. I for a number of years had a lovely specimen in my garden, it started out as a pot plant I rescued from a skip outside a former hotel on the old Exeter Road. It had seen better days, but I slowly nursed it back to health, by keeping it potted under my big bush, it really needed trimming, but thankfully I didn't get round to doing it as an unusually cold temperature was recorded that winter (5C/41F). The following spring spurned on by its recovery I decided to plant it in the ground. I chose a nice semi shaded spot at the end of the garden, next to my Chamaedorea costaricana (which had been planted out for several years). In the planting hole I decided to give it the nest chance I could so opted for some manure, unfortunately my car was off the road so I couldn't make it up to Benny's Nursery in Totnes (where they have the best manure in Devon) so I had to go round the streets with my dustpan and brush and collect dog faeces. In the hole it went, with a sprinkling of urine for good measure (well I had one too many Pimms that afternoon and it was a long trek back inside, besides my boots were dirty) then in the hole the Howea went. After watering in I left it, over the years all it needed was some water in our long hot dry summers and sometimes when temperatures approached 40C I left the sprinkler on mist mode for an hour or three. As time went on it grew bigger and bigger, by 2009 it was getting on for approximately 12.3ft tall, then we had winter 2010! The coldest winter ever in Torquay. The temperature dropped as low as a bone numbing 3C/37F and there were reports even of light sleet (I expect it was merely soft hail however) on the hills outside of Torquay! When spring arrived my beautiful Kentia had a slight bronzing to one leaf and the ends of another had very slight brown tips, so I'm afraid it went to the big compost tip in the sky. I did have a wonderful photograph of the palm, it sat on my mantle piece, but one day a freak gust of wind blew in as my pussy came in through his flap and sent it flying into my roaring fire, which was extremely unlucky as I never normally have to have it lit, or have any heating whatsoever, what with the climate here being so very warm. So there we are, bone hardy in Torquay, but may get very slight damage in an unusually freakishly cold winter.

Positive Palm1978 On Aug 21, 2012, Palm1978 from Bonita Springs, FL wrote:

Unfortunately this regal palm does not do well in Southwest Florida. The only mature specimen that I have seen is at the Naples Botanical Gardens and it has started to 'lean'.

They do fine in pots but will burn in the summer heat and sun if you leave them outside.

Neutral newgreenguy On May 5, 2012, newgreenguy wrote:

Fairly common along the SoCal coast. They can be grown in full sun here as long as they are acclimated early. Because they grow so slow, this can take a couple years.. The only problem I've seen is the leaning disease which ultimately kills the plant.

Neutral Jungleman On Jan 7, 2011, Jungleman from Pasadena, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

For Southern California, Howeas really depend upon site and micro-climate for success. I have about six on my property, three in the Magnolia shaded front garden, and three in the fruit-tree shaded back garden. The back has a cold pocket, under some deciduous fruit trees. The largest Howea there, in the cold pocket, gets leaf burn even in a light frost (ca. 32F / 0C), but the Howeas under the citrus and in the front garden are
unaffected. I am in Zone 9b, so technically, these should be fine.

The Howeas protected from frost are growing extremely slowly, almost undetectable growth for over two years, despite regular water, feeding, and shade during the hottest months. I will most likely move the largest to my warmer front garden in the Spring. I love these palms, but am treating them as understory for the time being.

In my travels around Southern California, I have found them to flourish in coastal communities and a couple of miles inland. They like the humidity and mild summer temperatures, as well as the almost nonexistent frosts. In these communities, they have beautiful green trunks and the fronds are lush and extremely tropical looking.

Additional Information (2011): For outdoor use, buy the biggest plant possible, plant it carefully (I divided pots of three, and very much slowed growth by doing this), and make sure they are fully acclimated to the sun exposure they will be planted into. Responds favorably to ample water during the hot summer months.

Positive HK22 On Feb 26, 2010, HK22 from Sydney
Australia wrote:

Very tropical looking palm that can be grown in a temperate climate. Great houseplant.

Positive eliasastro On Oct 8, 2006, eliasastro from Athens
Greece (Zone 10a) wrote:

Fantastic palm with really tropical appearance, but also quite hardy.
I recently got two plants (actually there were 3 shoots on each plant), that were growing together in a pot.
I separated the two plants and put them in a semi-shady place outdoors. (avg. temp. 72F/22C) The roots were not damaged during transplantation, and despite the fact that the plants were not put in full shade there was no problem at all.
I saw this palm in a friend's garden at a place that was exposed to the north. Despite our relatively cool winter (avg. temp. Dec-Jan-Feb: 50F/10C), the plant was healthy, growing normally and it was more than 2 meters high. Unfortunately in February 2004 we had the worst snowfall in 20 years. Temperature dropped to 25F/-4C and the palm died. I think that if they had protected it it would probably have survived.

Negative parrothead2 On Feb 17, 2006, parrothead2 from Trabuco Canyon, CA wrote:

Have had trouble growing this in Coto de Caza. I bought a $600 healthy plant, planted it according to instructions, and it has been struggling for a year. The leaves turn brown.

Positive BayAreaTropics On Oct 15, 2005, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

Not the glossiest,or greenest palm, but the most shapely. And it stays in scale for the average yard. Mine was planted in 1992 as a division of a 3' Home Depot trio.Now it has 12 foot fronds on a five foot trunk. But the trunk is still completely sheaved-no rings. The last few years i have increased the fertilizing since coming to the conclusion that outdoor Kentias are heavy feeders if you have less than great dirt!
Oh,and it's the only palm i have that people insist is a coconut palm...not bad for Nor Cal.
EDIT 2007: My two Howeas had some frost damage from the freeze of 07. A 8 frond Howea about 10' to tip of frond was frosted down to 3 green fronds. My larger 20' Howea just had very minor tip burn-and only on two fronds. Still,i dont think Howeas have a very good cold tolerance-they just grow better in cool summer climates than tropical palms.
EDIT:2012. Has it been this long?..both Howea's are still doing fine..the largest has near 6' of green trunk and equal stem,add big fronds and it now has fronds over the peak of my roof. With it now just getting full should pick up in growth rate. Marginal in the bay area yes..but well worth the try!

Positive greenlarry On Jul 3, 2005, greenlarry from Darlington
United Kingdom wrote:

Very easy to grow but needs a fairly high humidty else the leaves will brown.
Only repot if neccesary as they dont like their roots disturbed too much.

Neutral Kylecawaza On Aug 23, 2004, Kylecawaza from Corte Madera, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

Beatuful palm can be acclimated to blasting full sun. First put under a shade cloth for a few months, and then take it off. The leaves will probably burn, but all the new ones coming out will be fully adapted to the sun. You could also put it out in the full sun without acclimation, but then the leaves would burn severley and you could risk the life of your palm, but there are more sucessive than failures trying it this way.

Positive lovejones On Jul 27, 2004, lovejones from Rialto, CA wrote:

I live out in the desert and the palm tree is growing really well out here. It is still small and barely starting to form a trunk. It gets full summer sun throught out most of the day. I just feed it every now and then and water it every day. It is very dark green in color with no signs of burn. It also gets dry winds. I don't know how come it is doing so well. I had it in an area where it was mostly shade and then I moved it to the front of the house where it gets alot of sun and it is doing much better. I had moved it before I knew what kind and how to take care of it, or else I wont of moved it because of what I have read about the palm. I have had it now for three years.

Neutral rmcp30 On May 22, 2004, rmcp30 from Cincinnati, OH wrote:

I have a small sentry palm that I have had for several years, read various do's and don't's, one of which was "water only from the bottom" which seems to work, but it doesn't seem to get any bigger, sometimes the new fronds just die, and today I noticed a new type growth--not a pinnate frond--growing out from the base of another frond that has small round, yellow 'balls' at the juncture of various (about 5) offshoots on the branch.

Positive deekayn On Feb 14, 2004, deekayn from Tweed Coast
Australia wrote:

The palm is native to Australia's Lord Howe Island that sits in the Tasman Sea. One of its main exports is this palm that is used as an indoor plant.

Positive laspalmasdesign On Dec 29, 2003, laspalmasdesign from Los Altos, CA wrote:

Probably the most tropical looking of the palms that will grow in the milder parts of the SF Bay Area. Here in Los Altos I have several in mostly shaded areas but my largest (14 feet tall double with 4' of trunk is in full sun. This is a bit of a challenge in the summer as we get occasional heat waves in the 90s which will burn the leaflets directly facing the sun but the palms flourish despite this anoyance and put out some of the prettiest leaves during the winter. My Howeas have survived mid 20s completely undamaged.

Neutral palmpilot On Sep 28, 2003, palmpilot from Carlsbad, CA wrote:

I have 25 large (some over 20 ft trunk height) Kentia Palms in my yard in Carlsbad, CA. Three of the trees in the 8 - 12 ft range are afflicted with "Leaning Howea Syndrome" and are starting to curve.

Positive palmbob On Jul 19, 2003, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

Howeas are the premiere house palm. They can grow in very low light, do well without much water (though do much better if given ample light and water), rarely need any fertilization indoors and are relatively resistant to spider mites and mealy bugs. Just about every show on TV or movie has a Howea in the background of some room somewhere if you start looking for them.

As outdoor palms they are one of the most tropical looking palms that can be grown in the temperate US. They do burn at 27F or less, but can tolerate frosts fairly well, especially once older and forming a trunk. They have a hightly ornamental green irregularly ringed trunk and a wide 'foot' at the bottom, pendulous dark, green leaflets and are fairly fast growing (for palms). In Southern California, you can create a canopy for more tender palms and tropicals with Howeas in just 10 years.

They do suffer a malady called 'leaning Howea syndrome' and no one yet knows why they get this disease. They just suddenly start to grow towards the ground, with the crown eventually heading straight back down in 3-4 years once they start doing this. Lots of theories on why and how to stop them, but nothing foolproof yet.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Brentwood, California
Canoga Park, California
Carlsbad, California
Castro Valley, California
Coto De Caza, California
Encino, California
Fresno, California
Fullerton, California
Garden Grove, California
Glendale, California
Hayward, California
Huntington Beach, California
Irvine, California
Los Altos, California
Oceanside, California (2 reports)
Pasadena, California
Rancho Cucamonga, California
Reseda, California
Rialto, California
San Francisco, California
San Pedro, California
Santa Barbara, California (2 reports)
Ventura, California (3 reports)
Walnut Creek, California
Yorba Linda, California
Boca Raton, Florida
Fort Myers, Florida
Lecanto, Florida
Orlando, Florida
Port Charlotte, Florida
Hana, Hawaii
Broaddus, Texas

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