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Kentia Palm vs Areca Palm

Kentia Palm vs Areca Palm

When we compare the Kentia palm vs Areca palm we are comparing an elephant with a cow! Both are incredible plants, but one grows very big, and the other grows very wide!! Let’s have a look at these two fun plants and work out where they can fit in your garden or house. I always love palm trees – not just because they are beautiful, but because they support a lot of life forms. 

A Quick Overview Of Palm Types

Palms are monocotyledonous flowering plants. They are unable to produce “hardwood” in the way that dicotyledonous trees do, hence the name “palm tree” is really a bit of a misnomer. Palms also have a very scattered, shallow root system because they are unable to produce roots that are as strong as real tree roots.

Palm trees tend to occupy a tropical and subtropical range with a few species that have managed to figure out how to live in slightly colder climates than the sub-tropics. Tropical islands tend to be cyclone/hurricane/typhoon prone hence these trees are adapted to be able to tolerate very high wind speeds.


This grove of Coconut palms is around the corner from one of our clients in the Paradise Island of Mauritius. The Coconut palms were all rearranged by cyclone Hollande in 1994 hence the funny angled trunks. These trees were exposed to winds over 135 mph. This gives an indication of just how tough a coconut palm tree is!


A great thing to be aware of when enjoying a few coconut palm trees is that you should not sleep under these trees! A coconut will kill you if it hits you on the head.

In terms of growth styles, some palms grow from seed and produce a single stem – a coconut palm is such an example. Other palms have a growth pattern where they produce multiple palms that grow into a clump. These tend to be more bushy palms that produce little clumps of palms that slowly form a bigger and bigger “palm thicket”.

Kentia Palm vs Areca Palm – What Are They?

The Kentia Palm

The Kentia palm, Howea forsterianais, is a palm tree that occupies a larger-than-life place in the horticultural world. Due to its adoption as a status symbol by among others Queen Victoria at the height of the British Empire, this palm tree has been conferred a certain “status”. Hence it is also known as a Palm Court palm and a host of other names.

The Kentia palm grows quite tall reaching over 30 feet high. When mature its fronds can be as long as 10 feet allowing the palm to span 20 feet or more. This is a palm with a similar growth pattern to a coconut palm – it goes up!! The reason this palm tree is popular is that it can tolerate temperatures as low as 23°F for a few hours, and is able to survive long periods of temperatures in the 50°F range. This means that this palm tree is a favorite for shopping malls and hotel lobbies and such in cooler parts of the world.

These palms have to be grown from seed. The seeds are in relatively short supply and their trade is tightly controlled. Nurseries tend to plant a few seeds in one pot, resulting in a clump of palms – however, each palm is individually derived from one seed.

These plants are pretty tough and if they are established they are rather hard to kill! Given that you normally buy an established plant, these are suitable for semi-neglectful growing.

Read more about Indoor Palm Plant Identification

The Areca Palm

The actual genus Areca is quite large with 51 or so species or types of areca palms. Of these, the one that we refer to most commonly as an Areca palm is Dypsis lutescens.  This species is also commonly known as a bamboo palm and a few other names. These beautiful palms grow into quite dense clumps, and the older palms can get tall reaching around 40 feet if you let them. This takes a long time.

When I consult in Mauritius these palms are everywhere as the climate there is perfect. Tropical, moist, and warm,  77°F to 86°F year round!! The plants seem to require no care other than trimming off the longer stems every few years!!

When I return home to my cooler climate growing these palms is more of an indoor pursuit and mimicking these ideal conditions is a bit more challenging. If you do not get it right the plants are prone to disease and die quite easily (I have killed a few).

I find the Areca palm to be a lot of hard work, and have actually given up growing them in my house as I just don’t have the right climate and other plants give me better success! My parents have a slightly warmer, lighter garden and their indoor Areca palm has survived longer than my four and a half decades. It even survived being ‘depotted’ by my baby brother in the 1970s and used as a paintbrush to smear mud mixed with camphor cream on the walls of my parent’s bedroom.

The Areca Palm

Comparing The Kentia Palm vs Areca Palm

Size – The Kentia palm is bigger.

Ease of growing – The Kentia palm is easier to grow in colder areas.

Growth style – The Kentia palm grows up and produces no shoots. The Areca palm grows up, but also produces new palm shoots from the base.

Shade – the Areca palm is slightly more shade-tolerant in my experience than the Kentia palm. Both can tolerate some shade, but generally, the Kentia palm does enjoy a bit of direct sunlight. The Areca palm often is an understory palm in nature growing in shady places and is more able to tolerate shade. If the plant is too shaded you will be able to tell by a sudden proliferation of insect pests that will appear due to it not being able to produce enough sugar to run all its metabolic cycles.

I hope this article has helped you see how amazing these two types of palm are. Choosing yous Kentia palm vs Areca palm is really just a choice around your space and budget constraints!! You will need a big space for a Kentia palm as there is only one way it is going, and that is up! With an Areca palm, you can at least trim a tall bit if it starts to go through your ceiling! The lowest buds will grow up and fill the gap with time. If you enjoyed this please share.

Learn more about Areca Palm Low Light Requirements And Other Plant Care Tips


How can you tell if it’s a Kentia palm?

There are two ways. We can be botanists, or economists! Kentia palms are expensive. If you have two types of palms that look sort of similar, and you are trying to work out which is a Kentia palm and which is an Areca palm, the chances are the Kentia is the more expensive one. The seed supply of these is less, and unlike Areca palms they do not produce shoots from the base. Areca palms have finer whispy leaves that point upwards like butterfly wings - Kentia palms have courser thicker leaves that bow downwards and are dark green on top and lighter underneath. If you want to be really sneaky there are apps in the app store that will do the identification for you now.....

How can you tell if it’s an areca palm?

The palm has fine whispy leaves that point upwards like butterfly wings. The characteristic bamboo like stem structure is also a good indicator. Kentia palms grow from seed and each seed produces a plant that grows one stem. Areca palms keep shooting up new palm plants, hence if there are many different aged plants in a clump, the chances are it is an Areca palm. Areca palms have relatively evenly colored leaves on the top and bottom. Kentia palms tend to have a darker green top than the underside.

Which is better Kentia or Areca palm?

Both palms are amazing. If you have a tendency to kill palm trees, the Kentia is a tougher plant. If you live in the tropics, the Areca palm is very difficult to kill as well. Both palms are beautiful, and both are amazing. Neither is better than the other for all functions!