Kentia Palm vs Areca Palm

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Last Updated on December 27, 2022 by Griselda M.

When we compare the Kentia palm vs the 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 indicates 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 can 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 has 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.

Is a Parlour Palm The Same as a Kentia Palm?

If you’re wondering if a parlor palm is the same as a kentia palm, the answer is no. Although these plants look similar, there are notable differences to tell them apart. To begin with, these two plants are native to different areas.

While the kentia palm has its origins in the Australian tropical forests, the parlor palm is a native plant of Central America and Mexico. Their notable differences include their overall appearance which includes colorings, leaf shape, and height. If you spot a plant that has compacted fronds that are lacy and grow in a short but upright position, then you’re looking at a parlor palm.

This plant also grows quite slowly and usually reaches a height of about 4 feet when grown indoors. Kentia palms, on the other hand, have green stems with brownish fibers and wide leaves which makes them look taller.

How Often Do You Need To Water Kentia Palm?

So, you have or are planning to grow a kentia palm and want to know how often you need to water the kentia palm. The following information will help you keep your plant healthy and happy for a long time. Weekly waterings are ideal when implemented as a part of your kentia palm care strategy. However, you should note that the soil should be allowed to dry out after each watering session.

This is especially true during the colder seasons, as during this time, you would notice that the soil drys out slowly. For this reason, fortnightly watering is recommended during the winter season. You must keep in mind that overwatering has the potential of damaging your plant roots by a very large margin. To avoid root rot, ensure that you monitor your kentia palm soil and water as needed.

What Kind Of Soil Do Kentia Palms Need?

Knowing what kind of soil kentia palms need is essential in keeping them growing their best. For your plant to reach its full potential, using a well-drained growing medium is highly recommended. Loam or sand soils are the best in this case as they provide ample aeration and have excellent drainage capabilities. However, if you have clay soil that drains well and does not easily compact, kentia palms can also do quite well when planted in them.

These plants also prefer soil that is acidic and is known to tolerate an environment that reaches a neutral or slightly alkaline status. A soil pH level between 5.5 and 7.5 would be ideal for growing kentia palms.

How Long Do Kentia Palms Live?

So, how long do kentia palms live? Well, this will depend on the maintenance and care that they are afforded throughout their lifespan. With proper maintenance implementation, you may be surprised to know that your kentia palm plants can survive well over 45 to 50 years. However, to have them around for this long, ensure that they are growing in the best environment that is rich in nutrients, well-draining, and well-aerated to maintain their health and growth.

Additionally, kentia palms need bright, indirect light although they are known to endure a small amount of shade. You should also keep them out of direct sunlight and cold draughts as they can burn their leaves and flaw their appearance substantially if exposed for extended periods. Growing these plants in humid temperatures between 18 and 24 C would be ideal for keeping them alive for a longer time.

When Do You Repot Areca Palms?

Knowing when you plant areca palms is essential if you want them to grow healthy and happy for a long time. This is because repotting these palm plants has many benefits to aid them in reaching their full potential. If your plant is growing well, then transferring them into a new pot every two to three years would be ideal.

Keep in mind that these plants are slow growing, therefore yearly repotting is not necessary. However, should you notice discolored or flawed and wilted foliage, pruning and repotting immediately will help revive your plant? It is essential to inspect your plant from time to time as insect infestations, funguses, and root rot caused by an excessive watering call for transplanting.

How Do You Revive Areca Palms?

It is beneficial to know how you revive areca palms, especially if you have them as a part of your indoor or outdoor garden. To begin, you would first need to determine the cause of their deterioration. Thereafter, implementing a few simple maintenance and care strategies will bring your area palms back to life.

  • You should first start by removing dead or decayed fronds that are evident on the plant fronds. In this case, pruning shears would be ideal for cutting them off neatly without causing any damage to your plant.
  • Thereafter, remove the plant from its existing container and repot it. To do this, you will need new soil.
  • Ensure that you clean any old soil off the roots before replanting.
  • After repotting, ensure that your area palms are placed in a location that gets ample shaded sunlight for about six to eight hours a day.
  • Remember that direct sunlight will flaw their leaves.
  • Monitoring the temperature in the environment in which your plant is growing, is vital to keep it thriving so make sure that it is maintained. This is because areca palms grow best in environments that have consistently high humidity levels.

Are Areca Palm Roots Invasive?

Are areca palm roots invasive or not? Many times, I have been asked this same question to which I answer, no, they are actually not. This is because these plants’ roots have a different system compared to other garden vegetation.

Areca palm roots are known to grow laterally although they are not deeply embedded in the soil.  They occupy a few feet below the topsoil which is ideal for maintaining their fibrous roots. So, these plants won’t take over or disturb other plants if you have them in your yard. Their roots are also very this which poses no risk to nearby structures.


I hope this article has helped you see how amazing these two types of palm are. Choosing your 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!

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