The Kentia palm (also known as Howea forsteriana) typically grows large palm-shaped dark green leaves. But sometimes, the leaves of this palm can turn yellow, which might get you worried. In this article, I will go over 12 possible problems why your Kentia palm has yellow leaves and how to fix these problems.
Why Does My Kentia Palm Have Yellow Leaves?
Here are the most common causes why your Kentia palm has yellow leaves:
- Watering problems (under or overwatering)
- Lighting problems
- Low humidity
- Old foliage
- Bad soil
- Acclimating to a new environment
- Temperature damage
- Transplant shock
- Pest problems
- Fertilizer problems
- Poor air circulation
Whatever the problem is that you are facing with this plant, keep in mind that the Kentia palm is slow-growing. If the plant has a lot of damaged leaves, it can a while before the plant has recovered. This means you have to have a little bit of patience when trying to the yellow leaves. Don’t let this encourage you, the plant can definitely be fixed!
Why Does My Kentia Palm Have Yellow Leaves?
The first and most common reason why the leaves of your Kentia palm might be yellow is under or overwatering.
If the soil of the plant has been constantly wet or waterlogged, you will probably have an overwatering problem.
The roots of the Kentia palm need oxygen to function properly. Too much water in the soil will cut off the oxygen supply and can cause root damage.
If you overwater this plant too many times, the roots and stems of the palm will rot. Root rot will prevent the roots from absorbing nutrients and water, causing the leaves to turn yellow.
On the other hand, underwatering this plant can also cause yellow leaves. If you completely letting the soil dry out, the leaves’ tips will turn yellow and eventually turn brown and die.
The Kentia palm prefers to be well-hydrated, but not waterlogged and likes to dry out between waterings. In the spring and summer, it needs to be watered weekly. In the fall and winter, the plant probably only needs water every couple of weeks. This is because, during the winter, the plant will go dormant.
To make things easier, only water the Kentia palm when the top 2 inches (5 cm) of the soil are dry. Water the Kentia palm until water drips out of the drainage holes and then let wait 10 minutes till the water has leaked through. Make sure there is no excess water in the bottom of the sauces or your plant pot.
Are you keeping your Kentia palm in a dark room with hardly any sunlight? Or is your Kentia palm sitting in front of a south-facing window where there is too much direct sunlight? Both of these scenarios represent bad lighting environments.
Too much or too little (sun)light can be a reason why this plant has yellow leaves. For proper growth, this palm needs medium to bright indirect sunlight.
So when there is too little light present, the plant will not perform photosynthesis. This means the plant will not draw up as much water to its leaves as it normally would and the soil will stay damp for longer. If the soil stays damp for too long the roots will start to rot and the leaves will turn yellow.
On the flip side, giving your Kentia palm too much direct sunlight can also cause the leaves to turn yellow. When the leaves get too much direct sunlight, they will burn. The burning and yellowing of the leaves will always take place on the side of the plant where the sun shines on.
Unfortunately, burned leaves will not turn green again. So if you want to make the plant appear fresh again, you can trim off the burned leaves off without hurting the plant and move the plant out of the direct sunlight.
If you only have a very sunny window, make sure you filter the light with a curtain or a window sticker to prevent any leaf burning.
The Kentia palm is native to Lord Howe Island which is a tropical island in the South Pacific. On this tropical island, the humidity is between 80-90% and all the plants growing here have acclimated to this environment.
However, it will easily thrive in normal indoor and outdoor environments where the humidity is between 30-50%.
The only time you should worry about low humidity is when the humidity is constantly below 30%. Especially during the winter months, the air is much drier because cold air holds much less moisture than warm air.
Plants take in water through theIf the humidity is below 30% for longer periods of time, the leaves can turn yellow with brown crispy tips or edges.
By using a digital hygrometer you can measure the humidity in the air.
The kentia palm will thrive best when the humidity around the plant is around 50-60%. If the humidity drops below 40%, you want to increase the humidity artificially. Here are 3 things you can do:
- Use a humidifier
- Spritz your plants with water
- Place plants together (to create a micro-climate)
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This only applies when your Kentia palm is really old. Just like with normal trees and actually any other plant, when leaves get too old, they will fall off.
Plants are self-sufficient, which means they know exactly when to grow new leaves or when to shed leaves.
The leaves of a kentia palm have a certain lifespan (they can get up to a maximum of 50 years old), when the leaves get too old The plant will get rid of the old leaves.
First, the old leaves will turn yellow, then brown and after a while, they will fall off.
If you know this is the problem, you don’t have to do anything about the yellow leaves. But you can also trim the yellow leaves to make the plant look fresh again.
Constantly wet soil might be an indication that the soil mix is too heavy and doesn’t drain well.
A soil mix that has poor drainage will lead to yellow leaves because the soil will stay overly wet which will make it hard for the roots to breathe.
Because the roots can’t get any oxygen, they will slowly start to rot, shut down and stop delivering the nutrients and water that the plant needs.
When it comes to proper soil for your Kentia palm, you can pick almost any soil mix that you want. But whatever mix you choose, you must choose one that is well-draining because the palm is susceptible to root rot.
Good soil for Kentia palms is Sandy, well-draining and slightly Acidic.
Acclimating to a new environment
Besides the fact that Kentia palms are strong plants that adapt quickly to their environment when there are big sudden environmental changes, the plant can get in shock. In this case, the leaves of the plant will turn yellow.
When plants are moved, they need to acclimate to their new environment with other light and temperature levels. This can cause stress on the plant which will then turn the leaves yellow.
To prevent this from happening, you want to gradually change the temperature and light levels of the plant. Then care for the plant like you normally would; give it medium to bright indirect sunlight, at least 68°F (20°C), and only water it when the top 2 inches of the soil dry out.
If you are keeping your Kentia palm next to a fireplace, heat vent, near an exterior door, or on top of a radiator, you might want to consider moving the plant to a different location!
Temperature is a key factor in the growth and development of the plant and either too hot or too cold temperatures can make the leaves of the kentia palm yellow. If the temperature is too high, the soil is dry all the time. On the other hand, if the temperature is too low, the soil will stay wet all the time.
The kentia palm thrives best in temperatures between 65°F (18°C) and 85°F (29°C).
While the Kentia palm can tolerate temperatures down to 25 F (-4 C) and up to 100 F (38 C), it is best to protect the plant against too cold temperatures during the winter and excessive heat during the summer.
Generally, houseplants hate drafty areas, and cold or hot air blasts can also make the leaves yellow. Below are some of the cold and hot draft spaces that you want to avoid putting your houseplant near.
- Patio or porch door
- Electrical outlets
- Window & door frames
- Air intake vents
- Airconditioning unit
- Cable TV and phone lines
- Heat vents
- Space heater
- Woodburning stove
- Appliances (refrigerator, dryer, dishwasher, stove, washing machine, air fryer, etc)
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If you have recently transplanted this plant into a bigger pot or transplanted it after propagation, this might be the reason why the leaves are turning yellow.
In nature, plants are not moving by themselves, so if we move a plant from one place to another place this can cause the plant stress.
The difference between transplanting shock and a plant that needs to acclimate to a new environment is that with transplanting you are disturbing the roots by getting the plant out of its pot.
Depending on how you transplanted the Kentia palm, the transplant shock usually lasts from 0-3 weeks.
You can prevent transplant shock by not repotting the plant right away after getting it. Unless it has to be repotted because it’s rootbound, has root rot, or is sick then you could do so. But overall, let them first get used to the environment of your home, and after a couple of weeks, you can repot the plant.
Other ways to reduce transplant shock are to disturb the roots as little as possible, transplant as many roots as possible, and water thoroughly after transplanting.
Here are 3 tips you can use to heal transplant shock:
- Prune the plant
- Don’t let the soil dry out completely (water when the top of the soil feels dry)
- Wait patiently
Insects (pests) will pierce the leaves or stems of the Kentia palm and try to feed on the plant by sucking out nutrients. This will often cause yellowing or browning of the leaves.
If pests are present on your Kentia palm, you will probably notice it if you look closely. Do you see small white dots or delicate webs underneath the leaves? Then the plant might have been infested with spider mites. Are parts of the stem and leaves covered in cotton/waxy stuff? This might be a mealybug infestation.
The first thing you can do to get rid of the pest is to rinse off the plant and prune the affected leaves. After that, you want to use an insecticidal spray to eliminate the pest.
You can check out my shop, where I have listed a good pesticidal spray with neem-oil. Or you can make a pesticidal spray at home with soap (2%) and water. This means 3 tablespoons of dishwashing soap on one gallon of water.
Be careful with neem oil because this oil will work as a magnitude glass when the sun shines directly on the leaves. Even dappled sun can damage the leaves if you use a spray with neem oil. When using neem oil, make sure the plant only gets indirect sunlight.
The Kentia palm rarely gets infected with a disease (a fungus or bacteria). But if it catches a disease, and is not treated in time, the leaves of the plant can turn yellow.
Root diseases are often found in palms that are rootbound or planted in soil that doesn’t drain well. Poor drainage will cause waterlogged soil, which is devastating for this plant and can lead to root rot. If the roots rot, the plant will not be able to take in any moisture and other essential nutrients and the plant will slowly die. Drooping, fading, yellow, or brown leaves are often signs that will occur.
You can check out if the roots are rotting by removing the plant from its pot. If the roots are brown and soft, instead of strong and white, you will know that they are rotting.
You can prevent this by caring for the plant in the right way, making sure that you don’t overwater the plant and transplant it when the roots are too rootbound.
If you have found out that the roots of your Kentia palm are rotting, there is still a way to fix this. The most effective way that I have found to treat root rot problems is to use hydrogen peroxide and rinse the soil with it. (This is not a method I invented, credits for this method go to DenGarden).
Here are the steps:
- Mix one part of additive-free 35% hydrogen peroxide with ten parts water.
- Water infected plants thoroughly. The soil will bubble as the oxygen is released.
- For pests, water with the mixture twice a week, allowing the top 2 inches of soil to dry between watering. Root pests should subside within a week.
- For root rot, water plants very thoroughly, then allow the soil to dry. The top 2-3 inches of soil should be completely dry before returning to a regular water regimen. If the process is done correctly, root rot can easily be treated with only one watering of peroxide.
When it comes to fertilizer problems, yellow leaves can be caused by either too much or too little fertilizer, or because you have fertilized the plant in the wrong season.
Kentia palms are not big feeders and don’t require a lot of fertilizer to grow big and be happy. Overfertilizing this plant will result in yellow or brown leaves, wilting, and root damage. Depending on what kind of fertilizer you have used, the symptoms may appear within 2 days to 3 weeks after the feeding.
On the other hand, we have under-fertilizing. If you haven’t fertilized this plant in over a couple of years, the soil might lack essential nutrients. This can stun the growth, loss of luster, and can cause the lower leaves to turn lighter in color than the upper leaves.
The last fertilizer problem that can cause yellow leaves is when you feed the plant during the fall and winter months. During this time, the plant will go dormant which means they will stop using energy to grow and instead conserve this energy until the temperature goes up again. Fertilizing during these months can cause too many nutrients in the ground which will burn the leaves.
Instead what you want to do is use a diluted fertilizer (3-1-2 NPK ratio) only in the warmer spring and summer months. Fertilizing the palm once every month during this period is more than enough to make it happy.
If there is too much fertilizer (nutrients) in the soil, you want to fix this problem as soon as possible. It can be fixed by scooping up as much fertilizer as possible, flushing the soil a couple of times with as much water as the soil can hold, or by repotting the plant in fresh soil.
Poor air circulation
When there is low air circulation around and through the plant, the soil can stay damp for longer periods of time. And damp soil is a perfect place for the growth of many fungal diseases and will attract pests.
These problems are known to make Kentia palm leaves yellow, brown or even black.
It is actually quite difficult to accurately measure the air circulation in a room. However, if the air vents are not working or you rarely have a window open for fresh air, the air circulation might be too low.
4 easy ways to improve air circulation:
- Open your doors and windows
- Make sure the ventilation system is working
- Choose the right ventilation system
- Turn on ceiling fans or other fans (it doesn’t need to blow directly on the plant)
It can be quite difficult to find out why the kentia palm has yellow leaves. So I hope this article helped you to find out what causes the problem and how to prevent and treat it.
Also, if this article helped you, share this article with someone else who loves Kentia palms!
That would really help my blog out!
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