In our last house, which we rented, the front yard was adorned with a beautiful Kentia Palm. It dwarfed the roof by metres and had this presence that drew attention to itself as soon as someone would walk into the yard.
Don’t get the wrong idea here. Apart from the kentia palm and a mixture of old world roses this garden was nothing to look at. It certainly wouldn’t have come second in a beauty contest. In fact, having such a huge kentia was part of the reason why the garden had little else in it. It’s root structure was astounding, like chinese noodles covering just below the surface matting everything in it’s way.
Where to Plant a Kentia Palm
I guess when you’re that big not much else is going to argue with you and many of the plants we tried to grow around its base would give up relatively easily. If you’re going to plant one in your garden, take into account this plants root system. If you don’t contain it in some way, it will take over your garden beds and can even crack concrete and lift bricks.
The thatch palm Howea forsteriana is one of four types of palms lumped under the Kentia label. They’re a native palm from Lord Howe Island and were exported when the whaling industry ceased after the 19th century.
They’re grown throughout the world now and are one of the most popular, and versatile, palms. Many palms that you see decorating resorts, and offices throughout the world are most likely Kentia’s.
Our kentia palm was mature enough to fruit and it did prolifically. Invariably, when the seed pods would turn a dark orange we would have people turning up on our door-step wanting to buy the seed from us. They would give us A$10 and bag all the seed in big, black garbage bags and take them away. After this happened for 2 years we became inquisitive as to the demand for kentia seeds and after some research found that at the time these palm seeds could fetch up to A$80 per kilo (2lbs).
We were ignorantly giving up more than a couple of hundred dollars to these sharks.
The next season I tried to raise them from seed only to find out that they take between 1-3 years to germinate. This is far too long for a gardener with 4 young kids and nowhere to store a tray of seed-raising mix. So I’ve put that idea on the back burner to try another day.
We’re planning a tropical rainforest garden on one side of our house and the Kentia palm will certainly feature highly.
Photo source: Chi King