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The kentia is a palm tree that belongs to the Howea genus: it is native to Australia, in particular of the island Lord Howe (from which it takes its name). It arrived in Europe in the mid-1800s and was immediately appreciated for its beautiful straight trunk and its shiny and elegant foliage. In our continent it must be grown in heated greenhouses or treated as a houseplant. Beyond its sensitivity to cold (never drop below 13 ° C) it is extremely simple to care for and is suitable for anyone, from the novice to the most experienced gardener.
At home, it is capable of giving an exotic touch to any room and marries beautifully with modern furnishings. During the summer it benefits from being moved outside: it can thus be used as an ornament in the garden, on a patio or on terraces.
The kenzia does not need pruning. Rather, it is important to remove the dry leaves that are generally found in the lower areas of the plant. This procedure in fact helps prevent any diseases or attacks from parasites. The discourse of reproduction is more complex. The detachment of a part of the plant can cause a wound in the kenzia which greatly increases the possibility of an attack by various pathogens. Instead, seed reproduction requires the creation of a perfect environment. The seed of the kenzia needs to be incubated in order to develop properly. This plant tends to grow considerably over the years. Consequently, whenever repotting the kenzia is carried out, it is important to choose a container larger than the previous one. This operation must be performed approximately every 2 or 3 years.How to fertilize the kenzia
For a good fertilization of the kenzia it is possible to proceed by choosing a liquid fertilizer that contains the three fundamental chemical substances: phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium. The plant must be fertilized during the warm season from April to October. During the coldest months, the fertilization can be interrupted as the kenzia does not benefit from it. In case you opt for a fertilization with tablets, you can proceed by putting some of them in the soil about every 2 or 3 months. As for the soil, the kenzia needs a rather peaty or sandy soil. The perfect soil for the plant is a mixture between a lethal soil and a flower soil (therefore a soil for pot plants). However, the kenzia does not present particular needs with regard to the soil being a plant of great adaptability.
What are the diseases of kenzia
Among the parasites that most commonly attack the kenzia are red spider mites and cochineal. Red spider mites can cause leaves to turn yellow. Whenever these parasites are found, it is good to proceed by using specific products. The plant can be attacked by the fungus Phytophthora palmivora. This fungus can extend to cause the death of the roots. Moreover, the kenzia can go very easily with yellowing of the leaves. The primary cause is generally found in poor irrigation of the plant. The kenzia needs a lot of water, unlike other houseplants, and this seems to be one of the most frequent problems during its cultivation. To ensure the correct water supply it is also necessary to humidify the foliage and not just the soil.
What kenzia should be like
At our latitudes this palm can only be cultivated in pots. We recommend using a container that is neither too large nor too small: we leave about 4 cm of free diameter for the new growth. In this way we will avoid to intervene too frequently with repottings and, at the same time, we will avoid dangerous water stagnations.
The ideal substrate must be able to remain fresh for a long time, but must allow a perfect drainage. Compounds designed specifically for green plants are usually suitable, but for a better yield it is good to create the mixture ourselves.
Ideal is to mix fibrous soil, peat (or ground of leaves) and sand (or perlite) in equal parts. It is very important to create a thick layer on the bottom of the vase based on expanded clay or pumice: it will guarantee an excellent flow of water.
Exposition of the kenzia
In this respect, kenzia is one of the least demanding houseplants. It lives well in both luminous and shaded positions. In this last condition we will clearly have a slower growth.
In general we only avoid the direct sun (especially in the summer months and if concentrated by a window pane).
The ideal temperature ranges from 16 to 24 ° C; if we exceed this threshold let us remember that an important aid will come from maintaining high environmental humidity. It is possible to intervene several times a day by lightly atomizing the leaves with demineralized water. Moving the pot outside in the summer is certainly a good idea, but we avoid too sunny exposures. Windy locations can cause the stems to break and dehydrate the foliage.
In winter the temperature must never fall below 13 ° C and a fairly bright exposure is recommended so that the growth does not stop completely.
How to propagate the kenzia
Unfortunately the propagation of the kenzia is a very slow and difficult process. A large margin of success can only be achieved with professional equipment, but it is also possible to try at home. We recommend using fresh seeds in large quantities.
The best time to start is the end of winter, roughly around March. Cassettes are filled with a mixture, in equal parts, of peat and sand. We distribute the seeds and cover them with agricultural vermiculite.
We humidify and keep in a greenhouse or tunnel heated to about 27 ° C, regularly spraying the soil (at household level we can use a heating mat).
Germination can take up to several weeks. Once the first leaflet is out, we can reduce the sprays and keep the temperature around 18-20 ° C. The ideal location should be very bright, but direct sunlight should be avoided. We fertilize lightly and wait: the growth is very slow and it may take more than a year to get a well-grounded plant.
The genus Howea is composed of 2 species: both are appreciated as houseplants, greenhouses or tropical gardens.
Forster's Kentia (Howea forsteriana)
Palm of considerable size: in places of origins and in temperate climates it can exceed 10 meters in height. As a houseplant, it rarely exceeds 3m and rarely comes to flower and bear fruit (except in the extreme south of our peninsula, if kept in the open ground).
It has a single trunk, straight and narrow, characterized by thin scales. It forms a head up to 3 meters wide, slightly inclined. The foliage is extremely decorative: dark green, pinnate with thin, soft horizontal leaves.
It is the most widespread species in cultivation: it is very appreciated for its elegance and for its slow growth (which makes the repotting operations very sporadic).
This is also characterized by a single and straight trunk. In nature it reaches 8 meters in height, in cultivation it generally stands at 3 (with a width of about 2).
The leaves, dark green, are composed of broad lanceolate leaflets with fine petioles. This variety adapts well to the climate of the South of our peninsula where it manages to have a more vigorous growth than the forsteriana.
Kenzia is a species of plant belonging to the large family of the Palmae and to the genus Howea; it originates from