HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR OUR PLANTS
Plants of Howea or as they are commonly known of Kentia, are among the plants most present in our apartments both for their superb and elegant beauty and for the simplicity of cultivation.
Species: see the paragraph on "Main species"
The genre Howea belongs to the family of Arecaceae (one of the oldest families, in fact fossil remains have been found in the Cretaceous period, i.e. about 70-80 million years ago) and was once called Kentia or more commonly palms.
There are only two species in this genus which, regardless of a different way of developing, have characteristics and are completely similar: both develop with a single stem with fronds divided into smaller leaves around 5 cm wide and around 70 cm long. cm; both have a very slow growth and take many years to reach the size of an adult palm.
They are plants that lend themselves well to being raised in the apartment as they tolerate both low-light environments and the warm-dry microclimates typical of apartments very well, especially in winter.
When the inflorescence appears, it is a cylindrical spike with numerous cavities inside which the flowers are located.
There are only two species in this genus:Howea forsteriana is Howea belmoreana.
There Howea belmoreana it is a splendid plant that remains erect and that even in the house grows considerably up to a height of three meters (in nature it easily reaches 7-8 m).
It has pinnate leaves carried by long and sturdy petioles that grow and take on a curved posture starting from the attachment of the leaf. The stems are usually tinged with reddish, and in the apartment it blooms with difficulty.
There Howea forsteriana it has about 1 meter long stems which carry curved fronds formed by leathery leaflets, of an intense glossy green color, opposite, and spaced between them of about 2,5 cm. The stems at first curve outwards and then gradually become almost horizontal.In their natural environment they are plants that reach even 15 m in height but in the apartment they do not exceed 3 meters.
It is not uncommon that even in countries with a Mediterranean climate the plant blooms and bears fruit but only for those that are grown outdoors, in areas with a particularly mild climate. per year.
The kentia are very simple plants to care for and do not require special precautions. They are "free range" par excellence, that is to say they have an incredibly strong constitution and they grow well even if the environmental conditions are not ideal. Nevertheless, it is necessary to follow some small rules.
In fact, they do not like direct sunlight, on the contrary, they tolerate quite well those places in dim light that other plants do not like.During the summer, if possible, it is preferable that they stay outdoors but not in direct sun. Your Kentia will thank you so much.
Beware of cold drafts and excessive dryness of the room that cause browning of the leaves (see "Pests and diseases" below).
Considering that its leaves are very large, they need to be cleaned of dust. To do this, use a soft cloth soaked in lukewarm water or take the classic "shower" inside the bathtub if you do not have a garden. Be careful to NEVER use the products that are on the market indicated to "clean" or "polish" the leaves because they seriously damage the plant and can even cause it to die.
The ideal temperature is around 21-24 ° C during the summer period while in winter it is preferable that it does not drop below 15 ° C.
The Kentia they are slow growing plants, they usually emit no more than one leaf per year. If the individual leaves are damaged, they can be cut taking care not to damage the stem in any way. This is because the plant has a single stem, which grows continuously and from which the leaves develop. If the terminal apex is damaged, it will no longer grow back and the plant will be compromised.
ThereKentia it should be watered often during the summer season, making sure that the water does not stagnate in the saucer. During the winter, it is sufficient to keep the soil slightly moist by watering it every two weeks (obviously it depends on the amount of heat in the individual houses).
During the hot season, it is preferable to spray warm water to maintain a certain level of humidity in the air or to place the pot on expanded clay or gravel where there will be a constant stream of water (which will never be in contact with the roots) which evaporating, will create a humid environment around the plant.
TYPE OF SOIL - REPOT
There Kentia it is repotted every 2/3 years using a larger pot each time. Repotting should be done in early spring, being careful not to "disturb" or break the roots (better to break the pot) because they are easy to damage, thus causing the end of the growth of the leaves. The plant is delicately removed with its earthen bread and the new one is added.
The topsoil to use is a good peaty topsoil to which it is preferable to add a little coarse sand to make the earth more porous.
There Kentia va fertilized quite often during the spring-summer period, that is to say every 15 days using a complete liquid fertilizer dissolved in the irrigation water. During the other periods, suspend the fertilizations.
For all green plants, that is to say for those plants that develop many leaves, it is preferable to use fertilizers that have a fairly high nitrogen content (N) which favors the development of the green parts. Make sure, however, that in addition to having the so-called macroelements such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) - and that among these nitrogen is in greater quantity - it also has microelements such as magnesium (Mg), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), boron (B), molybdenum (Mo), all important for a correct and balanced growth of the plant.
It is very rare that the Kentia bloom in the apartment.
There Kentia it cannot be pruned. The leaves that eventually dry out must simply be eliminated to prevent them from becoming a vehicle for parasitic diseases. Be very careful when cutting not to damage the stem because the plant has a single stem, which grows continuously and from which the leaves develop. If the terminal apex is damaged, it will not grow back and the plant will die.
Make sure that the tool you use for cutting is clean and disinfected (preferably with a flame) to avoid infecting the tissues.
Kentia is multiplied by seed even if this is a practice that at home is difficult to achieve due to the delicacy and the precautions that would be needed.
As for the SEED MULTIPLICATION it takes place from the end of February to the beginning of April by placing the seeds at a depth of 2.5 cm. A soil formed by one part of peat and two parts of coarse sand is used.
It would be a good idea, to prevent any attacks of fungi, to administer with the irrigation water also a broad spectrum fungicide, in the doses indicated in the package.
The tray (or the pot) that contains the seeds should be kept in the light but not in direct sun, at a very high temperature around 27-30 ° C and constantly humid (use a sprayer to completely moisten the soil) until the moment of germination. The tray should be covered with a transparent plastic sheet that will guarantee a good temperature and avoid too rapid drying of the soil.
Once the seeds have germinated, the plastic sheet is removed, and as the seedlings grow, the amount of light is increased (never direct sun), the temperature is reduced to around 18 ° C and good ventilation is ensured.
The germination is quite uneven but when the first plants of Kentia begin to appear, you begin to ventilate by removing some plastic.When they are large enough to be manipulated, you will transplant them, in any case being very careful not to spoil any part of the plant (it would be It is preferable to use a fork for these operations that you will insert under the ground to take the whole plant and put it in the new pot) in single pots no more than 7 cm in diameter in a mixture as indicated for adult plants.
The kentia seedlings are very slow growing and it will take 6-7 years to wait before having a fairly large seedling.
PARASITES AND DISEASES
Lack of new shoots during the growing season
Normally during the vegetative season the plant emits new shoots, now if this has not happened, it means that the soil is poor in nutrients.
Remedies: carry out the fertilizations as indicated in the paragraph «Fertilizations».
Brown spots on the underside of the leaves
Brown spots on the underside of the leaves could mean that you are in the presence of brown scale insects. To be sure, it is recommended that you make use of a magnifying glass and observe yourself. Compare them with the photo on the side. They are features, you can't go wrong. Also if you try to remove them with a fingernail, they come off easily.
Remedies: remove them with a cotton swab soaked in alcohol or if the plant is large and potted, you can wash it with water and neutral soap rubbing very gently with a sponge to remove the parasites, after which the plant must be rinsed very well to eliminate all soap. For larger plants planted outdoors, you can use specific pesticides available from a good nurseryman.
Browned leaf tips
The cause could be either an excess of water or a lack of moisture.
Remedy: Spray the plant regularly in order to maintain a humid environment around it. Particularly in winter, it is advisable to equip the radiators with humidifiers. Another trick is to place the plant pot on gravel or expanded clay and constantly leave a trickle of water on the bottom (which is not in contact with the bottom of the pot) which, evaporating, will maintain a certain degree of humidity. Unfortunately, even if the environmental conditions improve, the damage cannot be repaired. The leaves will remain with dry tips.
Presence of brown spots on the leaves
They are usually due to blows of air or too sudden temperature changes. Stains could also be a consequence of water that is too hard, i.e. too rich in limestone.
Remedies: the diseased leaves should be removed but to ensure that the problem does not recur, if you cannot use another type of water, boil the irrigation water with a drop of vinegar that will mitigate the limescale of the water.
Small necrotic, circular brownish spots
If you notice this symptomatology it is very likely that you are in the presence of the so-called rust which is nothing more than a fungus Graphiola spp. If neglected, the spots gradually converge until the whole leaf dries up. In correspondence with the spots, on the upper page of the leaf, small sphericidal bodies can be observed a few millimeters tenaciously inserted into the tissues. They are the propagation organs of the fungus.
Remedies: it is good to immediately remove the affected leaves and intervene immediately afterwards with copper-based chemicals following the instructions given in the product packaging.
The genre Howea it owes its name to the island of Lord Howe Island which is located south of the Pacific, between Australia and New Zealand, of which they originate.