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I purchased this Kentia Palm about 3 weeks ago now. I was instructed by the owner of the store to water thoroughly (wait until water comes from the drainage holes and then empty the water to prevent plant sitting in water) when I felt the top of the soil is dry.

I have not watered the plant at all (out of fear of over-watering) but now am getting some brown fonds of the lower fronds and some yellowing tips on a larger frond.

I'm wondering if these are because of under-watering or something else? Also should I trim the smaller fronds that have turned crispy brown?

plant stems yellowing leaf tips dried leaf yellow/brown leaf

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Kentia's are slow growing but tolerate low light levels once established. If this plant is new from a grower I do not recommend repotting it. It is likely to not be well rooted and have a fragile root system.

Just cut the dying fronds off and move the plant to an area with high light but diffuse. Not right up against a southern window but a few feet back. A sunny east window would do nicely and not get hot in the afternoon.

As far as watering root rot is very easy to cause. You were given the right instructions on how to water but I suggest that this plant can go longer between watering until it is well rooted.

Here are two tests you can do yourself which will help:

  • grasp a stem and gently try to wriggle it. If it moves easily then this plant is not well rooted
  • use your finger as a moisture meter. Take a digit of your choice and stick it in the pot. If the soil is moist at the end of your finger you do not need to water.
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    Thanks for your help kevinsky! A couple of the stems are indeed not well rooted from the shake test. I have this palm in a northfacing window which unfortunately receives only a couple minutes of direct, weak light and most of the light is refracted from the building / street outside. I will keep on with your instructions and hope it bounces back! Thanks again! – lunaleaps Jul 15 at 15:07
  • Kevinsky? Look at this plant. Are you telling the OP that this plant does not need up potting? Honest? It is suffering from shock of environment change. That would be the only thing that would make me not up pot this plant within a week or so? It needs up potting and more light. – stormy Jul 16 at 23:40
  • @stormy Growers move plants along as fast as possible. Shipping mass canes that didn't have a root six months ago works but kentia palms are slow growers. Take some offsets and grow them on quickly and you get a poorly rooted plant that up potting will add to it's problems – kevinsky Jul 16 at 23:46
  • Kevinsky I am oh so impressed with you. Wish I knew your background as I think we have lived similar lives with plants. This poor plant needs up potting. I would definitely be talked into waiting giving it some time to acclimate. – stormy Jul 17 at 3:12
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I would most certainly take sharp scissors or pruners and cut the damaged fronds off right at the soil line.

What type of water do you have? The yellowing tips indicate high salts in the soil. Some of our tap water is full of salts and toxins. Did you transplant this guy after purchasing or is this his original pot and soil from the nursery?

If you haven't watered for 3 weeks...that is a bit too long but your palm still looks healthy, the soil has probably become hydrophobic and repels water.

I would put this plant into your shower, turn the cold water on and let it rain and rain and rain for 5 minutes. Stick something under the pot lifting off the bottom of the shower or tub and allow it to drain for an hour or so. Give it a shake now and then to get rid of the water on the leaves. Make sure to lift the pot and plant to feel what it feels like when it is properly watered.* *Do not water it again until you lift it and it is very light. Then water thoroughly.

The shower thing is great every 3 months or so to wash off dust and leach salts from the soil. Take it back to its normal spot. Put pieces of broken 1/4" tile beneath the pot to lift it off of the surface of the saucer. This greatly enhances drainage. The longer water sits in your soil, fungus amungus can get started and/or the roots won't be able to get air. Roots need O2. Or they start drowning/rotting.

You will have to transplant this palm, sooner than later. Get a pot that is just a few inches larger than this pot, clay pot, wider than tall. I would use a 14" wide by 12" deep clay pot.

Use plain potting soil without any water holding gimmicks or fertilizer added. Don't add a single thing to that soil. Fill 1/3, FIRM, place your plant into the new soil and lightly open up the outside circling roots and as you add soil lightly firm.

Your goal is to make sure the surface of the soil and the crown of your plant end up 1" from the rim of your pot...for proper watering.

Ask those guys at the nursery when the last time it was fertilized and with WHAT. Be nice to know that information, but if impossible, purchase a small bottle of OSMOCOTE, `14-14-14, extended release and use HALF of what the directions tell you. This will last you and this plant for years.

Keep your plant in the spot it is in now. It looks great for light and no drafts?

When you do the up potting/transplanting, turn your plant on its side to slide the root ball out of the pot (on newspaper), if there are roots coming out of the drain holes, cut them off. If the plant and its root ball doesn't slide out easily...WHACK the side of the pot. If that doesn't work WHACK it again...the side of the pot as it lays on the newspaper, even a third or fourth time?

It will slide out then look at those roots. Are they bright white or do you see brown and/or mushy roots? Take a picture and send it with another question. Use ONLY sterilized potting soil, the plainer and cheaper the better.

The rock on top of the soil doesn't need to be there. Let us know how this works out!

  • Thanks for your help stormy! The plant hasn't been repotted since purchase, the drainage holes are on the side of the pot -- dont know if that makes a difference in how water drains out. I have watered it with filtered water and cut off the dried Browning fronds. There a couple more leaves now Browning at the tips which is concerning. I have also removed the rocks and wiped down the leaves with water and a bit of neem oil (mostly because of a prior gnat issue). Hopefully it recuperates! I do have a North facing window which could unfortunately get more light. – lunaleaps Jul 15 at 14:58
  • Is there not a south facing window with more light? Light means growth, food for plants. Without light that plant is struggling. – stormy Jul 16 at 23:33
  • I would even consider a real artificial grow light with enough wattage to DO something for the plant. Drain holes at the sides leaves enough room at the bottom of the plant to hold water. This makes fungus and big problems. I'd get another pot, a cheapo clay pot with a big drainage hole at the bottom. Good using filtered water but I would ask a friend who owns a well to be able to collect water from them for my plants. That salt in the water plus all the toxic industrial waste that has been dumped in our water will cause tips to brown. What are you doing for fertilizer? – stormy Jul 16 at 23:35
  • Haven't done anything with fertilizer -- I have a balanced one that I might add, one of those slow-releasing pearls. I am looking into grow-lights because yea having a due-north window has really hit my plant growth hard. Do you have any recommendations? – lunaleaps Aug 8 at 21:11

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