Howea, an indoor palm that hails from afar


Howea decorates homes all over the world, but grows in the wild on a single exotic island…

Key Howea facts

NameHowea forsteriana
Typeindoor palm

Height – 3 to 6 ½ feet (1 to 2 meters)
Exposure – abundant indirect light indoors

Foliage: evergreen  –  Care: easy  –  Diseases: red spider mite

With its wide leaves that stay green all year long, Howea (or kentia palm) is appealing for its its exotic bearing and its hardiness. Indoors, it’s very similar to the more common areca palm.

Whether it lacks water, light, or is subjected to too much heating in winter, this palm tree can survive almost any of its owner’s shortcomings. In its natural habitat, it was brought up to survive in extreme conditions, what with hurricanes, tropical monsoons and droughts and such.

Planting and repotting for howea

Howea plantingHowea is a palm tree that requires proper planting and repotting to grow well.

  • Repot every two years.
  • If the pot is already quite large, simply add some soil mix along the surface. This is called topdressing.
  • Well-draining soil mix is needed. Make sure the pot has a hole at the bottom for water to drain out.
  • Inside a house, with proper growing conditions, it can reach heights of two or even three yards or meters. This takes years, though.

Proper howea care

Indoor howeaFor your palm tree to stay green, place it in a luminous spot without direct sunlight. It can cope with light shade, which makes it well suited to darker rooms. Every week, immerse its trunk in lukewarm water, and drip-dry well. During the rest phase, only water every 10 days.

If the tips of the leaves are dry and turn yellow, it means your howea needs water. If they turn brown, it means it must be moved to another location: either it lacks space or people brush against it too often.

Dust it from time to time with a moist rag, or bring it out under the rain.

Do try and place several specimens near one another, in the living room near the couch for instance, this will create a miniature jungle and you’ll notice your mind wander to exotic places!

Howea, a far-off birthplace

Howea in potHowea comes from a tiny island called Lord Howe Island, about 400 miles (500 km) East of Australia. Howea has been growing there for two million years, and its bearing is that of a tall palm tree.

This single island comprises its entire natural habitat.

Howea is endemic to that island: it doesn’t grow in the wild anywhere else.

Islands of the area are facing a grave problem: rising sea levels. Because of this, howea is endangered in its native habitat.

Every single indoor Howea is thus a descendant of a tree on that island.

Howea in the wildUsually, several young specimens are planted together in a single pot to produce a plant that looks more voluminous.

Since it tends to grow tall, it doesn’t have a large footprint.

If you live where it doesn’t freeze, you can try growing it outdoors. It’s great to line a walkway without blocking out the view too much.

By Laure Hamann

Images: adobestock: hcast, CC BY 2.0: John Game; Flower Council Holland