House Plants/Howea Forsteriana best pot size
I just bought a Howea Forsteriana—at about 7', a very tall off-the-shelf specimen. Even at this size, however, it still came in the usual small pot, in this case what seems about four litres. Thus, I immediately replanted the palm, but the otherwise perfect pot I had for it is, at about 9 litres, not much bigger.
I am told that Howea Forsteriana can grow to eighteen feet or more. I intend to grow mine (in a north-east-facing corner conservatory, thus, only morning-direct sunlight) to about twelve feet. I know that some species, like Ficus, actually like to be root bound--but unlike Howea, Ficus can tolerate regular near-drying out of the compost. I'm thinking I'm going to need to re-pot the Howea in a much bigger pot; and if so, I'd best do it now.
Howea Forsteriana (Kentia Palm) enjoys being as pot bound as a Ficus, and perhaps even more so because its roots are far more fragile and less extensive than Ficus.
Your volume estimates of the pots seem a bit off. A 7-foot Kentia Palm should be in a 10 or 12 inch (25 to 30 cm.) diameter pot and no larger. In addition, the less repotting you do the better the plant will be because every repotting does some damage to the fine root hairs that do most of the work. Using a potting mix that is consistent with the mix it was grown in is also important. Indeed, the nursery pots and potting mixes that Kentias are grown in are usually ideal for that plant, even though the pot may look small to the layperson's eye.
Your Palm is not likely to grow as tall as 12-feet. That can happen in its native habitat or in the ideal environment of a green house. In most residential environments, growth is slow and fronds gradually arch more horizontally as gravity takes over. They often become wider than they are tall. So, don't expect too much more height.
If the location you cited provides sunlight only from the side and not also from above, then the location is fine. If there is also an overhead window in your conservatory, then the light may be too direct and cause bleaching of the foliage. This is a plant that grows in deep shade and does not tolerate much direct sun, as many other Palm species do.
If your Kentia is potted in a standard potting mix, then it should be watered thoroughly when the top quarter of the potting mix feels nearly dry. The better quality Kentias in the US are now grown in volcanic cinder potting mixes that are more porous. This helps prevent over watering and means it should be watered when the surface of the cinder mix feels almost dry.
I have written articles on potting and on Palm care that I will email for free to you (or anyone else) who emails a request to me at wcreed@HorticulturalHelp.com.
Please let me know if any of this is unclear or if you have any additional questions.
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Will Creed, Interior Landscaper
Horticultural Help, NYC
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