Areca or kentia: how to tell them apart?

Bamboo palm tree view

Image – Wikimedia/Forest & Kim Starr

Areca and Kentia are two of the best-selling palms, especially to have indoors. However, although to inexperienced eyes they may look virtually identical, the truth is that they are very different. They need similar care, but nothing more.

To help you identify them easily, In this article I will tell you how they differso you will know if you want an areca or a kentia to decorate your home or garden.

I love palm trees. In fact, I would say that next to Japanese maples and sarracenias, these are my favorite plants. But even if I like to get to know exotic species, that is to say those that can only be obtained in nurseries and specialized stores and more rarely in conventional nurseries, the most common such as areca and the kentia seem to me to be very very beautiful plants. So much so that I did not hesitate to buy them to have them at home, as you can see in the video.

However, although they are common plants, sometimes you find someone getting them confused. And that’s normal since when they are young they look a lot alike. Therefore, I will tell you how to tell them apart, regardless of their age:


Physical characteristics

First, let’s talk about the physical characteristics; not in vain, they are the ones that we can see:


Dypsis have pinnate leaves so water comes out quickly

Image – Wikimedia/Alejandro Bayer Tamayo from Armenia, Colombia

The leaves of kentia are dark green, and they also have wider leaflets than those of areca.. The latter has the most divided leaves, that is, they are composed of a greater number of leaflets; in fact, you can have up to 60 pairs.

Another important difference that may go unnoticed if you have nothing to compare is that when young, the leaves of the kentia are more arched than those of the areca. And although as the kentia grows it will continue to produce them like this, they tend to grow upwards. Areca leaves, on the other hand, do not have this tendency to grow horizontally.

Height and trunk/s

The kentia is a much larger palm than the areca: it can reach up to 15 meters weather and local conditions permitting. Additionally, it develops a single stem which we mistakenly call a trunk, which is dark green when young and ringed when mature. Its thickness will be about 20 centimeters, reaching 30cm at its base.

On another side, areca is a plant that reaches a maximum height of 5 meters, but the most normal is that it does not exceed 3 meters. It develops several stems, even when young. These emerge from the already formed stems, and are yellowish-green with dark dots. When the plant matures, it will also have ringed stems, but they will remain slender, measuring about 15 centimeters at most.

flowers and seeds

Areca flowers are yellow

Image – Wikimedia/Dinesh Valke

The Kentia is a palm that takes a long time to flower, at least 10 years. When it does, it produces an inflorescence up to 1 meter long which grows under the last leaves. The flowers are very small, about 1 centimeter, and yellowish green. Once pollinated, they ripen fruits that are first green and then dark red. These are 1 centimeter long and contain a seed.

Our other protagonist, areca grows faster so flowers earlier: around 5 years if conditions permit. Its flowers are also grouped in yellow inflorescences which grow under the last leaves; however, the fruits are green or yellowish-green at first, and bright red later.

Other Important Differences

We have talked about the physical characteristics, but the truth is that there are others that are also important to know, since they are the ones that will help us understand why they are two different palms:


The Kentia live on Lord Howe Island.

Image – Wikimedia/Black Diamond Images // Kentias in their natural habitat.

Kentia is a palm native to Lord Howe Island, which is an island in the Tasman Sea. Specifically, it is about 600 km east of Australia. It is a slow-growing plant found near the sea, so it lives in places with very high ambient humidity. In addition, the average annual temperature is 19.8 ºC and the average rainfall is 1153 mm.

In exchange, areca is native to Madagascarwhere it lives in a region with a rainy tropical climate, with an average annual temperature of 20ºC.

Basic needs

For them to be really well, it is important to know what care should be given to them. And this is where we will find more differences:

  • Kentia: This is a slow growing palm that needs a bright room, although it can tolerate low light conditions. Also, if you live in an area where there are light frosts, you can grow it outdoors, but yes: if the degree of insolation is very high, as is the case in the Mediterranean, you will have to put it in the shade because otherwise it would burn. Also, it must be watered once or twice a week, and sprinkle its leaves with water daily if the ambient humidity is low.
  • Areca: it is a palm that grows quickly, but it is more delicate than the kentia. It does not tolerate cold and needs a place with plenty of light (not direct) and high ambient humidity. It is sensitive to excess water, although it needs a little more watering than the Kentia, especially during the summer.

Or buy?

If you wish, you can get them by clicking here:


Areca is a multi-stemmed palm


The Kentia is a palm that lives well indoors.

Do you want a kentia? Click here.

Leave a Comment