This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

April 1, 2016

Using a moisture meter for your Kentia palm

I learned the most important lesson about using a moisture meter yesterday - they aren't very useful if you just leave it in the cupboard under the sink.

I used a moisture meter for the first time several years ago when I did some house-sitting for a friend who has a lot of rare plants in his house. It was actually kind of fun - you just stuck the prongs into the soil and looked at the readout. If it was in the green area, you didn't add water, if it was in the red area, you did. The plants never got to the blue area, which means that there is the soil is waaaaayyyyy too wet, unless you have plants that like to live in marshy soil (and most plants don't).

After the hours of labor repotting my Kentia palms on Wednesday, I feel the need to look after them carefully, and possibly make the most common mistake that people make - overwatering. So I found the moisture meter, which I haven't used for years, and stuck it into the soil. Wow! The needle nearly went off of the scale, the soil was still so wet. If I added more water now, it would just cause the roots to rot, so I'll relax.

My Kentia palm expert tells me that the most important thing is to make sure that the bottom of the pot isn't too wet, so the reading can be a little higher towards the top of the soil, and lower towards the bottom. That's the importance of good draining that we hear so much about. A palm tree like this needs water, of course, but it doesn't like to stand with "its feet wet" or the roots will rot and the plant will die. The expression I learned long ago was:

"Palm trees like to see water, but they don't like to see it twice!"

So, go find that moisture meter, and use it. You may be surprised at what you see. And don't kill your palm tree with kindness!
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