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Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily)

About the Peace Lily Houseplant

The Peace Lily Plant or Spathiphyllum first came to Europe in 1824 when it was found by Gustav Wallis in the Colombian jungle. Wallis is remembered for his discovery in the Peace Lily's Latin name of S. Wallis.

Peace Lily being grown as a houseplant with several white flowers on show

It's a fairly cheap plant to buy and its enduring popularity means it can be found in almost every shop that sells houseplants. In fact we'd go as far as saying it's likely one of the top five most popular houseplants. Over the years so many have just slipped into our care and between us we own more than 10 individual plants! Our motto is that you can never have too many of these plants (or houseplants in general).

The reasons people love this plant should be obvious. Great for beginners as it's simple to care for with easy to follow care instructions. It will also help filter the surrounding air of various toxins. Oh did we forget to mention the beautiful and elegant part? With the striking contrast of the dark green foliage and the creamy white flowers held high on stiff stems it holds it's own well and looks attractive in all types of homes and design schemes.

When it comes to the meaning of the "Peace" part of its name this is down to the flowers with the white raised spathe looking like a white flag of surrender seeking peace.

Many people call it a "Peaceful Lily" and perhaps surprisingly it also makes for a common funeral plant. Check out the comments at the end of the article with lots of vistors telling us they received them as gifts when a loved one died. They clearly have a lot of sentimental value to people so spend some time reading our care guide below to help keep yours growing properly.

Before the instructions, let's take a quick look at two commonly asked questions which this houseplant seems permanently tied to - "What plants like dark places?" and "Why won't my Peace Lily Bloom again?".

Light Needs

"The Peace Lily plant grows in dark places" - This isn't completely wrong, but it's a misleading myth. Many plants will be reasonably happy in darker places but this is ultimately confusing a surviving plant with one that would positively thrive in different conditions.

Peace Lily Plant grown as a houseplantThe Peace Lily is no different. If you put it in a bright spot without direct sunlight, growth will be more rapid and robust compared to a plant being grown a dark place. Of course if you do choose to grow it in a darker area in your home, as the common stereotype states, it will survive, adapt and grow (albeit slowly).

If you're looking to fill such a void then you could do far worse than this plant. It has lush green foliage and a clever trick to let you know when it needs watering, if conditions are favorable you will get tall brilliant white flowers several times a year which seem to float above the plant like mini clouds. And speaking of Flowers, let's take a look at the second most common question we get asked.

Flowers

"How do I get my Peace Lily to bloom again?" is the next most frequently asked question - A well cared for Spathiphyllum can be expected to produce several flowers a year. When we say several we really do mean several, as in one to three flowers at any one time.

More numerous blooms are rare and it's almost impossible to achieve at home no matter how great your care. It's a commonly asked question because most people have brought a Peace Lily from a shop when it's literally surrounded by blooms. They last for several months before eventually going green and then dying off, then when the same number of flowers don't return in the future, people automatically assume they're doing something wrong care wise. You're not.

That first beautiful flush of flowers you had is a result of expert nurseries growing them in a special way

The good news is that if your Peace Lily plant looks healthy, chances are you're treating it exactly as you should.

The bad news is that the first crazy but beautiful flush of flowers you had when you took it out of the store is a result of expert nurseries growing them in a special way. Not because they've given perfect light levels, kept the plant slightly pot bound or have watered the plants with rain water (although all three of these things will help at home), but because they've cheated.

Well maybe "cheated" is too harsh, more like, they've done something which people at home could never normally do, they've used gibberellic acid. Gibberellic acid is a plant hormone which Spathiphyllum is somewhat sensitive to, once applied it triggers the plant to produce blooms. Lots and lots of blooms.

Plant hormones are like steroids for that muscular but slightly aggressive guy down the gym; they produce fantastic results, but are unnaturally used to create the end result. So if you're worrying about why you can't come close to replicating the results of the nurseries that's the reason why.

You might be thinking "Wow, what's the point of keeping these plants if the blooms never come back like this again. I want to throw it out and get something else!".

No you don’t. You love your plant. Here’s why.

Don't forget you can definitely get the plant to rebloom and again we'd reiterate once more there is more to a Peace Lily than just the flowers. And with that out of the way let's move on to the care guide.

Peace Lily in a shielded window ledge

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Peace Lily
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Peace Lily Care Guide

Light

As mentioned in the introduction above, darker spots are acceptable for a Peace Lily but don't assume this is what it needs. If given the choice a bright spot avoiding any direct sunlight is much better.

Watering

Try to keep the soil just moist at all times, but if you're quite forgetful you just need to watch the plant for visual hints of when to water.

When it's happy it looks like the picture on the right, when it needs water it flops over as shown in the picture on the left. When you water, soak the plant but don't let it "sit" in water. If you're having problems with the plant it's likely to be linked to your watering technique. Check out the problem section further down for hints and clues.

Two pictures of the same Peace Lily, picture on left shows it needs water, the picture on the right has enough water

Humidity

If you've very low humidity on a constant basis it will cause you problems in the longer term, so try to increase the humidity in these places. Otherwise the occasional misting is all it needs.

Feeding

Like the water requirements the plant will tell you when you're getting it wrong; too much fertiliser will cause brown spots on the leaves, and too little will result in no flowers and poor growth (assuming the light conditions are bright). To prevent things getting to this stage though, aim to feed with a weak solution once every couple of weeks in the growing seasons, which will be much appreciated.

Temperature

Average temperatures found in the home are ideal. Grow in a range between 15°C (60°F) - 21°C (70 °F) all year round.

Repotting

A slightly pot bound plant is supposed to be helpful for encouraging flowering, but when you decide to repot, try to do it during Spring if possible. Nothing special needed here, just a slightly bigger pot and a standard potting mix for houseplants.

Propagation

When you repot your plant you can choose to divide it to create more. The problem with dividing circular types of plants is you end up with a lopsided result and can ruin the original "bulk". If you do go ahead and divide, face the sparse side towards the light source, it will sprout new growth from that side first, which in time will help balance the plant shape.

Speed of Growth

Moderately in good light conditions. Significantly slower (if at all) if light levels are low.

Height / Spread

This depends on the variety you buy. Although even then, in a indoor home situation they will only expect to reach about 45cm / 18in in height and about that in width.

Flowers

Close up of a Peace Lily FlowerOf course! There is loads of information on the web about how to get a Peace Lily to rebloom, the problem is that the tips and suggestions don't seem to work for everyone in the same way which is obviously not helpful! If you have a secret to success and you want to share, tell us in the comments section below.

Meanwhile here are the best ideas for encouraging reblooms:

  • Light - All plants need light for productive photosynthesis, try to find a spot that is light without any direct sunlight. i.e. a North facing window or set deeper into a South facing room.
  • Rain Water - Many plants respond well to rain water because it has no added chemicals, and contains natural minerals needed by plants. OK, maybe you can't use rain water for every watering, but if you've access to a rainwater collector of some kind, give it a try.
  • Pot Bound - The rational behind this is that pot bound plants sense they're trapped and can no longer grow, so produce flowers as a means of propagating themselves by seed.
  • Warmth - A room where you spend a lot of your time will likely be warmer than that spare bedroom, consider sharing your living space with your Peace Lily.

Remember don't expect very numerous blooms like you had when you first brought the plant, and the reasons why this is so are discussed in the introduction above.

Is this Houseplant Poisonous?

The Peace Lily is mildly toxic to cats, dogs and people. Whilst consuming this plant is rarely fatal, if ingested it can result in significant irritation of the mouth, tongue and lips.

Anything else?

Your Peace Lily will need dusting or washing from time to time to keep the leaves glossy and looking their best.

Caring for Peace Lily Plants Summary

  1. Average Light Levels An adaptable houseplant that will do well in both light shade or brightly lit spaces. If you want growth then avoid deep shade and you must keep your plant out of direct sunlight to prevent it burning.

  2. High Watering If you grow your plant in a bright and warm place then these plants will be heavy drinkers (dark locations will mean low watering needs). Keep the soil moist, or wait until the plant starts to wilt a little.

  3. Average Temperature Provide temperatures between 15°C (60°F) - 21°C (70 °F).

  4. Feeding Provide feed once or twice a month during Spring and Summer.

  • Growing your plant in dark places will result in less growth.
  • Do not let your plant sit in waterlogged soil, good drainage is essential.
  • Do not expose it to direct sunlight for prolonged periods.

Peace Lily Problems and Common Issues

A Peace Lily houseplant with brown crispy leaf edges

Peace Lily has brown crispy edges

If the crispy parts are on the tips rather than on the edge as shown in the photo above, scroll further down. Unfortunately crispy brown bits on the sides of the leaves are a fairly common issue which could have several different causes.

  • Sunlight has the power to burn parts of the leaf that was exposed to it. It could take a week or so for the damage to show itself so think back to work out of this could be the cause.
  • Watering too much or too little causes all kinds of problems for Peace Lily plants. Underwatering tends to result in some yellowing, but overwatering normally leads to the brown edges you see in the picture.
  • Feeding your plant excessively can cause leaf burn. But in reality this is pretty hard to do at home. If the brown is only happening on one leaf then it's probably one of the issues above.

Peace Lily is drooping

In the majority of cases this is the "I need water NOW!" SOS signal from your plant. Try not to let this go on for a long period otherwise leaf damage will result as outlined in some of the problems below.

Annoyingly if you over water the plant, it will also show a droopy effect, albeit on a much less obvious level. It's really easy to see this droop and think it's starting to ask for more water, so thinking the droop will get more severe you reach for the watering can. You're clearly acting with good intentions here, although unfortunately you are making things worse.

It's best to be safe than sorry when it comes to the Peace Lily and watering, get used to checking if you aren't 100% sure what it needs. Feel the soil or lift the pot. Light pots will indicate the need for water, heavy pots tell you the soil is already saturated and no more water is wanted.

Tips of Peace Lily leaves are black, almost soggy

Normally caused by over watering over a prolonged period. If at the moment you are screaming at the screen that you don't over water (and you're certain of this) try repotting the plant. If many years have passed since the last time you did it, then the soil may have broken down and need replacing.

Dark Green almost black spots on the leaves

If the blackness is on the tips, look at the previous problem. If the spots are somewhere different it's likely being caused by too much fertiliser. Flush the soil with fresh water and don't feed again for 6 months.

Totally yellow Peace Lily leaves or yellow and brown tips

The odd Peace Lily leaf going completely yellow quickly is normal, especially if it's a very old one. This Peace Lily has yellow and brown leaf tipsIf many leaves are going yellow at once it's in too bright a spot or the plant has been sitting in a lot of water. Move to a darker location and cut back on the watering.

You'll also start getting yellow leaf tips with brown crispy edges or tips if you constantly don't water within a few days of your Peace Lily flopping over (see watering care above), i.e. under watering. Something else to consider; you can get this yellow / brown leaf tip problem if the plant has been watered far to much over a steady and prolonged period. Although if this is the cause it's much more normal for the tips to be dark green, brown or black instead.

No Flowers on my Peace Lily Plant

See the flower section above.

Peace Lily flowers are going green

Very common on this plant. As the flowers age (several weeks after blooming) they naturally start to turn green. If they're never white, i.e. as soon as they open they're green immediately, it's likely caused by too much fertiliser in the months prior to the blooms forming.


About the Author

Tom Knight

Tom Knight

Over the last 20 years Tom has successfully owned hundreds of houseplants and is always happy to share knowledge and lend his horticulture skills to those in need. He is the main content writer for the Team.

Also on Ourhouseplants.com

(Gallery / Picture in article) Credit Peace Lily in window to Gaurav Sharma
(Gallery / Picture in article) Credit Peace Lily Flower close up to JJ Harrison
(Gallery / Article) Peace Lily Plant in house corner Judy A
(Gallery) Credit Peace Lily Flower and leaves with dark background UshaJ


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