They look elegant, are easy to care for and purify the air… what’s not to love about the peace lily plant (Spathiphyllum wallisii)? If you’re looking for a plant to jazz up the look of your home or office, you really should consider this little gem.
The common name for this plant is something of a misnomer. They are not members of the Lily family, but instead come from the Araceae family.
What most people think of as white coloured flower petals are more correctly called a bract. This is a petal-like sheath that surrounds the actual spike of small flowers.
I’ve got a peace lily in my home office and absolutely love it, as you can see below.
There is a good reason why professional plant care companies often incorporate peace lilies into their planting schemes. They are easy to maintain, and their white bracts produce a spectacular contrast to the glossy green leaves.
This plant is native to tropical regions of Central America, where they are found growing on the forest floor. This results in an environment that is both humid and partially shaded and gives you a good idea of the conditions that they prefer.
Peace lilies have long been popular as a house plant, but the publishing of the NASA study showing that they were effective at purifying the air has really elevated them to star status.
The most common variety of Spathiphyllum wallisii for sale has dark green glossy leaves and can grow to a height of 24 inches (60cm). If you would like something a little bit more unusual, there are other varieties available:
- ‘Sensation’ Is a much larger variety that can grow to a height of 4’ (1.2m) and is suitable as a floor plant.
- ‘Domino’ is a variegated version that has striking light green patches on its leaves.
Peace lilies prefer bright indirect light. However, they will tolerate a certain amount of shade and some plant owners have successfully raised them in darker corners and rooms with north facing windows. Just be aware that it may be more difficult to get your peace lilies to flower if they do not receive sufficient sunlight.
They will thrive in the temperature commonly found in most homes. Their preferred range is between 68-85oF (20-29oC). Keep them away from cold draughty areas such as near doors or windows, particularly in winter.
Peace lilies prefer moist soil but can tolerate periods where the soil is drier. In fact, it is better to underwater your peace lily than overwater it. A good rule of thumb is to allow the top inch of soil to dry out between watering.
You will know if you have underwatered your plant because it will take on a characteristic drooping. Don’t always allow your plant to get to this stage or use it as a sign to water! Ideally you should be watering just before it gets to this state.
These plants are from tropical regions so do prefer moderate humidity. If you’re concerned that your house may be on the dry side, you can spray with water to increase the humidity around the plant. Alternatively, you can place your plant on a tray of pebbles filled with water.
An all-purpose potting mix or general houseplant compost will be fine for your peace lilies.
The best way to encourage spring and summer growth is to fertilize every 4-6 weeks with a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer. Don’t overdo it as more is not necessarily better. Do not feed during the autumn and winter.
Propagating peace lilies
A successful way of propagating your peace lily is by division. This is done by removing the rootball from the pot, dividing it into 2 separate sections of root/plant and then repotting them individually.
If your peace lily is showing signs of becoming rootbound, this would be an ideal time to divide it. These signs include drooping/wilting despite recent watering and roots appearing on the surface or through the drainage holes of the pot.
Pests and problems
Brown leaf tips can be caused by lack of water and/ or low humidity. To increase humidity, keep the plant on a tray of gravel or mist the leaves.
Scale insects and mealy bugs can become a problem with this plant indoors. They can be removed by washing down with mildly soapy water or an insecticidal soap. These insects favor dry environments, so increasing the humidity around your plants can be a useful way to deter pests in future.
Peace lilies are mildly toxic and irritant to pets and humans, due to calcium oxalates being found in all parts of the plant. They are listed by the ASPCA website as being toxic to cats and dogs with symptoms including irritation of the mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting and difficulty swallowing.
Symptoms typically have a quick onset, so mouth irritation stops the animal from eating large amounts of the plant.
It’s worth noting that peace lilies do NOT contain the chemicals found in true lilies that can lead to acute kidney failure in cats and some other animals.
Common questions about peace lily care
Where is the best place in the house for my peace lily?
The best place to put this plant is in a room that receives bright, filtered light but not direct sunlight. So, any room where it’s not sitting in a south-facing window should be OK for your little friend!
It can survive with lower lighting conditions as well but may not thrive like it would if given brighter conditions – in particular, flowers may not form. As this plant comes from humid tropical areas, they can also thrive in rooms such as the bathroom and kitchen.
Why is my peace lily drooping even after watering?
Drooping is generally a sign that your plant needs water. If it’s recently been watered, it may be rootbound and unable to take up sufficient water. You can easily check this by gently releasing the plant from its pot and inspecting the rootball. If you’re looking at a huge, tangled mess of roots, consider repotting to a pot 2 inches bigger.
Alternatively, it could be sign that the plant is being overwatered. This seems odd, but the effect on the plant can be the same as underwatering – drooping leaves. You should allow the top part of the soil to dry out between waterings.
Are peace lilies poisonous?
They contain calcium oxalate crystals which are an irritant to both skin and the gastrointestinal tract of humans and pets. Keep them out of reach of young children and pets. Some plant parents prefer to wear gloves when handling them for tasks such as pruning and propagating.