How to Take Care of Your Peace Lily
With its majestic, green foliage and stark, white flowers, the Peace Lily, or Spathiphyllum, is another great option for those low-light spaces. For beginner and experienced plant owners alike, this easy-care plant is a breeze, brightening up any corner of your home! Unlike other common low light plants, the Peace Lily has soft, delicate (only in looks) foliage, with gracefully arching leaves, rich in deep green colouring. They come in all sizes as well, some small enough to sit on a side table, and others suitable as larger floor plants, reaching heights of 3-4 ft.
An incredibly adaptable houseplant, its common name comes from those beautiful, white flowers protruding from the plant, giving the appearance of white peace flags. The blooms, which are actually specialized leaf bracts, or sheath-like leaves, that grow hooded over the spike of small flowers, or spadix, are also the source of its Latin name, where Spathiphyllum means "spathe-leaf." Not actually related to true lilies at all, they belong in the aroid family of Araceae, more closely related to Anthuriums, Philodendrons, and Alocasias.
Although these are definitely in the "easy-care" group of houseplants, the proper growing conditions are still incredibly important, as with any plant. We will cover everything you need to know though, so don't you worry! As tropical perennials, when you practice good care, these plants can live for years and years, flowering over and over in your home. There are quite a few varieties that exist, with slight changes between the foliage, but the most popular is the classic Peace Lily, as well as the Peace Lily 'Domino', which is a medium-sized variety with stunning leaves streaked with white variegation. The Spathiphyllum 'Sensation' is another impressive variety with huge, emerald green, textured leaves.
Known for their air-purifying capabilities, this popular houseplant was a part of NASA's 1989 Clean Air Study, where it was found that they are extremely efficient at breaking down and neutralizing toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. This neutralization is done inside the tropical plant's pores, filtering more indoor pollutants than most other plants, making them ideal for often-frequented rooms such as the bedroom, living room, or office space.
When it comes to Peace Lilies, they can be placed almost anywhere in your home. The main thing that they cannot handle is prolonged, direct afternoon sun, as this will scorch their leaves. Although they can handle most light on the spectrum of indoor lighting, keep in mind that their growth habits will change depending on the light they are receiving. They will thrive in medium to bright, indirect light, but they can also tolerate lower light levels. However, low light doesn't mean no light and plants will only grow based on how much light they receive.
Generally, the lower light a Spathiphyllum receives, the higher the chances of their growth becoming either stunted or extremely leggy over time, meaning their leaves will be more spaced out and new growth less compact. In ideal conditions, the speed of growth is moderately quick. These are some things to keep in mind when you place your plant in dimmer settings, because, as with all plant growth, the speed and quality of that growth depend on how much light is received.
Let’s outline the lowest light conditions that your plant can handle:
- A couple of meters from an East, West or South-facing window over
- A meter or so away from a North-facing window
- Next to a North, East, West, or South-facing window that is facing a courtyard or is blocked by a nearby building or tree
Now that we know your plant will need brighter light to potentially bloom, here are some brighter light conditions for your Peace Lily:
- Directly next to a North or East-facing window
- Next to, or close by, a South, Southwest, or West-facing window that has sheer curtains (only a couple millimetres thick) for some bright, indirect light (keep in mind, they cannot handle prolonged, direct sunlight so the curtains keep the leaves from getting burned)
- About a couple of meters away from a South, Southwest, or West-facing window without curtains
Bright, indirect light is ideal for Spathiphyllum but not essential, as your plant will be content almost wherever you place it! The deep, green colouring of their leaves means that the plant doesn't like too much strong light, as there is plenty of chlorophyll and leaf space to conduct photosynthesis. It is also a great idea to rotate your plant, no matter where it sits, as this will allow for even growth on all sides.
Remember that some leaf loss is completely normal, whether due to age or adjusting to lower light, so also consider that before worrying about every yellowing leaf. As long as there isn't a pest, watering, or extreme lighting issue, your plant is doing just fine!
Peace Lilies make it extremely easy to know when to water them, they certainly didn't receive their nickname of Drama Queens for nothing! As mentioned before, the moment they start getting thirsty, their leaves begin to droop or wilt quite dramatically. That being said, as soon as they receive their drink, their leaves will begin to perk right back up, not harming the plant at all.
Rather than watering your plant on a schedule, which we always advise against as there are many factors that go into watering (i.e. light levels, time of year, humidity, etc.), keep an eye on your plant's leaves. They will generally need to be watered when the top couple inches of soil are dry, as they like consistently moist soil (not soggy), but again, the frequency will vary depending on your plant's environment. It is always safer to underwater, rather than overwater, as they are much more tolerant of dryer conditions and will not put up with waterlogged soil, which can lead to rotting roots.
When it comes time to water, if your plant is in a darker corner, only give it a few cups of water, as you don't want to soak the soil and have your plant sitting in wet soil for too long in the dark. If your plant is in brighter light, water your plant fully, until there is water coming out of the drainage holes and the soil has absorbed the water. If the water seems to drain out right away, without absorbing, try bottom-watering instead:
- Fill up a bowl or saucer with water and place the nursery pot into it, letting the water soak up from the bottom holes in the nursery pot
- Once the top layer of the soil is moist, from the water sponging up
- Remove the plant from the bowl and let the excess water drip out before returning it to its decorative pot.
It is also important to always keep your plant in a pot with drainage holes, in case you ever give your plant too much water and need to dump it, you don't want your plant to sit in standing water. Even though it is better to give your plant less water rather than too much, seeing as they are able to tolerate drier soil for short periods, make sure to keep your watering rather consistent as leaf tips will begin to brown over time if the plant is often forced to go from one extreme to the other. Expect to water more often in the spring and summer months, since the days are brighter and longer, and less often in the darker winter months!
Although they can handle lower humidity, the wear and tear of dry air will begin to show on their leaves, through crispy tips or yellow edges. Be sure to keep them away from any drafts, such as cold windows in the winter, cold rooms, or any heating/air conditioning vents blowing air though. They are still a tropical plant so they won't do well being placed in a cool, dry area in the long run!
Even though they can survive in our basic home humidity, they love a warm, humid environment. If you are willing to spend the extra time and effort, here are some ways you can increase the humidity in the air around your Peace Lily:
- Mist your plant's leaves every day to increase the ambient humidity for a short period of time around the plant
- Place the nursery pot on top of a bed of rocks that are covered in water (this increases the humidity in the air around the plant)
- Invest in a humidifier to increase the overall humidity in the room (this will benefit any other plants you have as well)
Peace Lilies have a fairly simple fertilizing schedule: feed every 6 weeks through the spring and summer months, and then hold off throughout the Winter. Although it is most common that plants in our Canadian homes really only grow throughout the Spring/Summer, sometimes plants produce new growth at other times of the year and we always like to fertilize at any signs of new growth. Any balanced houseplant fertilizer (such as a 20-20-20 one) that most greenhouses, garden centres, or plant shops offer will be fine! If you wish to fertilize more often, make sure the fertilizer is very diluted.
Since they are mildly toxic to both humans and pets, due to the calcium oxalate crystals that all parts of the plant contain, Peace Lilies are best kept away from children and animals. If ingested, and depending on how much, they can cause stomach and respiratory irritation, which can lead to possible vomiting. The juices from the plant can also irritate your skin, so make sure to use gloves when working with them or wash your hands right after handling them.
Common Pests & Problems
Keeping in line with their great reputation as houseplants, Spathiphyllum don't have too many problems when it comes to pests and other issues. That being said, even though most of these problems don't occur all the time, we still want to outline any possible issues you could experience while having them in your care:
With all that being said, Peace Lilies are a great addition to your home because they are incredibly strong, lower light plants and they are a breeze to take care of, just don't forget to water them as they won't hesitate to show their dramatic side.