Spathiphyllum commonly known as Peace lily is a tropical flowering plant with broad and glossy leaves. It is popular among houseplants and sometimes confused as true lilies. This is largely due to the “lily” attached to its name.
You should note that peace lily belongs to Araceae while true lilies are Liliaceae. It is also called spathe – meaning spoon in Latin, due to its spoon-shaped leaves. Another controversy with this plant is the white spathe (spoon-like leaves) commonly confused as a flower.
This guide explores what you need to know about Peace lilies and how to care for them. Read on to find out more.
How Big does It Get?
The main characteristics of Peace lilies are their size. They can reach a height and width of 30-122 cm (1-4 feet), sometimes 183 cm (6 feet) under the best care. Its leaves can be as long as 25 cm (10 inches). But these statistics depend on the cultivar and environment.
Spathiphyllum has a moderate growth rate and reaches maturity within three years under favorable conditions. They grow up to approximately 0.5-1.2 cm (0.2-0.48 inches) weekly. However, they should be repotted every year to allow room for more growth.
How Long do They Live?
On average, spathe flower can live as long as three years when grown in water, but longer than that – five years, when cultivated on the soil. However, the kind of care it receives largely determines its lifespan.
Are They Toxic to Cats and Dogs?
Spathiphyllum is mildly poisonous to pets and also humans when ingested. Studies have shown that it contains calcium oxalate which is a stomach irritant.
Symptoms of poisoning include diarrhea, difficulty in swallowing, excessive salivation, swelling of tongue and lip, and vomiting to mention a few.
The kind of care you give to your houseplant determines how well it will grow. There are several ways to care for Peace lilies. Some of these ways are stated below.
How Often to Water
Your plant needs water but not too much of it to avoid root rot. At the same time, under-watering causes its leaves to droop. Watering a Peace lily can be very tricky and you need a trick of your own.
Spathiphyllum should be watered every 5-10 days. But before watering, feel the soil to see if it’s too dry. The aim is to keep it moist, not wet.
The garden guide recommends the best water for watering is rainwater because it is pure. But in the absence of it, you can use bottled water after leaving it out to dechlorinate.
Your tap water is not ideal for your spathe flower. It contains chlorine which the plant is sensitive to. When wetting, water the plant base. Be careful not to get the leaves wet.
Spathiphyllum easily gets root rot that is why drainage is advised. Use a pot with drainage holes for excess water to flow out, just like you would for an orchid.
This will give the plant a chance to dry out a little before its next watering. Be sure to mount the pot on a saucer or tray after excess water has drained out to prevent any damage.
How to Trim
Pruning is important to remove faded or unhealthy flowers to give room for fresh ones to grow. The stalk of the flower to be pruned should be traced down and cut off from the base where it attaches to the plant.
You should always use clean and sharp tools for this. You should also cut at 45° (slanted) angle not to damage anything. The leaves too may require pruning when it suffers discoloration or starts to wither.
Peace lilies outgrow their pots quickly especially when well cared for. This is why transplanting it is very important to optimize its growth.
It has telltale signs when it needs repotting. Like its roots growing out on the surface, or its pot becoming too cluttered, or when it requires constant watering.
The new pot for transplanting should be an inch or two bigger (2.5-5 cm) in diameter. There are two ways to replant a peace lily. Either in water or soil:
This repotting method is mainly used by florists but you too can try it.
- Fill the pot – preferably glass with bottled water
- Cut a hole in the middle of a plastic stopper
- Carefully insert the plant into the plastic stop to suspend it
- Place the plant into the glass pot and ensure the root is completely in the water
- Change the water every two weeks but be careful not to leave it out dry
For soil transplant, Almanac recommends that the best time to repot your peace lily is in spring with fresh soil.
- Repot the plant after 1-2 days of watering
- Fill the new pot with fresh soil up to 70% full. This will give the root space to grow downward and space to hold more water
- Carefully remove the plant from the previous container
- Carefully loosen the root bulk with your hands to spread them in the new pot
- Place it in the new pot and ensure the top of the root is about 2.5 cm from the top,
cover it up and water the plant
- Allow the excess water to drain out before placing it on its saucer
The growth and lifespan of a spathe flower depend hugely on environmental factors. Some of these factors include:
Like every other tropical plant, peace lilies require medium to low sunlight for growth. It should be kept in proximity to the window but shaded from direct sunlight. A maidenhair fern also prefers to be shaded from direct sunshine.
The aim here is for it to soak in enough light as possible in well-lit spaces without risking exposure to the sun, otherwise, the leaves get scorched. An alternative is to place them under fluorescent lights.
This plant naturally grows on tropical soil, rich with organic matter – decaying plant parts. So if you want to truly care for your spathe flower, you need to replicate that in its pot.
You can mix loam, sand, and peat moss in ratio 1:1:1 or get soil suitable for the houseplant. Just like zebra plants, the peace lily thrives better in loose and moist organic soil.
This plant is very sensitive to chemicals – even fertilizers. Excess of it turns the leaves brown and flowers green.
If you must add a fertilizer, it depends on the pot size, and it should be as little as 0.5% or 0.25% of the recommended strength according to home guides.
Fertilizing should be once every 6 weeks in spring or summer. Feeding this plant in winter is not ideal because they don’t grow at that period. Cut down on the fertilizer or stop it totally if you notice green blooms.
Most pots are suitable for spathe flowers whether clay, ceramic, or plastic. The largest pot size for it is 25 cm (10 inches).
But you should start with a smaller-sized pot and increase the size by 5cm (2 inches) with each transplant.
The most important thing in choosing the pot is the drainage. Whatever pot you choose should have more than one draining hole to avoid root rot.
It is a tropical plant but it does not like high temperature nor low temperatures, hence the low sunlight for growth.
In the tropics, it is well-shaded by tall canopy trees that provide cooling effects for them.
To give them an ideal temperature, Spathiphyllum needs a temperature above 16°C (60°F) preferably 21°C (70°F) cool enough to replicate the tropical temperature.
Similar to the parlor palm, this plant requires high humidity (above 50%) and consistent moisture, hence the pot drainage. When the air is dry, their leaves turn brown at the tips. To combat this, you can use a plant humidifier.
But since they are sensitive to chemicals, you can opt to mist their leaves at least twice a week or fill their tray with pebbles and water.
Outside vs Inside
The growth result you get for putting your plant inside is different from when kept outside. As earlier said, Spathe flower loves the light but not too much of it. Studies have shown that the cultivar does better growth-wise when housed than when exposed to the outside.
Peace lilies bloom all year round when it gets enough sunlight and moderate fertilizer feed. The blooms are white concave leaves – confused for the flowers, covering the spadix – spike of flowers.
The bloom can grow out to reach the plant. To get enough bloom, pruning is recommended because each node on the plant can make only one flower throughout its lifetime. When old and damaged leaves are removed, new ones can grow and produce flowers.
How to Grow
Spathiphyllum does not have a particular season when it can be grown because it is not cultivated by leaf or stem, but by dividing. Dividing can occur at any season when the plant is well matured.
Spathe flower can grow from rhizomes, therefore it can tolerate splitting. This plant overgrows its pots to the point where transplanting is no longer an option only dividing. At this point, the plant is split into smaller sizes from the root.
- Carefully invert the pot to remove the plant from the pot
- Soak it in water to remove the compacted soil
- Separate individual shoots from the root ball with your hands
- Each divided portion can be propagated
- Be sure to leave several leaves on each divided clump to help with its growth
The divided clump can be propagated in two ways. Either in water or soil:
For water propagation, you have to take extra care, else it dies off before even growing. The houseplant is suspended above the water with layers of pebbles or special inserts for the root to grow in the water. The trick is to keep the plant base from being wet but has enough moisture to grow.
For soil propagation, you need loose soil, rich in organic matter to fill the pot around the root.
- Select a pot one-third larger than the root ball but with good draining holes
- Fill it with soil almost to the top. The idea is for the root top to be 2.5 cm (1 inch) away from the pot rim to allow space for watering
- Place the plant in it and cover the root
- Keep the soil constantly moist by wetting every 5-10 days
- Place it away from the sun
How to Revive
A couple of things may happen to this plant to make it unhealthy. They are tough and have a high tolerance. Therefore, they can be nursed back into health.
Root rot is a fungi disease caused by excessive watering. To get rid of it, trim away the affected root and wash off soil from the unaffected roots. Sterilize your pot and add fresh soil before replanting.
In case a large portion of the root is removed, you should trim off an equal portion of the leaves too so that the root system will not have problems keeping up with the shoots.
Yellowing leaves can be a sign of under-watering or over-watering, even old age. To determine the actual cause of the wilt, you should check if the plant lacks water.
Under-watering wilting is usually accompanied by drooping leaves. For wilting caused by over-watering, you should drain the soil.
Regardless of the cause of the yellowing, the leaves cannot be revived hence should be pruned for new growth.
When you notice curling or falling leaves, your plant is telling you there is too much sunlight or high temperature.
Spathe flowers shed or curl their leaves to retain moisture under this condition. You should move the plant to a shaded part and lower the temperature.
It may take a while to see any visible change but the change will occur eventually.
Direct sunlight will also cause the plant to develop spots. But when the spot is at the tip of the leaves, it is a sign of dehydration. You should remove the plant to a shaded part, if possible use fluorescent light. Leaves with spots should be cut off directly from the stalk.
Drooping leaves are signs of underwatering and low humidity. It can also be due to excess watering. To be sure of the cause, check if the soil is still moist. If it is, the drooping may be caused by root rot.
In case of underwatering, you should first place the pot in a bowl of water for the soil to soak up water by capillarity before watering it.
This is because excess drought may cause the soil to repel water, making it difficult for the water to seep in.
Peace lilies are great plants to add to your indoor plant collections. They are easy to care for and don’t require too much besides constant wetting, pruning, and feeding.
In addition to that, they are environmental-friendly. Studies have shown that they are atmospheric oxygen purifiers. All the more reason to have a spathe flower in your home.