By Julie Christensen
Looking for a houseplant that performs well in low light? Consider the peace lily (Spathiphyllum). This attractive, low-maintenance plant grows 16 inches to over 3 feet tall, depending on the cultivar, and produces long, lance-like leaves that are glossy, dark green. The foliage and form of a peace lily resembles hostas.
Peace lilies, sometimes known as spaths, are valued for their foliage alone, but their real beauty lies in the dramatic white flowers they occasionally produce. These flowers resemble calla lilies. They are green when young and slowly bleach to white as they open.
Peace Lily Care
Peace lilies grow best in a well-draining, light potting soil. Plant them in a pot that holds at least a gallon of potting soil. Once planted, keep the soil moist, but not soggy. You can allow it to dry out slightly between watering, but watch for wilting or yellowing leaves, which is usually a sign that the plant is not getting enough water.
Place peace lilies in a location where they get filtered light, such as a bright window. Avoid windows with a southern exposure, where the sun shines intensely, though. In too little light, the plants won’t bloom properly. In harsh sunlight, they become bleached or dry.
Peace lilies need little fertilizer, and in fact, too much nitrogen fertilizer will encourage leafy growth instead of flowers and can also cause the leaves to turn brown. Fertilize peace lilies no more than every three months with a balanced fertilizer. Peace lilies sometimes suffer from a magnesium deficiency, evidenced by yellowed leaves with green veins. Treat magnesium deficiency with a magnesium fertilizer or sprinkle a few Epsom salts on the soil around the plants. Don’t allow fertilizer to touch the leaves though.
Propagate peace lilies through division. Gently remove them from their pots, cut the plant in two with a sharp knife, and replant peace lilies in new pots, using new potting soil.
Peace Lily Pests and Problems
Peace lilies suffer few insect or disease pests, and most potential problems start in the nursery. Buy peace lilies from reputable nurseries and avoid any plants that have yellowed leaves, webbing or a musty odor.
Keep the plants quarantined from other plants when you first bring them home and watch for signs of trouble. Mites, mealy bugs and scale are the most common insect pest problems associated with peace lilies. Treat them by dousing the leaves with water or spray the leaves with insecticidal soap or oil.
Root rots cause odor, brown roots and dying yellow leaves. Root rot diseases are caused primarily by overwatering. Once the plant starts to wilt, the condition is usually fatal, but you can prevent this problem by watering only until the soil is evenly moist, never soggy. Speaking of watering, use room temperature water on peace lilies and avoid softened water, which contains high amounts of salt.
Peace lilies grow best in warm conditions. They thrive in daytime temperatures between 68 and 85 degrees, according to Clemson University Extension, with nighttime temperatures 10 degrees cooler. They quickly experience cold injury at temperatures below 60 degrees. Peace lilies are hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 through 11. Elsewhere, they can be grown outdoors during the summer but must be moved indoors before fall weather arrives.
The broad leaves of peace lilies tend to accumulate dust. Wipe the leaves with a damp cloth regularly to prevent this and keep them looking their best.
Varieties and Types of Peace Lily Plants
Most nurseries carry a good selection of peace lilies in dwarf sizes up to giants. Choose a cultivar that fits your home and decorating needs.
‘Flower Power,’ is known for its abundant, white flowers, as the name implies. This plant is one of the most commonly grown peace lilies because it blooms easily and produces large blooms on strong stems. ‘Flower Power’ has a full, lush form.
‘Lynise’ produces flowers more quickly and frequently than most cultivars. It grows quickly and the leaves have a matte appearance.
‘Mauna Loa’ grows up to 3 feet tall with very large 4 inch flowers on tall stems. It produces 12 inch leaves.
‘Sensation’ is the tallest cultivar, growing up to 6 feet tall. This plant makes a dramatic statement in any environment and is best reserved for large rooms.
‘Wallisii’ is a compact cultivar, rarely growing taller than 12 inches. Its blooms are small, as well. Place this plant on a desk or kitchen counter.
Want to learn more about the Peace Lily?
Visit the following sites:
Houseplants Are Good for Your Health from the National Gardening Association.
Lily Brings Peace of Mind from Iowa State University.