The peace lily, also known as spathe flower or white sails plant, is the common name of several species in the Spathiphyllum genus and one of the most common houseplants. While the specimens you see in common places like offices, lobbies, and waiting rooms may not look their best due to neglect, these attractive, shade-loving plants make an elegant, aromatic addition to your houseplant collection with the right conditions and a little care.
What appears to be the fragrant flower of the peace lily—its large, white “petal,” shaped like an upright leaf—is actually a large spathe that can grow up to six inches long and four inches wide. This structure partially encloses the plant’s tiny yellow flowers, which are clustered along the spike-like central spadix, similar to anthurium, its red-spathed relative. Large, lance-shaped leaves with a lustrous sheen surround the flower stem.
There are several common types of peace lilies, which all feature glossy, evergreen foliage and white flowers but slightly different sizes and growth habits.
The variety 'Mauna Loa' is known for its large, plentiful leaves and flowers, which can bloom year-round; this variety can grow up to three or four feet tall. For a more compact peace lily, look for Spathiphyllum wallisii—the only non-hybridized peace lily—which tops out at one foot tall. A hybrid variety with variegated leaves, ‘Domino,’ is also available, while another, ‘Mojo Lime,’ has vivid, lime-green foliage.
Best Growing Conditions for Your Indoor Peace Lily
These plants are adaptable to low light or dappled shade like their philodendron relatives, making them ideal foliage plants for windowless rooms or hallways with only artificial light. However, your peace lily will need more light than this to bloom.
A peace lily that receives at least a few hours of bright, indirect light each day will put forth the most flowers. Take care to keep your lily out of direct sunlight, however, as that will cause leaves to turn brown and die.
Since their native habitat is warm, tropical jungle, the temperature around your peace lily shouldn’t drop below 65 degrees at night. Choose a spot in your space that doesn’t get any cold drafts, which can harm the plant.
If you have small children or pets in your home, take care to display your peace lily in a place that’s out of reach, as all parts of the plant are toxic.
To keep the air around your peace lily appropriately humid, set the pot on a humidifying tray: fill the tray with a layer of small pebbles and put the pot on top of the pebbles. Add just enough water to the pebble tray so that the pot won’t sit in the water. The water will evaporate and moisten the air around your peace lily. You can also display your peace lily in your bathroom to give it a humid environment.
Peace lilies may also be grown in water with no soil, which can be an attractive alternative to a traditional pot with the use of an elegant glass vessel. Use glass stones or pebbles in the bottom of the vessel so that your peace lily’s roots are submerged below the water line but the stems and leaves are above it. This will keep the green portions of the plant from rotting.
How to Care for Your Indoor Peace Lily
Plant your indoor peace lily in an all-purpose potting soil with sphagnum moss added. You can also make your own mix by combining one part potting soil, two parts peat moss, and one part perlite.
It’s best to keep the soil for these humidity-loving tropical plants consistently moist; you can cut back slightly on watering during the winter months when the plant isn't actively growing. Feed your indoor peace lily with houseplant fertilizer every three months or so.
Keep an eye out for scale, mites, or mealybugs on your peace lily, and wipe the leaves down with insecticidal soap or a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove them—check back frequently, as this may require multiple treatments. If you notice your peace lily’s leaves are collecting dust, give it a gentle shower with tepid water to clean them.
Indoor peace lilies tend to bloom in spring and fall. However, with ideal conditions—sufficient bright indirect light each day, consistent moisture, and warm temperatures—a variety like ‘Mauna Loa’ can bloom nearly year-round. The attractive, fragrant flowers can last up to six weeks; they will eventually turn from white to pale green. If you prefer the look of white, you can cut the flowers back at that point and simply enjoy your peace lily's foliage until it blooms again.
Repot your peace lily in February or March, when the plant begins to grow new shoots; however, go only one size up when repotting. Once the plant is in an eight-inch pot, simply root prune and add fresh soil to the same size pot rather than sizing up. Repotting is also the perfect time to divide your peace lily to make a new plant.
How to Propagate Your Indoor Peace Lily
Peace lilies cannot be propagated via leaf or stem cuttings, but they can easily be propagated by division during any season. While it is possible for the home gardener to propagate peace lilies via seed, plants started from seed will take several years to flower. In this case, it’s much easier and more expedient to divide an existing peace lily or simply purchase a new plant.
Step 1: Prepare a fresh pot no larger than six inches across with fresh potting soil.
Step 2: Gently remove the mother plant from its pot and carefully loosen the soil around the roots. Use your fingers to gently pull apart the roots to find a clump of roots with several leaves. Using a clean, sharp blade, cut any roots connecting the new clump and the mother plant. Depending on the size of the mother plant, you may be able to get several new specimens from one large plant.
Step 3: Plant the new peace lily in the smaller pot you prepared. Up-pot or repot the mother plant with fresh soil.
Step 4: Water the new plant and keep it in a warm space with plenty of bright, indirect light while it adjusts to its new pot. Keep the soil moist but not overly wet during this period.