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The peace lily, also known as the spathe flower or white sails plant, is the common name for several species in the Spathiphyllum genus. It's one of the most common houseplants, and for good reason: This attractive, shade-loving specimen makes an elegant, aromatic addition to your houseplant collection. All it needs is a little TLC.
What appears to be a fragrant flower—the large white petal shaped like an upright leaf—is actually a large spathe, a thick spike housing lots of tiny flowers, which can grow up to six inches long and four inches wide. Both the spathe and the spadix (the protruding inner rod) do an excellent job at purifying the surrounding air, which is just one of the many reasons we love peace lilies.
- Botanical Name: Spathiphyllum
- Common Name: Peace lily, spathe flower, white sails plant
- Plant Type: Evergreen, herbaceous perennial
- Mature Size: 1–4 feet high
- Sun Exposure: Low, indirect light
- Soil Type: Well-draining potting soil
- Soil pH: 5.0–6.5
- Toxicity: Toxic
Plant your indoor peace lily in an all-purpose potting soil topped with sphagnum moss, which retains water, making your job as plant parent a little easier. Always keep an eye out for scales, mites, or mealybugs on your peace lily, and wipe the leaves with insecticidal soap or a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove pests. It's gross, yes, but a necessary chore for anyone with peace lilies.
The attractive, fragrant flowers can last up to six weeks. However, no matter how healthy your peace lily is, the flowers will eventually turn from white to pale green. Luckily, if you prefer the white ones, you can cut the flowers back when they start to turn green and simply enjoy your peace lily's foliage until it blooms again.
Best Growing Conditions for Peace Lilies
These plants are adaptable to low light or dappled shade, making them ideal for windowless rooms or hallways with only artificial light. However, if you want your peace lily to actually bloom, it'll need a bit more light. Keep in mind that a peace lily that gets at least a few hours of bright, indirect light will produce the most flowers. Direct light, unfortunately, will be the death of your lily because it's too intense and will burn your plant.
Since its native habitat is a jungle, your peace lily shouldn't be in temperatures below 65 degrees. Choose a spot that doesn't get any cold drafts that can harm your plant. Since peace lilies are used to a tropical environment, do your best to keep the air around your plant pretty humid. One way to do so is to set the pot on a humidifying tray. The water will evaporate and moisten the air around your peace lily without you having to put in too much effort. You can also place your peace lily in your bathroom so it can enjoy the steam from your shower and/or tub.
Peace Lily Varieties
There are several common types of peace lilies, all of which boast those signature glossy, evergreen spathes and white flowers. However, they all have slightly different growth habits and can grow to very different sizes.
For instance, the Mauna Loa variety is known for its large, plentiful leaves and flowers, which can bloom year-round. It can also grow up to three or four feet high. For a more compact peace lily, look for Spathiphyllum wallisii—the only non-hybridized peace lily—which tops out at one foot high.
How to Propagate Peace Lilies
Peace lilies can't be propagated via leaf or stem cuttings, but they can easily be propagated by division during any season. While it's possible for an experienced gardener to propagate peace lilies via seeds, plants started this way will take several years to flower. Let's be real: No one has time for that, so we suggest going the division route.
Step 1: Prepare a fresh pot no larger than six inches in diameter, and fill it with fresh potting soil.
Step 2: Gently remove the mother plant from its pot, and carefully loosen the soil around the roots. It may take a while, but be patient because pulling the roots can rip them, and they won't grow well when you propagate. Use your fingers to very carefully pull apart the roots in search of a clump of roots with several leaves. Using a clean sharp blade, cut any roots connecting that leafy clump to the mother plant. Depending on the size of the mother plant, you may be able to cut several clumps.
Step 3: Plant the new peace lily in the pot, and 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.
Common Growing Problems
Luckily, peace lilies are pretty easy to care for, and, if you do a decent job, you shouldn't run into too many problems. That said, some people overcompensate on care, which ends up backfiring. For instance, you may assume that, because peace lilies prefer shade, you should always keep them in the dark. That's a big no-no. If your peace lily isn't getting enough light, it's at risk for disease. Like any plant, sometimes peace lily leaves will die, which is totally fine. However, if you don't get rid of them ASAP, pests will show up and not only eat the dead leaves but the healthy ones, too.
Potting and Repotting Peace Lilies
Repot your peace lily in February or March, when the plant begins to grow new shoots. A key for repotting is to go only one size up. Once the plant is in an eight-inch pot, just root prune it 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.
If you're not in the mood to deal with soil, you'll be happy to know that you can grow your peace lilies in water with no soil whatsoever. Just use glass stones or pebbles in the bottom of your vase so that your peace lily’s roots can be submerged below the water line while the stems and leaves are above it. Doing this will keep the green portions of the plant from rotting.
Are Peace Lilies Toxic?
Yes, peace lilies are toxic to children and pets—although not lethal, like true lilies are. Ingestion can cause stomach and oral irritation, extreme salivation, and possible renal failure.
Kim H-H, Yang J-Y, Lee J-Y, et al. House-Plant Placement for Indoor Air Purification and Health Benefits on Asthmatics. Environ Health Toxicol. 2014;29. doi:10.5620/eht.e2014014
How to Manage Pests in Gardens and Landscapes: Lily, Asiatic Lily, Easter Lily, Oriental Lily - Lillium Spp. Family Liliaceae (Lily Family). University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources: Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program
Even Plants Can Be Poisonous. US Department of Health & Human Services