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Peace lilies are one of the few aroids that don’t mind having wet feet. They grow close to the banks of rivers and lakes in their natural habitat, so they prefer damp soil to dry.
You might be thinking ‘finally! A plant I can’t overwater!’. Alas, this is not the case. Peace lilies will still succumb to root rot if they don’t get enough oxygen to their roots.
So, how do you water a peace lily?
How to water a peace lily
Peace lilies WANT to be picky about watering, BUT they’ve been in cultivation for so long that the surviving lines are pretty chill.
How often to water
In summer, I water mine weeklyish. I wait until my moisture metre reads 3 and water it then.
You can also check if the soil is nearly dry by poking your finger in it. If the pot’s too big for a finger to be a viable option, the easiest (and messiest) way to check how wet the soil is is to take the plant (and soil) out of the pot. Over time you’ll get more of a feel for how light the pot is when it needs watering, so you won’t need to keep removing the plant from the pot.
You can wait until they dry out further, but in my experience, you get faster growth and more flowers if you catch it just before it dries out.
You can 100% wait until your peace lily droops and water it then. If you have a history of overwatering then this can be a good way to get used to how it actually takes soil to dry out.
However, this *can* do damage to the plant in the long term. You’re more likely to get crispy tips and your flowers will dry up quickly. The plant will be totally fine, but aesthetically it won’t look as good as it could.
I don’t recommend looking at the plant itself for clues that it needs watering. If a plant looks thirsty, it’s too thirsty, and you’ve waited too long.
How much water to give
You can completely saturate the soil as long as the pot has drainage holes. Overwatering is caused by watering too frequently, not giving too much water in one go, so go nuts.
There’s no point in measuring out the water. I lay a metal grill (it’s an oven shelf) over a big pot and sit my peace lily on the tray. I slowly pour water over the surface of the soil until the entire surface of the soil is wet. Then I keep going until water is coming out of the drainage holes.
If the water is coming out of the drainage holes before you’ve covered the surface of the soil, keep going. You need to make sure all the roots get water.
Top vs bottom watering
Top watering and bottom watering are immaterial to the plant – it couldn’t care one bit either way*. If you find bottom watering more convenient then go for it, and vice versa.
Peace lilies can be a bit tricky to water because they spread outwards rather than climbing, so bottom watering can be easier.
*There are pros and cons to both types of watering, but the impacts are negligible.
Peace lilies can be picky about water type, but it varies a lot from specimen to specimen. Variegated ones tend to be more selective, but again, it depends on the individual plant.
Rainwater is a great option for peace lilies. You can collect it with a water-butt, or just leave a bucket outside. Make sure it’s brought up to room temperature before giving it to your peace lily, because too-cold water can cause shock.
I use tap water on my peace lilies, and I’ve never had an issue with it. My general rule of thumb is that if you’re happy to drink the tap water, your peace lily probably will be too.
If you notice black leaf tips and edges, then that can be a sign that your plant isn’t happy with the water quality. My peace lily does have a few black tips, but not enough to convince me to switch from tap water.
If your peace lily has black leaf tips, don’t bother cutting them off – the plant will seal its wound and the line you cut will brown again.
Filtered water is a solid choice that’s more convenient and affordable than distilled water. Peace lilies love it. I personally think it’s a bit wasteful to filter water since my tap water is perfectly fine, but if you need a water filter, your peace lily will appreciate it too.
Again, make sure it’s brought up to room temperature.
Distilled water is perfectly fine to use for peace lilies, but it’s no better than filtered water. It’s just more expensive and less convenient to obtain.
The main issue with using distilled water is that you’ll need to pick a fertiliser that contains all the micronutrients plants need as well as the standard NPK. A hydroponic fertiliser like the GH FLora Series is good.
Signs of overwatering
Peace lilies are one of the few houseplants that like to stay damp, but they can still be overwatered. In the wild, the water they stand in (sit in? Do plants stand or sit?) is very well oxygenated AND there are thousands of other plants absorbing the moisture too.
Recreating these conditions is pretty difficult, but years of cultivation combined with a fairly adaptable plant means peace lilies can thrive indoors. Other plants that love boggy conditions, such as Venus fly traps are considerably more difficult to care for.
Here are the signs you’re overwatering your peace lily:
This can be confusing because underwatering can also cause droopy leaves. The reason is actually the same: the roots are inefficient are absorbing water.
When you overwater plants, you create an environment that suffocates the roots. Anaerobic bacteria can thrive, and roots rot. You end up with fewer roots than you had before. Fewer roots can absorb less water, so you end up with droopy leaves.
With overwatering, the leaves often stay plump because before the root rot set in the leaves were well-watered. With underwatering, the leaves look dehydrated and brown.
Leaves start to yellow after they droop. If the volume of roots diminishes due to rot, then the plant makes the executive decision to dump some of its leaves. The nutrients are pulled out so they can be redirected to a luckier leaf, and the old leaf will turn yellow before eventually browning and falling off.
Lack of new growth
Plants with root rot are unlikely to produce new growth. They focus their energy on preserving their existing foliage.
Peace lilies will only produce flowers when they’re happy – they’re not part of the ‘I’m dying so I’ll bloom gang’. If your peace lily isn’t flowering, check the roots. If they’re mushy and gross, cut them off.
Signs of underwatering
Underwatering is pretty hard to do to peace lilies because they droop so dramatically when they’re thirsty. Always remember to check the soil of a droopy peace lily – don’t just water it. Overwatering also causes droopy leaves!
Water provides structural integrity to plant leaves. If they don’t have any water in them, they’ll succumb to gravity.
If peace lily leaves go without water for too long, they’ll dry out, and the cells will die. This results in brown patches on the leaves. They won’t recover, so if you don’t like the way they look, cut the off. Cut as close to the soil as you can.
See the ‘no flowers’ portion above. An unhappy peace lily won’t flower.
Factors that affect how often you need to water your peace lily
There are loads of factors that affect how often you need to water your peace lily. You can even manipulate these to work in your favour, for example, if you’re going away and are worried you’re peace lily will dry out, you can put it in lower light to keep the soil moist for longer.
Peace lilies need more water in hot weather because the water evaporates from the soil quicker than usual.
Brighter light usually comes with hotter temperatures, so again, water will evaporate quicker. The plant will also grow faster in brighter light so will use more water.
Higher humidity can keep soil damp for longer, and vice versa. Plants also lose less water through their stomata in high-humidity environments.
The denser the soil type, the longer the soil will stay moist. However, very dense soil mixes are a great way to get root rot (because there’s no space for oxygen). A general houseplant potting mix with some added perlite, orchid bark, or LECA is great.
Terracotta is porous and dries out quickly. Ceramic isn’t porous and takes ages to dry out. Plastic nursery pots are somewhere in the middle.
Pot size (in relation to the size of the plant)
If your plant is in a pot that’s too big for it, the soil will take longer to dry. It can hold more water and the plant can only use so much. If your pot is too small, the soil will dry out super quickly because there are a lot of roots to absorb the water and not a lot of soil to hold it.
How you water it
Thoroughly soaking your plants (or bottom watering them until the top of the soil is wet) will maximise the amount of water held in the soil. The more water there is in the soil, the longer it will take to dry out.
However, if you prefer to water using a pressure sprayer (they’re way more fun than a watering can) then you might not be thoroughly soaking the soil and will therefore have to water more often.
Someone on Reddit told me you can remove the nozzle from pressure sprayers and the resulting stream is similar to a watering can – and they were right.
Self-watering pots for peace lilies
Peace lilies are awesome candidates for self-watering plant pots. I’m not a massive fan of the wicking cord method – I prefer to use a layer of LECA in the bottom. One of my peace lilies is in a self-watering pot and LECA and she’s thriving. I just top up the water when the meter is low.
And so concludes this essay on how to water peace lilies. Before you go, you might find these articles useful: