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Peace lilies are a great option for dark houses. They need some light and will grow best in high-volume, low-intensity light.
They won’t thank you for trying to acclimate them to super bright light, but they can handle it.
Sit in your peace lilies spot for 14 hours and read a book. If you can read that book easily without additional light, your peace lily will have enough light.
Also, if it’s too hot or bright for you, it’s too hot and bright for your peace lily.
Peace lily light conditions in its natural habitat
Peace lilies’ natural environment is the tropical rainforests of Central America (and the northern part of South America. Their growth pattern is shrub-like – they don’t climb, they just grow taller leaves and produce plantlets as they age. Therefore, they’re unlikely to get a lot of bright direct light.
They will get brighter light than you might think. They live close to the equator where the sun is intense. Though the light is filtered by the forest canopy, it’s still going to be pretty bright, and for a good 14 hours a day.
So, if peace lilies get 14 hours of bright, albeit filtered light per day, why are they considered a low-light plant?
The simple reason is that peace lilies get pretty big in the wild, and we don’t need them to reach full size when we keep them as houseplants. As long as they get enough light to bloom, they’re doing their job as far as I’m concerned.
Peace lilies have dark leaves, which is typical of plants that can tolerate lower light levels.
In their natural habitat light levels will vary – a peace lily that grows in the shade of a tree will receive a lot less light than one growing in a clearing. The lily that gets less light won’t grow as big or as fast as the one in the clearing, but it will still grow.
Ideal light conditions for peace lilies
High light volume, low light intensity.
That sounds the same as bright and indirect, but I think it’s a more useful way of approaching light requirements for houseplants.
High light volume means that they like long hours of light. Try to keep your peace lily somewhere where it gets some light during daylight hours.
I define ‘some light’ as somewhere where I can read a book without having to turn the light on.
A north-facing window is perfect, light-wise. Or in a bright room, but pulled a few feet away from the window. Another option is next to the window, but not somewhere where the light will beat down on it.
If you have a lot of plants, you can layer them next to your windows – put your succulents, Pothos, and Monstera closest to the light, and use them to shade out plants that don’t require as much.
Keeping peace lilies in bright light
There’s little benefit to keeping peace lilies in bright, direct light. It can be done if you acclimate them properly (more on that later), but you won’t get any dramatic growth like you would on some other common aroids.
Monstera deliciosa and Golden Pothos need high volumes of light to produce mature, fenestrated growth. Peace lilies get bigger leaves in higher light levels, but only up to a point.
If you have a really bright spot, another plant will appreciate it more than a peace lily. Put your Monstera deliciosa in that premium spot by your biggest window. The peace lily will be more than happy next to it, out of the direct light and heat.
Acclimating your peace lily to brighter light
Let’s face it, most of us buy houseplants for their aesthetic qualities. You spend a lot of time and money designing your living space, and you know that your windowsill needs some lush foliage to really tie the room together.
You can keep your peace lily in bright light. It may require more watering, and perhaps a humidifier, but if you acclimate it properly, it shouldn’t burn.
Plants produce compounds that protect them from sunlight, but if you move your lily from low light to bright light it won’t have time to produce those compounds. The result is a crispy mess. Plants can burn quickly – like in a matter of hours.
Here’s how to acclimate your peace lily:
- Look at where your plant is now, and where you want it to end up
- Pick three spots that get progressively brighter
- Move your plant into the next lightest spot (i.e. the darkest of the three interim spots)
- Leave it there for a week. If it shows no signs of ill health, move it to the next brightest spot
Do you need to acclimate peace lilies?
No. I never do, because I’m lazy/am liable to forget and the plant’ll never end up where it’s meant to be.
You can 100% move your plant from low light to bright light. There’s a chance it’ll be fine. There’s also a (larger) chance that every leaf will be burnt to a crisp.
Just remove the leaves. Cut them with scissors as close to the soil as you can. Over time, the plant will regrow, and the new growth will be acclimated to the higher light levels.
Signs your peace lily is getting too much light
Too much light isn’t a problem in isolation. The issue is when too much light is also paired with:
- Too much heat
- Not enough water
- Hydrophobic soil
- Low humidity
- Root rot
As long as you care for your peace lily well, it’ll thrive in bright light. However, if you’re a bit lax about watering (or water too often), your plant can experience light stress.
Signs of light stress in peace lilies are things like:
- Pale leaves
- Droopy leaves
- Brown leaves
Keeping peace lilies in low light
Keeping peace lilies in low light comes with the same set of conditions as keeping them in bright light – they can thrive, but you need to stay on top of all the other environmental factors.
How to care for peace lilies in low light light conditions
Peace lilies can grow in low light. There’s a tonne of anecdotal evidence of people keeping them in windowless bathrooms and similar.
I wouldn’t recommend that. Unless your home provides the ideal conditions in every other aspect, your peace lily won’t do well in darkness.
Not only will it not be able to photosynthesise (and therefore grow), but any issues that may arise, such as root rot, will have a much bigger impact than they would if the plant were in brighter light.
How to move your peace lily to a darker spot
I buy most of my houseplants at a local garden centre. They have a designated houseplant department and have a tonne of rare plants. The plants are cared for extremely well. The greenhouse is warm, humid, and very bright (you know, because it’s a greenhouse).
Every plant I bring home has the shock of its life, and I have a fairly bright house. I just can’t compete with what is basically a small, artificial rainforest.
I always assume my plant will be getting less light than it was previously because they usually are.
Peace lilies tend to be pest-free but that doesn’t mean they’re not harbouring a few stowaways.
Ideally, you want your isolation spot to be a good one. Warm, bright, and draught-free.
Mine isn’t. I keep my plants in my decidedly medium-light kitchen to isolate, because I don’t want to give up a good spot to a newbie. I know it’s ridiculous. This is what happens when you have too many plants.
Good isolation practices are the first line of defence against pests.
2. Check the soil
After a couple of weeks of isolation, it’s time to move your plant to its final destination. Before moving it, check the soil it’s in.
A lot of store-bought peace lilies will be in pretty dense soil when you buy them. This is fine if you’re keeping them in good light, but not low light. Dense soil in low light will take WEEKS to dry out, and you’re increasing the chances of it getting root rot.
Peace lilies aren’t too fussy about soil type. Mine’s in a bespoke mixture called ‘stuff I had leftover’.
A store-bought potting mix mixed with perlite, LECA, or orchid bark is great. Two parts potting mix to one-part perlite (or whatever you’re using) is a good ratio, but you can go 1:1 if you’re worried about overwatering.
3. Move it to wherever it’s going
I don’t think there’s much benefit to acclimating houseplants to lower light levels. There’s no risk of burning, and you want them to be as healthy and energised as possible, for as long as possible.
Signs your peace lily isn’t getting enough light
People tend to underestimate how much light a plant needs and overestimate how bright their space is.
If you’re new to houseplants, if you think your spot is too dark…it probably is. However, if you’re not sure, here are some signs to look out for:
- The soil stays wet for weeks at a time
- The plant looks droopy and sad
- Your peace lily won’t bloom
- Yellow leaves are starting to appear
- New growth is sparse, long and thin
People new to houseplant care might be thinking ‘If one of the signs is that the leaves droop, how do I know if it’s too much light or not enough?’. Nine times out of ten, it’s not enough light.
You can buy light metres but they’re expensive, and there’s not very much information out there on the PAR requirements for most houseplants. Research into aroids is very lacking so we can only go off anecdotal evidence, which is only useful if you replicate the original conditions perfectly.
The best thing to do is move the plant into better light and watch for improvement.
What about variegated peace lilies?
Variegation in peace lilies is, in my experience, pretty unstable. I used to keep my variegated peace lily in ok light, and it lost its variegation. When I moved it back into good light, the variegation didn’t return.
We don’t really know enough about variegation to be sure about how to retain it (or bring it back). Some aroids need light, others need heat, and others refuse to tell us. I tried keeping my peace lily in brighter light and warmer temperatures but the variegation hasn’t returned.
Don’t splash out on a variegated peace lily unless you have a spot with a lot of filtered light.
What about grow lights?
Grow lights are a solid option if you don’t get enough natural light for your peace lily to thrive. You don’t need fancy ones. Fancy grow lights throw out a LOT of light, and most of that is wasted on your peace lily.
If you have a plant room, and you want to invest in grow lights, I highly recommend you get one powerful grow light (or two – it depends on the size of the room) and mount it a few feet above your plants. This gives high light volume (if you run it for 12-16 hours a day), but lower light intensity (so less chance of light stress).
Peace lilies will thrive in this environment, but they will need to be shaded out by other plants.
If you just want a grow light for your peace lily, then I would recommend a grow bulb – I have some recommendations on my resources list. A fancy grow light will be overpowered and though your plant can acclimate, it’s unnecessary.
Ok, so are we all clear on how much light peace lilies need? Ideally, 14 hours of light bright enough that you can read in it. Obvs this will be less in winter, so you can add a grow light (I actually just use a normal LED light) if you want, or deal with a bit of situational dormancy in winter.
Before you go, you might find these articles useful:
- Planet Houseplant’s peace lily guide
- How to care for peace lilies
- Watering requirements for peace lilies