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Peace lilies have been popular houseplants for decades, but their care can be tricky. They’re a somewhat polarising plant – you’ll either find them easy to care for or struggle to keep them happy.
This article covers everything about peace lilies. If you’re specifically after a care guide, I have one here:
The history, geography, and biology of peace lilies
The scientific name for peace lilies is spathiphyllum. Spathiphyllum is a genus of around 47 different species. The species most commonly kept as houseplants are Spathiphyllum wallisii and Spathiphyllum cochlearispathum.
Where do peace lilies come from?
The distribution of the entire genus is fairly widespread – spathiphyllum can be found in Central America, northern South America, and various countries in south-east Asia.
Spathiphyllum wallisii is native to Colombia and Venezuela but has been introduced into various countries, such as Bangladesh and Honduras.
Spathiphyllum cochlearispathum is native to Mexico.
Are peace lilies toxic?
Yes, but not as toxic as liliums (the ones with the big, fragrant flowers that are usually sold as cut flowers). If you have cats, you can’t have liliums – they’re fatal to them.
Peace lilies are classified as medium-toxic, so if your cat (or dog or child) ingests them then they’ll feel ill but are unlikely to suffer permanent harm.
Alternative names for peace lilies
- Maua Loa peace lily
- Spathe flower
- White sails
What type of plant is a peace lily?
Spathiphyllum (the fancy name for peace lilies) is part of the aroid genus, so it’s related to Philodendron and Monstera. It’s actually more closely related to Monstera than Philodendron, as they belong to the same subfamily Monsteroideae. That may seem unlikely, but there are a number of Monstera species that have a definite peace lily look about them.
How many different types of peace lilies are there?
Plants similar to peace lilies
- Banana plants and Bird of Paradise have a similar growing pattern and leaf shape
- Rhaphidophora decursiva have a similar leaf colour and texture
- Calathea have broadly the same care requirements but sulk more if those requirements aren’t met
Basic peace lily care
Peace lily care can sound complicated, but they’re fairly tolerant of a little bit of mistreatment so you have time to get things right before they perish.
Peace lilies like to stay evenly moist. They do droop if they get too dry. Try not to let them droop, but speaking as a chronic underwaterer, allowing them to droop regularly won’t really harm them. You may just experience slower growth and fewer flowers.
I water my peace lilies with tap water, but if you find that yours has brown tips then filtered water can help this issue.
They don’t require as much water in winter when it’s colder and the days are shorter. I tend to water them a little less frequently and deeply. A pressure sprayer is a great way to moisten the soil without saturating it.
Peace lilies are often cited as being low light tolerant, but in my experience, they’re WAY harder to keep happy in low light.
Mine thrives in a BIG north-facing window, where the light is medium and indirect, but it gets that light for most of the day.
You can acclimate peace lilies to live in direct light, but it doesn’t boost their growth like it would a Monstera or Rhaphidophora.
Peace lilies can grow in humidity as low as 40% but their leaves are much healthier and are less likely to have black tips if you aim to keep it around 60%.
Peace lilies like to be in temperatures between 18˚C – 30˚C (65˚F – 85˚F). They’re tropical plants so they won’t grow if they get too hot or cold. That being said, like many houseplants, they can survive in quite a range of temperatures without suffering too much, though you won’t get much growth outside of the ideal range.
I’ve done a lot of experimentation with peace lilies, and they will still flower if you don’t feed them, provided there’s some nutrition in the soil. However, fertilising regularly (I add food every other time I water)keeps the leaves in good condition, and the flowers will be more numerous and last longer.
Repotting peace lilies
Peace lilies aren’t big fans of being repotted, so expect them to droop for a while afterwards. I wait until I can see more roots than soil when I lift them out of the pot – don’t repot unless they really need it.
Peace lilies are aroids, so an aroid mix would work fine. I prefer something a little bit denser because peace lilies don’t like to dry out as much as epipremnums or Monstera.
You could also use a regular houseplant potting mix with some perlite or LECA added.
Peace lilies aren’t fussy about the type of pot they’re kept in, but I’d advise you to stay away from terracotta. It dries out too quickly and you’ll be forever watering (or looking at a droopy peace lily).
Peace lilies are self-heading, so they don’t climb. They live a shrub-like existence on the rainforest floor and are strong independent plants that don’t need no support. If yours is flopping over, then that suggests that it’s either stretching towards the light, needs hydrating, or has a problem with its roots.
In my experience, peace lilies are one of the more pest-resistant plants. None of mine have EVER had pests, which is saying something, because every other one of my plants definitely has.
There are several issues you can have with peace lilies:
- Yellow leaves
This is usually caused by either the natural senescence of the leaf (i.e. old age) OR overwatering. When you overwater, the roots become starved of oxygen, bacteria builds up, and root rot ensues. Peace lily roots are adapted to stay moist BUT they won’t appreciate being saturated 24/7.
- Black leaf tips/edges
Black leaf tips or edges are usually caused by an issue with the water quality or a lack of humidity. However, cold weather, overwatering, and underwatering can also cause these issues.
Peace lily not growing? Here are some things you can try:
- Long hours of indirect light – much more suitable than shorter hours of bright light
- Consistent watering – this means making sure you hydrate the soil when it’s starting to dry out. It does NOT mean deciding on a watering schedule and sticking to it. That’s a recipe for root rot.
- Feed it – mine likes the General Hydroponics Flora Series every other time I water – 1ml per litre of water
Peace lily flowers/blooming
Pace lilies have the fairly standard spathe and spadix deal that most aroids have. However, peace lily flowers are much nicer – they’re delicate, and have a beautiful shape, plus they flower readily and voraciously in the right conditions.
When do they bloom?
Peace lilies usually take a couple of years to bloom – they won’t do it if they’re too young. My peace lilies bloom all throughout the growing season, starting around May with a bit of a flower spurt around July.
It’s currently November and I’ve just snipped off the spent blooms.
How to encourage blooming
There’s not really a trick to getting peace lilies to bloom. Not only does it depend on the conditions you provide for it, but some cultivars bloom less frequently than others. My variegated peace appears to have given up on both blooming AND producing variegated leaves, though she’s been very prolific with green leaves.
Issues with flowering
The most common reason that your peace lily isn’t flowering is that it’s too young. Growers treat peace lilies with gibberellic acid, which causes them to bloom when they’re not technically old enough.
It’s a naturally occurring hormone, so it’s not damaging to the plant, but it will run out over time, and your plant won’t flower again until it’s mature enough to produce its own gibberellic acid.
The other reason your peace isn’t flowering is that there’s something about its environment that it doesn’t like. Try changing the light, increasing the humidity, and check that the roots are healthy.
How to propagate peace lilies
Peace lilies are propagated by division. You can’t take cuttings like you would a Pothos or Monstera.
It’s really easy to do – scroll back up to the repotting videos if you want to see a video on the process, because it’s all there.
All you have to do is remove the lily from the pot and gently ease the plantlets apart. The different clumps are quite easy to see. Be as gentle as you can – you can even cut them apart with a knife if it’s easier – just cut the root ball into pieces, ensuring each plantlet has some roots.
Peace lilies are one of those plants that can be a dream or a nightmare to care for. In my experience they’re pretty chill – they grow and bloom readily and don’t mind a bit of casual neglect (though they grow best if you nurture them). However, many people struggle with them so I can’t fully endorse them as a beginner-friendly plant.