Give Peace Lilies a Chance

Lynda Ellis, Extension Master Gardener in Anoka County, January, 2016

The peace lily (botanical name Spathiphyllum) is not a true lily (botanical name Lillium), but it is a nice house plant none-the-less. However, should you take a chance on it? Let’s find out more and decide.

Our homes have low light and peace lilies are fine with that. In fact, they will do best in a room with a west or north window, not the south window where most of our house plants thrive. They do not need to be close to the window either; six to eight feet away is fine. They also do well under fluorescent lights, in a room with no windows at all.

We sometimes forget to water our plants. Peace lilies do not require frequent watering. Let them dry out before watering. If you do forget and they start to wilt, give them water and they perk right up. Mist the leaves occasionally, especially in summer. Put them in containers with drainage holes and don’t let them sit in standing water.

Peace lilies are flowering plants. Most of our other low-light plants are foliage plants. The flowers we see are large, white spaths (modified leaves) with the tiny true flowers on a spike within. These spaths are quite attractive and can last for months. They make good cut flowers. When they turn green and start to wilt, cut them (and dead leaves) off as close to the bottom of the plant as possible. Some varieties have scented flowers.

Peace lilies come in various sizes to suit your needs, depending on variety, from “Power Petite” 10-20” to “Sensation” 4-6’, wide and tall. Peace lilies like the same kinds of temperatures as people, 65-80F. Cold drafts can harm them.

Peace lilies clean indoor air of pollutants such as acetone, benzene, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. They do not require frequent fertilizing; once a season with quarter-strength house plant fertilizer is fine. So far so good, but do they have any drawbacks?

The leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals, and can be toxic to people and pets when ingested and may cause skin irritation. Keep plants away from curious pets and young children. These wide leaves are dust magnets, so wipe them down with a damp cloth when they get dusty or at least once a year. If the leaf tips turn brown, there may be too much chlorine in the water. If so, let the water sit in an open container overnight before watering.

While not perfect for everyone, the peace lily is a house plant that can brighten a dark corner for years to come. Do give peace lilies a chance.