Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum species) are attractive indoor foliage plants that produce showy white flowers. They are not true lilies but a member of the Araceae family, which also includes caladiums, elephant ears, anthuriums, and callas. They are one of the few foliage plants that will flower in low light. Peace lilies are easy to grow, making them a popular choice for houseplants and one of the top selections of air-purifying indoor plants. Do be aware that calcium oxalate crystals are present in the plant cells and, if consumed, can cause toxicity in pets and children. The most common side effect is burning of the mouth, throat, and tongue.
Most peace lilies grow between 1 to 4 feet tall and wide, but a few cultivars may get as large as 6 feet tall and wide.
Peace lilies are sturdy, easy to grow plants with glossy, dark green oval leaves that narrow to a point. The leaves rise directly from the soil.
These plants also periodically produce lightly fragrant white flowers that resemble calla lilies. The long-lasting, pure white flowers will turn a pale green as they age.
Peace lilies will flourish in almost any well-drained potting mix. Soil should be kept moist but not soggy and allowed to dry out slightly between waterings. If the soil is allowed to dry out excessively, the plant will wilt, and the leaves and edges will turn yellow. When watering, it is best to use room temperature water. After watering, never let the plant sit in a saucer of excess water, as this will lead to root rot issues.
For more information on how to properly water houseplants, see HGIC 1459, Indoor Plants-Watering.
Peace lilies will tolerate low light conditions but grow best in bright indirect light. They should not be placed in direct sun as the heat will scorch the foliage. Do not place them where heat or air-conditioning vents blow directly on the plants as hot, cold, or drafty exposures will damage the plant.
Peace lilies prefer warm daytime temperatures between 68 and 85 °F and nighttime temperatures about 10 °F cooler. Try to avoid temperatures below 60 °F as cold damage may occur.
These plants need very little fertilizer. When fertilizing, use a balanced, liquid houseplant fertilizer, such as 20-20-20, every six to eight weeks during the spring and summer growing season. When mixing, use one-quarter of the recommended strength. Overfertilizing peace lilies can cause the leaf tips and roots to burn and turn brown.
The wide glossy leaves accumulate dust; therefore, wipe leaves regularly with a damp cloth to clean the foliage.
Peace lilies like to be slightly pot-bound, but it is time to repot if roots start growing through the drainage holes or circle on top of the soil surface. Choose a container that is just one to two inches larger than the original pot. Using too large of a pot may keep the potting mix too wet, leading to root rot. Repotting can be done any time of the year, but the plant will recover quicker if repotted during the growing season. Be sure to loosen the root system gently before placing the plant in the new container where the roots can easily grow through the potting mix. For more information on repotting houseplants, see HGIC 1458, Indoor Plants-Transplanting & Repotting.
Species & Cultivars
There are over 40 species of peace lilies found in tropical regions, mainly in Central and South America. Due to a selective breeding program, many new hybrid cultivars have been introduced to the market by the tropical plant industry. Listed below are a few of the more popular cultivars available.
- ‘Allison™’ is a compact peace lily that will be around 24 inches in height. It has medium-sized, dark green leaves and a profuse flowering habit.
- ‘Domino’ has shiny, ruffled, dark green leaves speckled with white streaks. The variegated foliage adds interest along with the prolific flowers. It will get 30 inches tall and wide.
- ‘Jetty’ has lush, glossy green foliage with long-lasting white flowers. Its height ranges from 19 to 24 inches.
- ‘Little Angel’ is a dwarf, compact cultivar that blooms more prolifically than many older cultivars. As a smaller peace lily, the height ranges 12 to 15 inches tall.
- ‘Mauna Loa Supreme’ is one of the medium-sized peace lilies. This plant will grow to a height of about 2 to 3 feet. Its 9-inch long and 5-inch wide, glossy, lance-shaped leaves are produced on 10- to 12-inch stalks. The flower stem can be 15 to 20 inches long, and the flowers are up to 4 inches wide.
- ‘Sensation’ is the largest of all commercially produced peace lilies as it will mature at 6 feet tall and wide. The foliage is dark green with a tough, ribbed texture, making it an attractive plant when it is not in bloom. The large, well-shaped flowers are produced intermittently.
- ‘Starlight’ has striking, shiny, tough, dark green foliage. It has a dwarf, compact growth habit and will mature at the height of 12 to 18 inches.
- ‘Wallisii’ is a small, compact, and vigorous peace lily that reaches a height of 12 to 15 inches. It has delicate, 3-inch blooms with 8 to 10 inch long, rippled leaves.
Peace lilies have few insect pests, but fungus gnats, mealybugs, spider mites, and scales can be problematic. Examine the leaves often for evidence of insect infestations. For information on controlling houseplant insect pests, see HGIC 2252, Common Houseplant Insects & Related Pests.
Root and stem diseases are the most common problem and are usually associated with over-watering practices. For more information on controlling houseplant diseases, see HGIC 2251, Houseplant Diseases & Disorders.
A magnesium deficiency can cause plants to become stunted. Leaf tissue between the veins may turn yellow while veins remain green. The edges of the leaves can turn brown by overfertilization or by excessive drying.
Lack of flowering usually occurs when plants are less than a year old or are growing in insufficient light.
Originally published 09/99