Peace Lily: The Most Docile of Flowering Plants

While it’s relatively easy to keep most leafy tropical plants in the house, it’s difficult to make them bloom again, since they require very special conditions and, above all, plenty of light. There is, however, one important exception to the rule that “houseplants are hard to make bloom again”: the magnificent spathiphyllum or peace lily.

In fact, whatever the conditions in your home, you should have no trouble getting it to bloom again and again, sometimes even for years.

A Really Easy Plant

Why is spathiphyllum so easy to grow? Let’s take a look at its natural habitat. It grows wild in the darkest jungles of South and Central America, growing at ground level where almost no other plant can survive due to lack of light.

Its particularly dark green foliage contains more chlorophyll than most other plants. It therefore manages to capture enough light to grow well even in permanent darkness.

And whereas other jungle plants wait for a special event to flower: for a large tree to fall, allowing a little more light to filter through for a few weeks, spathiphyllum flowers regularly, if not abundantly, without special lighting.

Its large white inflorescence, known as a spathe (colored leaf), surrounds a spadix (dense spike of tiny flowers) somewhat reminiscent of the calla lily, hence its common name of lily.

Peace lily flower. Photo: marchenko_family.

If it’s given the nickname « peace lily”, it’s because the flower is reminiscent of the white flag that soldiers wave to indicate their desire for a short truce in confrontations.

The flower’s perfect whiteness is also not unrelated to its status as a “shade plant”: white is the color that is best seen in semi-darkness, which helps insects find it.

What’s more, you’ll notice that the spathiphyllum’s inflorescence gives off a suave perfume in the evening, another way of attracting pollinating insects.

From the Jungle to Your Home

It’s not difficult for a plant accustomed to the jungle to acclimatize in our homes: a typical Canadian house is the equivalent of a dark cave, with only a few rays of light penetrating deep into the rooms.

It’s the ideal place to grow a plant that doesn’t tolerate full sun anyway. What’s more, we keep our homes warm all year round, and spathiphyllum doesn’t tolerate the cold.

The only fault with our homes is that the air is very dry, whereas the spathiphyllum would prefer high humidity. Fortunately, it seems to cope well with this one shortcoming.

Don’t expect Spathiphyllum to produce hundreds of flowers at a time. The little light it can capture in a normal interior doesn’t allow it such a performance.

Instead, expect two or three blooms a year, each consisting of one to four or five flowers, depending on cultivar, plant maturity and location.

Photo: FotoHelin Images

Indeed, although it comes from the dark jungle, spathiphyllum blooms more often and more abundantly when it receives good lighting, i.e. when it’s located near an east- or west-facing window.

But it still blooms at least once a year even in the darkest locations, which is much better than any other houseplant!

Fortunately, spathiphyllum is very decorative, even without flowers, as its broad, dark-green, pointed and smooth, attractively veined leaves arch gracefully around the pot, forming a very attractive rosette.

Spathiphyllum is therefore a rarity among plants: both a “green plant” and a “flowering plant”.

Watering the Peace Lily

Yes, spathiphyllum does tolerate shade, but not a lack of water. This means you’ll have to keep an eye on it, as there’s no way to set a precise watering schedule.

Photo: Africa images

Indeed, the same plant may require watering once a week in a relatively well-lit spot, or every three weeks if you move it to a very shady spot.

The rule of thumb is to stick a finger in the soil at least every four days.

Larry Hodgson published thousands of articles and 65 books over the course of his career, in both French and English. His son, Mathieu, has made it his mission to make his father’s writings accessible to the public. This text was originally published in Le Soleil newspaper on January 28, 1995.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

6 comments on “Peace Lily: The Most Docile of Flowering Plants

  1. Freida Brooks

    This was the clearest precise information I’ve gotten since I bought my plant 5 months ago. Its struggling but now I know…… thank you

  2. Joanne Vis

    I have had my Spathiphyllum plant for over 40 years and it has survived several moves. I usually put it outside on a porch in summer. Easy to look after.

    • Good to know. I will try our porch which is covered and a couple in the garden in the backyard in semi-shade. We get strong sun (as a rule) in St. Catharines.

  3. I love this plant. It is so faithful to bloom regularly and multiplies easily for gifts. If you wait a bit too long to water, it slightly droops reminding you it is thirsty and rebounds nicely, although I do try to avoid this. Mine has variegated leaves and is pretty all year. I am going to try a few outside this summer in a semi-shade location. Although my cat will nibble at spider plants, she ignores the peace lily.

  4. DOCILE, NOENSE! $4000 in vet fees to restore cat’s health after exposure to Pease Lilly Pollen.

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