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.
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.
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.
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.