I, like my mother and a surprising chunk of my friends, have a potted peace lily perched on my windowsill and for good reason. The peace lily is very easy to care for (even if you forget to water it) and produces some of the most fantastic flowers I’ve ever seen. Even though it’s setting off my hayfever right now, I still can’t bring myself to put it outside.
The story behind the discovery
However, there are a few things you’ll need to know to avoid the dreaded brown tips (which, much like a baby crying, don’t really tell you what’s wrong) and keep your lily thriving all year round. I’ll add a little backstory to let you know how hard these things are and how unlikely you are to kill yours:
In 2007, noticing how lifeless my room was, my mum gave me a peace lily plant (spathiphyllum tango to be specific) which thrived in my indirectly lit room. I had a thermometer in my room which would record nighttime temperatures of 30°c and upwards which kept drying out the soil and to top it off, it got some quality under-soil heating from sitting on top of my TV. Over the summer I got a whole bundle of flowers from it and overall, I was pretty happy with my plant.
Near the end of the summer, I went on holiday for two weeks and when I came back, my poor lily was in a sorry state. The dark green foliage was accentuated with yellow and brown tips and the flowers littered the soil underneath. In a fit of panic, I gushed a lake’s worth of water in to the pot hoping that would save it. How wrong I was! My lily was heading in to complete-stress mode and the brown tips eventually became brown leaves, with everything starting to die out in front of my very eyes.
All of the drama was terrible timing on the plant’s behalf because I was moving out of my mum’s place at the same time and left it behind. Although I love her, my mum doesn’t have the greenest fingers around and leaving it with her was a definite death-sentence. When I finally managed to pick it up, I managed to drop it a few times (just to add a little more punishment) when I got home because the laws of physics don’t like me trying to balanced heavy pots on a small base. In my eyes, it was dead and anything I did would just bury it deeper in its watery grave. Over the next few months I watered it diligently and gave it the type of trim that has your whole class laughing at your smooth head.
This brings us up to today. Around the time I started this website, I repotted it in fresh soil and started watering with compost tea. It only had four leaves but they were enough to soak up the sun, but that was enough to grow in to the juggernaut it is today (check out the picture attached to the post for a pic of it taken today). I’m as amazed as you are that it has gone from pretty much dead, to the most beautiful lily I have ever seen up close. Unless it took inspiration from reading about The Ugly Duckling, we can only assume that all lilies are capable of amazing comeback feats.
Keep the satellite dishes clear
With leaves to compete with your average tree in size, your lily is well-equipped to soak up a lot of sun in the warmer months. Keeping it in a well-lit windowsill out of direct sunlight is ideal and will prevent sun-scorching. Under the bathroom window is a great place for it if you enjoy eye-candy while taking a long bath, it will grow faster there than anywhere else in the house and purify the air to keep the room feeling fresh.
To keep your leaves smiling in most other rooms, a wipe-down with a soft, damp cloth every few days will keep the dust off and allow them to absorb more water. Lilies absolutely adore misty leaves (which is why a warm, steamy bathroom is great for them) so if you can spray them with warm water when you give them a drink, that would be fantastic. Failing that, pouring water over their leaves will do just fine.
Quenching their thirst
Although peace lilies are heavy drinkers, they prefer their watering sessions to be spread out, rather than frequent and continuous drinks. As a rule of thumb, once the plant looks a little droopy and you can touch the soil without having to dry your finger afterwards, it’s ready to be watered again.Give it enough water to sufficiently soak the soil without saturating it. If the water is gliding through to the tray underneath without being pulled through the roots, there’s a chance that you’re over-fertilising (or not watering enough). The salts will build up on the roots and prevent them from absorbing water, which incidentally is most easily fixed by watering.
Allow the water to seep through slowly, don’t flood it all in at once or you may be running a higher risk of root rot.
Those pesky brown tips
This brings me nicely on to the most frustrating part of peace lily care. Have you ever been in the position where your plant is growing beautifully well and one morning you wake up to a sea of brown-tipped leaves? The good news is, you can easily fix them. The bad news is that the cause can be a mystery unless something is staring you in the face (direct sunlight).
Peace lily brown tip
As far as I can think of, the possible reasons for brown tips on your peace lily are:
- Water – are you giving it too much/too little?
- The environment – have you been moving your plant around recently?
- Sunlight – although lilies enjoy bright light, being in direct sun will burn the foliage and stress them
- The roots – peace lilies prefer a more compact rootball, so if you’re repotting, don’t get a pot too much bigger than your last unless it has outgrown it
- Heat – your peace lily will die quickly in frost and is most comfortable at room temperature
To fix this, it’ll take the type of cover-up job only seen by bridesmaids 10 minutes before a wedding. Snip off the offending brown tips and throw them away to prettify your leaves. Next, give it a good wipe down and ensure you’ve removed a good majority of the dust and grime from the solar panels, spray the leaves with water as you’re doing it, to give them refreshment equivalent to a fan on a hot day. You’re already halfway to a happier lily!
After you’ve given it the spa treatment, find a well-lit window out of excessive sunshine and heat. As I said earlier, the bathroom is great for this, but mine does just fine in the windowsill of my bedroom (which faces north-east). Remove some of the soil on top and check out the roots, do they look healthy or rotten and slimy? If it’s the latter, be sure to let them dry out a little before you water again. If they’re spread out and don’t resemble a football, reporting in a smaller pot may be a good idea.
Once you’ve gone through all of the checks, if it’s not over-saturated already, give it a sip of compost tea and get ready to enjoy your healthy foliage for years to come. If you don’t have any compost tea brewing right now, dilute some indoor plant fertilizer and use that instead.
Not cat/ child-friendly!
One last thing. Your peace lily may be great to look at, but eating the leaves will leave you in hospital. The spathiphyllum family is pretty toxic to humans and animals alike, so it’s a good idea to keep them where tiny fingers can’t wander. If ingested, head straight for your nearest poisons center and tell them what has been eaten. While you’re unlikely to die, the burning will make you wonder if you’re in Hell!
Peace lily flower…