A long-time favorite of those with a green-thumb and even those without, Spathiphyllum, commonly known as the peace lily, is an adaptable and low-maintenance houseplant. Peace lilies are not true lilies (Lilium spp.) at all, but rather a member of the Araceae family. Its flowers resemble those of the calla lily (both plants belong to the same family) and is the reason for its name. The showy part of the flower features a white, hoodlike sheath (known as a spathe) which resembles a white flag of surrender.
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There are a wide variety of sizes and types of peace lilies. Most serve as floor plants since they can reach three feet tall and grow wide with big, bold leaves. Mauna loa supreme (a Spathiphyllum hybrid) is the standard midsize type. It grows up to four feet tall and features bronze-green foliage with an abundance of large, cupped spathes.
It finally got the recognition it deserves from the general public after NASA put it on its list of “Top Ten Household Air Cleaning Plants.” This tropical shade-loving plant helps cleanse the air we breathe. While we all appreciate cleaner, oxygenated air, it’s also the easy peace lily care, resiliency and forgiving nature that makes them such popular houseplants.
Peace Lily Plant Overview
Native primarily to tropical rainforests of America, the peace lily plant is a vibrant and graceful perennial that adds life to any space. The standard peace lily can grow to 24-40 inches and deluxe plants can grow to 32-50 inches.
The white blooms of the peace lily generally appear in the spring as more of a modified leaf, a “bract,” than a multi-petaled flower. Very well cared for plants may bloom again in the fall as well. Blooms last for two months or more and after blooms fade, a period of non-blooming follows. Peace lilies manage just fine in darker quarters such as offices, bedrooms, and hospital rooms. Combine its ease of care with its aide in helping the cleanse the air we breathe, and you can see why the peace lily is such a popular houseplant.
Are Peace Lilies Poisonous to Cats?
Peace lilies are listed by the ASPCA as one of the common houseplants that are poisonous to cats. They contain oxalates which can irritate an animal’s mouth and stomach. Because the irritation begins at first bite, however, the animal stops eating the plant pretty quickly, avoiding severe poisoning. Cats and dogs that ingest peace lily leaves begin to salivate profusely, shake their heads and paw at their mouths.
Since cats are agile creatures known for their curiosity, the best way to protect them from harm is to not own any poisonous plants. You can also pay attention to what sort of plants inspire your cat’s interest, such as trailing vines or bushy plants, and avoid buying those types of plants. Place your plants away from furniture or fixtures that would make them accessible to cats. Finally, you can try a deterrent such as placing mothballs in a small container with holes or sprinkling coffee grounds on the potting soil to keep your cat away.
Are Peace Lilies Poisonous to Dogs?
Keep peace lilies out of the reach of dogs because it’s toxic to them if ingested. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, the calcium oxalate crystals can cause an inflammatory reaction which results in swelling of the mouth, tongue, throat, and upper airway. If your pooch has peace lily poisoning, you should bring your dog to the vet for treatment. Most dogs are discouraged from eating very much of the plant or going after it a second time.
To prevent your dog from eating indoor peace lilies, place the plant out of reach. Use obedience commands to keep your dog away from any peace lilies you may encounter outdoors. If you have them in your yard, it’s best to keep them in a fenced-off portion.
Peace Lily Care Tips
If you’re looking for suggestions on how to care for a peace lily, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to find out more about peace lily care below.
Light: Peace lilies prefer light partial shade, and can tolerate fluorescent lights. In fact, some have been known to thrive in rooms with no windows at all. Yellowing leaves indicate that the light is too strong, and brown leaves or streaks indicate scorching from direct sunlight. Consider placing the plant six to eight feet away from a north- or west-facing window.
Water: If you’re wondering how often to water a peace lily, one tip is to wait for the plant to droop slightly before watering. One of the great advantages in caring for the peace lily is the fact that it sags a bit when it needs water, essentially telling you when it’s thirsty. In general, water at least once a week and keep the soil moist. Throughout the summer growing season, spritz the leaves with soft or distilled water. Water your plant less often in winter.
Even if you you forgot to water for a while and find your plant completely depleted with fronds flat over the pot edge, water and spritz right away. You may be surprised at how quickly the peace lily revives.
Peace lilies can be sensitive to chlorine. If your municipal water system is heavily chlorinated, fill a container with water and then allow it to stand overnight so the chlorine can percolate out before pouring into the peace lily.
Temperatures: The peace lily makes a great house plant because it thrives in the indoor temperatures most people enjoy. It prefers a temperature range of 65-85°F and humid climates. Peace lilies cannot withstand cold drafts or temperatures below 45°F. Its best to keep them indoors most of the year and displayed away from any heating or cooling home appliances.
Toxicity: From the spathiphyllum family, peace lilies aren’t true lilies (Liliaceae) and therefore don’t pack the toxic punch that genuine lilies do. Although, they are poisonous to both cats and dogs alike because they contain calcium oxalate. Peace lilies should be kept away from animals and small children. Being educated about the risks will help you avoid any accidents. Take a look at our poisonous plants guide for more information.
Pests and Problems: Compared to other house plants, the peace lily is relatively immune to insects and diseases. While they can get spider mites, aphids and mealybugs, owners generally keep these pests under control with regular wiping of the leaves. If pests invade, spray plant with insecticidal soap.
Brown leaf tips can stem from everything from over-watering, over-fertilizing and lack of humidity. Learn to follow your plant’s signals. If leaves are browning at the bottom of the plant, it could just mean these older leaves can’t compete with the more rapidly growing younger leaves.
The peace lily wins the “easy” label for four reasons. First, it sags when it needs water and revives quickly after a long drink. Second, it thrives in low light conditions. Third, the peace lily is very resilient. An insect infestation or a few missed waterings may make it wilt and pale, but it bounces back quickly. Finally, with sufficient care and occasional wiping of its leaves, the peace lily doesn’t seem to be the insect magnet that roses and other house plants are.