The peace lily, a name that includes several varieties of the plant Spathiphyllum, is a very popular houseplant. It may be called the closet plant because it needs little light, and in fact, it does best in low light areas of a home. The plant blooms every couple of months when it is healthy, producing white flowers with a long stamen, similar to a calla lily. It is a common gift to people at funerals and memorials, and with proper care, the plant can live for several years.
Tropical in origin, a peace lily may have leaves up to 1 foot (0.3 m) in length, depending on the variety. The foliage is a deep, shiny green and the plant, when in bloom, can be as tall as 4 feet (1.22 m). The plant does grow well, and it should be repotted every couple of years or even separated. The more rootbound the plant becomes in its pot, the more likely it will require greater amounts of water.
There is some debate about how to best water this plant. Many experts suggest watering the it once weekly, but others say that it's better to check the moisture of the soil. The soil should always feel slightly damp, but the pot should not sit in a tray of water. The gardener might want to empty the plant tray of extra water and should definitely wait to water again for a week when this occurs. A slight drooping in the foliage also signals that the plant may need water.
To ensure blooming, gardening specialists recommend fertilizing the plant every two to three months. If it refuses to bloom, it may be rootbound, exposed to drafts, or may be in too much light. Trimming off any excessive foliage can also spur a blooming cycle.
Since the plant is indoors, it does not commonly attract pests, although the occasional peace lily will have a mite infestation. People can prevent most infestations and diseases by wiping down the leaves every few weeks with a damp cloth. The plant should also never be in kept temperatures colder than 40°F (4.44°C) for any extended period of time.
Environmentalists have celebrated this plant for its ability to clean the air, removing chemicals like formaldehyde and carbon monoxide. The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conducted a study on houseplants and named the peace lily among the top ten plants for removing indoor chemicals and keeping the air “greener.”
Despite its benefits, however, this plant is not a good choice for every home. It is toxic and can cause mouth ulcerations and vomiting in children who eat it. A small amount of leaves chewed by a dog or cat is even more dangerous and potentially lethal. If someone suspects that a child or animal has eaten peace lily, he or she should contact poison control immediately. For the safety of all residents in a home, people who have children or animals should not keep this plant.