What is a Peace Lily?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

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.

Peace lilies are similar to calla lilies.
Peace lilies are similar to calla lilies.

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.

Peace lilies are a common flower at funerals and memorials.
Peace lilies are a common flower at funerals and memorials.

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.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


@angel braids: Mine did that as well. All you need to do is give it plenty of water, just not too much to where its overflowing and continue to do that for several days. I suggest bottled water. I tend to get better results with it. Hope this helps! --Samantha


My neighbor has a peace lily growing in her garden that is five feet high! I've never seen one as big as that before, so she either has incredible green thumbs or it's some kind of mutant!


@angelBraids - There are several things that may be causing this problem. The first things that come to mind are too much heat, or water.

The latter is a common issue with this plant. If the roots get very wet they'll die off and then the leaves can't be supported.

I would also suggest you try repotting the peace lily if it is still in the same pot it came in, as that could be the problem too.


When my grandmother died someone gave us a beautiful peace lily plant. It's been with us as a reminder of her for several years, so you can imagine how precious it is.

Yesterday I noticed that some of the tips of the leaves are turning brown. I have no idea what's happening to it, and I really need advice on how to make it healthy again.


Peace lily indeed helps clean up indoor air, along some other house plants. It can reduce as much as 80 percent of airborne toxins.

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