Low Light Plant Care: Peace Lily

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Fast growing and deliciously dark green, the Peace Lily should be given an award for the gusto with which it’s adapted to the unreasonably difficult growing conditions of my flat: north west facing windows and short autumn/winter days. My first proper houseplant, I found it in a dusty corner of a local florist who didn’t really sell plants and was very happy to have us take it off her hands when we asked about it. I stumped up the £6 and figured if I couldn’t keep it alive then I hadn’t really lost anything. But it thrived, oh how it thrived! That £6 little weed has turned into three strong and heathy plants, so I figured I’d share some Peace Lily care tips and write about how I keep mine alive in an extremely low light area.

Peace Lily Background

Let’s start off with some Peace Lily facts! They are native to South America and are mostly found growing across rainforest floors in Venezuela and Colombia. Spathiphyllum, as they are otherwise known, are part of a larger leafy family which all flower with distinctive leaf-like spathes or bracts. In the case of the Peace Lily specifically, the ‘flowers’ are the familiar white spoon shaped spathes that shoot up amongst the foliage, and from which the plant gets its name (the greek for spoon is ‘spath’).

The Peace Lily has been gracing European households since the 1870’s, and in that time has gained a perhaps unfair association with death. This may be due to its similar looks to its close relation the Arum Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica), which is a funeral flower. The Peace Lily has, over time, become something of a traditional gift to grieving families and many won’t have them in the house due for fear of bad luck.

It’s not bad news for the Peace Lily across the board though, in Feng Shui they’re placed to calm and balance a space and attract positive energy. The white bracts can be associated with white flags, and therefore peace (hence ‘Peace Lily’ I guess), and according to the clean air NASA report that did the rounds a few years ago, the Peace Lily is one of the most effective plants at cleaning bad stuff out of the air in your home. Although, you’d need somewhere between 16 or 18 of them for the average sized house, something to remember when you’re looking for an excuse to buy yourself another plant.

Peace Lily Care

As you can probably guess from its rainforest home, the Peace Lily is a bit of a shadow dweller which loves a warm, humid environment. However, it can take pretty much anything you want to throw at it (but be nice to it, please). For such a hardy plant, there is a wide range of perspectives out there on how to look after them. Here I’ll give you some of my own Peace Lily care tips and how I’ve kept mine alive in the less than optimal conditions of my flat.

Water: I go with the Peace Lily’s own built in visual clue to prompt watering. When the leaves start to droop, I water it thoroughly from the top down by placing it in the bath and running the shower until the water starts to run out of the bottom of the pot. I then leave it overnight. In the morning I turn over the top layer of soil to loosen, check for dead leaves, then put it back.

Food: I tend to only fertilise once a month from March through to September. I’ve always used a low cost general houseplant fertiliser, Baby Bio Original, and dilute it to a little weaker than the instructions on the bottle. I never feed a plant when the soil is dry, I do it after watering.

Light: As mentioned above, Peace Lilies are a used to a shady forest floor so indirect light is best. I’ve had my Peace Lily plants in a variety of situations and they really thrive next to a widow that doesn’t receive full sun such as mine which are north west facing. Having said that, I’ve also placed them deeper into the room and under these incredibly low light conditions they survived albeit with stunted growth. This makes me worry less about them overwinter when we only get a small number of daylight hours.

Flowers: I’ve never had a problem with my Peace Lilies flowering, I put that down to not overfussing them. I only water when they droop, I fertilise weakly once a month in Spring and Summer, I give them ample light, and I let them get pot bound before repotting into a pot not all that bigger than the current one. I think a combination of those factors has lead to them regularly putting out multiple white spathes.

Other: Some people mist their Peace Lilies but I never have. I wash their leaves once a month with non-antibacterial dish soap and water, in between washes I blast off dust with a hairdryer on the cool setting.

Luckily for me, as a first houseplant I couldn’t have chosen something easier than the Peace Lily. It’s robust, resilient and incredibly forgiving – ideal for me to find my way with houseplant care. Essentially, all it needs is indirect light and watering when the leaves droop, if you can keep it happy then your Peace Lily will thank you by putting out leaves and ‘flowers’ for years to come.

Images in this post courtesy of Flower Council Holland

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