ISU Extension News

Extension Communications
Extension 4-H Youth Building
Ames, Iowa 50011-3630
(515) 294-9915


Linda Naeve, Reiman Gardens, (515) 294-8946,
Jean McGuire, Continuing Education and Communication Services, (515) 294-7033,

Reiman's Pick for the week of Dec. 29, 2003

Lily Brings Peace of Mind

Linda Naeve
Extension Coordinator
Reiman Gardens

There is no better time of year to focus on one of the most commonly grown houseplant in the world and whose common name includes "peace." This week's Reiman's Pick is the "peace lily," or Spathiphyllum. Its genus name comes from the Greek word "spathi," or sword, which refers to the shape of the leaves.

Although it is often grown for its foliage, the flowers on the peace lily are beautiful and unusual. What appears to be a large white petal is actually a "spathe" or a bract that encloses the true flower. The white spathe can be four to six inches long and is held above the foliage, singularly, on a strong sturdy stem. When it unfolds, the spathe becomes a hood or one-sided backdrop for the central column of tiny, close-set flowers. This flower form is typical of other plants in the Araceae family, such as Jack-in-the-pulpit, calla lily, anthurium, Chinese evergreen and caladium.

Plant breeders have focused their attention on both the peace lily's foliage and flowers. As a result, there are hundreds of varieties on the market with many variations of the dark green, glossy foliage - long and narrow, long and wide, and even variegated. Depending on the variety, the plant height can vary from one to two feet or three feet or taller, such as Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa.'

Native to South and Central America, the peace lily is now grown in indoor environments throughout the world. It is popular because it is an attractive foliage plant that produces showy flowers and because it is one of the easiest plants to grow indoors.

The peace lily is one of few tropical houseplants that prefers moderate light levels, yet will tolerate low light conditions. This makes it a perfect choice for offices, classrooms and hospital rooms.

The peace lily is also very forgiving when it comes to water needs. It will typically do well on a once-a-week watering schedule during the winter months. If it droops a bit between waterings, just give it a thorough watering and it will perk up quickly. However, this may be an indication that once a week isn't often enough for the size of the plant, the type of soil mix in the container, and the amount of light it receives. Water a peace lily more frequently when it is blooming, but be careful not to over water it or leave it standing in water in a saucer or the bottom of a lined basket. Over watering is much more fatal to a peace lily than drought stress.

Peace lilies survive a long time and occasionally do not re-bloom. There are a few possible explanations for this. The plant may be a variety that was developed for its form and foliage quality, rather that the quantity of bloom. Inadequate light levels may be another possibility. In order to induce flowering, a peace lily should received at least moderately bright conditions.

Temperature can also be factor. Peace lilies typically to bloom best if they have been grown at cool temperatures (60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit) for a few months followed by a warmer, 70 to 75 degree, environment.

Peace lilies make excellent gifts for almost any occasion: hospital visits, funerals, birthdays or new baby. They are available from most florists.

Although peace lilies are the perfect "houseplant for dummies" because they are so easy to care for, expert gardeners at Reiman Gardens also grow peace lilies for their beauty and reliability in containers and among the tropical plants in the conservatory at Reiman Gardens.


Editors: A color photo, suitable for publication, is available at right. Click on the thumbnail photo to go to the fullsized photo. The picture's fullsize photo is 348K.

Caption: 'Domino' variegated spathiphyllum has beautiful foliage that coordinates well with its pure white flowers.

Extension programs are available to all without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, or disability.

News Menu | ISU Extension