By Tommy Clarkson from the September 2014 Edition
Peace Lily, Spathiphyllum wallisii
(Also known as: Spathe Flower, Closet Plant or Spathiphyllum)
In search of a not too tall but very attractive plant for an area that’s in constant shade? Related to the Anthuriums and Alocasias, the Peace Lily may just be your plant and it’s one of no little beauty.
I feel it is, all too often, thought of as a house plant. Ours, in Ola Brisa Gardens, happily grows outside in virtual permanent sombra, beneath a thick, constantly pruned, Pink Bougainvillea, flanked on each end by lush, Chinese evergreen, near our large over a meter tall bed of a dozen different varieties of colorfully leaved Caladium. And they love it there!
For those who are “Green” through and through, recently, I read on The Plant Blog that this “ . . . long-time favorite of plant store owners and growers . . . finally got the recognition it deserves from the general public after NASA put it on its list of “Top Ten Household Air Cleaning Plants” . . . (as it) breaks down and neutralizes toxic gases like formaldehyde and carbon monoxide inside its pores.”
But from the perspective of simple attractiveness, it’s a good question as to whether the leaves or the flowers are its most endearing trait. (Actually, the Spathiphyllum genus has sixty species in all, with some able to handle more light.) All are native to tropical Central and South America and Southeastern Asia.
Generally, a spring to early/mid summer bloomer, its long-lasting flowers – erect on thin stalks – proudly stand atop the plant’s beautifully contrasting leaves proclaiming the totality of its splendor. A special bonus is that, inasmuch as Peace Lilies do not require a winter rest, located in the right place and properly cared for, they may bloom twice a year, providing months of beauty. But they do request of your consistent care throughout the year.
While many choose to plant them in pots, they make a striking scene when used in a massed display. Heavily hybridized, there are now dozens of varieties available. They range from quite small to large, from deep green with pure white flowers, to golden-leaved beauties.
Botanically speaking, they are evergreen, herbaceous perennials all with striking leaves and flowers. The former are 12-65 cm (4½ – 25½”) long and 3-25 cm (1-10”) broad, glossy, pointed, oval, dark green and rise directly from the soil. The eye catching flowers come in the form of a spadix (a fleshy or succulent plant spike that bears tiny flowers) that is, surrounded by a 10-34cm 4″ – 12” long, cupped, white, yellowish, or greenish spathe (a leafy sheath bract that encloses a cluster of flowers) . . . . better yet, just look at the pictures!
As mentioned earlier, the Peace Lily needs little direct sunlight. Too much sun can burn the leaves, so curled, pale leaves indicate they’re in too much light. It thrives in high humidity. The soil is best left moist but water only if the soil is dry. Generally speaking, water weekly.
Spathiphyllum wallisii will wilt if too dry. When such happens, water right away and it will come back fine. But take note of how long after you’ve watered that the leaves again wilt so you can shorten the time between waterings. They prefer their roots to be in rich, loose soil laden with plenty of organic material. But roots standing in water cause root rot!
If growing in pots inside your home, they like light to moderate shade. They really prefer moist warmth, so avoid cold drafts and temperatures below 55ºF if possible I’ve also just described my likes! Leaves will brown if the peace lily is not getting enough humidity so, in the dry season, mist the leaves when watering this will also wash off any spider mites with ill intentions on your plants. And, speaking of bad things, watch for aphids and scale as well.
Peace lilies will benefit from a 20-20-20 fertilizer mix, but too much (particularly on dry soil) will damage their roots. As a rule, fertilize the Peace Lily only in the spring and summer and then with a half or three-quarter dose.
(Don’t forget that important part about fertilizing when the soil is moist.) Plants not properly fertilized may fail to bloom.
When friends admire your Peace Lilies, show your largess by freely sharing them. As they (your plants, not your friends) grow in clumps, they’re easy to share by simple division.
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Tommy Clarkson is a bit of a renaissance man. He’s lived and worked in locales as disparate as the 1.2 square mile island of Kwajalein to war-torn Iraq, from aboard he and Patty’s boat berthed out of Sea Bright, NJ to Thailand, Germany, Hawaii and Viet Nam; He’s taught classes and courses on creative writing and mass communications from the elementary grades to graduate level; He’s spoken to a wide array of meetings, conferences and assemblages on topics as varied as Buddhism, strategic marketing and tropical plants; In the latter category he and Patty’s recently book, “The Civilized Jungle” – written for the lay gardener – has been heralded as “the best tropical plant book in the last ten years”; And, according to Trip Advisor, their spectacular tropical creation – Ola Brisa Gardens – is the “Number One Tour destination in Manzanillo”.
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