gerberaMarch 24, 2011


My peace lily was severely damaged by a bad housesitter and I'm now trying to get it back to life. I've set it up in a sort of hydroponic system but I've kept the plant in soil rather than growing medium like pebbles or dry compost. I also don't put salts in the water - because the soil is rich in nutrients. Can anyone tell me if this will help it - or, more to the point, can anyone tell me if this will harm it? It has one new leaf beginning and I'm loathe to do anything to delay its progress. I should add that I took it out of its larger pot and put it in a very small pot so that it could more quickly get root bound.

Any thoughts?

I have a picture of it, but I can't see a clear way to post it. The little lily is in a small plastic pot, which is held in place in the neck of a small round flower vase, filled with water.

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Hi Gerbera.

I'm confused. :)

Are you saying your PL was potted in soil until the house sitter damaged it?
Is your PL in straight water or water and soil while growing hydroponically?

Why would you add salt to the water? lol. What type of salt do you mean?

It'd be best if you post a picture...Do you have pics stored somewhere like Photo Bucket or Flirkr? Toni

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 2:25PM
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Hi Toni,
It was originally in regular soil, and then it was damaged, and then spent about six months dormant. Now I've moved it into a much smaller pot, which I'd suspended over a water-filled vase - so that the bottom three centimeters or so were immersed in water. Since posting this morning I've taken it out of the water because there are so many conflicting suggestions for the peace lily.

As for the salt: many hydroponic systems call for nutrient salts to be added to the water and for the plant to be encased in pebbles or clay or gravel or whatever.

So I was wondering if anyone had had an success growing a lily of this sort in soil, but submerged to a point in water (reproducing the bog medium these plants often live in in the wild).

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 5:55PM
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Gerbera. I've never heard of Spaths growing in bogs or marshes, etc, so out of curisoty, I Googled, but found no such information.

Even if Spaths live in muddy, wet soils, there's a huge difference parroting outdoor environment to growing indoors.

Unless you could provide similar conditions, it'd be a difficult task. High humidity, fresh air, etc.

Are you trying for higher humidity? If so, there's several ways to go about it. Humidifier, large saucers/trays filled w/pebbles and water, 'water cannot touch the bottom of pot,' misting, and showering.

If roots sit in water, 24/7, your Spath will have major problems like root rot and insects.

There might be a way to grow Spaths hydroponically, in water w/o soil. I hope someone here responds. Toni

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 12:24AM
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Thanks Toni. It's curious that I found so much information through a google search that wasn't available to you. Likely, that's due to different search terms. The peace lily does often grow in bogs and in very humid soil, and my encyclopedia of household plants suggests it as a perfect candidate for hydroponics. My question was really whether anyone had had any luck substituting soil for growth medium. It sounds like we're on different tracks, though. I've taken it out of the water since I hadn't gone to the lengths of finding nutrient salts and buying growth medium. I think peace lilies can be grown in many different media - but you're right, the most important thing is keeping it from moulding. I'm not sure root rot is the main issue (especially if you take it out of the water for the dormancy period), but it's important to keep all your points in mind. So thank you, and I think I'll just proceed with trying to get the plant to become root-bound. Hopefully this small pot will do the trick and keeping it moist and semi-shaded will be just the thing. I'll definitely report back at the end of the growth season with my results!

Here is a link that might be useful: Google search peace lily + bog

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 11:07AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hi, Gerbera!

I invite you to visit Exotic Rainforest (if you haven't yet) for an excellent page by the late Steve Lucas.
You are correct that these plants love water, and you are also correct that proper growing media is a necessity.

"The next time someone tells you your "Peace Lily" doesn't like water and should only be given a "drink"
when it begins to "beg" suggest they take a trip to Ecuador where they commonly live in streams.
I always advocate to "listen to Mother Nature, since her advice is best" and Mother Nature's advice
is to keep your Spathiphyllum slightly damp at all times and grow it in bright light. However, it is
very true that excess water in the soil can quickly cause the leaves to blacken, especially from the edges
before they die. The cause and cure are explained below but be aware the same can happen when a plant
is kept far too dry. These plants are water members of a genus that love water since they grow in a
rain forest as well as in and along the margins of streams and rivers as can be seen in the photo (left)."

For my own Peace Lily, I use a well-draining media of orchid bark, perlite, and pumice - with Osmocote
slow-release incorporated in the mix. I water often, keeping the mix moist, and because it drains so freely
I never worry about root-rot. This plant likes to be watered, as long as oxygen can return to the root-zone
in a timely fashion.


Here is a link that might be useful: Spathiphyllum - Exotic Rainforest

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 1:46PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I meant to add that Bright Light is recommended, as well.

Also from the Exotic Rainforest site linked above, this concise tid-bit:

"Practical experience quickly teaches a grower Spathiphyllum species and hybrids
do best if kept slightly damp in fast draining soil. Not wet. Never dry."


    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 1:50PM
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I think overpotting causes more issues with spaths than anything else. Its health should rapidly improve now that it's root bound. Just avoid over watering.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 4:22PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Continuing from the same site, which I again invite everyone to visit:

"Although it is acceptable to allow a Spathiphyllum to become slightly root bound, despite commonly given advice, aroids don't like to have their roots constantly restricted in a tight pot! They need room to easily spread and grow. Have you ever visited a rain forest and dug up a plant? You won't find a root ball since there are not pots in the forest! The advice to keep a plant with the roots tightly restricted is based on a nurseryman's need to have the roots quickly fill the pot in order to encourage the above soil growth. By continuing to restrict them into a tight ball you do not allow them to freely grow and stretch as they would in nature. As a result, after observing many aroids being repotted by professional growers at major botanical institutions we always loosen the root system and use pots that are several inches larger when repotting our aroid specimens. All are repotted regularly on an approximately every two year cycle to renew the soil."


Here is a link that might be useful: Spathiphyllum - Exotic Rainforest

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 7:48PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Gerbera - Josh is offering you sound advice. Your spath will do best in a soil that drains freely enough that you can water it until it's fully saturated without having to worry about it staying saturated for too long.

Water doesn't behave in containers the same way it behaves in the earth, which starkly differentiates containers from gardens & beds. They are vastly different and much of what works in the garden is best left there - garden soil and other soils that are highly water-retentive in containers being a prime example.

No plant prefers to be root bound. You can use some degree of stress in some cases to help you bend the plant to your will and create more blooms, but rootbound conditions can seriously hamper growth and vitality in all plants. In fact, lack of growth and extension (in branching plants) is one of the first signs of tight roots. Your plant will be happier and healthier if you give roots room to run and stick to a soil that marginalizes over-potting as a possible problem. Suitable pot size isn't determined by how large the pot was that the plant came from; rather, it is determined by how well your soil drains and the mass of the plant you're repotting. Bigger pots are better, but you need to be sure your soil is appropriate for the size of the pot.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 10:08PM
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Hi Al and Josh,
Thank you both so much for the advice. I'm only trying to get it root-bound because so little root has survived, as well as a very little bit of above-ground growth. I greatly appreciate your advice and the link!

I found an interesting site by searching peace lily and bog - it's a general gardening site with videos devoted to individual plants, and the bit on the peace lily takes place at the Frank L Wright greenhouse - where the gardener insists that the roots of the peace lily should always be kept wet (immersed in water). She has her plant in a regular pot which sits in a dish of water.

I greatly appreciate your input and will keep reading around and combine the advice I find.

As for the root-bound issue - I'll make sure to transfer the plant to a larger pot once it seems to have improved its root growth.

Thank again!

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 8:34AM
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By the way, Josh, Thank You So Much for that wonderful link to Exotic Rainforest. I feel much better informed and will head out today to get the right soil ingredients for my little lily. This plant is getting more attention than my dissertation!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 9:49AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Pascale - do take note of the suggestion that offering the plant a little fertilizer at every watering is a good plan. This is the strategy I employ to help keep soluble salts levels at the lowest level they can be, and still not have nutritional deficiencies. This is a VERY important consideration for keeping foliage nice. If you intend to adopt this strategy, however, it's important that you DO use a soil that allows you to flush the soil at each watering.

Good luck!


    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 11:06AM
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Hi Al,
Do you use the 13-13-13 or 14-14-14 mix at every watering (the one that's supposed to be every three months, and which is mentioned on the exotic rainforest site), or do you use a regular fertilizer (like the Miracle Grow stuff that's something like 24-8-something)? I have the latter, and did read that it was a good idea to put a tiny amount in quite frequently.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 7:22PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Fertilizers with NPK % of 13-13-13 and 14-14-14 are usually CRFs (controlled release fertilizers - like Osmocote). If you are using them, they automatically release a small dose of fertilizer each time you water, and they are primarily temperature activated, releasing maximum amounts at about 70* and little fertilizer at temps below 55*.

I used to use them more than I do now, which is rarely. I prefer the control I get by taking a more active hand in nutrition supplementation, but that's not to say they aren't very effective - especially for those that don't want to worry about when they should be fertilizing or how much.

Fertilizing every time you water with a small dose of fertilizer is a very effective way of providing nutrients evenly, in a favorable ratio, and at a rate that ensures the plant's efficient uptake of water and the nutrients dissolved in water. It very closely mimics the injection systems commercial ops use, as they too provide small, regular doses of nutrients to keep levels in the optimum range. When implemented in combination with free-draining soils that allow you water freely, it's a great way for hobby growers to fertilize.

If you need more help, or have questions, please don't hesitate to ask.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 9:01PM
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Hi Pascale,
There are special fertilizers, 'one is liquid Schultz' where 7 drops of fertilizer is added to a gallon of water, fed everytime a plant is watered.
Or, whichever fertilizer you use now can be reduced.
Say you want to fertilize once a week, divide fertilizer by 1/4..or if you'd rather fertilize every other week, divide by 1/2, etc.

3-month slow-release fertilizers work fine, too, like Steve from Exotic Rain Forest mentioned.

Steve provided a very healthy mix for Spaths and other Aroids.

"Here's how to mix your soil for your "Peace Lily" . The more porous the soil the better! You're going to make up a special soil mixture using only some off the shelf soil. If you make your own compost start with that for about 1/3 the total mix and modify the rest of the ingredients. Begin by making a mixture of about 20% potting soil, 30% peat moss, roughly 20% Perlite, and 30% orchid potting mix which contains cedar wood chips, charcoal and gravel. To that add any good compost, a few cups of finely cut pieces of sphagnum moss and some cypress mulch. If you have some Vermiculite throw that in as well. This formula isn't critical, just keep it very loose. Mix all of this thoroughly and keep it constantly damp (never dry)once you pot your plant. Enough ingredients to pot a large plant shouldn't cost more than $15 and the chances are high you'll have enough mix left over for two more plants."

If you plan on keeping your Spath soil moist, it's very important it gets bright light, or bright indirect light.
Humidity and fresh air are needed. Mist Spath daily, 'as Steve suggested,' and weekly showers in the sink/tub.

I can't live w/o a humidifer. Tropicals hate dry air, so if possible, invest in a humidifer. But don't forget to mist and shower.

Good luck, Toni

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 1:58AM
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Steve also says, and I quote: "It should also be understood plants also need oxygen and draw it in through their roots and that is why soil mixtures like the ones Al writes about are so important. I could write on this for a long time but will try to sum it up quickly.

It isn't the water in the soil that kills many of our plants, it is the saprophytes that thrive in muddy soil. The saprophytes feed on dead tissue and thus deprive the plant's roots of oxygen. Many folks prefer to only water once a week or sometimes only twice a month. the soils Al
describes do not support saprophytic growth."

I think it needs to be understood that plants don't want to be watered on a specific schedule, i.e. once a week, or twice monthly, etc... whether they need it or not. They want to be watered when they need water, and not until such time. This may change slightly as the seasons change, or if the pot's location changes, or if other variables change.

The better suited a medium is at negating any perched water table, the wider the margin for error becomes in watering.

Personally, I avoid using CRFs... mainly because I don't know how much nutrients are being released at any given time. I like the control I get using a balanced liquid fertilizer.

I also like the idea of providing a slow, steady buffet for my plants, as it were. I like knowing that the nutrients needed are constantly available in low, even doses... and that every time I water, any leftovers are being flushed from the durable, porous medium I use.

At the same time I water/feed, I'm also allowing for the all-important exchange of oxygen and gases, to and from the root zone, so my plants' roots can breathe.

Humidity is important, to a certain degree... but I've found that misting is just about useless. It makes more sense to provide humidity through the use of a humidifier, if possible... or to utilize humidity trays with gravel and water, keeping air continuously moving to help the evaporation process.

Underlying everything, however, is having a good understanding of how container growing differs from garden growing, understanding the purpose of a medium, and having a basic understanding of how and why we do the things we do. Combined, this helps us make knowledgeable, informed choices where our plants are concerned.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 12:34PM
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I've seen spaths grown in ripariums (ripariums basically a half full aquarium with plants floating on top of pieces of foam). I also have an aquarium plants book where the author mentions that peace lillies can do quite well planted in the gravel!

As far as potting medium goes, I'm sure one of tapla's mixes or the mix posted by hopeful author would work. I personally have my peace lilly in a 1:1 mix of MG african violet mix and perlite and it's been doing quite well.

If you don't want to purchase a humidifier, you can use a pebble tray, but I really don't know how effective they are.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 3:16PM
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Count..Does the author mention if a Spath will live in pebbles indefinately or temporary?

I keep Lucky Bamboo and Pothos in pebbles and marbles, but never tried a Spath.

Did you try a riparium? 'never heard the term, riparium before.' lol. What does 'rip' mean??

AV soil and Perlite is a good mix. AV soil is acidic, which keeps soil pH lower..perfect for Spaths. Toni

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 4:06PM
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Hydroponic or semi-hydroponic growing would indicate that plants can, and do, live indefinitely in a "pebble" environment... though we're not really talking about actual pebbles. The usual medium is hydroton or aliflor, I believe... which are small pieces of fired clay having moisture retentive properties. This type of medium comes in a variety of grades/sizes, each suitable for a slightly different task.

A riparium is a new kind of planted aquarium system that recreates the wet habitats found along the edges of lakes, rivers, ponds and streams. It appears as a half filled aquarium, in which the plants' roots are under the water in a medium, and the canopies are above water. Fish and other aquatic animals live among the plant stems in the water.

Not having researched ripariums, I'm not really certain how, or in what the plants' roots would be anchored, but the concept is kind of interesting for those who like aquariums and humid reptile tanks, or terrariums and the humid Wardian cases of the Victorian era.

There are a lot of different methods for growing... and I think if a grower is knowledgeable about what purposes a medium actually serves, and how plants grow and what they require to be grown at potential, we can better make the choices necessary to reach that genetic potential.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 5:07PM
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Toni, the author is Peter Hiscock. In "The Aquarium Plants Encyclopedia," he states that he's kept peace lillies in planted aquariums for over 5 years and I assume he means they were planted in the gravel like any other rooted plant.

I've never done this personally because I've never had the room nor the inclination to plant a pl in one of my aquariums. It honestly strikes me as a crazy idea, but I felt it a worthwhile contribution.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 12:16AM
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Jodik, I don't know if you were describing riparium definition to me, if so, thanks.
The Victorian, Wardian Case, sounds lovely. If only we had a Victorian home, it'd be nice having a Victorian Wardian Case, too, lol.

Count, earlier, in another thread you said, you didn't know how well humidity trays worked.
IMO, they do fine for pots 6" or less. Anything larger is iffy. A semi-enclosed case would work wonders.

I'm unsure if Spaths are toxic to fish. I used to breed fish, but resorted to plastic. The smaller (Angels/Betas/Guppy's) fish devoured real plants, and the larger fish, 'Jack Dempseys' and 'Oscars' dove down into the plants, and plucked them from the gravel. lol.
Plants were bought at the pet store, none were Spaths, not even minis. Toni

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 12:49AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Good morning!

Regarding the riparian method...
In the link above, Steve Lucas does describe growing in an aquarium, and this is the technique:

"All the soil was removed and the plants are "potted" bare root in plastic boxes with suction cups holding them to the back of the aquarium. The boxes have numerous holes to allow the water to freely flow through the roots and the "medium" is nothing more than orchid bark along with fine pieces of charcoal. All the boxes now have roots hanging out the holes reaching the sand on the bottom of the tank."

Now, regarding the use of pebble-trays to raise humidity: they work best if the tray is wide
and if there is also a fan blowing over them to hasten evaporation. The more the merrier.

Lastly, a little information on the word "Riparian" -
Imagine that a river is a rift or a rip in the landscape, through which water flows.
The word "arrive" as we know it comes from "arripare" and figuratively means "to come ashore,"
from the Latin ad+ripa.

The Greek has the word "ereipia," which means "ruins" - again, indicating the rip or break
in the landscape. There are cognates in Old Norse, Danish, and German, but the word
goes all the way back to an Indo-European base *rei- "to scratch, tear, cut."


    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 10:53AM
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Personally, I love freshwater aquariums filled with tropical fish. I miss having one. They are incredibly relaxing, with the muted sound of bubbling air and trickling water, and the beautiful variety of fish swimming around, interacting... but I have nowhere to set one up at the moment. And so, my empty 20 gallon high and all its accessories will remain stored for the time being.

When I did have one set up, I used plastic plants. I didn't know enough about growing those plant types at the time, so it made more sense to stick with something I couldn't kill. If I were to set up my aquarium today, I'd most certainly give live plants a try, though I'd stick to the types recommended for that kind of environment.

Terrariums were very popular during the 1960's and 70's, and I never quite understood why they fell out of grace, so to speak. The enclosed ecosystem creates a wonderfully humid environment that most plant types love. There is the question of proper or adequate drainage, though, not to mention the inevitable buildup of excess salts, and learning to manage such an ecosystem, so that may be why we see less of them today.

The fancy glass paned Wardian cases are rather expensive, but very lovely. Some are large enough to require their own stands... of wrought iron, of course, in keeping with the period look. They resemble tiny greenhouses, one side hinged to open for ease of care. I'd love to have one... but again, I'd have nowhere to put it.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 11:16AM
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We still have a few aquariums stored in the basement. Aquariums and supplies...filters, hose, etc.

Yes, an aquarium is very comforting. When our son was a little guy, we'd sit in front of a 29 long watching the 'fishies' swim by.
We also had a 135 gallon, w/larger fish. The Oscars were so tame, they'd eat out of my hand. Can't recall the name of the food, little sticks.

If we were to set up 'one' aquarium, I'd like Angels and, 'don't know their name,' they're yellow w/black fins. Gorgeous fish..All Fresh Water. A Red-Tail Shark, and Catfish. Not for breeding purposes, lol. Those days are over.

Wardian cases, expensive isn't the word..For good quality wood, especially antiques, can run several thousands.
Like you, I barely have room for an aquarium, even if we could afford the Wardian, it'd have to go on the roof. lol.
Yep, those I've seen had, I believe, built-in-stands.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 2:59PM
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