Help my peace lily? (Links to photos attached)

peppy123May 1, 2008

Hi, IÂm new to the board and desperately seeking help for my sick peace lily. I have had her for about 5 years. When I got her she was a much larger plant but had suffered sun damage from being abandoned outside. After about 2 years she had turned over all of her leaves and was pretty healthy, flowering occasionally, but growing more in the winter than the spring/summer. Around year 3 I took her into a plant store and they up-potted her to a 12" pot. She did well for about a year but then started to decline consistently. About 4 months ago I took her into the plant store again (probably her 6th trip in the past 5 years) and they down-potted her into the pot you see in the pictures. They told me the roots looked healthy, the soil looked fine, and were unable to diagnose the cause of the decline in health. I have been trying everything I can but the deterioration continues. The leaves start getting brown on the tips and systematically dry out until they fall off. In the 4 months since the down-potting I think she has lost 6-8 leaves but has only grown 2 new ones (although I am encouraged by the fact that the new leaves grew out of the root cluster that looked the least healthy and had lost the most leaves).

I have read a lot of tips but none of them seem to be working. I water about every other week when the top inch of soil starts to dry out. I filter the water I use with a Brita filter. I water her in the sink so that I can pour about ½ gallon of water and let it drain out the bottom. The plant stores have all recommended liberal watering but IÂve also read that overwatering can cause the symptoms I am experiencing. SheÂs in a plastic pot with one drainage hole at the bottom, which is what they suggested at the plant store. Is this okay? For a while I had been fertilizing at every watering but then I cut back to about every second month. I have her about 15 feet from the window so there is little to no direct light. Also, the windows have UV coating and have the light-filtering curtain drawn about 50% of the time, but the room gets enough light to sustain my medium-light plants. IÂve heard that fluorescent lights sometimes help  should I buy one? The temperature is about 70 degrees year-round. The plant store told me that misting is ineffective  is this true? Would a humidifier help?

This plant has immense sentimental value and I will do anything that could help save her. The new growth is encouraging but she keeps losing leaves. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I can't figure out how to attach photos here, but I have included links to two photos of my plant.

Thank you all SO much!

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tisha_(z7 OKC)

From the pictures, the pot looks kind of large for that plant. But, I may be just seeing it wrong.

I think it could possibly be the fertilizer too. Others will probably be more helpful.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2008 at 5:20PM
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I agree with tisha: it does seem like kind of a big pot, considering that there are only about four individual plants in there. My instinct, which has been wrong before and which may be wrong now, would be to take it out of the pot, pull the pieces apart, shake off whatever soil and dead roots will shake off, and then repot the pieces together in the smallest pot that will hold them. (My guess from the picture is that it's in an 8" or 10" pot now; you should be able to fit the pieces that are still alive into a 5" or 6".)

The leaves slowly dying a little bit at a time sounds to me like it's too wet, and I don't really see four plants going through that much water that quickly. It's not that you're watering too much -- drenching is good -- but I think you're probably watering too often. Which can be fixed. The light is probably fine. Fertilizer can cause dead tips and leaves, but if you're reading the directions and giving that amount or less when you feed, and letting water run through the pot when you water, that's probably not the problem. I doubt humidity is the issue either, though it can also cause dead tips.

Let the plant tell you when it needs water. In a pot that size, the top couple inches can be dry while the bottom four are still wet, so you can't go by a schedule at all. Spathiphyllums that have gone too dry will collapse flat: that's too late. The right time to water is when the leaves go a little bit limp and floppy, where you can brush them with a hand and not feel much resistance. This is usually a few days before they go flat. In a large pot, it could be a long time between spells like this, depending on the time of year, amount of light, etc.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2008 at 8:27PM
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I agree it does sound like the soil is staying too wet and it's over-potted. Also, I wouldn't fill the pot all the way to the rim with soil as it shows in the photo's. You should leave about an inch or two of room so it can be watered correctly without spilling over the sides.

Billy Rae

    Bookmark   May 1, 2008 at 8:37PM
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I can only tell you what's happened with my peace lily. It was huge and beautiful for many years. I watered it every week without checking whether it needed any. Then I got "smarter" about my plants and started sticking my fingers in everything and consequently was watering peace lily less. It lost leaves and got more and more pitiful. I divided and repotted. One of the halves died and the other kept getting smaller and smaller and having brown tips on the leaves. I moved it to the guest bath for more humidity but nothing changed. Finally I figured I had nothing to lose by watering it every week like I did when I didn't know what I was doing. That did the trick. It's still small but is healthy again. You can see on the lower leaves where I had to cut away brown, but the new leaves are healthy and it's blooming for the first time in years.

Your mileage may vary, of course, but my lily obviously likes to stay watered.


    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 3:09AM
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Mine has been living bare-rooted in water for 4 yrs, and just finished flowering. All I do is thin and trim the roots every few months and keep it out of strong light.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 5:18AM
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Thank you all so much for your advice concerning my peace lily. I took her to the local plant shop and they agreed with your advice. We downpotted her to a 6-inch pot and I am watering less frequently. She is growing another new leaf (but anotehr one died :) so I am very hopeful she is on the road to recovery. Wish me luck!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2008 at 2:17PM
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