Identify this plant and why is it drooping?

treyz2004June 16, 2010


This is a plant I got from Home Depot about 4 weeks ago. I loved it because it had huge leaves and was dark green. I think it is a Peace Lily with not flowers, but I might be wrong. Lately, the plant has started drooping tremendously!

I have it in one of the pots from Wal-mart that has the saucer built into it and you can tell there is water in the bottom. I water it with about 2 cups of water and re-water when the pot saucer is almost dry. Most of the saucer is below root level, but I'm sure a few roots are touching the water. I honestly don't think the roots have rotted (especially in 4 weeks).

The leaves are perfectly green, but it's almost like they are too heavy to hold themselves up! You can see in one picture the amount of sunlight it is getting through the windows on each side of the door. This door faces West, so sunlight does flow through toward the evening hours, but it is shaded during the morning and around noon.

Attached is a picture of the plant.

Here is a link that might be useful: Flickr photo stream for sad plant

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It does look like a peace lily to me. I think your plant needs a good watering. 2 cups of water for a plant that size is not enough water. Have you checked to see if the plant is rootbound? The dirt looks heavy and maybe so dry that the water may be spilling to the sides of the pot when you water instead of going into the soil. Ellen

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 3:17AM
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The info above is absolutely correct. The plant is starving for water.

In South and Central America Spathiphyllum species grow along the edges of streams as well as out in the water. They are truly a semi-aquatic aroid rather than a plant that prefers little water and light. In fact, you can commonly find them in direct sunlight. A Peace Lily is a Spathiphyllum, normally a hybrid grown from tissue culture and not from seed.

An aroid is a plant that reproduces via the production of a spathe and spadix, and in the case of this plant that is what most people call the "flowers". They aren't flowers. Instead they are inflorescences and the true flowers are produced for about 2 to 3 days on the spadix at the center of the inflorescence. The spathe is just a modified leaf.

Use an aroid soil mix and follow Mother Nature's advice to keep the plant near a bright window or even move it out on a patio during the warm portions of the year. There are several mixes that will work well for this species but none are sold commercially. I know this will sound ridiculous but the growers really don't care if you kill it so they often don't give good advice. If it dies, they make another sale.

I use this mix based on the advice of the chief greenhouse keeper at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Others modify it in different ways but the main goal is to keep the soil porous so it will not remain soggy but still allow you to water regularly.

Mix about 40% good soil mix (we prefer moisture control potting mix since it works well for most aroids) To that add about 30% peat moss. You are trying to duplicate all the dead vegetation that is found in the rain forest and at the bottom of a rain forest stream. Mix well and add the balance consisting of a good orchid bark, Perlite, finely diced sphagnum moss, a small amount of gravel and any compost you have.

When you repot spread the roots, hold the plant stable in the pot and slowly pour the soil mixture around the roots. A larger pot will likely help as well since the roots need room to spread. The basis of any healthy plant is a healthy root system but roots need to be able to freely grow.

Keep the soil as evenly moist as possible, just never soggy. Try not to allow it to dry completely and don't keep it soaked. If you do saprophytic growth will develop in the soil, which will eventually destroy the roots. Saprophytes can also be encouraged to grow by keeping the upper soil layer completely dry with wet soil near the bottom of the pot. It is just a scientific principle since there is not longer a good oxygen exchange, which is blocked by the dry layer f soil. It is known as the "blanket effect".

Grow the plant near a bright window or if possible on a bright patio. Once it begins to recover start giving it a diluted fertilizer on a monthly basis. Also mix about 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt and mix that in a gallon of water. Give a descent watering of this once a month. Aroids love magnesium (Epsom salt).

If you keep it evenly moist and in bright light with the fertilizer and Epsom salt it should be begin to grow quickly.

Remember, the majority of the information found on the Internet about Spathiphyllum species is the exact opposite of the way Nature grows these plants. That advice does not match the way Mother Nature grows this plant since she commonly grows them in bright sunlight standing in water.

Thee plants are highly durable and will survive in poor conditions but most of us want more than survival out of our plants. I grow more than 300 species of aroids in an artificial "rain forest" and we water 5 days a week and right now the timer is set for 6 minutes per watering. Almost all of our aroids received bright light. I am giving a link but we sell nothing. We don't even have advertising on the site. We just grow plants for the joy of growing them. You may be surprised at how well they grow if you follow Mother Nature's advice.

Sorry for the dissertation. Some things just can't be explained in 10 words.


Here is a link that might be useful: Our rain forest plant collection

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 7:27AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

It's either dieing of thirst OR it's been sitting in water for days/weeks on end. Same symptoms from completely different circumstances.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 11:03PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Those pots w/ the built-in saucers can be a problem. They can interfere w/ proper drainage & keep some plants too wet (I suspect that to be the case here).

If it were mine, I'd take the plant out of the pot (big job I know), but trying to diagnose the problem w/out checking the roots is like trying to see while blindfolded.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 1:39PM
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Both of the last two responses are very correct!

I know most growers hate technical responses but I really don't know any other way to explain why fast draining soil that can stay damp is so important to an aroid. I will do my best to keep this understandable.

Despite the belief of far too many growers, growing aroids is not just about the water content of the soil. The advice to water only once a week and keep the top two inches of the soil dry is not always good advice since many aroids and other plant species grow naturally in wet soil. Spathiphyllum species happen to be one of those aroids.
Instead growing them well is about the fast flow of water through the soil or the lack thereof that causes a lack of oxygen, anerobic fermentation and saprophytes that turn into pathogens. OK, I know i almost lost you there so let me explain.

Saprophytes are organisms including fungus or bacteria that grow on and draw nourishment from dead or decaying organic matter. That often includes soggy wet soil. The pathogens (bad stuff) attack the roots and cause them to rot so all of the advice to "slow down on the water" is really about how to control the pathogens. If the soil around a potted plant has ever smelled terrible then you have been around saprophytic soil.

Fermentation and saprophytes often occur in muddy soil that will not not allow the roots to breathe but they don't necessarily occur in water which is why we can cause a plant that is about to die to grow new roots in clean water. Personally, I've been growing a bunch of Peace lilies in an aquarium for a long time with no soil at all so it isn't the water around their roots that kill them. Have you ever seen a Peace lily for sale in an aquarium store? It is common.

As a result, it is necessary to use soil mixes that allow the roots to breathe and will not remain soggy. I've attempted in many threads to explain the necessity of mixing proper soil for plants but the advice is often ignored since it requires some "work" on the part of the plant's keeper. The favorite advice to adopt always requires the least amount of effort, not necessarily what is best for the plant.

The reason a plant's roots s rot is not the amount of water given to the plant These are rain forest plants and are literally drowned for months at a time! If you could visit a rain forest you would quickly learn the soil is composed of leaf litter, decaying wood, compost, animal droppings and the charcoal left behind when a part of the forest burns. Tropical plants love to grow in a tropical climate and tropical climates don't all roots to dry out.

If we'll just listen to Mother Nature we can all make our plants grow as they do in nature. OK, I can hear people saying right now that an individual grower cannot duplicate Mother Nature. Sorry, a bunch of us do it all the time. I grow over 300 species of aroids in that type of climate.

That is precisely what I attempt to explain when I recommend mixing fast draining soil, not just buying a bag at the store. The goal of the non-compacting mix is to allow the roots to freely find places to extend and grow without constantly finding wet places where they will rot. This mix explained earlier will remain damp but drain quickly and as you can see from the photo above will make the plants thrive. It will even do so in a pot with a saucer underneath.

Rather than using a rich, soggy soil and watering only once a week (or less), use a soil that holds moisture well but drains quickly.

Now that I've bored you to tears feel free to pot any aroid the way you choose. There are lots of trains of thought on how this should be done but I just prefer Mother Nature's advice. We have at least one of these plants that is well over 20 years old and lives in fast draining soil while others live only in water.

Great growing!

Steve Lucas

Corresponding Secretary, the International Aroid Society

All of that said, please read this:

The author of this post does not claim to be a botanical expert. The quotes and/or sources used are noted solely to provide information from qualified and trained scientific experts. Credits are given to the owners of scientific information since that is considered proper protocol in botany. No attempt is being made to associate this author with these experts as a peer, only an interested grower. Accepted facts in horticulture and botanical science sometimes differ so if the answers or remarks given differ from what you have already accepted to be factually accurate please feel free to dispute the information, ignore this post, or preferably attempt to communicate directly with the botanical sources via the FACEBOOK account of the International Aroid Society The sole goal is to share information.

All that said, I just want growers to know the facts of aroids.


Here is a link that might be useful: The International Aroid Society FACEBOOK account

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 2:11PM
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Thanks Steve for that information! I love my plants and I'm all about doing what is best for them. So when I read information that helps my plants I appreciate it. I have gained much knowledge from many people here and because of that my plants are extremely healthy and happy! Thanks again. Ellen

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 9:37PM
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Please let us know how they progress.


    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 11:04PM
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While talking to a friend I just realized I didn't do a good job of explaining why soggy wet soil that cannot breathe is really bad.

One of my daughters used to suffer from asthma. If you have that condition or know someone that does you know the problem is the patient can't get the CO2 out in order to draw in fresh oxygen. A dry thick layer of soil over the root system causes a similar problem.

Some people including a few scientists call this the "blanket effect". The thick layer of completely dry soil prevents the plant's roots from breathing.

Most of us know that our plants draw in CO2 through their leaves and use that gas to cause their chlorophyll to produce oxygen that is given back to the atmosphere. At the same time they use the process to create sugars to feed itself. No gas exchange, no food.

That is why rain forests are so important to humans and animals. Without them, we would soon not have enough oxygen to breathe since the plants use our expelled CO2 to make new oxygen. In addition to drawing in CO2 through their leaves, plants draw in oxygen (O2) through their roots.

If you fail to use a porous soil similar to what the plant finds in the rain forest and allow the upper layer of soil to completely dry you have just created the "blanket effect".

Oxygen travels fairly well through porous damp soil but it does not travel well through dry or soggy soil. If you have ever been to a rain forest you know the soil is almost always damp and the surface is covered with leaf litter that is also damp.

If you allow your soil to become really dry you have effectively created a form of "asthma" for the plant. It can't draw in new oxygen through the roots and as a result becomes sick and the roots eventually begin to rot as a result of the saprophytic soil.

That is why porous soil that is kept evenly damp is important to almost all tropical plants, especially aroids. The Spathiphyllum is an aroid.

Sorry if this is totally boring but if you want to make a plant flourish we all need to "Listen to Mother Nature". Despite what many believe, you can duplicate Ma Nature in your home.


PS: please forgive my use of double words from time to time. I have a form of dyslexia as well as glaucoma and often can't tell when I type the same words twice. I noticed it when I read one of my earlier posts.

I hate getting old!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 6:08PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

One of the most common mistakes people make with houseplants is watering too little and too often. Many pots with attached saucers won't hold enough run off to allow proper watering.

For a pot that big you should be putting at least two quarts on it every time you water or even more.

I don't think you've had it long enough for it to have root rot from improper drainage and Spaths do tolerate standing water well.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2010 at 1:25PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)


To keep it in its simplest terms, I thought you hit the most important:

"While talking to a friend I just realized I didn't do a good job of explaining why soggy wet soil that cannot breathe is really bad."

seems to me, the 'cannot breathe' is the crux of it. Personally, I don't need to know oodles more than that, but I think to newbies, it may not be apparent that plants breathe, that is to say they need air, along w/ light & water.

(Sorry, don't know how to bold or underline here or I would have used those instead.)

    Bookmark   June 25, 2010 at 1:41PM
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