Peace lily dying quickly - please help!

missbloomAugust 5, 2010

We brought home a big, beautiful peace lily 2.5 weeks ago. Since then it has very rapidly wilted, and we can't figure out why. We have only watered it when the soil felt dried out (which means once or twice per week), but it looked so sad by this week that I have stepped up the watering to every other day. We have also tried moving it into direct sunlight and indirect sunlight, but neither scenario has made any difference.

Should we move it into a bigger pot? Would it help if I tied some supports to its stalks? Is there any hope for reviving it at this point, or do you think it's too far gone?

I've posted some photos of the plant in its current state on my Flickr page (link below).

We're new to indoor gardening, so your advice would be very appreciated.

Here is a link that might be useful: Flickr photos of my wilted peace lily

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WOW. Where to start...
The pot doesn't look very deep for it or big enough. How big is the pot...height and width? If you can post a pic of the soil that would help.
Twice a week watering is probably too much. Should water completely and throughly less often instead of small amounts frequently.
Have you checked the roots? If brown and mushy that is bad and overwatered. Roots should be firm and whitish.
A peace lily wilts very easily when dry but also responds quickly when watered. You can let them dry out just a bit, some people wait for a slight wilt and then water.
Direct sunlight is really not needed, its better for filtered light or next to a window.
I wonder if the soil perhaps is peat and its hard and not absorbing any. Does the water run thru quickly at the bottom?
Yellow leaves are signs of overwatering and underwatering.

Search this forum for peacy lily and should be plenty of threads to read thru.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 3:23PM
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The pot certainly needs to be deeper. it also needs a good fast draining soil mix but I personally disagree based on scientific information about the watering.

We grow over 300 aroid species in our artificial rain forest All of those that grow in my atrium receive a light watering 5 days a week but they are planted in a compost rich soil mix that approximately the rain forest. I always include bark, charcoal, Perlite, peat moss and other amendments upon the advice of the greenhouse keepers at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. MOBOT has the largest collection of aroid species in the United States and your plant is an aroid.

All those in our large aquarium actually have their roots forever immersed in water and grow so fast we must cut back leaves all the time. Photos are on the link.
Rather than discuss this here since I have had others try to overrule scientific information here before please just read the link below on the grounds plants don't grow In a home as they do in nature. I know many members of the IAS that grow them in their homes exactly as they grow in nature with incredible success. My responses to these suggestions on other forums have always made me continue to offer the same advice since it is commonly positive.

In nature these plants love to grow in water and in bright sunlight. Growers have for their own reasons established their own "rules" but all of my plants grow very well as they do in nature. We sometimes have as many as 13 or more inflorescences at a single time.

In is not the water that kills these plants. it is saprophytic soil. Saprophytic soil is caused by a lack of oxygen around the roots which eventually rots the roots. Saprophytes are promoted by mud, not water. Mixing the soil before planting solves the problem and I do my best to explain this from a scientific standpoint bu keep the explanation simple.

You may also wish to look up information on the International Aroid Society website The IAS in an internationally recognized group of scientists and individual members that prefer science over commonly accepted home practices. There is a search engine in the lower left corner of our homepage.

Of course, you are the grower so ultimately it is up to you which method you prefer to adopt. Please just read all the facts before you choose any single method.

When an aroid droops it is begging for water.

Steve Lucas
Corresponding Secretary
The International Aroid Society

Here is a link that might be useful: Growing Spathiphyllum

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 6:04PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

That last statement is a little misleading, even though perfectly accurate. This kind of wilting in Peace lilies can be caused by a soil that is kept too moist OR by a soil system that is simply not watered properly (adequately). Like it or not, the vast majority of perfectly happy and healthy Peace lilies growing in private homes all around the world are doing so in ordinary potting mix.

If this container is sitting in a pool of water (for example), or kept soggy by too frequent waterings, the roots can die very quickly. Lack of sufficient root system means that the plant will wilt, even if the soil is moist. Oftentimes, even when root rot is the primary problem, the plant owner will water and water and water just because of the wilt.

On the other hand, if the plant is in a typical peaty mix, and is given little sips of water at a time and never drenched properly....large pockets of totally dry areas will form. The roots within those areas will die if enough time goes by. Wilt occurs in this situation, too.

Quite honestly, I have seen more of these plants wilt and eventually die from sitting in a pool of water for days on end than under watering. One of those two situations fits you, missbloom. Which is it?

    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 10:02PM
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I have zero desire to argue this subject.

I only ask that everyone read at least the section in my article on Fermentation and saprophytes. The entire article is documented with multiple scientific references but I know this subject will be argued until eternity.

In nature these plants grow standing in water and largely in full sunlight. Documents are recommended for your reading. The brief article has been reviewed by several aroid scientists.


    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 10:32PM
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I believe some will be very surprised to read the normal distribution as well as how Spathiphyllum species grow in nature at the link below.

I keep trying to explain these plants love water but they need soil other than what can be purchased off the shelf. A small amount of this is technical but very little.
It is the saprophytic soil that kills them, not the water.

I have consulted with Dr. Tom Croat who is quoted on this page many times to make certain the info I gave in the earlier link is accurate.

Each grower will obviously decide for themselves but many internet sites are now adopting this method.

Here is a link that might be useful: How Peace lilies grow in nature (Spathiphyllum)

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 3:53AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

If I were a newbie & got this response, I might find it pretty overwhelming.

Not being a newbie, I must say, I find it a bit overwhelming as well.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 7:38AM
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dellis326 (Danny)

I don't have a big spathe but a bunch of small ones. I use a variation of what's on Steve's site to grow mine. They are in a tub of very loose mix, (See pic blow, Yeah, that is a cat litter bucket cut in half) About once a month I flood it with distilled or rain water and let it evaporate out. I never let it dry completely. It gets morning sun only.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 9:21AM
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I agree with PG and I haven't and won't bother to read it all. Been there...done that.

Missbloom is just asking for help and suggestions as a newbie.
She has received some help but mostly received scientific spew to go to some other website to figure out what to do.
Please lets not get this thread sidetracked and help her here.
Missbloom where r u? Do you have a pic of the soil and what are measurements of the pot?

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 9:23AM
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Recommendations are simple:

1) Mix the soil yourself to avoid it turning into a muddy mess. Just add Perlite, orchid bark, peat moss or another suitable form of compost, some horticultural charcoal and anything else available such as vermiculite. All are common house plant additives. A suggested composition is included.

2) DonÂt allow the soil to completely dry. Keep it evenly moist.

3) Give the plant bright indirect sun, not deep shade.

The rest is documentation from qualified scientists in an attempt to explain to the perpetually skeptical why this group of plants needs this form of treatment. I realize that some never wish to be told some methods do become outdated as a result of scientific research but it is just the facts. If Mother Nature dictates it, then why is it bad?

Muddy soil will cause fermentation and that will eventually kill the plant. People ask for help on this group of plants almost more often than any other. Why should they not be exposed to the truth about their care?

I/m really sorry when science becomes "spew". If that is true the world will soon be going backwards. I just give references to document the point being made.


    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 11:34AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I so hate to disappoint you, Steve, but I don't think that anyone is arguing with you. So you might want to deflate yourself a little.

Speaking for myself, I've been educating people about container mixes for many years. I just try to do it in a manner that doesn't make their eyes glaze over. We've already got enough of that going on around here, lol. You might just be surprised that some of us have been making and talking about a potting medium very close to what is described in that article. I've been using assorted combinations of conifer bark fines, perlite, peat moss, and Turface MVP for over 20 years.

It's not THAT difficult to introduce the science behind good practices in a logical, easy to grasp manner.
It's also important, I think, to actually address the poster's immediate concern.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 1:13PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Actually, there is a lot of superfluous information involved here. Steve's 1-3 steps are quite easy to agree with - mainly because that's exactly what everyone else is saying .... though step 1 is VERY vague, with the RATIO of these ingredients to each other being critical in whether or not you could or should expect success.

Few of us are going to want to even consider for a moment the thought of attempting to reproduce a tropical forest riparian (stream-side) environment for a plant or two. The fact is, that in situ soil conditions are largely disregarded entirely, any/every time we subject a plant to container culture. A free draining soil that doesn't get anoxic/anaerobic is to be much preferred over the mud they grow in next to flowing water. For a considerable number of reasons, trying to replicate that sort of soil and applying it to conventional container culture is a decidedly bad idea - no matter what science one might point to that applies to in situ plants. Just as you can't bring the garden to container culture and expect it to work, when growing in containers, the science re in situ soil conditions gets trumped by the science of container culture - period.

These plants will thrive in a soil that drains well. It's important that you can water in such a way that you can flush accumulating salts from the soil every time you water, or that you take steps to ensure you do this on a regular basis (if you use a soil too heavy to be considered ideal). It's not difficult. It's not hard - the plants are forgiving to a certain degree, but just as with other plants - you need to arm yourself with a little practical information and knowledge, pay attention to what you're doing, and basically hold up your end of the deal by providing cultural conditions that allow your plant to keep its systems operating at close to their genetic potential. When it comes to soil, WHAT the soil is made of is of little importance. What IS important is that the soil holds the right amount of air and water for an extended period. The nutrients don't come from the soil, they come from the grower.

As I mentioned - it's just not that complicated.


    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 3:02PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

I myself don't grow this plant anymore 'cause I couldn't get the watering right.

I don't wish to make this adversarial (which some folks seem to want to do). That said, the picture above (Dan's I believe) isn't such a great advertisement for this growing technique given all the brown leaf tips I see.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 3:29PM
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Thanks Al. Obviously I did a very poor job of trying to explain this. From the article the ratio is as follows but the green house keepers at the Missouri Botanical Garden where it roughly originated tell us the mixture is not critical. It can be modified in many ways. The objective is just to make the soil stay damp and drain.

Here's how to mix your soil for your "Peace Lily" . You're going to make up a special mixture and then add that to an equal amount off the shelf soil. Start by making a mixture which will be one half the total soil mix. That mixture should contain about 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 loose. The mixture above will be added to an equal portion of moisture control soil mix such as Miracle Grow Moisture Control. Mix all of this thoroughly and keep it constantly damp once you pot your plant. Enough ingredients to pot a large plant shouldn't cost more than $15 and the chance are high you'll have enough mix left over to plant one or two more plants.

These plants don't grow in mud in the rain forest either but instead in a compost rich mixture which also contains many rotting leaves and branches. The goal of mixing your own is to come up with a descent substitute.

As for not working to duplicate a rain forest condition? Well, I know quite a few folks that do although I know we are all considered radical.

Thanks for your thoughtful input. Although I fear some still believe I am trying to take credit for the soil mix, as I have repeated several times, it comes from the Missouri Botanical Garden. If you will click on the link you will see just how crazy I am.

Not to fear, we sell nothing.


Here is a link that might be useful: our atrium

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 3:32PM
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Wow, overwhelming indeed! Thankfully I managed to find some time yesterday afternoon to stop by the nursery where I bought my plant, and the owner was very helpful. After discussing it for a while he decided that my problem was probably not the frequency with which I was watering, but instead the volume. He explained to me that I only need to water the lily probably once per week, but that when I do I must be sure to soak the soil thoroughly and evenly. Being new to gardening, my boyfriend and I had simply been pouring a glassful of water over the top of the soil each time and thinking that was enough.

I then came home and followed the gentleman's instructions, soaking the soil thoroughly and evenly in my kitchen sink, letting it sit there for a few minutes, then soaking it once more for good measure and letting the water drain all the way through. I also snipped off the stems that looked wilted beyond revival. Then I went out to dinner. When I came back 3 hours later, I was totally shocked to find that the plant had sprung back to life! I never imagined it would happen so quickly! And this morning, I am very happy to report, the plant is looking very healthy again.

Thought I'd share all of this info in case there are any other beginner gardeners out there experiencing a similar problem. I've certainly learned an important lesson!

Here is a link that might be useful: Photos of my peace lily's resurrection

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 3:54PM
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P.S. Thank you all very much for your advice, even if I didn't quite understand all of it. I really appreciate you taking time to help out a clueless beginner like myself!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 4:00PM
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Thanks for letting us know missbloom.

I still think it needs to be in a deeper pot. That pot might be full of roots soon and no soil to hold any moisture...which then it will wilt again.
Most of us on this forum preach water throughly and less often instead of sips.
If you hang around here enough you'll learn a lot.

ps to rhiza and tapla...well said. thank you

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 4:13PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Yay!!! Those darned little sips of water get us into trouble every time. Thanks for letting us know.

You all need to explore around Steve's web site. It's a great inspiration.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 11:00PM
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I have two Spathiphyllums that I split when they were small years ago. I had trouble with them wilting as well when I first got them. Either the pot is too small or too big. Never repot a plant in a pot over 1 1/2 inches bigger than the existing pot. I put mine in a big pot twice the size of the poor plant, I had no experience with plants back then, and the plant never got any bigger and it wilted. Turns out the soil around the root ball was staying wet and the roots were starting to rot. I split the plant and put them in different pots and now they are so big I have to buy huge pots for them. They are at the point of being split more than once each. I give them lots of fertilzer and water then regularly. More in the summer time but I keep mine out on the porch when it's warm out. The indoor temperature effects them as well. If where they are right now is cool from the AC they need less water. If the heater is on they will need more. To check your plants to see if they are thirsty put your pointer finger in the soil one inch. If it is dry to the tip of your finger water the plant. If it is moist they are ok for that time. Light: these plants need medium light (no direct sunlight- they will burn and turn brownish gray) and need to be away from drafts - AC vents, doors and open windows. Make sure you don't have root-rot going on or nematodes...if you have these evil pests kill the plant and burn it...nematodes can live in dry foliage and soil for over a year! Prun away any dead or dieing foliage because that way the nutrtion will be going to the healthy stems instead. Make sure the soil is well drained and there is a drain hole in the bottom of your pot. DO NOT let the plant sit in water in a saucer because that's where the salts from the soil drain to. If you let the plant sit in it the plant with suck back up these harmful salts. After each watering empty the saucer. Watering overhead is better than watering from the saucer. The suction from the water pulls the salts from the soil into the saucer making the plant healthier... you may have a salt build up killing your Spath. And with the roots Peace Lilies will survive in plain water as long as they are fed fertilizer, half the roots are out of the water (oxygen) and the other half is in the water (water and nutrition). I love Peace Lilies and this is what I have learned over the years about these magnificent plants. (Besides taking a college coarse on interior plants)I hope my info helps. Good Luck with your plants!!!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2010 at 3:00PM
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It's looks GREAT now !!!! I find that watering is the biggest murderer of plants LOL

    Bookmark   August 23, 2010 at 8:20AM
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It's good to see your plant is doing so well now!

As far as soil, well, I'm sure all the mixes mentioned do a good job, personally, the mix I use is a simple one, reg potting soil and a few handfuls of "perlite" is all.

Here's my 21 yr old peace lily (sorry a little dark)

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 8:50PM
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