Help needed- My peace lily is almost dead

sana114August 3, 2012

I recently bought a healthy peace lily from store and repotted it soon after.I watered it every few days but the plant started wilting and slowly the flowers and leaves started yellowing and drying up. After I googled on how to care for peace lilies, I repotted it again in a pot with drainage holes and soaked the mud thoroughly under the tap and then threw away the water that collected in the tray. I do confess that I might have broken some roots while removing it from one pot to another. Since then, there has been no improvement in the plant and I think the remaining leaves are showing signs of withering. The plant has always been inside, there is no direct sunlight but ample light in the room. I do want this plant to survive..any help in this regard will be much appreciated. Thanks

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Your plant can't thrive in a wet, soggy soil - it might not even be able to survive. The ideal moisture content for almost all plants actively growing (except perhaps cacti) could be compared with the amount of water in a thoroughly wrung out sponge - barely and evenly damp. That state is virtually impossible to attain with many water retentive soils, but in your case, I think almost certainly you inadvertently over-watered, though it's probable an excessively water retentive soil has exacerbated the over-watering.

There are some things you can do, like lifting the plant from the pot, bare-rooting it, checking for root rot and correcting by pruning roots back to sound tissue, and repotting into a fast draining soil.

I think you would benefit from reading the link I'm going to leave below. I'll leave the ball in your court - if you want more guidance, let me know. They're an easy plant to grow, but not many can grow them well - without foliage problems related to over-watering and their sensitivity to a high level of salts in the soil. Fast draining soils that provide a healthy root environment and frequent low doses of fertilizer is how I've kept them healthy and looking attractive.

Best luck.


Here is a link that might be useful: Find much more here

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 6:31PM
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teengardener1888(NY Albany 5a)

I agree, check the roots for root rot witch is mushy black roots

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 1:03PM
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The roots looked fine. There seemed to be no rot or bad smell. However, the roots did get broken in the process of repotting. Can't the plant regrow the roots with a good fertilizer like Miracle Grow??

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 1:26PM
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Sana...what sizes are previous and new pots?
Peace Lily does best when roots are semi-tight fitting.
Potting in a huge container isn't the answer. It will halt growth, and there's a good chance soil will be over-watered.

Also, there's many PL varieties..Mini, medium and large. Some green, others variegated. Let's say you bought a mini and placed in a pot roots would never fill.
Eventually, PL will die.

Don't worry about breaking a few roots..that isn't the problem.

What type of light is your plant getting? PL's cannot tolerate direct south/west summer sun. Winter months are different.

Watering. I used to believe PL soil should dry between waterings, but not any longer.
In summer, they NEED water..but pot MUST have drainage holes.

During winter, water can be reduced.

If you plan on fertilizing, use an organic such as Fish Emulsion..At least for the time being.

Do you have a photo? Toni

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 2:21PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Fertilizer doesn't make roots grow, at least not directly. Sunlight, and the food (sugar) that plants make from sunlight + water + the CO2 in the air do. Fertilizer just supplies the building blocks for the cells plants are made of. That said, the plant needs all the nutrients it normally gets from the soil, IN the soil at all times to grow normally; and fertilizer is the best way to ensure those nutrients are available to the plant. There are better fertilizer choices than Miracle-Gro, but MG is easy to find. If you do decide to use it, get either the 24-8-16 in the box, or the 12-4-8 liquid in the yellow jug.

A few broken roots on a PL are no problem. The plant will quickly replace them. The more critical issue is the mud you described, which is probably what is causing the wilting. Did you read the link I left you?


    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 2:37PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Sorry, but I disagree with several points in Toni's post. PLs don't do best when roots are tight or semi-tight. They do best when they are in a soil that allows the plant to be potted with room for roots to run. This produces much greater potential for growth and health, though in SOME plants the stress of tight roots can increase the number of blooms. It should be noted though, that the number of blooms a plant produces isn't an indication of anything other than the plant is alive. It's not an indicator of health.

The idea that a plant will die if placed in a large pot that the roots will never fill is strange to consider. First, the plant will eventually fill any pot it's in with roots unless the soil is inappropriate. Second, and more important, where plants naturally occur, their roots aren't restricted and they do very well. If, however, you make the assumption that the grower will be growing in a water-retentive soil, the statement becomes closer to true, but still needs qualifying because it doesn't follow that the plant would necessarily die. IF you use an overly water-retentive soil, AND you over-water, the odds of one of the damping off fungi infecting and eventually killing your plant increase significantly. IF, however, you are growing in a soil that supports no or very little perched water (soil doesn't stay soggy), you can grow the tiniest little PL in a 55 gallon drum, if you prefer .... with impunity. You simply can't assume that every grower is going to be growing in a soggy soil, and then make blanket statements based on the assumption. There are just too many variables.

I also think the OP would be better served to use Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 or one of the Miracle-Gro formulations mentioned. When using fish emulsion, you have little idea what is actually available at any given time. With soluble fertilizers like MG and FP, nutritional supplementation is much easier to control, & you know exactly how much of each nutrient a plant receives as well as when it's available, which is within minutes after application.


    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 3:10PM
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Al, I think you misunderstood my point about planting in large containers.

Of course roots need room to grow. But considering the time of year, August, and Sana's location, 'Canada,' her PL will slow down/halt growth.
If it was April/May, it'd be a different story..Then, a bigger pot, 1-2 sizes larger, would suffice.

Yes, tighter roots promote blooms, but this point, I doubt Sana is worrying about flowers.

I assumed Sana potted in a heavy soil and possibly over-watered which is one reason leaves are withering, or wilting.

Without a picture and more information, it's difficult to comment.

Al, obviously, you and I do not practice the same growing techniques.
I am not arguing, or being contrary..I'm just stating a fact.

Sana, can you post a picture? Toni

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 4:03PM
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aharriedmom(8B FL Sunset 28)

While I can't give advice on care like others can, I can tell you about my PL that I repotted & divided a while back.
It took over 4 weeks for my plants to stand up and look alive - prior to that I was afraid they were going to die as most of the leaves were laying almost completely down and at one point the edges on some leaves started turning black.

Some things I did... this is before I'd learned about Al's mixes so they were/are in MG potting soil:
I cut off some of the extra leaves on the parts that looked the worst, making sure to leave at least one leaf on each little section (or whatever the individual parts are called). I cut some leaves in half.
I resisted the urge to water it more often, but did give them showers once a week or so. There were a few days I left all the plants in the bathroom for the higher humidity. It's dark in there but they seemed to perk up a bit for the first time.
One very small plant I repotted into a much smaller pot which helped it dramatically and within a day.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 4:40PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

My disagreeing doesn't revolve around any differences in growing techniques, it centers on the things you said. Peace Lily does best when roots are semi-tight fitting. [This is not true. If you want to make it true for a specific set of circumstances - like when using a heavy soil and over-watering, which makes it true, you need to make those qualifications when you make the statement, not after someone disagrees with what you said and as an afterthought. Do you see that point? If you had qualified what you said, I would have had no reason to disagree or qualify it myself so the OP got good info .... and you wouldn't feel like I was picking on you. Potting in a huge container isn't the answer [It's a viable option if the grower is using a fast draining, well-aerated soil like the 5:1:1 or gritty mix. It's almost impossible to overpot a plant in the 5:1:1 mix, and you can't over-pot in the gritty mix if it's properly made.] It will halt growth, [No it won't. Think about how many times this point has been argued. Container size (extra large for the plant) isn't a factor unless the soil is excessively water-retentive. Relatively rampant growth can be had when small plants are potted in very large containers when the soil is appropriate (holds little or no perched water.)] and there's a good chance soil will be over-watered. [I get the point, but the OP probably doesn't. Here again, it depends on the soil. The faster soils drain and the greater their aeration, the less perched water they support, which all comes back to particle size. Soils that don't support significant amounts of perched water are very difficult to over-water, which is why I promote soils based on coarse particles.] Let's say you bought a mini and placed in a pot roots would never fill. Eventually, PL will die. [This is just off the mark in so many ways, and I already explained why.]

I'm not being snotty or difficult, Toni. When you or I or anyone else offers advice in broad statements without any qualifications, it has the potential to either get people in trouble or to have them base their growing experience on suppositions that aren't founded. I don't like to argue with people, but I dislike seeing others going down the wrong path more than I dislike disagreeing. I try to be as straightforward and impersonal as I can be, but all of these points have been points of contention more times than I can count, so it's frustrating for me, too.

I don't think anyone doubts my dedication to seeing the people I'm trying to help get reliable information. When I disagree with you, it's not personal. In this case, I'm just making sure the OP understands that many of the statements you made might be applicable to your particular method of growing, but they are far from being able to be universally applied.


    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 7:38PM
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I have just posted an image the plant in its current state. it is now almost 1/3 of its original size since I removed all the dried leaves and flowers. Al, when I said mud, I meant normal potting soil. The pot size i not too big from the previous one. The plant is indoors with no direct sunlight but the room is well lit because of a huge bay window. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 8:31PM
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What I see, excuse me for interjecting here:-) is a sick plant dying in a sea of plenty of very wet/heavy mix.

If your plant was in a mix that didn't stay as wet as it looks to me, and that easily accumulate salt deposits either from your fertilizer or faucet water, you would have no problem growing it in a pot that size. What you see is the disadvantage of heavier mixes.

If you plan on sticking with the same type of mix that your plant is in now, then a much smaller pot would be in order.

The correction should be made swiftly once you understand the concepts being taught to you here.

Thank you


    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 9:20PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The leaves are probably dying because the soil has been remaining too wet for too long. Like Mike mentioned - the plant is dying of thirst in a sea of plenty because root function is compromised by the lack of O2 in the soil.

Since you looked at the roots and gave a thumb's up, your options are to switch to a better soil or take steps to reduce the effects of the combination of soil choice/watering habits that is status quo.

Use a wood skewer to test for moisture deep in the pot - wet or dark colored skewer = no water required. When you do water next, push a wick into the drain hole first. Then water thoroughly until water drains from the pot. Tip the pot at a steep angle with the drain hole & wick down until the pot stops draining completely. This practice will remove a LOT of the excess water in the pot. Then, wait until the soil is almost dry before you water again. This isn't as good for the plant as adopting a well-aerated and fast draining soil that allows you to water copiously without worrying about root rot, but it will help a lot. The other half of the equation is getting you to ease up on the frequency with which that watering can is employed. If you decide you'd rather learn how to make your own soils, let me know - there's tons of info that will help you immeasurably if you're willing to give it a look.

So, DID you read the link I left upthread?

You didn't mention it, but I should ask if you've fertilized since you got the plant. If you did, some details would be helpful.

Oh - it looks like the plant is potted much too deeply, which WILL cause crown rot and the symptoms you see. Make sure the transition zone between roots & shoots is at or above the soil line.


    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 9:44PM
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Al, I too am here to help people, (and learn) and have done so, here on GardenWeb alone, from April 2002 until present.

MY QUALITICATIONS are my plants.
You once said you weren't impressed by my plants..Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinions.

I'm happy with their results, health and progress over the years. Since I'm happy, my plants are, too.

Sana, pictures can be deceptive..The container looks large. Do you know its size? Measure the diameter, from one end on top of the pot across the other side. The number will reveal pot size.

Did you water prior to posting the photo? If not, you're over-watering. If pot size is too large, plus soil is constantly wet, the roots will/can rot. Result: Loss of leaves, as you mentioned.

This Spathiphyllum/Peace Lily was purchased in the late 90's for 1.00 at a grocery store.

It was originally in a 4" pot. A few years later, I repotted in a 6". When roots were full.

S. Audrey

Here's a PL that needs a larger pot, but this year I'll add fresh soil..the wind tilted container, top soil spilled.

S. variegated

Next spring, my Spathiphyllum will go in a 5-6" container.

My PL's are fertilized with organic, Fish Emulsion, once a month, during spring and summer.
Daily misting/showering for increased humidity.

Soil should be well-draining, but fertile.

Bright light is adequate. Again, no summer south or west winter, s-w is fine. Toni

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 12:14PM
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I am going to try repotting it for the 3rd time. Hope it survives the trauma. Looks like it is the soil that I have used which is the cause of this condition.Any suggestions on what should be the ideal potting mix for PL? I am not too knowledgeble about soils and use mostly potting soil, top soil, manure etc for my outdoor gardening needs. Thanks

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 2:15PM
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Sana, ah the shock of transplanting...especially 3-times. :)

Soils vary by location. Which brands do your local stores sell?

Whichever, the soil should be well-draining.

Mediums my PL's are potted in:

MG All Purpose, black soil for nutrients
A little extra Peat
Orchid Bark
Tiny, Pea Gravel

There are several soil/soil-less mixes. IMO, tropical soil should be slightly heavier, than let's say a succulent/cactus mix.

BTW, remove dead leaves/stems. For one, a plant looks unhealthy and nutrients focus on unhealthy foliage. Cut dead leaves/stems nearest soil...Good Luck, Toni

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 2:54PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Toni - so we're clear, I don't care about your qualifications or your plants. I didn't question either. I only care about the advice you gave the OP and the things I noted that you presented as fact. THAT is what I disagreed with, and I already explained why I disagreed, so there is no need to go back over it.

Sorry about the cross-talk, Sana. Your plant will like a chunky soil. That is, a soil with a large fraction of coarse material, like pine bark and perlite, as opposed to a large fraction of small particles, like peat, compost, coir, sand, topsoil, manure ...... Soils made of fine particles are probably the reason you let the 'mud' word slip, which is something like a profanity when it comes to container culture. ;-) Soils that hold a lot of excess water inhibit growth and vitality and spoil foliage. The reason that occurs is, when they are wet they don't hold enough air for roots to function normally. Roots need air as much as they need water. When roots can't function, the plant can't move water and the nutrients dissolved in that water efficiently. The result is a plant that suffers drought symptoms, even though its roots are swimming in water. When the plant can't take up water, it starts to die. When it's ability to take up water is only compromised, distal tissues die first; that would be leaf tips and margins.

As noted, PLs are easy to grow, but not so easy to grow well. An important part of the equation for not only PLs, but for all your container plantings is soil choice, so any effort you put into learning more about soils is going to pay big dividends over the long haul. To my way of thinking, it makes little sense to worry about a dozen barely significant issues, when the 2 or 3 things that impact the growing experience most are left unexplored.

If you want to gain a better understanding about how soils impact the growing experience, follow the embedded link. If you're just looking for someone to offer some simple directions, I'm sure there will be someone along in a short while to share their thoughts.


    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 3:14PM
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Al, it was you who mentioned qualifications.
My response of course, was the health of my plants.

You talk about growing in large pots..
All or most of your plants are in small pots. I'm not talking outdoor annuals. I mean indoor plants.

One more thing. Do you grow Spathiphyllum? Other tropicals? The few pics you've posted are always the same plants, same small containers.

"Conviction, without experience makes for harshness."

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 4:08PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Toni - the qualifications I was talking about are related to STATEMENTS. Some statements NEED qualification to be taken at face value. I explained that to you upthread, but let me try again.

If you say "Peace Lily does best when roots are semi-tight fitting", it's wrong - they don't. You and I had this conversation on a thread with Steve Lucas, who I know you thought a lot of, and he pointedly disagreed with you directly by name, and agreed with what I said; that, because his experience and my experience are the same and science doesn't support your contention. If, however, you said that PLs do better when you're using an excessively water retentive soil if you keep them slightly root bound, you would be right - because of the qualifications added to the statement. That doesn't mean it's a good practice or good for the plant, it just means that tight roots are a lesser evil when compared to rotted roots or significantly impaired root function. Do you see how I qualify my contributions? That qualification thing sailed right past you, but here I am explaining myself again.

You can always tell the contributors who know what they are talking about by the way they qualify their contributions. Because they value their credibility, they qualify what they say so it's precisely true. Sweeping statements that are likely to be widely applied by others when they fit only a specific and narrow set of circumstances has a lot of potential to do harm if taken at face.

Yes, I've grown spathes, want a picture of a plant with perfect foliage from today? I'll hold today's newspaper in the background .... If I post the picture, you're just going to look foolish for suggesting I don't know what I'm doing. Honestly, houseplants are so easy they don't interest me beyond my ability to help others with their skills. If I can't manipulate it, I'm not much interested in growing it, I have too much other stuff going on with my bonsai. Remember this though, any accomplished bonsai practitioner will be a highly skilled grower of virtually any plant material in containers. Just like in the Olympics where the harder dives get higher scores for their difficulty factor, growing bonsai has a very high difficulty factor when compared to growing houseplants. Houseplants really are simple, some people just make it a lot harder than it has to be.

Knock off the personal effrontery, please. I explained that nothing I said was personal, and it's difficult to see how it could be construed as such. If you support your statements instead of attacking me, it will all work out fine.

My apologies, Sana. Unfortunately, what you're witnessing isn't an infrequent thing. If you have any questions you think I might help you with, just ask, otherwise I'll bow out of this thread.

Best luck with your plant and on deciding your direction.


    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 5:16PM
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I disagree. PL's do not do better in large pots. I too explained when a Spath should be repotted. If you chose not to read my response, so be it.

Yes, I love and respected Steve, but he had something the average indoor gardener/ppl w/A warm, humid green house.
If you've ever been to a conservatory, you'd know how well plants do.
So, please, don't parrot something Steve might have said. I cannot recall the discussion..I'm not saying it didn't take place, but I do not recollect discussing Spaths with Steve.

I'm weary of this conversation. You and I do not agree, so that's that.

You, nor I have a corner on the GW market.
GW is not a Communist Forum. Freedom of speech. Ever hear the phrase?

When I speak of the soils I use, you're welcome to disagree, but I'd appreicate if you wouldn't twist my words around.
Or degrade me.

I said this Once before, and I will say it once again. Since you cannot be cival to me, disagree with everything I advise, I am asking you not to address me.

Disagree all you want...freedom of speech. fin Toni

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 6:01PM
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I too am in need of some help with my peace lily. I will post pictures soon. I've had it for about 18 months and I only water it when the soil on top is dry (1-2 weeks) every other watering I fertilize it. It's been doing really well except the last month or so it's started to droop pretty bad. I've relocated it to get more indirect sunlight...but now I'm worried it maybe root bound. I normally wouldn't worry about it but this lily is from my Dad's funeral and it holds a lot of sentimental value. Any help would be appreciated.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 6:15PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

Amanda, please start a new thread when you post your photos. By keeping topics separate it is easier to prevent confusion when discussing different problems. Please post photos, that will allow us to get you more constructive advise.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 6:52PM
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Tapla is very right!

My PL is growing fast! A new leaf everyday forms!

This is the mix they are in. It is 1/2-3/4" pine bark composted.

I got mine 6 months ago and it is 3 times the size and I made onther peace lilly by seperation which I put in the 511.

I feed with all purpose miracle gro at a very low strength every watering.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 7:52PM
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"Toni - so we're clear, I don't care about your qualifications or your plants. I didn't question either. I only care about the advice you gave the OP and the things I noted that you presented as fact. THAT is what I disagreed with, and I already explained why I disagreed, so there is no need to go back over it."

Toni dont worry, Tapla has said this to me and many others!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 12:06PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I also explained how you destroy your own credibility by systematically taking opposite positions on the same topic with incredible regularity, with an emphasis on incredible; and how you've worn out your welcome on multiple forums with your trolling and intentionally inflammatory remarks. I hope Toni doesn't rise to your bait. It's one thing when there is a legitimate difference of opinion - quite another when there is an obvious and blatant intent to create friction out of thin air. One position has at least the potential to create light, the other, yours, nothing more than heat. If you have an issue with me, why drag Toni into it, and what business is it of yours? Report it or stand upright and be direct. Why try to revive something a month dead?


    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 1:28PM
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dellis326 (Danny)

Exactly why I asked that a new thread be started.

To avoid the resurrection of old arguments.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 2:44PM
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You misunderstood. I am saying it is constructive criticism that you give that many may get upset with.

"If you have an issue with me, why drag Toni into it, and what business is it of yours?"

What? The only issue I have is how to thank you for the endless information I learned from you!

It seems you were arguing with Toni as it was.... I was making it clear it is constructive criticism in a way.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 3:40PM
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I am sorry it seemed that way. I was trying to let hopefulauthor know you are only saying those things to help get a point across, that all.

The very first thing I noticed was overwatering!

It makes sense to have them in a mix that allows water and air at all times. They grow very fast in bark mixes.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 3:45PM
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