Spathiphyllum sp.

peace lily


Spathiphyllum sp.

Schott 1832

pronounced: spath-ee-FILL-um species

(Araceae — the arum family)


common name: peace lily

Spathiphyllum comes from two Greek words, σπαθη (spathé), a blade, and φυλλον I a leaf.

The Peace Lily is a tropical plant that originated in Columbia and Venezuela, growing in the rainforest in the shadow of the trees, and was introduced into Europe in 1870. There are now many cultivars that are essentially quite similar. Some claim to have larger, glossier leaves, or longer lasting leaves, or better flowers, and so on, but apart from one that produces a green flower, and another that has variegated leaves, they all produce white flowers. Several are popular houseplants.

Spathiphyllum has dark green leaves that can be more than 30 cm long. The plant is full and uniform, and the flowers change sight constantly, which is one of the reasons that it is an interesting plant to look at. It almost always has white spathes surrounding creamy white spadices. It was voted ‘desk plant of the year’ in 2007, i.e. the most popular plant to have on an office desk. It generates lots of oxygen, and is reputed to cheer you up when you look at it. It also seems able to purify the air in a room from formaldehyde, cigarette smoke, and the smells of printing ink and petrol.

In the garden, it likes warmth, but also shade. It needs to be kept a little moist to prevent it from drying out. Indoors, it should be kept out of direct sunlight, and the leaves sprayed with water from time to time to prevent them from turning brown, and sometimes wiped with a damp cloth to remove dust. The plants do not like sudden changes of temperature. When the flowers have died, take the plants away and leave them until they start blooming again, usually between 4 and 12 months. They should be repotted annually in spring. In our climate, ants appear to like to nest in the pots – when I have tried to keep them indoors, they have invariably become infested. Plants kept indoors are also susceptible to mites, scales and mealy grubs. When such attacks occur, the plants will generally recover if taken outside for a period.

The peace lily is a food plant for the larvae of the moth Eupanacra splendens.

dangerous 2The plant is mildly toxic to humans and animals.

Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2010, 2011
Page last updated 6th April 2019