It can be discouraging when your Peace Lily doesn’t seem to be thriving. When the leaves look small or the stems aren’t getting tall despite your best efforts, you may worry that you’ve missed something critical. Why is your Peace Lily small? And how can you encourage it to grow large and full?
The #1 reason why a Peace Lily won’t get big is that it’s not receiving enough sunlight. Make sure it gets at least 6 hours per day of bright, indirect light. A stunted Peace Lily could also be getting too little or too much water. Or it might lack fertilizer, or have no room to grow in its pot.
When you’re trying to encourage a Peace Lily’s growth, take it slowly and try one tactic at a time. Your plant won’t die of being too small. But the stress from its entire environment changing at once could kill it. A small adjustment is often all you need! Keep reading to learn what you can change to get your Spathiphyllum growing like a champ.
How Big Can a Peace Lily Get?
It’s tough to know if your Peace Lily is too small until you have a sense of its potential. How big should you expect your plant to grow? Will it have huge spreading leaves like a Monstera’s, or is it normal for them to be small?
That question is a little tricky, because Peace Lilies aren’t one-size-fits-all. There are many popular varieties out there, and their mature sizes can differ quite a bit. You can think of Spathiphyllum as falling into three basic size categories:
- Dwarf Peace Lilies. These are the compact cultivars, bred to fit nicely on a tabletop. They’ll never get taller than 1 ½ feet tall, and their leaves tend to be around 8-10 inches long. Examples include the “Piccolino” and “Wallisii” varieties.
- Medium Peace Lilies. This is the standard Peace Lily houseplant size. Species in this group have maximum heights ranging from 2-4 feet, with leaves around a foot to a foot and a half long. Popular Peace Lilies like “Domino”, “Clevelandii”, and “Mauna Loa Supreme” fall into this category.
- Big Peace Lilies. Most houseplant owners don’t want a sprawling Peace Lily, so there’s only one that’s common on the retail market: the “Sensation”, which grows 4-6 feet tall. Its 20-inch long leaves look almost like they belong on a banana tree.
Aside from variegated species like “Domino” or “Picasso”, Spathiphyllum species aren’t always easy to tell apart. Make sure you get yours from a reliable and knowledgeable grower so that you can be sure what kind you have. That way you’ll know how big it should get.
Peace Lilies have a modest growth rate, and they often take 3-5 years to reach their maximum size. They tend to gain a few inches of height and a few new leaves between spring and fall.
Healthy leaves on indoor Peace Lilies should be dark green with a glossy shine. They often have noticeable creases at the veins that give the foliage a ruffled appearance. Their typical size is 2 inches wide and 6-12 inches long. Taller varieties also usually have longer leaves.
5 Reasons For Small Leaves and Stems on a Peace Lily
Okay, so you’re sure that your plant is shrimpy for its age. It has stunted foliage, short stalks, or both. Here are the likely reasons why your Peace Lily is small:
#1: You’re Keeping It in the Dark
I roll my eyes whenever I read an article saying that some plants are “great for windowless rooms”. Unfortunately, claims like this are all over the internet, and the Peace Lily is one of the common targets.
It might be true that you can keep a Peace Lily alive for a while with only artificial light. But there’s a big difference between surviving and living well. Spathiphyllum plants prefer to get bright, indirect light throughout the daylight hours. That means the kind of light that you get a few feet away from a bright window.
If your Peace Lily is struggling to grow, move it to a spot with more sun. East-facing windows are often good since they get brightest when the day is coolest. That helps protect against sunburn.
Rooms with exposure to the south or west are also good, as long as your Peace Lily is 4-6 feet back from the nearest window. You can put it closer to the light if you put up some sheer curtains to soften the glare. We have some more hints on how to light your Peace Lily in this article.
#2: It’s Getting Too Thirsty
A Peace Lily likes to have a bit of moisture to sip on at all times. It will grow best when it can absorb water at a slow, steady pace. The soil around its roots should feel as damp as your bath towel does right after you’ve dried off.
When your Peace Lily’s pot dries out too much between waterings, it stresses your plant out. It won’t be able to get much growth going if it keeps getting choked off by the lack of water. This is like trying to drive your car by constantly throwing it back and forth between Reverse and Drive: You won’t get anywhere.
Don’t wait until the stems and leaves get droopy to give it a drink. Instead, test the soil with your finger every 3 days or so. When the top inch feels dry, soak it all the way through. If you’ve done this right, there will be a stream of water draining from the bottom of the pot.
A moisture meter can add a little more precision by letting you test what’s going on by the roots. Water your Peace Lily when the needle is at the low end of the “moist” range.
#3: You’re Swamping the Pot
What if you just water your Peace Lily every day? That should let your plant drink as much as it needs to grow, right?
Wrong. Soil that never dries out at all is even worse than soil that dries out too much. A waterlogged environment stops your Peace Lily’s roots from getting oxygen. It also lets the microbial life in the pot grow like crazy and infect your plant with root rot.
So if you notice your Peace Lily getting sluggish, pay attention to the soil. Make sure you’re waiting for the upper layer to dry out before watering again, as we advised above. If that’s taking longer than 5 days or so, the soil might be holding on to too much moisture.
Other signs of overwatering include:
- Leaves rapidly turning yellow, starting with the lower ones
- Clouds of fungus gnats
- Bad smells from the soil
- Stems turning soft at the bottom
- Brown spots on the foliage
Hesitation can kill your plant if it has root rot. When you think there’s a chance it’s infected, uproot it and snip off any roots that are slimy, squishy, gray, or black. Disinfect your trimmers before each cut. When you’re done, put your plant in a clean pot with all-new soil – something chunky and aerated is best. For more on root rot in Peace Lilies, read this.
#4: There’s Not Enough Space
While we’re on the subject of roots, let’s talk about what happens when they get pot bound. This condition is also called being root bound, and it means that your Peace Lily has outgrown its container.
It’s easy to recognize if you take the plant out of its pot. When the roots can’t spread out, they double back and wrap around each other. Badly pot bound roots will be squished together like ramen noodles, leaving hardly any room for soil. The longer roots may be circling around the rest of the bunch.
Lack of growth is one clue that your Peace Lily might be root bound. Another is a pot that won’t hold water – whatever you pour in trickles out again right away. This happens because the roots have pushed out most of the soil.
You might also see stray roots near the surface of the soil or creeping out the holes in the pot. And the leaves may start withering and turning yellow or brown at the tips (though this can also point to problems like fertilizer burn).
What should you do when your Peace Lily gets root bound? Move it into a container that’s around 2 inches bigger around than its current home. Spread out the roots with your fingers a bit to prompt them to grow out.
You can usually avoid this problem by repotting the plant into a bigger space every 2-3 years.
#5: Your Plant Needs a Balanced Diet
In theory, a plant needs only three things for photosynthesis: sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide from the air. However, there’s more to plant growth than just photosynthesis. To build working leaves, stems, and flowers, your Peace Lily needs a bunch of other ingredients.
Wild plants get these extra components from natural elements in the soil and rain. Houseplants have to get theirs from fertilizer. Have you gone more than a year or so without fertilizing your Peace Lily? If so, it may have burned through all the nutrients in its potting soil.
This could be why your Peace Lily is small. That’s especially likely if the leaves are growing in odd, stunted shapes.
Try giving your plant a half-strength dose of liquid fertilizer every month. Watch for signs that you’re overdoing it; if the leaves begin to get crumpled and brown, back off. And only fertilize when your Peace Lily is getting enough light to grow. Avoid it during the fall and winter.
If you’re fertilizing your Peace Lily regularly, you should give it a soil flush every 1-2 months. Soak the pot slowly with 4-5 times the amount of water it can hold. As the extra liquid runs through the soil and out the drainage hole, it will take any excess fertilizer with it. This lowers the chance of fertilizer burn.
Peace Lilies need lots of indirect light, water, and space to produce healthy foliage. A modest dose of fertilizer is also important. The tips above should help you make sure your plant gets the right amount of each. We hope we’ve helped you figure out why your Peace Lily is small and what you can do to get it growing again.