Most plant care tips aim to increase growth, but what if your Peace Lily is getting too big? Spathiphyllum plants grow slowly but steadily. Over time, they may sprawl too much for the space available. This article will explain how you can keep a Peace Lily small enough to suit your home.
To keep a Peace Lily on the small side, you can cut back the outer leaves once or twice a year. An annual root pruning works even better, limiting how much your plant can expand during the growing season. You could also divide your Peace Lily into smaller plants to raise, sell, or give away as gifts.
Don’t neglect your Peace Lily in an effort to stunt its growth. Yes, starving it of water or crucial nutrients might keep it from getting big. But the plant will also be sickly, unattractive, and vulnerable to parasites. Instead, use these 5 tips to manage your Spathiphyllum’s natural growth and keep it compact.
#1: Pick a Smaller Variety
How big does a Peace Lily get, anyway? The answer can vary a surprising amount. Peace Lilies aren’t a single species – the name refers to the entire Spathiphyllum genus. Different varieties have noticeably different potentials for growth.
If you’d like to keep your Peace Lily small, pick a compact variety bred for shelves and tabletops. We can recommend a few good options:
- Spathiphyllum Petite. The aptly named “Petite” Peace Lily is the smallest widely available cultivar. It won’t get larger than 8-10 inches tall, making it a perfect pick for small niches.
- Little Angel. This Peace Lily isn’t just known for its small size. It’s also a prolific bloomer, putting out lots of gorgeous white flower bracts.
- Piccolino. Its name means “little one” in Italian, and true to its word, it stays below 2 feet tall. The leaves of the Piccolino are a deep, shiny green.
- White Stripe. The White Stripe is easy to spot, because the midrib of the plant features a slender band of creamy coloration. This is another dwarf cultivar that should remain nice and compact.
Avoid variants like the Mauna Loa Supreme or the enormous Sensation Peace Lily. The Supreme can easily hit 4 feet in height, while the Sensation is known to reach up to 6 feet.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find a specific cultivar. Online retailers and big box garden stores often don’t stock the more interesting varieties, with the occasional exception of the Spathiphyllum Petite.
These sellers also typically don’t bother to label the cultivars they do have. They’ll sell whatever they’ve got under the generic label of “Peace Lily”. Or they’ll call them all “Spathiphyllum Wallisii” – a wide-ranging species that includes all the varieties we’ve listed above.
So if you want a small Peace Lily, we recommend searching for plant nurseries in your area. Talk to the grower about what you’re looking for. They should be able to recommend something that will be a good fit for your space.
#2: Trim Back the Foliage
What if you didn’t know you could get a dwarf plant, and now you’re stuck with one that wants to sprawl? There are still a few ways to keep it in check. We’ll start with the simplest: pruning.
You can expect your plant to gain anywhere from 2-5 inches of height per year. It will also produce a few new leaves in the process. Cutting back a few of the oldest ones will help your Peace Lily remain at a steady size. As a bonus, it will help make the plant stay more vigorous and healthy overall.
We recommend starting with the outermost leaves. These tend to be the oldest, since a Spathiphyllum sends up new growth from the center of its rosettes. And trimming in from the edges will keep your Peace Lily from getting too wide.
Begin by removing any leaves that are aging out. Look for foliage that’s drooping, shriveling, and fading to yellow. Wipe down your pruning shears with some rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Then snip off the entire leaf and petiole, cutting at a 45-degree angle. Get as close as you can to the spot where the stalk meets the rest of the plant.
To maintain your Peace Lily at its current size, take off about as many leaves as you expect it to produce this year. For most plants, a single springtime trim will be enough. As the growing season continues, you can remove any dying leaves or flowers as they crop up.
Never remove more than ⅓ of a Spathiphyllum’s leaves at once. If you want to drastically reduce your Peace Lily’s size, do it in a couple of sessions. Leave 2-3 months in between to let the plant recover.
#3: Prune the Roots
Cutting back the roots is an even more effective way to keep a Peace Lily small. The size of the root system places a hard limit on how much foliage the plant can produce.
One root pruning per year should be plenty. Time it for the beginning of the growing season in the early spring. You’ll need a garden knife for the large cuts, and some shears to clean up any straggling roots.
Tip your Peace Lily carefully out of its pot, holding the stems near the soil level. Disinfect your knife as we recommended in Tip #2. Then saw through the root mass about ¼ of the way up from the bottom. Use your sanitized clippers to prune back any long roots that are still dangling from the sides.
We know – this goes against every instinct you have as a plant parent. But as long as you don’t remove more than ⅓ of the root ball, you won’t cause lasting damage.
If the remaining roots are packed tight, pinch and knead them gently with your fingers to spread them out. Then replant your Peace Lily in a well-draining potting mix. Treat it gently for the next few weeks, shielding it from direct sunlight and keeping it humid.
#4: Divide Your Peace Lily
There’s another trick for keeping a Peace Lily small that combines the benefits of foliage trimming and root pruning. You can propagate it, splitting parts of the root system into separate plants. This is less wasteful than pruning it back. You’re not discarding the growth you’ve helped your Peace Lily produce – you’re just moving it somewhere else.
Once again, we’d recommend doing this in the early spring. Unless your Peace Lily is going all Little Shop of Horrors on you, you can probably afford to wait until the timing is right.
Divide your Peace Lily at the gaps between the clusters of foliage emerging from the soil. When you uproot the plant, you’ll see that these clumps join the root mass at different spots. Grasp one foliage crown in each hand and tug them gently apart. You can usually do this by hand, but use disinfected clippers on the bigger roots if they’re stuck.
Repeat as many times as necessary. It all depends on how small you want your plant(s) to be at the end of the process. Try to make sure each one gets a good-sized chunk of the rhizome (the tuber-like structure that a Spathiphyllum has in place of an above-ground stem).
Plant your divided Peace Lilies in loose, chunky soil. Avoid using over-large pots. Give your new clones the same kind of care as you would after a root pruning. Once they start sending out new leaves, you’ll know they’re well-established in their new pots.
Want to read more about propagating Peace Lilies? Read our in depth article on the subject: How to Propagate a Peace Lily: Can You Grow a New Plant from Cuttings?
#5: Keep Your Peace Lily Somewhere Shady
This might sound like the simplest tip on the list, but it’s actually the trickiest to get right. That’s why we’ve saved it for last. Any plant’s growth is limited by the amount of sunlight it gets. You can keep a Peace Lily small by placing it in a somewhat dim location.
Be careful, though. If its environment is too dark, your plant will get leggy, stretching out in search of the sun. The stems will be thin and sparse. The leaves will get floppy and pale instead of their usual shiny forest green appearance. And if it’s truly starved for light, your Spathiphyllum will refuse to bloom.
So start with small adjustments to your Peace Lily’s light levels. If it’s in an east-facing window, move it to a north-facing one. If it’s 5 feet away from a bright southern exposure, move it back another 3 or 4 feet. Always make sure that your Peace Lily still gets a few hours of bright indirect sunlight per day.
Pay close attention to your watering habits after you reduce your Peace Lily’s light exposure. The soil will dry out more slowly when it gets less sun, increasing the risk of root rot. You may need to water a bit less often to keep your Peace Lily healthy.
It’s not hard to keep a Peace Lily small, thanks to its shade tolerance and modest natural growth rate. Don’t throw every trick on this list at your plant all at once. You’ll probably find that a yearly trim of the roots or a slightly dimmer location will do the trick.
If not, go ahead and divide your Peace Lily! You should have no problem finding an indoor gardener eager to adopt a new Spathiphyllum clone.