Watering is one of the most basic tasks when caring for a Peace Lily. It’s also one of the most critical things to get right. But how thirsty are Peace Lilies? Do you need to water them every day, or only when they start looking droopy? We’ll give you a detailed look at how much moisture these elegant plants need.
Peace Lilies are thirsty plants that don’t like their roots to dry out completely. But they’ll also suffer if their soil stays wet and sludgy for days at a time. The best approach is to wait until the top inch of soil feels dry, then water thoroughly. Test every few days to see if it’s time to hydrate.
Using high-quality soil will go a long way toward protecting your plant from the dangers of overwatering. However, even the perfect potting mix is no substitute for paying close attention to the conditions in the pot. For a more in-depth description of a Peace Lily’s watering needs, just keep reading. By the end of this article, you’ll understand exactly how to hydrate your plant.
Are Peace Lilies Thirsty?
You may be aware that the Spathiphyllum, or Peace Lily, hails from the rainforests of South America. If so, you might guess that these plants are gluttons for water and need constant hydration to survive.
That’s only half-true. Yes, your Peace Lily prefers to have some water available to its roots at all times. On the other hand, it’s easy to overdo it and water too often. These plants thrive when their soil stays about as damp as a wrung-out washcloth.
When conditions are too dry, a Peace Lily wilts, and its leaves begin to curl and turn crispy. But when the soil is too wet, the roots can’t breathe. Yes, plant roots need oxygen as well as water! They can’t get it if all the tiny crevices that normally hold air are filled with liquid.
On top of that, soaking wet soil gives a major boost to the wrong kinds of fungi and bacteria. Microbes that are normally present in very small numbers can grow out of control if the potting mix remains wet long enough. Then they can move into your Peace Lily’s root system, causing root rot. Unless you catch it fast enough, this infection can destroy a once-healthy plant.
How Often Should You Water a Peace Lily?
So you want to keep the soil wet – but not too wet. How do you strike that balance? Should you water your Peace Lily every day? Every week? Every 2 weeks?
Trick question! There’s no set watering schedule that will keep your plant healthy. Too many variables can affect how the pot dries out, such as:
- The temperature
- The amount of daylight
- How large your plant is
- How tight the roots are in its pot
- The humidity in the air
- The mineral concentration of the soil
Those are only a few of the many factors involved. It’s a waste of time to try to predict how often you’ll need to water your Peace Lily. Instead, you should pay attention to the condition of the soil.
Every 2 or 3 days, poke your finger about 1 inch deep into the potting mix. If it feels dry, water your plant. If it still seems moist, wait another 2 days and try again. The upper parts of the soil shed moisture faster. The roots should still be pleasantly damp when the top is dry.
If the “finger test” isn’t scientific enough for you, use a soil moisture meter instead. This nifty device can poke down to the roots to give you a dampness reading. When the dial is at the low end of the “moist” part of the scale, give your Peace Lily a drink.
Despite what some online guides advise, don’t wait until your Peace Lily starts drooping to water it. Sure, this way you’ll be less likely to cause root rot. The tradeoff is that you’re damaging your plant every time you let it get thirsty enough to wilt. The repeated stress is bad for your Peace Lily’s long-term health.
Though it’s hard to predict your plant’s day-to-day water needs, you can expect them to change based on the seasons. Peace Lilies are thirstier in the spring and summer, since temperatures are high and they’re busy growing new foliage. In the fall and winter, their metabolism slows to a crawl. At the same time, the cooler temperatures reduce the rate at which water evaporates from the pot.
This means that you don’t need to check your Peace Lily’s soil as often during the colder parts of the year. It’s fine to test every 5 or 6 days. (Of course, that’s assuming you’re not using heaters, humidifiers, and grow lamps to give your plant a year-round summer!)
How Much Water to Give Your Peace Lily and What Kind is Best
Some people like to give their houseplants delicate little sips of water, we do not recommend this for your Peace Lily. When the soil is dry enough to water, give it a good soak. You should see a stream of water running out of the pot’s drainage hole when you’re done.
Remember that if your plant sits on a drip tray, you should come back an hour or so after watering to empty it. You don’t want the bottom of the pot sitting in water for too long. It could start breeding the microbes that cause root rot.
Don’t give your Spathiphyllum tap water if you can help it. It’s often full of mineral salts like fluoride and calcium that can pile up in the soil. In high concentrations, they may keep the roots from working right. You’re better off using filtered water.
Rainwater is even better, as long as you don’t live in a place with a ton of air pollution. Raindrops hold traces of some of the nutrients that plants need to thrive. You can slightly reduce your Peace Lily’s fertilizer needs by watering it from the rain bucket.
Note that you can offset some of the harmful effects of tap water by giving your Peace Lily an extra-long soak every couple of months. This is called a “soil flush”. Water the plant slowly but steadily, letting the excess liquid flow through and out the bottom. Use 4-5 times the total volume of your Peace Lily’s pot. This should wash out most of the water-soluble minerals.
By the way, disregard all those fad articles about watering houseplants with ice cubes. Peace Lilies come from the tropics. They’re not going to thank you for introducing them to near-freezing temperatures. Room-temperature water is always the best choice.
Should You Water a Peace Lily From the Bottom?
Many houseplant lovers swear by the “bottom watering” method. This involves putting the pot in a tray of water and letting the moisture soak into the soil from the bottom up.
This helps ensure the mix gets evenly soaked. It also reduces the odds of the soil compacting into a tight mass as water runs down from top to bottom. So in theory, bottom watering can help your Peace Lily’s potting mix stay aerated.
However, the kind of high-drainage mix that Peace Lilies prefer won’t wick up as much water as a standard potting soil. And that type of soil also has less risk of compaction. (We have more info on soil for Peace Lilies a little further down.)
Bottom watering also doesn’t flush out salts the way standard watering does. And it’s a more high-maintenance approach. You have to wait for the soil to soak up the water, then come back and remove the tray. If you leave the pot in standing water for too long, your plant could get root rot.
We only recommend bottom watering if you have your Peace Lily in a dense, low-drainage soil. Even then, you’re probably better off repotting it in a looser mix as soon as you can.
Is Your Peace Lily Thirsty?
Are you worried you’ve gone too long without watering your Peace Lily? Or that you’re letting it get too dry between watering sessions? Here are some signs that show up when Peace Lilies get too thirsty:
- Crusty soil. If you’ve read this far, it should be no surprise that the first thing to check is the soil. If the potting mix is still damp, the other symptoms below could come from other causes besides dehydration. But if the soil is turning into a crusty puck and shrinking in from the walls of the pot, your Peace Lily definitely needs water.
- Slow or nonexistent growth. A healthy Spathiphllyum should grow at least a few inches and a few new leaves between spring and fall. If yours is at a standstill, you may not be watering it enough. Other possible causes include lack of sunlight and fertilizer.
- Sagging stems. Peace Lilies usually aren’t shy about letting you know that they’re feeling parched. The stems and leaves will droop down, making the plant look mopey and sad. Watch out for other issues like excess heat and sunlight.
- Leaf tips curling up. While the leaves are slumping down, their tips may curl back and up. This is a tactic for lowering the amount of surface area so that less water vapor escapes.
- Yellowing or browning leaves. When Peace Lilies are thirsty for too long, their leaves begin to die little by little. They change color to yellow or brown and turn brittle. This most often starts at the tips and edges and works its way inward.
Fixing an underwatered Peace Lily is as simple as giving it a drink. This won’t revive dead leaves, but it will make a droopy plant perk up and start growing again. Try checking the soil more frequently to avoid this issue in the future.
Signs Your Peace Lily is OVERwatered
There’s one very important thing you need to understand about Peace Lily care. Almost all of the symptoms of underwatering can also arise from overwatering.
Suffocating and rotting roots can’t pull enough water from the soil to keep the rest of the plant happy. An overwatered Peace Lily may appear to be dying from thirst (just in case you needed more proof that Mother Nature has a sense of irony).
Other potential signs of overwatering include:
- Soil staying soggy for days. This is essentially the definition of overwatering. If the potting mix is still damp to the touch more than 4 days after you water, it’s a problem.
- Rapid yellowing. Leaves that quickly turn limp and yellow often point to overwatering. The usual pattern is for the yellowing to start with the lowest leaves and spread upward.
- Nasty smells. Foul odors coming from the soil often let you know that fungus is spreading beneath.
- Soft, mushy stems. This is a bad sign. It usually means that the rot has moved up from the roots and is attacking the upper parts of your Peace Lily.
- Fungus gnat infestation. Fungus gnats are tiny bugs that look a lot like fruit flies. They thrive in damp soil, so if they’re buzzing around your Peace Lily, it’s probably because the pot is too wet.
What to Do About an Overwatered Peace Lily
Check for root rot anytime you realize that you’ve let your Peace Lily sit too long in squishy soil. If it’s infected, the odds of saving it drop with every day that goes by.
Grip your plant by the stems and tilt the pot to one side. Give the container a few firm taps on the bottom if you need to loosen it up. Now rinse the soil away from the roots and examine them.
Assume that a root is infected if it shows any of the following symptoms:
- Gray, black, or dark brown color
- Slimy texture
- Squishy feeling under your fingers
- Sour, musty, swampy, or rotten-egg smell
You have to remove any root that seems even slightly sketchy. Otherwise, the rot can keep spreading. Disinfect your pruners by wiping the blades down with 10% bleach or ordinary rubbing alcohol (and keep doing this between snips).
Once all the rotting roots are gone, replant your Peace Lily. Use all-new potting soil. If you’re going to reuse the same pot, wash it with soap and water and then wipe the inside down with disinfectant.
For a more fine-grained look at rescuing your Peace Lily from root rot, click here.
Soil Quality and Overwatering
Despite the name, overwatering isn’t always the result of a gardener watering too much. It can also happen because the soil holds onto the water too tightly. Dense potting mixes with lots of small-particle ingredients tend to trap and hold moisture deeper down. This can lead to root rot even if your watering habits are mostly good.
Garden soil is too spongy for an aroid like a Peace Lily. So are most store-bought potting soils. You should look for something with lots of chunky components like bark and perlite. This mix is a good example.
You can also blend your own growing medium. Here’s one recipe we like for aroids:
Combine these ingredients and mix them up well. It’s often a good idea to sift or rinse the perlite through a screen first. This helps to get rid of the dust, which isn’t as good for drainage as the bigger chunks.
Do Peace Lilies Need Humidity?
We’ve talked a lot about how much moisture a Spathiphyllum needs in the soil. What about the air? Can your Peace Lily tolerate low humidity?
Dry air is unlikely to kill a Peace Lily. But it may cause the tips and edges of the leaves to get brown and crispy. Your plant will also tend to grow bigger and faster in humid conditions. Try to keep the ambient humidity above 50% near your Peace Lily. If you can beat 60%, your plant will be overjoyed.
What can you do if the humidity is too low?
One option is to move your Peace Lily to a more humid area. Kitchens and bathrooms tend to have moister air than the rest of the house. You’ll have to make sure that the lighting and temperature are also suitable, though.
Placing your Spathiphyllum next to lots of other tropical plants is also helpful. The vapor they exhale makes the air more humid around them. Just don’t put them so close together that their leaves are overlapping. A bit of air circulation is good for your plants.
You could also make a pebble tray. Place a layer of smooth rocks or marbles inside a low-sided dish. Then add some water, making sure that it doesn’t reach the top of the rocks. Set your Peace Lily’s pot on the rocks. They’ll keep it above the liquid so that it doesn’t get root rot. Meanwhile, the water will make the air a bit more damp as it evaporates.
Those tricks will raise the humidity around your Peace Lily a little bit. If you need stronger measures, there’s no substitute for a humidifier. We recommend this model, but this one is almost as good and a lot more affordable.
Note that misting your plant won’t do much if it’s hurting due to dry air. Misting may help discourage pests like spider mites, but any effect on humidity only lasts for a couple of minutes. Test it yourself with a hygrometer if you don’t believe us!
You can save your Spathiphyllum from a lot of problems by giving it the right amount of water – no more and no less. Now that you know how to hit that target, you’re well on your way to being an expert Peace Lily parent. When you quench your plant’s thirst the right way, it will stay healthy and beautiful for years to come.