Peace Lilies are such excellent houseplants that you may soon decide one isn’t enough. Luckily, it’s not hard to propagate a mature Peace Lily and turn one plant into two or more. We’ll take you through the process step by step. Along the way, we’ll also explain what common techniques don’t work on Spathiphyllum plants.
The simplest and most effective way to propagate a Peace Lily is by dividing it at the roots. Find a spot between two clusters of foliage and cut or gently tug the roots apart. You can’t grow a Peace Lily from leaf or stem cuttings the way you can with some other houseplants.
Spathiphyllum plants can reproduce from seeds, though it’s hard to predict what the result will look like. Many common varieties are hybrids whose offspring may look nothing like the parent plant. We’ll cover this technique too, in case you want to experiment. However, root division is your most reliable option for propagating a Peace Lily.
Why Peace Lilies Won’t Grow From Cuttings
It’s easy to see why so many indoor gardeners like to propagate their houseplants from cuttings. Snipping off a chunk of leaf or stem and sticking it in a new pot is quick and easy. It causes minimal disruption to the mother plant. And a big enough plant can yield dozens of cuttings, making this an efficient way to produce lots of new clones for sale.
This approach only works for certain plants, though. The ability to grow from leaf cuttings is mostly limited to succulents and cacti. It’s only possible if the cells in the leaves are adaptable enough to pop out new roots and leaves.
Growing from stem cuttings is more common; lots of shrubs, herbs, flowers, and vines can do it. To take a stem cutting, you have to include one or two nodes. These are the small bumps along the trunk where new leaves (and sometimes aerial roots) emerge. The versatile cells in a node can also produce roots when you bury them. That’s why a whole new plant can spring up from a small piece of stem.
If you try to do this with a Peace Lily, you’ll quickly see the problem: it doesn’t have a stem! Or, more accurately, the stem is underground, in the form of a specialized root structure called a rhizome. The rhizome grows from side to side instead of up and down, pushing out new clusters of leaves and roots at various points along its length.
All of a Spathiphyllum’s nodes are in the rhizome. The leaves and flowers that poke up above ground are all on separate stalks called petioles. To find a piece that you can split off and grow, you need to look below the surface.
Technically, you could say that taking a piece of the rhizome is a kind of stem cutting. But in practice, it means tearing the plant apart at the roots.
Why Divide Your Peace Lily?
We realize “tearing it apart at the roots” sounds like a very un-peaceful thing to do to your Peace Lily. Don’t worry, though – it might stress your plant a little, but it shouldn’t cause long-term harm. And there are several good reasons you might want to do it.
First of all, you might want more Peace Lilies. Spathiphyllum plants in the wild use rhizomes as a way to multiply without waiting around to be pollinated. You can employ the same strategy to grow your own green clone army.
You see, propagating by division isn’t just easier and faster than growing a Peace Lily from seed. It’s also more dependable. Your new offshoots are, genetically identical to the mother plant, i.e. clones. They should have roughly the same appearance, growth rate, and mature size. That’s a lot harder to guarantee when you’re pollinating a Peace Lily and collecting seeds.
Another reason to divide a Peace Lily is that it’s getting too big for the space where you’re keeping it. Pruning your Peace Lily is one way to keep its size in check. But a plant with a large root system will quickly grow back any foliage you remove.
It’s more effective to limit your plant’s size by splitting a bit off every once in a while. Depending on your preference, you can then sell the offshoot, give it away, or set it up in a spot that could use some extra greenery.
This also helps you avoid letting your plant get root bound. If the root mass is way too large for the pot, the roots can choke each other off. This keeps your Peace Lily from getting enough water and minerals to stay healthy.
The Right Time to Propagate a Peace Lily
How can you tell if your Peace Lily is ready for propagation? If you’re aiming to pollinate your plant so it can form seeds, the answer is easy. You can start the process whenever your Spathiphyllum is flowering. (To skip ahead to our instructions on starting Peace Lilies from seed, click here.)
To propagate by division, you’ll need a Peace Lily that has at least two crowns. Those are the tight clusters of stalks pushing up from the soil right next to each other. Some form ordinary leaves, others produce flowers, but all of them emerge from the same spot on the rhizome.
It should be pretty easy to see where one crown ends and another begins. Follow the stems back to the soil, and you’ll see that they sprout in tight bouquets instead of popping out at random.
The more mature your Peace Lily is, the larger and more numerous those crowns will be. If some of them are still small, you may want to keep them together. There’s no rule that says you have to split off every single cluster from its neighbors. And a bigger, more robust clump of stems has better odds of thriving after division.
You can propagate a Spathiphyllum any time of year, but division tends to be most successful in springtime. At that point, the plant is shifting into expansion mode. It will grow out and anchor its root system more quickly than it would in the dead of winter.
How to Propagate a Peace Lily by Division: X Simple Steps
Now it’s time to talk technique. Here’s our foolproof guide to splitting and multiplying your Peace Lily.
Step 1: Make a Supply Run
Before you get started, you should know roughly how many times you’re going to divide your Peace Lily. Identify the crowns as we described above, and figure out which ones you want to break off. That will tell you how many pots you’ll need.
Choose containers big enough to hold a baby Peace Lily with an inch or two of soil around it on each side. A 4” diameter pot is a good size for a typical Spathiphyllum crown. Always choose one with holes in the bottom. Root rot from poor drainage is one of the biggest threats to a newly divided Peace Lily.
For the same reason, you should use a loose potting mix. Try combining (by volume): 40% orchid bark chunks, 30% coarse-grain perlite, 20% coconut coir, and 10% worm castings.
Other helpful supplies include:
- Gloves. The sap from a distressed Peace Lily can sometimes cause a bit of a rash. For that matter, make sure not to get any in your eyes or mouth.
- Shears. These aren’t always necessary; you can often pull Peace Lily roots apart by hand. But it never hurts to be able to cut through a particularly gnarly rhizome.
- Disinfectant. If you do use blades, you should wipe them down with a sanitizing solution first. Good options include hydrogen peroxide, isopropyl alcohol, or bleach diluted to 10% strength.
- A mat or towel. You’ll typically spill a fair amount of soil as you split your Peace Lily’s roots. It’s a good idea to have something to catch the mess. Old newspaper works great too.
Step 2: Get Your Plant and Pots Ready
Have you watered your Peace Lily in the past day or two? If not, give it a big drink the day before its operation. You want to hydrate it before you mess with its roots. They won’t be operating at 100% strength for at least a few days afterward.
When you’re ready to divide your Peace Lily, fill the bottom ⅓ of your new pots with potting mix. Moisten it just a bit first. It should feel about as wet as a wrung-out sponge. Don’t pack it tight, but shake the pots to get it to settle.
Step 3: Clean Up the Roots
Hold your plant in place with one hand at the level of the crowns. Then use your other hand to tip the pot over. This is safer than yanking your Peace Lily straight up. You can give the pot a few sharp taps to jostle the roots loose.
Brush the soil off the roots, using your fingers to break up any big clods. Rinse the root mass if you need to. You want to take this chance to look over the roots for signs of poor health. When they’re in good shape, Peace Lily roots are a pale off-white color. At least some of them should be pretty thick, about as big around as a chopstick.
If they’re shriveled and crispy, the roots may have gotten fertilizer burn from a buildup of minerals in the soil. If they’re gray, black, squishy, or slippery, they’ve got root rot. Clip off any unhealthy roots, disinfecting your shears before and after each cut.
Step 4: Divide Your Peace Lily
Find a gap between two crowns and take a firm grip on the stalks on either side. Now start peeling and tugging them apart.
The roots should start to separate as you pull. If they’re badly tangled, you might need to dig your fingers in and untwist the roots. Or you could slice through the more stubborn ones with your shears (disinfect them first). In general, though, all you need to do is pull.
Whenever possible, make sure that each piece you pry off includes a chunk of the thick, tuber-like rhizome. The more of the “stem” you include, the more nodes your plants will have. That means more places to send out roots and leaves.
Keep going until you’ve split your Peace Lily into your chosen number of clones.
Step 5: Transplant Your Peace Lilies
Pop your smaller Peace Lily plants into the pots you’ve prepared. Crumble soil over the roots until they’re buried again. Shake the containers to help the potting mix trickle down, but don’t try to compact it.
For the next few weeks, don’t let your clones get any direct sunlight. Keep them somewhere bright without letting the sun’s rays fall smack-dab onto the leaves. Maintain a steady temperature, and keep the humidity high – above 60% if you can manage it.
A humidifier is a great tool for this purpose. You could also place a glass container, clear plastic bag, or another transparent barrier over your babies. This will let the light in but keep moisture from getting out. Just make sure it isn’t touching any of the foliage.
Water only when the top 1-2 inches of soil are dry to the touch. Overwatering is particularly easy at this stage and can cause root rot.
After around a month, your Peace Lilies should begin extending new leaves. That’s how you’ll know they’re over the worst of their transplant shock and you can relax your precautions.
Can You Propagate Peace Lilies From Seed?
Splitting up the roots isn’t the only way to reproduce your Peace Lily. You can also make like the birds and the bees and pollinate it.
This isn’t as quick or as easy as dividing a Peace Lily – so why do it? One reason might be that you simply find it interesting. Curiosity and a spirit of exploration are great qualities in a gardener! Trying new things is a great way to go from an okay plant parent to an expert.
You might also be interested in combining different Peace Lily varieties to make a novel hybrid. It can be fun to try growing something new and see what you get.
Of course, many of the Spathiphyllum varieties on the market are already hybrids. These don’t always grow true from seed. Even fertilizing a plant with its own pollen is no guarantee you’ll produce the same kind of Peace Lily.
How to Pollinate a Peace Lily and Germinate the Seeds
Step 1: Gather Pollen
A Peace Lily bloom starts to generate pollen 4-5 days after it unfurls. The flowers grow along the spadix, the knobbly spike at the center of the blossom. The pollen looks like tiny clumps of pale dust in between the bumps.
Collect it by tapping the spadix while holding a folded piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper underneath. You may want to help shake it loose by running a soft paintbrush over it.
Your next move will depend on whether there are any receptive flowers on your Peace Lily. Like many plants, the Spathiphyllum has a defense against self-pollination. After all, the evolutionary advantage of sexual reproduction comes from doing it with someone else!
Peace Lilies avoid pollinating themselves through timing. The female parts of the flowers are only viable for the first few days after the blossom opens. By the time the pollen shows up, the flower can no longer receive it.
If you have some blooms on your plant that haven’t shifted to the pollen phase yet, you can skip to Step 3. Otherwise, continue to Step 2.
Step 2: Storage
You need to stash your pollen until your Peace Lily produces a receptive flower. Any cool, dark, dry place should keep it viable for a couple of weeks. Fold the pollen up in your foil or wax paper and leave it in a safe spot.
If you want to extend the lifespan of the pollen even more, you can refrigerate it. Place your folded packet inside a screw-top jar along with some silica gel beads. These will soak up moisture and keep it from spoiling your pollen. You might want to place a few layers of cotton pads between the beads and the pollen.
Your Peace Lily’s pollen should be able to last at least a few months in the fridge this way. If you have to wait longer than a year or so, we wouldn’t count on it remaining viable.
Step 3: Transfer the Pollen
How can you tell when a Peace Lily bloom is in the female stage and ready for pollination? The first clue is that it’s just opened up. The receptive stage happens at the beginning of the flower’s life cycle.
If you want to be sure, look at the little bumps on the spadix. These are the individual flowers. When one of them is ready to receive pollen, it unfurls a tiny bit at the tip. It will look like there’s a little dot of whitish lint sitting on the very end.
The female phase lasts a few days at most. You should act quickly once the spathe – the white, hood-shaped “petal” behind the spadix – unfurls. In fact, it may help to peel it open gently with your fingers just before it unfolds on its own. The flowers inside should already be receptive.
Dip the tip of a paintbrush into the pollen you’ve gathered. Then brush it lightly over as many of the flowers as you can. You may want to make a couple of passes over it unless you don’t have enough pollen to spare.
Step 4: Observe
After you’ve pollinated your Peace Lily, wait for a couple of weeks. One of two things will happen.
The spathe and spadix might dry out, shrivel up, and turn brown. This means that the pollen didn’t manage to fertilize any of the flowers.
If you were successful in fertilizing the plant, the spadix will swell up and get darker. The bulges around the flowers will get much bigger. Often the spathe will turn light green for a while instead of quickly fading to brown. That’s not a foolproof indicator, though. The changes in the spadix are more definitive.
Over the next few weeks, the spadix morphs into a brownish seed pod covered with small, fat fruits.
Step 5: Collect Your Peace Lily’s Seeds
Once the spadix turns dark brown and starts drooping under the weight of the seeds, it’s time to harvest. Pluck the seed pod off and place it over a jar or a piece of paper. Crush the brittle pod with your fingers or cut it open with a small knife, releasing the seeds within.
Peace Lily seeds are only about as big as a Tic-Tac. They’re brown, oval, and have a slightly wrinkly-looking surface.
Step 6: Germinating Peace Lily Seeds
To get your Peace Lily seeds to sprout, place them in a moist, soil-free growing medium. Sphagnum moss is a good option, as is just about any peat-heavy seed starting mix. You can also try the old houseplant owner’s standby: a damp paper towel in a resealable plastic bag. Whatever medium you use, you should only place a very thin covering over the seeds.
The sooner you do this after harvesting, the more likely the seeds will be to survive and grow.
Try to keep the growing medium slightly damp and the humidity high. Off-the-shelf seed starting kits can help with this by giving you a lid to clamp down over the seeds. You can also create a similar effect with a plastic bag or some clear Tupperware.
Warmth is good too. Try to maintain a temperature above 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Once again, there are products to make this easier – heating mats you can slip under a tray of seedlings.
Your Peace Lily seeds should show signs of life within about 10 days. If not, it probably means you’re not keeping them warm enough, which slows them down.
Once the seeds crack open and start poking out green stuff, transfer them to larger pots. Use the same kind of potting mix we described in the section on propagating Peace Lilies by division.
You can’t grow a Peace Lily from a cutting, but you can easily propagate it by splitting up the roots. Now that you know the theory, the only thing left to do is practice! We hope this article is your first step toward becoming a master of Peace Lily propagation.