Your usual goal for your Peace Lily is to grow it as big and full as possible. But is there ever a time when you’re better off cutting it back? This post will explain everything you need to know about when to prune your Peace Lily and why it’s a good idea. We’ll also give you some pointers on how to do the job in a way that helps your plant grow back strong.
Peace Lilies don’t need regular trimming, but removing spent blossoms and leaves improves your plant’s health. When a bloom starts to wither, remove the entire stalk below it. Do the same for leaves that are yellow or brown from age or damage. Make your cuts at a 45-degree angle close to the soil.
Along with the health benefits, you may want to prune your Peace Lily for aesthetic reasons, or because it’s getting too big for the space where you’re keeping it. Trimming away a plant’s debris can also be a pleasant exercise that offers an opportunity to check for pests, damage, or disease. Let’s take a closer look at the gentle art of Peace Lily pruning.
Why You Should Prune a Peace Lily
If you’re used to taking care of flowering shrubs and trees, you might wonder whether your Peace Lily also needs an annual trim. The answer is no – Spathiphyllum plants can grow and bloom just fine without any regular pruning.
However, that doesn’t mean that there’s never a reason to break out the shears. Your Peace Lily can benefit from some strategic cuts even if they’re not strictly necessary. Here are a few reasons you might want to snip back a Peace Lily:
- To Encourage Growth. As your plant produces new leaves and stems, the older ones will eventually shrivel up and die. While they’re waiting to drop off, the plant will continue to spend some of its energy maintaining them. If you take the leaves off once they start to wither, your Peace Lily can put its resources into producing new growth instead. You’ll get a fuller, more vigorous plant this way.
- To Promote Flowering. Just as removing old stems prompts your Peace Lily to make new ones, getting rid of old blossoms can nudge it into flowering again. This isn’t a foolproof method, but in general, you’ll get more blooms if you’re proactive about taking off the spent ones.
- To Cut Down on Clutter. If you don’t remove older leaves, sooner or later they’ll fall into the pot and start to decay. Too much rotting organic matter in the soil can attract fungus gnats. They aren’t usually harmful to your Peace Lily, but they’re definitely annoying and unsightly.
- To Keep it in Check. Not everyone wants a giant, sprawling houseplant. Sometimes you’d rather limit your Peace Lily to a tidy tabletop size. Pruning the stems – and sometimes the roots – can help with that.
- To Make it Look Pretty. Your plants are part of your decor, so it just makes sense to keep them as attractive as possible. Yellowing leaves, crumpled flowers, and out-of-place stems probably don’t fit with your vision for your Peace Lily. Don’t hesitate to get rid of them.
Will Your Peace Lily Grow Back If You Cut It?
When you’re planning your pruning, it’s helpful to understand how your Peace Lily grows. The stems on a Spathiphyllum aren’t like the twigs and branches on a tree. They’re more like the dainty stalks that connect a leaf to the branch it sprouts from.
The “stem” of a Peace Lily is underground. These plants grow from thick, tuber-like root structures called rhizomes. This allows them to spread out below the earth, letting a single plant extend over a wide area and pop up shoots in different places. It’s a strategy that helps with both survival and reproduction, giving a Peace Lily a chance to thrive in one spot even if it dies in another.
Every leaf and flower a Peace Lily produces emerges on a separate stem that links back to the rhizome. Those stalks won’t grow back when you trim them. Instead, new leaves will work their way up from the soil.
On the other hand, even if you accidentally go way overboard with your clippers, your plant can grow back from nothing but the roots and rhizomes. As long as the underground portion of the plant survives, and the growing conditions are good, your Peace Lily should survive the loss of any amount of foliage. Just don’t expect it to bounce back too quickly – these are slow-growing plants.
When to Prune a Peace Lily
Peace Lilies are tropical flowers that don’t have a true winter dormancy cycle the way plants from northern climates do. Though their growth tends to slow down or halt when the days get short, the leaves don’t die back. That means there’s no special time of year when it’s best to prune them. You can trim a Peace Lily whenever the need arises.
If you’re taking off old flowers, cut them as soon as the blooms begin to wrinkle and sag. The “petal” of a Peace Lily (technically a special type of leaf called a spathe) will go from white to green as it starts to shrivel; this color change is a sign that it’s past its prime. We recommend taking the flower off at that point before it turns an ugly brown.
As for the leaves, you can trim them off as soon as they start fading to yellow. If your Peace Lily develops brown leaf tips, you can also take those off, but be aware that this can be a sign of problems with the roots. They might be overcrowded, over-fertilized, or getting too much or too little water.
How to Prune a Peace Lily
You don’t need a huge amount of gear to prune your Peace Lily. The most important thing is a good set of bypass pruners or trimming scissors. Get some disinfectant, too. Snipping your plant can expose it to bacteria, so it’s important to clean off your blades with a 10% dilution of bleach or some rubbing alcohol.
You might also want some decent garden gloves. The sap of Spathiphyllum plants contains sharp, microscopic crystals of calcium oxalate that may irritate sensitive skin.
Whether you’re cutting a leaf or a flower, it’s best to clip as close to the soil as you can get. The stem won’t grow anything new if you leave it in place, and the more you remove, the more energy you’re freeing up for your Peace Lily.
Snip through the stalk at about a 45-degree angle. This helps to keep droplets of water from pooling on the cut end, which might enable a fungal infection. Swab your blades with your disinfectant again before making the next cut. Keep going until you’ve removed whatever needs to go.
Remember to discard the stems you cut. If you leave them in the pot, you’re increasing the odds that fungus gnats will move in.
If your goal is to thin out your Peace Lily, start with the outermost leaves, which should also be the oldest ones. These plants produce new growth from the center unless they’re shooting out a new rhizome away from the main plant.
Avoid removing more than ⅓ of your Peace Lily’s leaves in one go. You may not be able to avoid this if you’re cleaning up after extensive damage from sunburn or pests, but it will be a major setback that will seriously stress your plant. If you’re just trying to downsize, do it in stages, with a few months’ rest in between. Don’t hack off a huge chunk of foliage all at once.
Can You Propagate a Peace Lily from a Cutting?
Some plants can reproduce from a snipped-off portion of their stalks, making every pruning an opportunity for new specimens. Unfortunately, Peace Lilies can’t pull this off.
Since a Spathiphyllum produces rhizomes instead of aboveground stems, all of its growth nodes are tucked away inside its root system. The stems and leaves don’t contain any of the cells that can grow into new roots or foliage. You can only reproduce a Peace Lily by pollinating it or splitting apart its root mass.
Can You Trim Peace Lily Roots?
Pruning can help keep a Peace Lily from getting too big, but remember that it’s growing under the soil as well as above. If you keep cutting back the foliage while leaving the plant in the same pot, its root system will outgrow the space. This can lead to health problems as the tangled roots block their neighbors from absorbing enough water and nutrients.
An occasional root trimming will let you avoid potting up your Peace Lily, while also slowing down the expansion of the foliage.
The best time for this kind of surgery is in the early spring. Your plant will be kicking off its growth for the upcoming season, which will help it recover from the stress. It’s a good idea to do this whenever you would normally repot the plant – roughly every 2-3 years for most Peace Lilies.
How to Root Prune a Peace Lily
You’ll need a disinfectant, just like when you’re trimming your Peace Lily’s foliage. You’ll want a serrated knife as your cutting tool, though some pruning scissors for cleanup may also come in handy. Once again, it’s a good idea to wear gloves.
Hold your plant by the base and tilt it out of the pot. You can tap the bottom of the container or squeeze the sides (if it’s made of plastic) to loosen it up.
Once you get your plant out of the soil, you can start slicing through the roots. Use your knife to saw off roughly the bottom ¼ of the root mass. This part always feels a little wrong, but trust us – your Peace Lily can lose up to ⅓ of its roots without serious harm. Once you take off the bottom, you can prune back any long roots trailing from the sides.
Now use your fingers to gently loosen and spread the remaining roots. Add some fresh, slightly moist potting mix to the container and replant your Peace Lily. For the next few weeks, keep it out of direct sunlight and try to make sure it’s getting a good amount of humidity. This will help your plant heal up from the operation.
Pruning your Peace Lily is a simple task that can go a long way toward improving the plant’s vitality. By clearing away the dead weight, you’ll encourage new growth to burst forth. Give it a try – we think you’ll be happy with how your Peace Lily looks once it’s freshly cleaned and trimmed.