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Peace lily needs rescued!

Gardening Reference » Gardening in 2005
by PMW on March 14, 2005 05:35 AM
I have a peace lily from my friend's mother's funeral from 08.2004. The leaves all have brown, dry edges. I water it once a week and have never let it get so dry that it has drooped even. We have a soft water treatment system and I use that on all of my house plants. Recently read in the Forum to let water sit out for 24 hrs - even though this is for chlorine problems I've done this for 4 weeks now. I have also always used Miracle Grow once every-other month. I can't let this plant die on every other peace lily. What can I do?? It was originally in an 8" florist's pot and I immediatly tranferred it to a large 14" ceramic pot. There is no drain tray - just a solid pot. It gets no direct sunlight and I've kept it in the same spot since day one. HELP ME! Peace lillies have always been my favorite but I have killed them all before. How soon can I get this plant recovered to its original dark green & blooming state? Thanks!!!
by Cricket on March 14, 2005 06:29 AM
My guess is that you might be overwatering your peace lily. I usually let mine dry out just a little, watering just as the leaves begin to look a bit droopy but before they wilt. You could be over fertilizing as well. Sometimes too much care is as detrimental to plants as neglect.

Peace lilies like to be somewhat rootbound to bloom. If you transferred it from a 8" to a 14" pot less than a year ago, I suspect it will be awhile before it blooms. Meanwhile, remove any dead leaves and trim brown tips.

Good luck in reviving this special plant - my condolences for your loss.
Peace Lily
by sachis2112 on March 14, 2005 08:48 PM
I'm sorry to hear about your loss.

I have seen many different kinds of peace lilies. I have one now that is a patented variety and needs watering (1/3 cup) twice a week or it plays a very dramatic droop game with me. It also seemed to like it when I gave it a bit of standing water for 3 days once.

But many don't do well with that much water. And some seem to live fine in water w/diluted fertilizer, although I'm sure they're not "at home" like this. You just have to learn your peace lily's desires.

Please check for root rot as well. If there's not root rot, there is hope. Also remember that many plants go dormant during the winter. Most dormant plants require much less water during this period. If it started looking sad around December, this may be the key.

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by PMW on March 15, 2005 01:47 AM
Thanks so much for helping out. I will check for root rot, try watering & fertilizing in much smaller quantities, trim brown tips and keep my fingers crossed. At least there's hope. Again, thank you!
by Will Creed on March 15, 2005 05:02 AM
Problem #1 - Softened water has a very high salt content that is bad for plants, especially peace lilies. Use filtered, distilled or rainwater instead. (Letting the water stand overnight will dissipate chlorine only, but that is not the problem anyway.)

Problem #2 - The pot is way too big. Assuming it really needed to be repotted, it should have been moved up one size to a 10" pot. All that extra soil in the pot will lead to root rot.

Problem #3 - Never use a pot that has no drainage holes in the bottom. Otherewise excess water and gases build up in the bottom of the pot and damage the roots.

To remedy these problems, remove it from its pot and remove all of the soil that you added around the original rootball. Put it back into the 8 inch pot with drainage holes and flush filtered, distilled or rainwater through the soil to wash out the water softener salts.
by PMW on March 15, 2005 02:17 PM
#1: My water softener is potassium-based rather than salt - does that make a difference?
#2: I had repotted only because I love the pot it's now in. I will just have to find a new plant for it - one that is already in a large pot so that it's not going to get root rot.
#3: If a pot has no drain holes, can small gravel be placed at the bottom in an appropriate layer to allow for drainage or will this still cause problems?

You mentioned to flushing the dirt - is it still necessary or should I just get new soil?
by Amy R. on March 15, 2005 07:13 PM
I had repotted only because I love the pot it's now in.
Hi PMW, I am a total sucker for lovely pots as well, and one trick that I learned, from the fabulous Will Creed actually, is that you can simply place the ugly grow pot inside the pretty pot. No muss, no fuss!
Also, I do have a few plants that are in drainless containers, although I must say that I live in constant fear of root rot. I cover the bottom with pebbles for drainage, followed with a layer of charcoal to absorb some of the fumes caused by decay in moist conditions. I water only when absolutely necessary. Once again, this is the perfect scenario for simply placing the grow pot in the sealed pot. Once it's time to water, you just pull it out and Voila! Hope this helps.
Please let Will know if this is unclear or if you have any additional questions.
[Big Grin] [Big Grin] [Big Grin] Sorry Will, I couldn't help myself!
by sachis2112 on March 16, 2005 12:57 AM
OK... Getting new soil doesn't seem to be necessary. Flushing should suffice.

There's been a million discussions on the pebbles in the bottom thing. In fact, it might have actually been Will who set me straight last year.

I've been told this actually causes more problems rather than fixing. More on that in a second. If the pot doesn't have holes, you don't necessarily need a different plant. Pot up what you've got in a smaller pot... something called a "grower's pot". It's the cheap plastic ones your plants normally come in from the nursery. Then just plop this into your pretty pot. You can cover the rim of your grower's pot with a little bit of sphagnum moss to make it a bit pretty. But I never do that myself.

OK. So "drainage" can actually cause more trouble... Here's how it was explained to me. Water has what's called "surface tension". It's why you can fill a tablespoon to more-than-full, sort of rounded. Surface tension actually works with "coheasion" (sp?). Coheasion causes the pebbles to actually act like a wick, bringing water to the surface. Water clings to the surfaces of the stones and is slowly pulled up through them. You can experiement yourself. Fill a bowl w/pebbles and pour it about 1/2 full w/water. Set a paper towel on top and see if it gets wet. Can you imagine what would happen if you put only 1" or so of stones in and then 1" or even 3/4" of water got poured in? You have no real way of figuring out how much water will end up at the bottom. Better safe than root rot.

* * * *
by PMW on March 16, 2005 01:18 AM
HOLY MOLY I am learning soooo much. I actually went and purchased today on my way home from work: grower's pots (6" & 8" just in case the root ball is smaller due to some deaths of some prominent stems), new potting soil (why flush when I can just start fresh with the right nutrients) and a SMALLER version of my favorite pot so that the grower's pot won't get dwarfed. I also bought a tube that you put down into the soil so that you water the bottom rather than the top. I am fully prepared (I think). Thanks to EVERYONE for helping. Now, on to research about lawns...yikes!

by sachis2112 on March 16, 2005 02:10 AM
Woah, woah, woah!!! Slow down, skippy! [Big Grin] [Big Grin]

OK. I would do as Will says, remove the soil you added. What I meant is not to remove it from the original root ball because the plant is already ailing and might not take it very well. The root ball shouldn't have changed in size on you since you probably don't have root rot.

* * * *
by Will Creed on March 16, 2005 04:35 AM
Now I am thoroughly embarrassed. Amy keeps calling me names (Can a god also be an atheist?) and now I have to find a new tag line.

But Sachi is the real genius here! Did you read that explanation of pot and soil dynamics? That was teriffic.

All I can add to this erudite discussion is that potassium salts are toxic to plants.

Will, The Embarrassed
by Amy R. on March 16, 2005 05:07 AM
Sachi IS a genius, and I will never again look at a tablespoon of water in the same light.
PMW, I have heard that bottom watering can also lead to root rot, as the roots never have a chance to properly dry out. Unfortunately, you cannot quote me on that, as I spend the most of my time name-calling and not researching. Perhaps one of the gods or savants can back me up on this.
Mr. Embarrassed, unfortunately I cannot comment because you are being punished.
by PMW on March 16, 2005 05:25 AM
All of you are 'gods/goddesses' as of right now! My most humble apologies for causing undue distress, Will. I have been checking site after site for peace lily help and then to find this small forum with more knowledgeable individuals than the fancy-schmancy sites who claim All-Knowing status has been a real treat. In fact I've already spread the word to my friends.

You all have been great and very, very helpful. I'm not a gardener. I'm lucky to keep my pothos' and crotons alive. This is my 5th peace lily and because it holds a higher rank I'm trying harder this time.

Amazingly, I did understand everything. Water... well, if I'd thought about it I would have remembered that info from Chemistry (duh me). Watering will probably be my downfall at this point. Top, bottom, dry, moist, one cup, ten cups...she'll be repotted soon (yikes) so that will be the test. [Wink]
by sachis2112 on March 16, 2005 06:50 AM
Bottom watering causes root rot when you let the plant sit in water too long. For example, if you have a sealed, glazed pot and a grower's pot inside it, pour in a bunch of water, most flows out and you have 3" of water and ignore it for 2 hours or more... Blahddy, blah...

Fair warning that the remainder of this particular post has nothing to do with peace lilies or any other plant for that matter. [Frown]

Will, I think you actually CAN be a god if you're athiest. We're athiests in this house and I bought DFiance a coffee cup that says "God's busy. May I help you?" so I have a god-like substitute living with me.

Thanks for the compliments on the whole surface tension thing... [Embarrassed] [Embarrassed] I actually had (and still have I hope) a very inquisitive mind as a child. Here's a fun thing to do with your kids to teach them about this...

First, show them how a drop of water placed on the counter doesn't just slide right off but rather sits there. Then fill small a bowl with water. I think a cereal bowl is too big. Maybe something that's no more than 4 or 5" across. Take a sewing needle (has to be a needle, not a pin) and roll it between your hands. Be careful! Get plenty of your skin oil on it. Then drop it on the water gently. It should float. Once everyone is done being amazed by the floating needle, put a drop of dishsoap in the water. The needle should drop to the bottom immediately.

Soaps and detergents break surface tension. They actually make us so slippery that the dirt rolls right off. Have you ever noticed that softened water sort of feels slimier whereas hard water (like Reno, NV) feels kinda squeaky against your skin? Firefighters use softeners to help water penetrate things like fabric, carpets, drywall, etc. It keeps water from becoming beads or puddles on top of a rug and taking minutes to soak in. [teacher]

OK... Done now.... sorry. I just had to play show-off for a minute.

* * * *
by Unknown on March 16, 2005 09:27 PM
The sphagnum moss that was suggested isn't a bad idea. If you keep it moist, it will add a little humidity for plants that prefer it.

I've read that lining the bottom of a pot with pebbles or crock or something else is also bad because it will take a while for the roots to get past all of that. You won't know as easily if the plant needs repotting because you won't be able to see the roots coming out of the bottom for quite a while.
by sachis2112 on March 17, 2005 04:17 AM
[Embarrassed] [Embarrassed]

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by eh307wi on March 17, 2005 06:41 AM
I have a once lovely peace lily that is not faring well. I've read all of the previous advice and have one question...what is root rot? And, how can I tell if my plant has it? Also, how do you warm a plant? Wierd, I know, but I live in a very cold climate and the heating only does so much. (I just wish spring would come already.) My lily was suffering from overwatering. I let it dry out, but now it is still limp and dull with some dark brown edges on the leaves. It has been in this state for about 2 months.

Is it helpless?
by sachis2112 on March 17, 2005 07:12 AM
Gently pull the peace lily out of it's pot. The roots should be white. If they're black and mushy or even smell bad, you'll have to do some surgery.

* * * *
by eh307wi on March 18, 2005 04:45 AM
They are not white or mushy, but definately black. They look dead in fact, except right up near the base of the plant.
by Cricket on March 18, 2005 06:31 AM
You don't have much to lose by cutting off all the dead (black) roots. If there enough white ones, maybe the plant will come back but sounds like it's in bad shape.
by sachis2112 on March 19, 2005 12:38 AM
After you cut off all the black roots and repot, you might try soaking the whole pot in water for 30 minutes... not much longer. Pull it out and let it drain. Then let it be for a least a week before you touch it. You might also trim off a few leaves to help it compensate for all the root loss.

* * * *
by Jiffymouse on March 19, 2005 02:50 AM
if your peace lily has more than one "plant" to it, after you trim off the black/dead parts, put one of the sections in a vase that you can keep a close eye on. put it so the roots that are left are under water and the rest of the plant is supported on top. change the water frequently (every couple of days or so) and when you have several lengths of 1-2 inch roots, you can repot the lily. this is a drastic way to save it, but it can work, and will give you a visible way to monitor the root situation.
by Will Creed on March 19, 2005 04:37 AM
Peace lilies rarely recover from root rot. You can try these heroic efforts, but don't get your hopes up. I would toss it and move on to another plant. Sorry.
by sachis2112 on March 20, 2005 09:12 PM
Peace lilies rarely recover from root rot.
I guess I always assume people have serious emotional attachments to each and every plant like I do. [Big Grin] [Big Grin] But of course your right... if it only cost me a couple bucks, why not go for a new plant.

* * * *
by Jiffymouse on March 24, 2005 09:49 PM
Originally posted by sachis2112:
I guess I always assume people have serious emotional attachments to each and every plant like I do. [Big Grin] [Big Grin] ...
oh, but sachis, i usually have one of those attachments... you know... this one is from momma's funeral, this one is a clipping from gramma, etc...
by eh307wi on March 25, 2005 08:21 PM
Well, yes I am attached to the plant. Not only because of the event I received it for, but because I sat with it on my lap for two days as we drove from Texas to Wisconsin when we moved two months ago. BUT, I have good news. I did try the vase thing. I removed all of the dead roots, which just left the base bulbs of the plant and only two visible 1/2 inch roots. Five days later I have a noticbly perkier plant. Some of the leaves are even standing up on their own! THey haven't done that for over a month. So, I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best. Thanks for all of the advise.
by Jiffymouse on March 26, 2005 03:42 PM
thanks for the update... glad we could all help!
by blooms4fr on April 01, 2005 04:41 PM
I am reading and learning from these posts. Maybe someday I will again attempt another Peace Lily and not sentence it to'certain death'. Never had any luck with this plant, but sure do love them.

I have a suggestion for those that use the pots with no drainage holes in them, why not just drill some? If you are not as drill-skilled as I, then maybe another in the household or a friend is. I am praciticing on other non attatched pots first.

* * * *
"dreams & wishes are the start of fantastic ideas, follow them through"
by Jiffymouse on April 02, 2005 03:53 PM
the biggest problem with drilling holes is the need for a masonry bit, and the possiblity of cracking the pot.
by tkhooper on April 02, 2005 04:10 PM
masionary bit in good condition. A friend of mine is a carpenter and keeps his bits long after they should be gotten rid of which causes a lot of cracking he also has a bad habit of muscling the drill which also causes cracking. And a lot of frowns from me, but on the up side I've become pretty good with a drill.

* * * *
by Smh023 on April 06, 2005 06:01 PM
Well Iím no plant expert by any means. But I have two peace lilies and my small one here
was given to me by my mom a few years ago and I moved it to a bigger pot with no drainage holes or gravel in the bottom and it grew and grew. I water it about once a week and let it get sun about every other day.
I just recently found out this was a big peace lily (which I didnít know)
and I never repotted this plant. I rescued it from my work and I give it lots of water and it gets plenty of sun and it does great.

So I have never had the problems you have stated? Not sure why but maybe you are doing too much to them?
by Jiffymouse on April 07, 2005 04:37 AM
smh, i think you are doing well with not over watering. the drainage holes make that easier.
by Smh023 on April 07, 2005 08:28 PM
I water them once a week at the most.
by PMW on April 08, 2005 04:42 PM
I do just those same things. Once per week water and I don't get any direct sunlight in my house but it sits in the brightest room away from the door/windows. I've repotted into a smaller pot with drainage holes but it's only been a few weeks so I'm waiting. As it gets warmer I've thought to put it outside for a few hours to get the direct sunlight but that's yet to be determined. I'm jealous of the 1st picture.. :-)
by Jiffymouse on April 10, 2005 12:40 AM
pmw, check the center of your lillies to see if they have a "new" leaf rolled up and starting to emerge. if they do, no matter how droopy the rest of the leaves are, if the other leaves are still green, you are still in good shape (this is a new "trick" i learned this month!) mine at the office are so funny....
by Cricket on April 11, 2005 08:54 AM
Careful placing your peace lily outdoors. Peace lilies live on the jungle floor, sheltered from the sun's burning rays by the tree canopy. Direct sunlight burns their leaves quickly, the damage sometimes not visible for several hours. A sheltered porch is a better idea if you want the plant outside. Good luck!

by Jiffymouse on April 15, 2005 02:07 AM
cricket, you are so right about them peace lilies getting sunburnt. i have killed a couple that way in years past.

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