Spathiphyllum is a genus of graceful, tropical flowering, evergreen plants native to tropical forest regions of the Americas and southeastern Asia. These stunning white blooms are treasured by flower lovers all around the world, and with good reason! Read on to learn how to grow and care for this gorgeous plant at home.
Growing and Caring for a Spathiphyllum
This genus contains over 40 different species, all of which grow as epithets on forest trees and shrubs in their natural jungle environment. Spathiphyllum blooms appear on tall flower stems in springtime. They’re usually white in color and perfectly formed, similar to the Arum or Calla Lily.
It was first discovered growing wild by the German plant collector Gustav Wallis in the 19th Century. He gave his name to the most popular species: the Spathipyllum wallisii, commonly referred to as the aforementioned “Peace Lily”.
A firm favourite amongst house plant enthusiasts, the Spathiphyllum genus has evolved over time to contain many newer hybrid varieties. Some of these hybrids are super-sized to give bigger and better flowers, longer leaves and a more robust, tufted form. Plant enthusiasts have turned this once epiphytic, small and simple beauty into a big hit for collectors.
As there are over 40 species within this genus, I’ve chosen a few favourites to share with you below.
A short-stemmed, tufted perennial, this produces clusters of lance-shaped, pointed, glossy dark green leaves. Each of these leaves may reach a length of 15cm, (6 inches). It’s one of the smaller specimens, with a height and spread of up to 30 cm (1 foot).
When mature, it will intermittently bear narrow, oval white spathes up to 8 cm, (3 inches) long. These spathes, (or sheathes), enclose a green and white flower inflorescence on a fleshy, tender stem. This is also known as the “Spadix”.
This is the one that’s commonly referred to as the “Peace Lilly” though not truly a lily at all. It has a height and spread similar to that above, of around 30 cm, (or 1 foot). This tufted, tropical evergreen perennial grows from a rhizomatous root system.
It forms clusters of long, lance-shaped glossy green leaves and intermittent, crowded flower spikes with a white sheath and ivory- cream spadix. The spadix matures to a light green which sits centrally, encased in an open, white, oval-shaped sheath. Perfectly beautiful flowers.
Spathiphyllum x clevelandii
A newer cultivated hybrid variety, this specimen plant grows to a decent 60 cm, (2 foot), in both height and spread. Each of the broad, lance-shaped, mid-green leaves reach a length of up to 30 cm long. You’ll be delighted to see how these arch gracefully from the plant’s main body.
Beautiful oval white spathes, (sheaths), with a central green marking appear intermittently. These enclose the fantastic and fragrant white flower spadix, each around 15 cm long.
Spathiphyllum “Mauna Loa”
This larger, more robust hybrid Spathiphyllum has the same tufted, recognised form. In contrast, it has a growing height and spread of around 45 – 60 cm, (18 – 24 inches). The long, arching, glossy, lance-shaped leaves play backdrop to the large oval white sheaths. These sheaths enclose singular, fragrant, fleshy white flower spikes. Originally named after the Hawaiian volcano, they’re sure to bring delight.
A bold and beautiful variety of this ever-popular specimen houseplant. The “Sensation” is a dramatically large hybrid, growing to a huge 1.8 m, (6 feet), tall. Its large, ribbed, glossy mid-green leaves arch dramatically on slender stems from the plant’s main body.
Impressive oval-shaped flower spathes encase the tall, erect and lightly fragrant flower spikes. In infancy, the spadix is light green in colour, but change to creamy white as the plant matures. The Spathiphyllum “Sensation” has an impressive stature with an air of understated elegance. The contrast of glossy green foliage against pure white arching flowers demands your attention.
This final favourite is a variegated evergreen species of the Spathiphyllum genus. It has a growing height of around 90 cm, (35 inches) and spread of up to 1.2 m, or 4 feet. The same slender leaf stems have a semi-erect habit, on which the variegated white-and-cream, glossy leaves show their distinctive ribbed pattern.
The flower spathes are white in infancy, growing into their variegated version in maturity. The spadix, or flower spike, also changes colour—starting out a creamy-yellow and maturing into a variegated pattern of white, yellow and green.
Planting your Spathiphyllum
Where to Plant It
This plant family is relatively easy to grow. Keep it happy in a semi-shade environment, away from any direct sunlight. In their natural habitat, they compete against many other epiphytic plant lives, and generally live in a semi-shaded, tropical forest environment.
The Spathiphyllum plant has been named as one of the “Top Ten Household Air Cleaning Plants”. In fact, it has amazing abilities to remove toxic chemicals from our household environments. Place it anywhere in your home, for cleaner, healthier air. This alone is a brilliant reason to add such a perfect plant to your collection.
It’s worth noting that all parts of the Spathiphyllum are toxic—potentially lethal—to cats, dogs, and many other pets if ingested. Therefore, it’s best to avoid growing this plant if you have pets at home.
The plant also contains calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause skin irritations, burning sensations, nausea and swallowing problems. Please remember to wear a suitable pair of gloves when handling your plants, and always wash your hands well afterwards.
All of the plants within the Spathiphyllum genus like moist, humus-rich, fertile, well-draining soil. Incorporate well-rotted leaf mould and vermiculite, (or perlite), into your soil to create a rich enough growing medium for your plants to thrive.
Alternatively, the Spathiphyllum plants have been grown hydroponically with much success over the last few years. With hydroponic growing systems now readily available at many garden stores, you too could get involved in the soil-less growing culture that’s becoming so popular.
Keep this tender perennial at a minimum temperature of 15 degrees C/59 degrees F. If you’d really like to help your plant thrive, keep it in temperatures of around 65 -70 degrees F/23 degrees C. Spathiphyllum are suitable for growing outdoors in zone 12.
Remember that your plants’ natural environment is that of tropical rainforests in the Amazon, Colombia and Venezuela. As such, provide them with a regular misting regime to ensure their required high humidity for ideal growth.
Caring for your Spathiphyllum
When to Water your plant
Water your plant around once a week when your plant is in active growth, throughout the spring and summer months. Although these plants like a moist and humid environment, they dislike actually being sat in water. Let the top layer of compost dry before re-watering.
Throughout the dormant winter months, the foliage will go brown and die off. At this time, your plant will need very little water to survive. Beware that too much water at this stage may rot the root system.
Feeding your Spathiphyllum
Feed your plant once every two to three weeks when it’s in active growth. Not only will this create healthier and stronger green growth, it’ll also encourage more prolific flowering. Use a diluted, balanced plant food made especially for house plants.
Spathiphyllum flowering will begin in springtime, and these flowers will last several weeks. If your plant is really happy and settled in its position, it will often flower again later in autumn.
Remove any dead, dying or diseased leaves from your plant as required. Keep your plants clean and remove fallen leaves to avoid disease, pests, and infections. In the wintertime, remove the dead leaves with snips and keep the pot clear from any debris.
Propagate from your plant by division during the warmer months.
Pests and Diseases
Common Pest Problems
This genus is relatively immune to many pests. That said, they are known to get spider mites, mealy bugs, and aphids on occasion.
Prevention is always a great cure. Wipe the plant’s leaves regularly to remove any dust and grime, and use this time to inspect the entire plant for possible pests.
Should you spot an infestation, spray your plant with a diluted insecticide soap, such as SB spray. Do this quite regularly over the next couple of weeks and you’ll see the infestation subside.
Common Disease Problems
The most common problems are caused by too much direct sunlight, or too much water.
Should the leaves on your plant become yellow, the site has too much light. Just move it into a shadier spot and it should recover.
If the leaves become brown or streaky, your plant has been damaged by too much direct sunlight, which has caused scorching.
Leaf wilt is a surefire way to tell that it needs a drink. Fear not: it’ll perk up again when it has rehydrated.
Best Companion Plants for your Spathiphyllum
Many plants which have the same light tolerance and native growing conditions are perfect companion plants for your super Spathiphyllum.
The Monstera delicosa, the Ficus elastica, the Boston Fern, and Aspidistra are all perfect choices, since they require similar growing conditions, water and nutrients. When mixed together, these plants create a diverse forest of foliage—my personal favourites!