Browning Tips

February 25, 2010 2 Comments

No, I don’t mean tips on browning your plants.   Or that roast for dinner.

I got an email from Karen saying that her variegated leaf peace lily has leaves that are getting brown at the tips.  She wants to know if she is giving too much water, too little water or what. 

There could be several things that create brown tips in a peace lily.  Hard water, letting the soil get too dry, keeping the soil too moist, not enough light and/or too much fertilizer.  If it turns out to be your water, use filtered, distilled or rain water.  Wait until the leaves just begin to wilt, or just a bit before that to water.  Give it lots of light, but make it indirect for the best results.  If you fertilize, make sure it is at half strength and give it only when the plant is vigorously growing.  Do that every 2 to 3 weeks from Spring to Fall and once a month during winter.  They like to be somewhat rootbound, so don’t repot the plant unless it is very rootbound. A large potwith too much room will increase the risk of root rot, which could also cause browning leaf tips.


Peace lilies are one of the easiest houseplants to grow indoors, but it can still have some problems, including the aforementioned tip browning.  They are a native to Central and South America.  The Peace Lily’s botanical name is Spathyphyllum, where the Greek work “spathi” (meaning sword) refers to the shape of the leaves.  Although, I have seen some that don’t have the straight and narrow leaves. 

A lot of people grow it for its foliage, but the flowers are beautiful, too.  The large white “petal” is actually just a bract that encloses the true flower.  This bract is the hood, or backdrop for the column of tiny, close-set flowers.

There are hundreds of varieties on the market with variations on the foliage… dark green, glossy, long and narrow, long and wide, and variegated.  It can be one to two feet to three feet or taller.  Boy, the cats would love that!  Of course, they are the reason we don’t have too many house plants.  Too much of a buffet for them.

The peace lily prefers moderate light levels but will tolerate low light, too.  This makes it a good choice for offices and hospitals.

It is also pretty forgiving when dealing with watering needs.  It typically does well with once-a-week watering, especially during the winter months.  If it droops between waterings, give it a thorough watering and should perk up quickly.  However, this may indicate that you may have to water more often due to the size of the plant, the type of soil mix in the pot and the amount of light it is receiving.  While in bloom, water it more frequently, but don’t over water or leave it in standing water. 


Peace lilies can survive a long time (barring any hungry cats) and may not always re-bloom.  Sometimes the plant variety is to blame if it was developed for its form and foliage.  It could be inadequate light levels, or too much sunlight.  Even though they tolerate low light levels, they bloom best with at least moderately bright conditions and too much sun may cause sunburn.  it may also be the wrong temperature.  Peace lilies typically bloom the best if they are at cool temperatures (from 60 to 65 degrees) for a few months and then warm up to 70 to 75 degrees.  As opposed to humans, who, mainly, do best at 70… at least Iowans in the middle of winter think, anyway!


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  1. Jaz Brittain says:

    I read your entries often, and have learned a lot from them. Who knew you would turn into such an amazing gardener! Keep it up.

  2. Eileen Loan says:

    Jaz, You know how much I loved helping weed at home! (okay, not really) Although, the boom box I got one year certainly helped. I could listen to whatever I wanted as loud as I wanted! Now it is relaxing and (usually) rewarding!

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