The main living areas of our home have mostly north-facing windows, which means that most of the plants in these areas have to be content with low light levels.
Finding a variety of plants that will thrive in such an environment is somewhat challenging — most flowering plants require much more light than is available and even many of the common foliage plants gradually flag after being in such a low-light location.
I have experimented over the years with several plants and one that will tolerate the low-light levels that are present in our living/dining areas is the spathiphyllum. Most people will more readily recognize the plant by its common name, the peace lily — a bit of a misnomer, as it is not a member of the lily family.
The peace lily has attractive elongated, tapered leaves that are pointed at the end. They are usually veined but entirely green so the veining is subtle.
There are several varieties of peace lily; some are much smaller than others, and there are a couple of quite large cultivars.
The leaves on the more common varieties most often seen in garden centres and public buildings — this is a popular plant for interior landscapes in office buildings and public indoor spaces — are about 35 centimetres long and 10 cm wide at their widest point.
The leaves are produced on sturdy stems, and while the leaves are not held totally upright, they weep only slightly. The plants grow anywhere from 35 to 85 cm in height.
Peace lilies are not actually flowering plants but they do produce insignificant flowers on an upright spadix, which is surrounded, or rather cupped, by a 10 cm white spathe. These white spathes are in fact the "flowers’ that are appreciated for their display, instead of the actual flowers themselves.
A large pot of spathiphyllum with several white spathes is quite beautiful and can serve as a specimen plant in the interior landscape or as part of a larger grouping of plants. You will often see peace lilies used in long planers in shopping malls and similar indoor spaces. Peace lilies are large enough to be used as a floor plant.
The spathes are quite long lived. They will remain white for several weeks and then gradually begin to turn ivory colour, which is not unattractive. Finally, a number of weeks they turn green and should be snipped off the plant.
Peace lilies flower off and on all year; they will take a little hiatus from blooming for a month or so before more flower spikes are produced. If your spathiphyllum does not bloom, it may need more light.
Although classified as a low-light plant, this plant does need some light. Keep it out of direct sunlight or the leaves will burn and the leaf edges will turn brown.
A spathiphyllum likes to be watered thoroughly — ensure that excess water is allowed to drain away from the pot — but it also likes the soil to dry out before being watered again. You will be able to tell if your plant needs water as the leaves will become limp and begin to droop.
The drooping will not harm the plant as long as it is given water soon; allowing it to go without water for a day or two in this condition will lead to some leaves yellowing and dying. Yellow leaves can also be a sign that light levels are too intense.
The leaves of peace lilies seem to collect dust more rapidly than many other houseplants so it is a good idea to clean them regularly to keep the plants looking their best. One method is to put the pot into the shower and use a hand held shower to spray the foliage.
During this process, an aluminum foil tent will aid in keeping excess water out of the soil. Another cleaning method is simply to gently wipe each leaf with a damp cloth, being sure to support the leaf by holding one hand under the leaf while it is being wiped.
During active growth periods, a spathiphyllum will appreciate a bit of fertilizer but dilute it as these plants are sensitive to high doses of fertilizer and the leaves may brown as a result of too heavy feeding.
The plants are generally pest free and rated as "easy care" by plant professionals — a couple of good reasons to include a peace lily in your indoor landscape.
Albert Parsons is a consultant for garden design and landscaping who lives in Minnedosa.