BLESSINGS IN BLOOM: Peace Lily
By Kerry Peetz
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me” are words from a well-liked song written by Jill Jackson-Miller and Sy Miller in 1955. That was 68 years ago, and yet the song can still bring a tear to our eye.
Christmas is a time for peace. With so much unrest around the world, and in our own homes, the word “peace” touches our lips, in prayer, more and more each day. As gardeners, in our diocese, the long days of sunshine, planting seeds and gathering our harvest don’t happen during this time of year. We have more time to reflect, plan and enjoy indoor activities. Having a peace lily plant inside can be a wonderful reminder that Christ is Peace.
Spathiphyllum is a genus of approximately 40 species of flowering plants commonly called “Peace Lily.” It is a herbaceous perennial typically grown as a houseplant. While some varieties can grow up to 6 feet tall, a more typical size is between 1-4 feet in an indoor setting. It has deep-green glossy leaves that can grow up to 6 inches in length. The flowers are cream, cream-tan, white and green. The tubular blooms are considered showy and sail-like and can grow between 4 to 12 inches in size. They are valued for their long-lasting blooms.
The Peace Lily flourishes in almost any potting mix and does best indoors in moist, but not soggy, soil. Allow the soil to dry between waterings, but don’t let the plant wilt, which causes the leaves to yellow. Use water that is at room temperature and has been allowed to sit so that the chlorine can evaporate. They grow very well in lower light situations and can tolerate shade but prefer bright filtered light. Do not place the plant in direct sun.
Fertilize these plants at one-quarter of the recommended strength. Over-fertilizing can produce burning of tips and roots. Peace lilies enjoy warm conditions between 68° and 85°F during the day, with no more than a 10-degree drop at night. The plant requires a large pot and should be kept somewhat pot-bound. Re-pot, if necessary, in February or March.
This is considered to be a low-maintenance plant. The pure white flower changes to pale green after 10 days and then remains lovely for at least another month. The plants offer other benefits; a NASA Clean Air Study found that Spathiphyllum cleans indoor air of certain environmental contaminants, including benzene and formaldehyde, making this a popular choice for houseplants and one of the top selections of air-purifying indoor plants.
On the downside, be aware that calcium oxalate crystals are present in the plant’s cells and, if consumed in high quantities, can cause toxicity in pets and children. The most common side effect is burning of the mouth, throat, and tongue.
Cold and drafty conditions, with temperatures in the 40s and 50s, will slow growth considerably. Do not place them directly in the path of heating or air conditioning vents, as this could damage the plants. Extended periods below 40°F can damage leaves, stems, and roots.
Mealybugs are probably the most common insect indoors. Because of the wide foliage, cleaning the leaves regularly with a damp cloth to remove dust will help its appearance and remove some pests which tend to gather under the bottom of the leaves.
As we celebrate this Christmas season let us pray for peace — peace for the countries in conflict and war, peace for all families inside their homes, peace for those who have no peace.
Remember these words of wisdom and grace: “Peace begins with a smile.” — Mother Teresa