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Wild Willy

"peace lily" and ignorant city boy

Gardening Reference » Gardening in 2005
by holidayelsie on November 08, 2005 04:21 PM
i apologize for the lengthy description about to follow, but i find it necessary because, while i only began keeping simple/easy houseplants two years ago, the story of this peace lily now has complications surpassing the success of my (now 17) other plants.

-this was the second plant i ever had, and i got it two years ago.
-i quickly learned that it would do well in a dark spot and that i could water it when it wilted to keep it happiest. it thrived in a dark, dark kitchen that received, yes, southern sun, but only for a brief time each day.
-when we moved this summer, a neighbor kept it for one month on her north-facing (but semi-roofed) balcony, which entailed a huge change to much more sun, wind, etc.
-the neighbor attempted to impress me by heavily, heavily watering this plant when i visited two or three times.
-by the time i finally could retrieve it, this peace lily had clearly been through "shock". however, it seemed to have begun some adaptation and was doing ok all things considered.
-when i got it to the new home (beginning of october, but we have had a strangely temperate and even summer-like fall here), my initial thought was to return it to a similar dark space such as it had last year. the closest lighting at the time (and now) actually has a north-facing lighting that is of similar weakness to our old kitchen's south lighting.
-the lily was sopping wet (and at this time i bought my first moisture gauge.) it looked like it was almost dying, but i cut the dead leaves and waited for a few weeks.
-the plant then looked near-dead (after 2-3 weeks), and although the bottom 4 inches of the soil (10 inch pot) were still registering as "wet" on the guage, i cut it back drastically and watered it...thinking "well, i havent watered this thing in weeks. after all its a lily. maybe the soil has been wet, but..."
-OOOPs! i forgot to mention that i had just repotted it 1 1/2 months before abandoning it with my neighbor! it did well after (for that month and a half) but...
-anyway, the last drastic cutting and watering served it well! the remaining stems/leaves perked-up and we got one serious new growth.
-then, a week later, it started to look like the pictures i include here. i have moved it to a sunnier west window (in hopes that it will dry out some as its pot is plastic) if only because its location assures that i will pay more attention to it.
-the dirt on top of the soil in the pictures is just a dusting of new potting soil from a different plant recently planted from cuttings that suffered a fall from a higher shelf this last week, and so please dont judge too much from soil-heighth, etc. i didnt clean the spilled soil out of this lily's pot because i am on the verge of digging it out to look for rot.  -



thanks for reading! sorry so lengthy! what do you think?
by Cricket on November 08, 2005 06:21 PM
Hi Elsie,

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it doesn't look very good. Repotting your peace lily was a mistake, as was the excessive watering received in the care of your neighbor. Soil in too large pots take longer to dry out, leading to root rot which you already suspect. Your best bet at this point is to take the plant out of its pot, inspect the roots and remove any any soft, mushy, yellow, brown or black roots. If there are any remaining firm, white roots, repot in the smallest pot in which the rootball will fit. BTW, Pot-bound peace lilies are more likely to produce flowers.

Though they will survive in low light, peace lilies thrive best in bright indirect light such as directly in front of a north window in temperatures above 55F. Water thoroughly until a little water leaks through the drain holes just before the foliage begins to wilt (careful observation will soon help you determine when that is). Once wilted, the leaves will perk up but repeated wilting stresses the plant over time.

Peace lilies are not plants I recommend summering outdoors. If you provide them bright indirect indoor light there is no need to place them outdoors, where peace lilies quickly sunburn after only brief exposure to hot sun and wind easily shreds their thin leaves.

Moisture meters are notoriously inaccurate. They measure electrical conductivity in the soil, not actual moisture. Because water is an an excellent conductor, it follows that when the meter reads "wet" there is lots of water in the soil, and that would be true if it weren't for other variables. Salts and certain other minerals found in soils and fertilizers are also excellent conductors, as is highly compacted soil. Any of these can give a false "wet" reading on the meter. Conversely, meters can also inaccurately show a "dry" reading for a loose, porous soil with few mineral salts, that still has moisture. The best way to determine soil moisture is the old-fashioned, no tech method: stick you finger in it!

Best of luck with trying to save your peace lily. You must have been terribly disappointed at how much it deteriorated over the summer. I hope you are able to save it.

by holidayelsie on November 09, 2005 03:02 AM
thanks for the good info.

sounds as i expected (so now i dont feel too dumb)
by holidayelsie on November 09, 2005 02:22 PM
i thought about this again, and am first going to try some hydrogen peroxide before yanking it out of its pot (it looks, though almost innoticeably, not worse today.)

i was recommended to use 1/4 teaspoon hydrogen peroxide per gallon to help with root rot. of course, this makes otherwise no sense, as this plant doesnt need any water at all! but i am going to try it, and...

after rereading (your very helpful response, thanks!) ...the repotting actually went ok. the plant did well afterward for the month and a half (it had really overtaken its former pot.)

but i never wanted it outside as you said ...just had to happen ...and so it is clear that just after recovering from that drastic change it was then drowned and moved inside...

what do you think of the hydrogen peroxide experiment for one week before i see if any roots can be recovered (or see if the peroxide works on the rot in the soil)?

this is a great site. im off to look around...
by Jiffymouse on November 10, 2005 05:59 AM
well, i'd just pluck it out of the soil it is in, remove any mushy roots, put it in good, new, dry soil, and water it in well, making sure it drains, the let it dry to a "normal" level of about an inch before watering again. i don't know about the peroxide thing, never tried it.

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