‘Best’ method to prune your peace lily – ‘nudges it to flower again’

Peace Lily: The best ways to keep you plants looking good

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Peace lilies are known for their big white bracts, the part we think of as a flower that is actually a modified white leaf surrounding a cluster of tiny flowers on a stalk. After this “flower” has bloomed for a while, it will naturally start to turn green and droop. This is normal, and it just means the flower is spent. You can clean up the appearance of the houseplant by deadheading and pruning. 

Indoor plant specialists at The Healthy Houseplant explained why peace lilies need pruning. They said: “Peace Lilies don’t need regular trimming, but removing spent blossoms and leaves improves your plant’s health.

“Along with the health benefits, you may want to prune your peace lily for aesthetic reasons, or because it’s getting too big for the space where you’re keeping it.” Trimming away a plant’s debris can also be a pleasant exercise that offers an opportunity to check for pests, damage, or disease.

While these houseplants don’t need regular trimming, that doesn’t mean that there’s never a reason to. A peace lily can benefit from some strategic cuts even if they’re not strictly necessary.

Four reasons to prune a peace lily

1. To encourage growth 

As your plant produces new leaves and stems, the older ones will eventually shrivel up and die. While they’re waiting to drop off, the plant will continue to spend some of its energy maintaining them. 

The experts said: “If you take the leaves off once they start to wither, your peace lily can put its resources into producing new growth instead. You’ll get a fuller, more vigorous plant this way.”

2. To promote flowering

Just as removing old stems prompts a peace lily to make new ones, getting rid of old blossoms can “nudge it into flowering again”. 

The pros cautioned: “This isn’t a foolproof method, but in general, you’ll get more blooms if you’re proactive about taking off the spent ones.”

3. To keep it in check

Not everyone wants a giant, sprawling houseplant. Many households would rather limit their peace lily to a tidy tabletop size. Pruning the stems – and sometimes the roots – can help with that.

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4. To make them look pretty

As well as purifying the air, peace lilies are part of your decor, so it just makes sense to keep them as attractive as possible. 

Yellowing leaves, crumpled flowers, and out-of-place stems probably don’t fit with the vision for a peace lily, so don’t hesitate to get rid of them.

When to prune a peace lily 

Peace lilies are tropical flowers that don’t have a true winter dormancy cycle the way plants from northern climates do. The experts noted: “Though their growth tends to slow down or halt when the days get short, the leaves don’t die back. That means there’s no special time of year when it’s best to prune them. You can trim a peace lily whenever the need arises.”

For those taking off old flowers, owners should cut them as soon as the blooms begin to wrinkle and sag. The “petal” of a peace lily will go from white to green as it starts to shrivel. The experts said: “This colour change is a sign that it’s past its prime. We recommend taking the flower off at that point before it turns an ugly brown.”

In terms of the leaves, gardeners can trim them off as soon as they start fading to yellow. If a peace lily develops brown leaf tips, owners can also take those off, but the plant pros urged gardeners to be aware that this can be “a sign of problems” with the roots. They might be overcrowded, overfertilised, or getting too much or too little water. 

How to prune a peace lily

Gardners don’t need a lot of tools to prune a peace lily, but the “most important thing” is a good set of bypass pruners or trimming scissors, according to the plant gurus. Make sure to have some disinfectant, too. Snipping the plant can expose it to bacteria, so it’s important to clean off the blades with a 10 percent dilution of bleach or some rubbing alcohol. 

Gardeners may also want some decent garden gloves as the sap of Spathiphyllum plants contains sharp, microscopic crystals of calcium oxalate that may irritate sensitive skin.

Whether you’re cutting a leaf or a flower, it’s “best to clip as close to the soil as you can get” urged the pros. They warned: “The stem won’t grow anything new if you leave it in place, and the more you remove, the more energy you’re freeing up for your peace lily.”

Snip through the stalk at about a 45 degree angle. This helps to keep droplets of water from pooling on the cut end, which might enable a fungal infection.  Swab the blades with  disinfectant again before making the next cut. Keep going until whatever needs to go has been removed.

Remember to discard the stems that have been cut. If they are left in the pot, it increases the odds that fungus gnats will move in. 

If the goal is to thin out a peace lily, start with the outermost leaves, which should also be the oldest ones. These plants produce new growth from the centre unless they’re shooting out a new rhizome away from the main plant. 

The experts added: “Avoid removing more than one third of a peace lily’s leaves in one go. You may not be able to avoid this if you’re cleaning up after extensive damage from sunburn or pests, but it will be a major setback that will seriously stress your plant. If you’re just trying to downsize, do it in stages, with a few months’ rest in between. Don’t hack off a huge chunk of foliage all at once.”

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