Why Do Peace Lilies Get Brown Leaves and Tips

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Question: I have brown tips on my peace lily (Spathiphyllum). In fact many of my plants seem to have or get brown tips. Can you tell me why? Sandra

Answer: Sandra, your question or condition is not an unusual one. It is one question we get many times. There are many reasons why tips turn brown on peace lily and many house plants in general.

  • Fertilizer – more correctly – over fertilizing causing salts to burn.
  • Over-watered or under-watering
  • Pests – (I prefer natural pesticides for control)

or a combination of these factors and others. Throw into the mix the different varieties and its gets very confusing on why plants get brown tips.

Did you know the Peace Lily or Spathiphyllum is a great plant for a healthier home and cleaning indoor air?

Peace Lily Varieties Grown for Flowers

Today, many varieties of spathiphyllum are grown. Some are grown for the abundance of flowers they produce.

But flowers come at some expense. The cost? Nutrients that go to the flowers do not go to the plant. When plants hold a lot of foliage, they may require more water to support the foliage.

You may notice lighter colored leaves and if the plants dry out too much you can get browning tips.

The older leaves at the bottom… If that is where the brown tips are occurring. The leaves are not “pulling” food the same way, new rapidly growing leaves do. Brown tips and leaf loss in this case may be natural.

Peace Lily Foliage Varieties

What about varieties grown more for foliage like Lynise, Supreme and Sensation. These plants usually grow in 10 inch and larger pots, but may present the same problem in looks, but for a different cause.

In the nursery these plants are watered and fertilized on a regular basis. They may be watered every day or every other day. All of a sudden the plant is shipped to a nursery or garden center and it isn’t receiving the same treatment.

They may get less water and the fertilizers (salts) which are in the pot are getting higher because of the reduced moisture and can be
burning the roots.

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Speaking of under-watering, there are two ways (and probably more) to do this.

The first is just not watering the plant enough and allowing the plant to wilt down before watering. A little droop may be OK, but not laying on the ground. I will admit this is rarely the case with house owners.

The second method is what I’ll term "fake watering". We think we water but we really don’t.

This occurs when the soil has dried out, the soil may even be pulling away from the pot and the plant is re-watered. The water is going to take the path of least resistance and heads to the bottom of the pot.

The soil may become moist in areas but the root ball or soil mass doesn’t become sufficiently moist. It may be moist enough to let the plant perk up but the soil is still too dry.

Again, this can be salts or the plant protecting itself by reducing the amount of foliage it needs to support. Result – Brown tips.

Water slowly and not in one small area

Over-watering can cause brown tips also. That is why I like self watering pots. The root system is just not able to use all the water you provide.

The roots may be swimming in water and rot off. Less roots means less leaves, and the plant will usually begin by losing the oldest leaves first.

Too much heat is another possibility. You may be asking yourself how can I have too much heat, it’s 72 degrees in the house.

That may be true but a plant sitting next to the window can be heating up more than you realize. We all have hot and cold spots indoors.

Why do I have brown tips on my Spathphyllum? There are many reasons!!!

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Plants are great communicators and they really re-act in ways that we can understand if we stop and look at the situation.

Plants may not tell us what is wrong BUT they do tell us to LOOK something is wrong.

When you’re looking for answers to WHY, on your plants, ask some questions.

I find many times that it is the little things that we may not pay attention to that have caused the problems.

Did anything change in the Peace Lily environment?

Something as simple as – Yes we opened the house up after a long winter to air things out. The temperature was still a little cool but a light sweater was all I needed. Did the plants get a sweater?

  • Did you move the plant?
  • Has the watering changed?
  • Is the plant new and getting acclimated?
  • What is the root system like?
  • What variety is it?
  • Is the plant actively growing? Putting out new leaves with good color.

ALL valid questions.

Don’t assume that because you have some brown tips that your plant may need to be repotted or need fertilizer. It may be just the opposite. Another question we get all the time is: why does my peace lily not flower – that’s another topic altogether.

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