How to Revive a Peace Lily

by | Oct 22, 2019 | 44 comments

Following shoulder surgery, I have been going to physical therapy. I observed this peace lily (spathiphyllum) there as it was collapsed from dryness, and pointed out it needed water. (Many people use the “let it droop” method to know when to water a peace lily. That is not a practice your plant appreciates and will reward you with yellow leaves and brown tips in consequence.) The yellow leaves are obvious, there is a lot of dead stem residue, and it looked pretty bad. Last week, I asked to take it home to revive it by repotting it. They said please do.

sad peace lily

This plant needs some help

A healthy new plant for comparison

Below is a picture of a recently purchased peace lily. You can see the dark green color the plant should be with proper care.

Dark green peace lily

The color the plant should be

As you can see below, the newer plant also has no dead stem residue yet. This happens as the plant gets older and loses its older leaves, as all plants do. Remember, yellowing leaves can also happen from inconsistent watering practices. (P.S. Excuse the way this plant is potted. It was for a photo shoot and I just took the plant out of the grower’s pot and placed in this gray pot-a color pot I would probably never use in my home….do you know me?)

New peade lily has no dead stems yet

No old stems

Remove dead stems and leaves

Before up-potting the plant, I removed the dead, yellowing leaves and the brown stems as best as I could. Be careful, as getting them off isn’t easy and could break the entire stem off if you aren’t careful. I used a small pair of clippers so I could reach into the middle of the plant to get as many stems as I could.

Long necks and aerial roots

It is hard to remove every piece of the brown dead stems but get as much off as you can. The plant has developed tall necks, much like the African violet in this post. Whereas you scrape the neck and plant the violet deeper to allow it to rejuvenate and grow new roots, the peace lily already has aerial roots growing as you can see below. So when I up-potted the peace lily, I planted it a bit deeper to cover the long stems and give the developing roots potting medium to grow in.

Aerial roots on a peace lily

These aerial roots are protruding from the side of the stems

Up-potting the rootbound plant

Normally at this time of year when the light is waning and houseplants are resting a bit, I wouldn’t up-pot a plant (meaning move it to a larger pot). Yet, if the plant is root bound, I will. This one was definitely rootbound as you can see below. I loosened up the roots to help them get out of the hard-packed soil ball they were stuck in and used a pot just one size up from the previous pot.

top of peace lily without yellow leaves

Repotted

revived, up-potted peace lily

Repotted and looking better already

Tomorrow I am taking it back to the rehab place and will post a picture then. This plant could use some fertilizer to green it up a bit, but I will tell them to do that in the spring.

Back in its place

Below is the picture of the plant returned to the counter at the rehab place. It only gets light from the lights above it as the windows are quite far away. I’ll keep track of it in the next few weeks and see how it does. I’m quite sure a few more leaves will turn yellow and need to come off, but that is expected after its re-potting. I will remove them as they yellow and it will send out new leaves with the fresh potting medium and a new lease on life.

spahtiphyllum repotted

I returned the peace lily to the rehab place and back to its place on the counter.

Do you have plants that need to be revived or repotted? 

Have a great week, plant friends!

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44 Comments

  1. Cathy Streett

    Nice work and tips Lisa. I’ve been tempted to save some plants but never done it.
    Keep on rehabbing.

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Thanks, Cathy! I appreciate your comments. Save some plants! They will thank you.

      Reply
  2. Em

    Can the pot also be too big? I have a PL that has been struggling for the past 2 years. Terrible i know. He never recovered from a cold spell and a move. Please help…

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Yes, it can! I received a large spathiphyllum lily years ago and decided to move it to a larger pot, but it was too big and the root ball rotted. If it is struggling and you feel the pot is too large, down-size it.

      Reply
      • Abigail Garcia

        Hi I received a lily for my grandma funeral but it’s leaves are drooping, I just moved it to a new pot slightly bigger , but still same

        Reply
        • Lisa Steinkopf

          Hi Abigail, Make sure you don’t over pot it. It should only be moved up one pot size at a time. Lisa

          Reply
  3. Rachel

    I have a couple peace lilies that I overwatered and now there’s some black crispy leaves in the middle. Hope I didn’t kill them!

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Do they seem like they are doing better? I hope so. Sorry I missed this in October….Thanks for your comment!

      Reply
  4. Pat

    this is lovely! our 2 plants that will be happier. thank you!

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      I’m glad the blog post helped! Thanks for commenting.

      Reply
      • Yvette Gary

        Hello Lisa I repotted my PL in June to a larger pot but fitting pot. It has been drooping every since. Its still blooming but also still drooping. Is there a way to revive it. I gave it fertilizer plant food. I have had this plant about 7 years so I would like to keep. Please help. Thanks

        Reply
        • Lisa Steinkopf

          Hi Yvette,
          Is the entire plant drooping? Or just the outside leaves. Is the soil too high around the crown of the plant? Is there a drainage hole in the pot?

          Reply
  5. PattyMc

    Hi. I would have loved to see some follow up pics and advice after you returned the plant back to the office. I have a plant that is special from my late mother’n law that I am so much trying to do well with. It has new growth, but also has limp. I so want to do it well. (I’d love for you to help me with it. lol) Thank you for your post. 🙂

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Patty,
      I will go back and check on the plant some time, but it depends on how the people at the physical therapy office take care of it. If you send me pictures of your plant, maybe I can help. You can find my email on my website.

      Reply
      • Robbie

        Hey Lisa,
        My Mom gave me a peace lily from my GrandMAs funeral and all the leaves have turned brown and shriveled up. Is there anyway I can save it?

        Reply
        • Lisa Steinkopf

          Can you send me a picture? Go to my website and then email me a picture and maybe I can see what I can do.

          Reply
  6. Barbara Stairley

    I was given a gorgeous PL by my coworkers when my mom passed. It was fine until I had to move. A neighbor offered to take care of it for me. I think she over watered it. Then I think she tried to put new dirt on it.
    Regardless- I took it back and I am trying to (intelligently!) love it back to life. It is now in two pots and looks so bad that I am crying.
    I have ingredients to make a potting mix – Just Coir, horticultural charcoal and earthworm casting.
    I have two pots that are slightly smaller and I’m nervous !
    How deeply do I plant ? I thought they weren’t supposed to be planted deeply.

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Barbara, Can you send me some pictures of the plants and the pots you would be putting them in? My email is in the contact page of my website. Lisa

      Reply
  7. Kimberly

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE HELP ME I HAVE TWO REALLY BIG PEACE LILLIES FROM MY BROTHERS FUNERAL THAT I AM DESPERATE TO KEEP ALIVE IN MEMORY OF MY BROTHER I AM DOING A HORRIBLE JOB PLEASE HELP !!!!!

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Kimberly,
      What seems to be going on? Send a picture to my email on my contact page.

      Reply
  8. Nikki Wilson

    Hi Lisa. All the leaves on my peace lily are turning brown. I have re-potted it with new potting soil, in the same pot as it wasn’t root-bound. I’ve had the plant for a few years and have always watered it about once a week. It used to be beautiful. I haven’t changed the way I’ve been taking care of it so what could be wrong? I keep cutting the brown leaves. Even the new ones are turning brown and pretty soon it’ll be down to nothing. So sad.

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Nikki,
      What made you decide to repot it? Just fresh soil? Is it too deep? Soil too heavy? Drainage hole? Send a picture.
      Lisa

      Reply
  9. Susan Michael

    Is there a way to keep a peace lily in the same pot but reduce its size or split it so it can relieve being rootbound, but still fit in the same space?

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Susan,
      Yes! If you have a peace lily with multiple crowns, you can certainly split it into smaller pieces and keep the original in the same pot. Lisa

      Reply
  10. Mary Dombek

    When removing dead leaves do you remove the entire stem it’s growing on or just the leaf?

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Mary,
      I try to remove the leaf and stem as far down as I can. Otherwise you have yellow stems in the middle of the plant as the stem will die as well as the leaf.
      Lisa

      Reply
  11. Frank

    Thanks for the details and illustrations. Appreciated.

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Frank,
      Thanks so much! I’m glad it was helpful!
      Lisa

      Reply
  12. Barbara

    I have 2 peace lily’s and both of them have dried up stalks or stems in the centers.. do I cut them out or low? Thanks

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Barbara,
      I would cut them out down as low as you can.
      Lisa

      Reply
  13. Lorna Romano

    Hi, Lisa! I’ve had my Peace Lily for years! A week ago, I didn’t give it enough water before leaving town for a few days; it was totally wilted when I returned. It remained wilted even after watering. Thinking it needed fresh soil, I repotted it yesterday from a 6″ to a 7″ pot. No change.

    Any advice?

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      I’m sorry I missed this. Is your peace lily doing better? It may have been too dry and the roots were too far gone to recover. I hope it came back for you.

      Reply
      • Chelle

        I have a peace lily from my husband’s funeral in 2020, this past fall I discovered it had root rot. So I did the hydrogen peroxide/water suggestion, trimmed off all the rotten parts. Now I’m left with a very tiny portion I’m trying to revive. I put the portion left in a much smaller pot. Any suggestions???

        Reply
        • Lisa Steinkopf

          Hi Chelle,
          First let me offer my sincere condolences for the loss of your husband.
          I have not tried the hydrogen peroxide method on my plants, so I can’t speak to that. It was smart to put it in a smaller pot. Keep it moist, give it bright light, and that is the most you can do. I hope it keeps growing for you and sends out some new leaves.
          Lisa

          Reply
          • Mike

            What is your email would like to send pictures of my peace lilly from my dad’s funeral that’s not doing to well

  14. Jackie

    My plants leaves are growing wildly and crowding each other. They hardly leave room for blooms.
    What do I do and how do I do it?
    Thankyou
    Jackie

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Jackie,
      You could split the plant and put the plants in individual pots or up-pot the entire plant to the next size container. It sounds like it is a bit too crowded.
      Lisa

      Reply
  15. Rachelle Tilson

    I am house sitting and I am afraid I killed their peace lily! I think I dried it out. Is there anything I can do? I have a picture of you would like to see it. I am so sad I think I will have to replace their plant. 😬

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      Hi Rachelle,
      If it dried out and you gave it a good drink, it should revive. You can send a picture to lisa@thehouseplantguru.com
      Lisa

      Reply
  16. Gina Stinson

    I have a pot that I would like to use but it does not have drainage. Can I put rocks or sandy soil under my potting mix and still use the pot?

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      You don’t need to use drainage material. It hinders drainage. You can read about that on another blog post. Just search drainage. I would drill a hole in the pot if possible. I use a diamond-tipped drill bit. Lisa

      Reply
  17. Marisa Franco

    What soil do you recommend for peace Lilys.

    Reply
    • Lisa Steinkopf

      I would use a well-drained potting medium. Because they don’t want to dry out, I think any mix you buy would be fine. Not a cactus and succulent mix but a regular houseplant mix.
      Lisa

      Reply

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