Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Houseplant That Will Keep All Your Other Houseplants Alive

My History With Houseplants Is Littered With Dead Plants

My mother seems to have been born with a green thumb.  She has the most beautiful yard I've ever seen, despite the fact that we live in the hot, dry desert. Her house has always been filled with thriving, beautiful plants, and she even still has some houseplants that she has owned since the early 1980's! I aspired to have the same when I began setting up my own home.

Back in the late 1990's and early 2000's, I had terrible success in keeping houseplants alive.  I seemed to buy a new houseplant every month or two, yet they mostly looked awful and would eventually get tossed into the trash.  I tried many different types of plants, but they all failed to thrive.  I would forget to water them - their leaves would turn yellow or brown - I would remove the dead leaves - soon enough the whole plant would be threadbare and unattractive - bound for the trashcan.

Enter the Peace Lily.  When I bought this plant, I figured it was just another in my long string of houseplant failures.  Little did I know that this little plant would single-handedly keep the rest of my houseplants alive and give me a chance at having healthy, long-lived houseplants. 

How Does the Peace Lily Keep the Rest of My Plants Alive?

The Peace Lily keeps the rest of my houseplants alive because it comes with a built-in watering signal.  When the Peace Lily starts to dry out, its leaves start to droop.  Day by day, the leaves start to droop more, and more, and more, until I finally notice and realize it is time to water houseplants.
A drooping Peace Lily. It can droop much more than this if neglected.
With other houseplants, the leaves start yellowing and dying if deprived of water, but the Peace Lily is different.  Its leaves start to droop, and can get downright flat if I still keep forgetting to water it.  But then, once it gets watered, the leaves perk right back up. Keeping my plants watered is now just a matter of waiting for that characteristic droop in my Peace Lily. 
Peace Lily all perky and happy after getting watered

A Few Notes About Caring for Peace Lilies

  • My Peace Lilies (and all of my other houseplants) do best when planted in pots that have a hole in the bottom. The hole allows for drainage in case of over-watering.  I also make sure there is a saucer under each pot to hold the extra water, and this allows the plant to suck up the remaining water as the dirt starts to dry out.
  • If you wait for drooping leaves to signal that it is time to water the Peace Lily, beware that the water may travel very quickly through the pot when you water it.  If the saucer under the pot is small, it can very quickly overflow in this scenario. For this reason, when my Peace Lily is drooping, I make sure to give it just a bit of water at first, and then water it again in a few hours once the water in the saucer has been soaked up.
  • Peace Lilies are one of the few houseplants that bloom indoors.  I keep my Peace Lilies in areas of moderate sunshine (and never in a very sunny spot), and they both bloom periodically.  The flowers are white and pretty, but they do drop little bits of pollen around.  I often just snip the blooms off with scissors rather than deal with the pollen mess.
  • Over time, a few leaves near the bottom of the plant will slowly die.  I just remove these periodically, and that keeps my plants looking attractive.
  • It may sound obvious, but Peace Lilies can only help your other plants if you make sure to water all of your plants whenever you water the Peace Lilies.  On busy days, I have sometimes been tempted to only water the Peace Lilies due to their obvious distress, but I have to make sure not to forget to water the rest of my plants as well.

I've had my Peace Lilies for over 5 years now, and the rest of my houseplants now have a fighting chance at living a long time in my house.  In fact, I haven't had to buy any houseplants in the last couple of years!

Do you have success in keeping houseplants alive and thriving?


Karen Elizabeth said...

Hi Sarah, I have always had great houseplants. My secret is to water them every Saturday a.m. It is now such a habit that I just get up on Saturday and automatically water them all first thing. I don't even have to think about it. It may sound obvious but scheduling things really works! You may have to mark your calender or leave ginormous notes to yourself to groove it in but once it becomes "habit" you're set.
I love your blog and read it all the time, btw. Many of your recipes have become family favorites and habits as well!
Love, Karen

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing! I've always loved this about Peace Lilys and often thought it would help those who have trouble keeping house plants. It is a great reminder for most though I have given them to a couple family members who don't notice even the sad drooping lily until it is too late.

Danielle said...

Haha, great tip! We have a pathetic little ivy that serves the same purpose for us.

Anonymous said...

Guess that means you won't get any cuttings from my grandmother's Christmas cactus, Bill's grandmother's Xmas cactus or my grandmother's mother in law's tongue. :)