How to Revive a Dying Peace Lily


How to revive a dying peace lily

Is your peace lily dying, and you’re wondering how to save it? I love peace lilies, as they are one of the few houseplants with flowers that can last for several months.

But when I first started growing peace lilies, I myself had to contend with several problems, such as the leaf tips turning brown and the leaves turning yellow without an obvious cause.

Since then, I have been able to talk directly to some horticulturalists, do my own research, and conduct some tests so that I can identify the cause of why a peace lily is dying and learn the methods of reviving it that actually works.

In this post, I’ll share with you all the tips and techniques in a step-by-step guide to help you save your peace lily.

For those of you in a hurry, here’s my 2 sentence explanation…

The reason for a dying peace lily is commonly drought stress which is caused by underwatering and low humidity, resulting in a drooping plant with leaves turning brown. Overwatering, poor drainage, and a lack of nutrients cause peace lilies to turn yellow with a dying appearance.

We need to consider that peace lilies are tropical plants that thrive in forests with moist, well-draining soils, warm temperatures, and in the shade (bright indirect light is optimal).

Fundamentally, what I have discovered is if a peace lily is dying, this is usually because it is living in conditions contrary to the native habitat, so if we are to revive our peace lilies, we need to emulate some of their natural conditions of higher humidity, shade from direct sun, and evenly moist soil.

Keep reading if your peace lily is drooping, turning yellow, turning brown, or turning black, and for how to implement the solutions to revive your dying peace lily…

Why are My Peace Lily Leaves Drooping? (It’s too Dry)

How to revive a drooping peace lily
Here is my friend, peace lily, peace lily with drooping leaves, due to underwatering. I felt the soil, and it was very dry.
  • Symptoms: The peace lily has an overall drooping appearance, and often, the leaves are curling up. The tips of the leaves often turn brown and sometimes yellow.
  • Causes: Low Humidity, underwatering, and soil that repels water.

Whenever I’ve experienced my peace lily drooping, it is usually due to one of 2 things:

  1. Underwatering or
  2. Low humidity

To understand why this is, we need to appreciate how they grow in the wild…

Peace lilies are tropical plants that are native to the Americas and Asia where they thrive in forests with regular rainfall and relatively high humidity.

The soil should be evenly moist and not allowed to dry out significantly to avoid stress.

Through som trial and error, I found my peaces lilies grow best when I water at least once per week with a really generous soak so that water trickles out the base of the pot. This ensures that the moisture has reached the roots where it is required.

Of course, our houses are also fairly low-humidity environments, whereas the peace lily is suited to humid forests.

Let’s think about our indoor environment…Air conditioning, forced air, or convection currents from heat sources, particularly in Winter all sap moisture from the peace lily’s abundant leaves.

I had this problem when I lived in my small apartment. My indoor heating was too much for the peace lily in the winter and it would always droop, yet it also didn’t like being in the path of air conditioning in the Summer…

This causes the plant to dry out much quicker and droop or wilt as a sign of stress.

However, rather confusingly, peace lilies also droop as a sign of stress due to overwatering!

Whenever I am faced with a drooping peace lily, my method for diagnoising the problem is to feel the soil to a fingers depth at the top of the pot and feel it through the drainage holes at the bottom.

If the soil feels dry and the humidity is low, then drought stress is the cause of drooping.

If the soil feels damp or saturated to a finger depth at the top and at the bottom through the drainage holes then overwatering and root rot are the cause.

My Steps for Reviving a Drooping Peace Lily

As we discussed, the secret to reviving a drooping peace lily is to recreate some of the moisture conditions of its native habitat to which it is accustomed in the long term, but in the short term, I advise giving it a good soak.

  • If the soil feels dry then place your peace lily in a basin of water for 10 minutes. From experience, sometimes when soil dries out, it can repel water off the surface and prevent moisture from reaching the roots. So I always recommend soaking the soil to allow the water to infiltrate the soil effectively so that the roots can draw upon the much-needed moisture.
  • Increase the frequency of your watering. After the initial soak, leave the peace lily for around a week, and I would carefully observe how quickly the soil dries out. The surface of the soil should feel somewhat dry to the touch between watering, and the soil should feel evenly moist (not saturated) to a finger depth when watered properly. Typically, watering once per week is a good rule of thumb in most homes, but adjust how often you water if your climate is particularly hot and dry. When I lived in Southern California, I had to water every 5 days, for example, due to the heat.
  • Always water your peace lily with a good soak. Watering little and often only moistens the surface of the soil, and the water does not infiltrate properly and reach the roots, which causes drought stress and drooping leaves. (I see this common mistake all the time!). Always use enough water so that excess water trickles out the base of the pot. This ensures the soil is evenly moist throughout the pot.
  • Increase the humidity. Peace lilies are tropical plants that live in humid forests. To replicate this in your home, what you need to do is create a humid microclimate by using a humidifier, locating your peace lily in a more humid room (such as the bathroom), or place your peace lily on a tray of pebbles that are filled with water. This recreates the humidity of the peace lily’s native environment and slows the rate of transpiration (water loss) from the leaves.
  • Keep the plant away from sources of heat and air currents. Peace lilies prefer a consistent environment. Air conditioning and forced air can sap moisture from the leaves so locate your peace lily in a relatively still area of your home.

Testing different methods of increasing humidity

I would caution against misting your peace lily. I used to use this method of increasing the humidity but found it promoted the condition of fungal disease with brown spots appearing on the leaves, so I decided to experiment with other methods…

I tested the following methods:

  1. Grouping humid plants close together (to create a humid microclimate)
  2. Placing the peace lily in the bathroom (which is naturally high in humidity)
  3. Using a humidifier, I bought online.
  4. Place the peace lily on a tray of pebbles filled with water (just make sure the base of the pot is propped above the waterline to allow for good drainage).

The Results…

From my testing, I can tell you I had great results by placing the peace lily in my bathroom as it is naturally high in humidity, warm, and bright. The peace lily perked up in a few days. The only problem I had with this is that I open the window in my bathroom frequently and in Winter the peace lily did not like the blast of cold air (which caused the leaves to turn yellow) so this method has it limitations if you live in a cool climate.

Grouping my humidity loving plants was a step in the right direction, but this method didn’t counter act the dry air from indoor heating so I combined it with the tray of water and the pebbles method. This worked fantastic and my peace lily revived from its dropping appearance and so far it has even coped with dry air in Winter.

My favorite method…

However, the ultimate low-maintenance method is to use a humidifier. I found that the humidifier was the most effective method at increasing the humidity despite dry air from heating, and in my opinion, this is my preferred method due to the fact it can cope with such hostile conditions and still create the right level of humidity from my tropical houseplants.

I also have not encountered any problems with fungal disease with thee methods, whereas i had fungal brown spot n my peace lily’s leaves when misting.

After 2 or 3 cycles of watering and an increase in humidity, the peace lily should look much better after dooping due to drought stress.

(For more best practices of watering read my article on how much and how often to water peace lilies).

Why Are There Brown Spots or Streaks on the Leaves?

Peace lily turning brown
Peace lily with brown leaves.
  • Symptoms: Brown spots or streaks on the leaves, often with leaf curling, possibly some yellow of the leaves.
  • Causes: Too much direct sun. Typically, occurs when a peace lily is moved from an area of shade to an area of sun.

I can tell you from personal experience if your peace lily has brown spots or streaks in the leave that, this is because of two factors:

  1. Sunburn.
  2. Fungal disease.

The difference is that sunburn can cause both brown spots and streaks, whereas fungal disease typically only causes brown spots.

As we discussed, peace lilies are tropical plants that grow in the shade of a forest canopy.

Therefore, their leaves are vulnerable to damage and burning when exposed to direct sunlight.

It is often easy to tell if too much sun is the culprit for your brown leaves as they tend to form spots or streaks on the leaves that are faced towards the most sun, with the shaded side staying green.

As I mentioned earlier, my peace lily did have brown spots which from research turned out to be a fungal infection.

The reason was obvious when I spoke to an experienced peace lily grower. I was misting the leaves every other day to increase the humidity, as it was winter and the heating was on. But water was sitting on the leaves for far too long, resulting in brown spot fungal disease.

How I Revived the Leaves With Brown Spots and Streaks

The key to reviving a sunburnt peace lily is to first move the plant back to an area of shade.

I learned that peace lilies cannot tolerate full sun or lots of direct light and prefer bright, indirect light.

I spoke to an expert at the garden center and they said Initially, it is a good idea to not trim any leaves back as this could cause additional stress to the plant.

Instead they recommend to identify and treat the peace lily for signs of drought stress. If the leaves have curled, then give your peace lily a good soak so that the soil is moist and increase the humidity to create a more humid micro-climate that emulates the humidity of their tropical habitat.

I discovered the secret is to wait till new growth emerges so that there are healthy green leaves before trimming back any significantly brown leaves.

Peace lilies are relatively slow growing, so it can take some patience for the plant to recover.

If you move a peace lily, always locate it in the bright, indirect sun to prevent sunburn and avoid direct light. I personally grow my peace lilies in a South facing room, which does get a lot of direct sun, but I use a sheer curtain to help diffuse the light, and my peace lily looks great/

Bright indirect sunlight ensures the peace lilies have enough energy to display flowers and prevents sunburn.

If you suspect that fungal disease is the problem, then I recommend following these steps:

  1. Stop misting the peace lily at once!
  2. Separate your peace lily from your other houseplants to prevent the infection from spreading.
  3. Use a sterile pair of pruners to remove the affected leaves and dispose of them. Setilise your pruners by swiping them with disinfectant to prevent the disease spreading (I use hand gel).
  4. I personally recommend using neem oil on the leaves. Neem oil is safe for pets and antifungal so its okay to use at home. I picked up mine from a garden center. I used it to moisten a cloth and wiped all the leaves with it. I did this every week, and in my opinion, this is the most effective way to prevent fungal disease from coming back and damaging the plant.

After following these steps my peace lily looks great, although it took a good few months for a lot of the foliage to come back. The neem oil was a game changer as I have tried to o this without any antifungal treatment and the brown spots always cam back and I was concerned they’d infect other houseplants…

(Read my article on how to fix peace lilies with brown leaf tips).

Why are the Leaves Turning Yellow?

Peace lily
The leaf on my peace lily turned completely yellow before turning brown like this as a response to overwatering.
  • Symptoms. Leaves turning yellow and drooping or older leaves turning yellow lower down on the plant.
  • Causes. Overwatering and damp soil is the most common cause for a yellow and drooping peace lily, whilst older leaves turning yellow indicate a nutrient deficiency.

As we talked about, our peace lilies are tropical plants that grow in climates with relatively high levels of rainfall.

However I learned from research that if the soil around the roots is boggy (rather then just evenly moist) then this can exclude oxygen from the roots and the lily turns yellow and droops as a sign of stress, potentially causing fungal disease and root rot. I find the leaves often turn yellow and then brown.

However, we must consider that the reasons for boggy soil are not confined to overwatering. The soil around the roots of your peace lily can be too damp because:

  • Overwatering.
  • Slow-draining soil.
  • Pots without drainage holes in their base.
  • The use of saucers, trays, or decorative outer pots that cause water to pool and prevent excess water from escaping.

To establish if overwatering is the cause rather then anything else of the peace lily turning yellow, feel the soil to a finger’s depth and feel the soil at the bottom of the pot through the drainage holes.

If the soil feels boggy rather than moist, then there is an excess of water around the roots.

However, I was taught that if the lower leaves are turning yellow this is most often a symptom of a lack of nitrogen or other nutrient deficiency which can occur if you have had the peace lily in for a long time and the roots have exhausted the nutrients that are available in the soil mix.

Occasionally, I’ve seen that it can too much fertilizer also causing the yellow leaves if it is applied too often or in too high a concentration.

Peace lilies do not need much fertilizer, so always use half-strength, all-purpose, balanced houseplant fertilizer and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

My Tips for Reviving Lilies with Yellow Leaves

  • If you are watering more often than once per week, then scale back the watering. The surface of the soil should be dry to the touch between watering to prevent excluding oxygen from the soil and around the roots to reduce the risk of root rot. The soil should feel evenly moist to a finger’s depth for the optimal balance of moisture.
  • Ensure your peace lily is planted in a pot with drainage holes so that water can escape. I see people make this mistake a lot. If you notice the soil draining slowly check to see if the hole is not blocked with compacted soil or roots.
  • Saucers, trays, and decorative pots should be emptied regularly. If you are keeping anything under the base of the pot to prevent water from spilling in the home after watering, then ensure that it is emptied so that excess water does not pool around the roots at the bottom and cause root rot.
  • For peace lilies with yellow leaves at the bottom of the plant apply a fertilizer. To ensure healthy growth, I apply a half-strength house plant fertilizer, usually around once a month in the Spring and Summer. This ensures the peace lily can access the nutrients it requires. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, as fertilizer applied too frequently or in too high a concentration can turn leaves yellow and prevent flowering, which is why I’ve found that half-strength applications are usually better for peace lilies.

Once you have scaled back the watering and ensured excess water can escape from the pot, your lily has a chance to recover.

However, if the lily has been in standing water for some time then this is likely to cause root rot and the peace lily is difficult to revive. Typically, I see this when they have been sat in a pot with no drainage, but the success rate of reviving a peace lily that has just been slightly overwatered is much higher.

Should I cut back the yellow leaves?

Yes. If most of the leaf is yellow, cut it back to the base with a sharp pair of pruners. The leaf does not turn green again once it has turned yellow. Make sure to sterilize your pruners between each cut with disinfectant.

Pro Tip: If only the edges or tip of the leaves have turned yellow, but the rest of the leaf is green, then I recommend leaving it as the green parts of the leaf can still photosynthesize and therefore contribute energy to the plant.

Most of the time, yellow leaves turn brown and crispy if you just leave them.

In the case of the peace lily that has turned yellow due to nutrient deficit then I would leave cutting any leaves back. I would either apply fertilizer at half strength as described or repot my peace lily into new soil which is going to have more nutrients.

In my experience, peace lilies that have turned yellow due to a nutrient deficit usually respond well to some fertilizer and can look healthier in the following months. Although, I recommend waiting for new growth to emerge before cutting the leaves back.

I’ve found peace lilies are much more resilient to stress in Spring, so this is the best time for repotting or cutting leaves back, but I have done it successfully in the Summer, too.

Why are the Leaves Turning Black?

Peace lily turning black
This is a peace lily I came across at work (I work at a garden center), which turned black after being in contact with a cold window. I just cut back the leaf, and the plant is okay.

The most common reasons for peace lilies turning black:

  • If your peace lily leaves turn black, this is often because of the cold due to a temperature drop or because of cold draughts.
  • However, peace lilies can also turn black due to overwatering and several fungal pathogens.
  • Fertilizing in Winter can turn lilies black as they are in a state of dormancy. Only use a half-strength fertilizer in Spring and Summer.

My own peace lily leaves have turned black which I found was due to the fact the leaves were in contact to a cold window pane which was significantly cooler then the ambient temperature of the room. I could tell as these were the only leaves that were black whilst the rest of the peace lily was in good health.

As our peace lilies originate in tropical climates, they prefer warmer temperatures.

Generally, room temperatures are within the range that peace lilies live comfortably with 68°F to 85°F (20°C- 30°C) during the day, and up to 10° Fahrenheit cooler at night.

From research (and my own experiences!) I learned that peace lilies, however, can turn black if the temperature is below 50°F (10°C) for a longer time.

As I knew my leaves were black because of the cold, I removed any leaves that had turned significantly black, as they were no longer productive and did not recover. I just cut them back to the base with pruners.

Pro Tip: Ensure that the peace lily is in a warm room and do not let it get colder than 50°F (10°C) to avoid leaves turning black. I would consider the microclimate of a window sill in winter as I have seen this can catch some people out.

Whilst overwatering causes drooping and turns the leaves yellow it can also cause the leaves to turn black as it promotes the conditions for fungal disease pathogens as can misting the leaves too often.

In which case I recommend cutting back any black leaves with a sterile pair of pruners and dispose of them. Remeber to isolate your plant from others to stop the spread of disease.

As with before we need to wipe the pruners with a cloth soaked in disinfectant after each cut to prevent spreading the fungus to otherwise healthy growth.

Scale back the watering to once per week and ensure that excess water can drain freely from the bottom of the pot.

I have seen great results from wiping the remaining leaves with neem oil, which is a natural antifungal treatment.

I would also find a different way of increasing the humidity if you have been misting your plant, such as using a humidifier.

Whether the peace lily recovers or not depends on the severity of the fungal disease.

Keep applying the best practices of watering and avoid spraying the leaves for the time being, and your peace lily can recover.

(Read my article, How to Grow and Care for Peace Lilies).

Do you have any more questions about peace lilies, or do you have any tips and tricks to share? If so, please leave a comment below! I’d love to hear from you!

Key Takeaways:

  • A dying peace lily is usually caused by underwatering or low humidity due to air currents in the home. Drought stress causes peace lilies to droop and turn brown with a dying appearance. A dying peace lily with yellow leaves is because of overwatering or a lack of nutrients.
  • Peace lilies can develop brown spots or streaks because of too much direct sun. Peace lilies grow in indirect bright light.
  • Peace lilies turn yellow due to overwatering and because of a lack of nutrients. Scale back the watering to once per week and ensure excess water can escape from the bottom of the pot to revive the plant. Apply half-strength fertilizer once a month in the Spring and Summer to revive yellow leaves due to lack of nutrients.
  • Peace lily leaves turn black due to cold weather and fungal disease. Avoid overwatering and locate peace lilies in a room with consistent temperatures so they don’t get cold. Cut away any black leaves with a sterile pair of pruners. With diligent care, the peace lily can be revived.

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