How to Revive a Dying Peace Lily

How to revive a dying peace lily

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.

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).

If a peace lily is dying, this is usually because it is living in conditions contrary to the native habitat, so to revive peace lilies it is important 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…

Peace Lily Leaves Drooping Due to Drought Stress

  • 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.

If your peace lily has drooping leaves this is most often because of drought stress due to underwatering or low humidity.

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.

Peaces lilies tend to require watering 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.

Houses are also fairly low-humidity environments whereas the peace lily is suited to humid forests.

Air conditioning, forced air, or convection currents from heat sources, particularly in Winter sap moisture from the abundant leaves.

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

Peace lilies also droop due to over watering

Note that peace lilies also droop as a sign of stress due to overwatering.

The easiest way to distinguish the cause of your drooping peace lily 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 on the dry side 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.

How to Revive a Drooping Peace Lily

The key 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 give it a good soak.

  • If the soil feels dry then place your peace lily in a basin of water for 10 minutes. Sometimes when soil dries out, it can repel water off the surface and prevent moisture from reaching the roots. Soaking the soil allows 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 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 optimal in most homes but adjust how often you water if your climate is particularly hot and dry.
  • 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 the leaves to droop. 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.
  • Spray the leaves with a mist spray. Peace lilies are tropical plants that live in humid forests. To replicate this in your home create a humid microclimate by spraying mist on the leaves at least once per week. Increase how often you mist if you live in dryer climates or in Winter when the air in houses is usually dryer due to heating. 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.

The peace lily should revive from its drooping appearance after a good soak.

After 2 or 3 cycles of watering and regular mist spray the peace lily should look much better after drought stress.

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

Peace Lilies with Brown Spots or Streaks on the 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.

If your peace lily has developed brown spots or streaks on the leaves this indicates sunburn.

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 sun.

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.

How To Revive Peace Lilies With Sunburnt Brown Spots

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

Peace lilies cannot tolerate full sun or lots of direct light and prefer bright indirect light.

Initially, it is a good idea to not trim any leaves back as this could cause additional stress to the plant.

If the leaves have curled, then water peace lily typically once per week so that the soil is moist and spray the leaves with mist to create a more humid micro-climate that emulates the humidity of their tropical habitat.

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 bright indirect sun to prevent sun burn and avoid direct light.

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

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

Peace lily Leaves Turning Yellow

  • 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.

Peace lilies are tropical plants that grow in climates with relatively high levels of rainfall.

However 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.

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 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.

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 too much fertilizer can also cause 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.

How To Revive Peace Lily 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. 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 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 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, the 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.

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.

Peace Lily Turning Black

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.

As 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.

Peace lilies however can turn black if the temperature is below 50°F (10°C) for a longer time.

Remove any leaves that have turned significantly black as they are no longer productive and do not recover.

However, if you are left with some healthier-looking growth after pruning away black leaves the peace lily can recover.

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.

Sometimes leaves can be in contact with frosty windows in Winter which turns the leaves black so be careful where you locate the peace lily.

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.

Cut back any black leaves with a sterile pair of pruners.

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.

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 the peace lily can recover.

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

Key Takeaways:

  • A dying peace lily is usually because of 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 revive.

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