When the white flowers of a peace lily (Spathiphyllum spp.) -- a plant beloved for its willingness to bloom even indoors in poor light -- start turning brown, a natural reaction is to blame: a disease or the wrong growing conditions. The reality is that, while both these problems cause browning, they usually affect a peace lily's leaves, not its blooms. Flower browning is more often a sign of the bloom's age.
A Natural Progression
What you likely recognize as a peace lily flower is technically a spathe, or modified leaf. It emerges white and develops a pale green tinge over the next 10 days. The actual flowers cover the spadix, the fleshy spike protruding from the spathe.
The yellowish spadix flowers become dry and brown before releasing their pollen. If a powdery white substance sprinkles the plant and the surrounding surfaces, the pollen has been released. The spathe will soon turn brown and die.
When a spathe begins browning from age, snip it off at the base of its stem to keep the plant looking its best. Use clean, sharp scissors wiped beforehand in rubbing alcohol. Removing the spathe encourages the plant to grow a replacement.
Most insects ignore peace lilies. Western flower thrips puncture a peace lily's spathes to drain the cellular contents. Infested spathes may turn brown. Thrips most often affect large-flowered cultivars.
If you notice small, slender dark insects or wet, shiny spots on the spathes, isolate the plant immediately for treatment.
Things You'll Need
Organic, ready-to-use insecticidal soap spray
Protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and safety goggles.
Move the peace lily out of direct sun and cover the surrounding surfaces to protect them from dripping soap. If the weather is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, take it outdoors to spray it, if possible.
Put on the protective clothing and safety goggles.
Spray the plant until the soap drips from all its surfaces, being sure to hit both sides of all the spathes and leaves.
Repeat weekly, or as often as the soap's label suggests, until the thrips are gone.
Although an underwatered peace lily may produce brown spathes, the plant obligingly announces when it's time to water by drooping slightly. As a general rule, watering once each week to soak the entire root ball and letting the plant drain thoroughly prevents excessively dry or wet soil.
Although peace lilies may grow as outdoor perennials in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 11 through 12, they're most often sold as easy-care tropical houseplants.
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Spathiphyllum (Group)
- Flower Shop Network: Brown Is A Good Color for Chocolates But Not A Peace Lily
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Tropical Foliage Plant Development: Breeding Techniques for Anthurium and Spathiphyllum
- University of Florida: Mid-Florida Research & Education Center -- Spathiphyllum Production
- The Tomato Magazine: Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in Greenhouses
- The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual: Essential Gardening Know-how for Keepin (Not Killing!) More than 160 Indoor Plants; Barbara Pleasant
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Thrips -- Indoors
- Bonide: Insecticidal Soap Ready-to-Use Label
- Horticulture: Peace Lily Care