Peace Lilies Peace Lilies

We all know that when winter rolls around, the days really are getting longer, at least in the northern hemisphere. But evidence of this may be in short supply for a few more months, and even as you begin to be able to discern that indeed there are a few more rays of light each day, the interior of your home remains dark as a cave. And that's no place to grow plants, is it?

Well, it may still be possible for you to provide a loving home for a houseplant, even in a room that isn't exactly flooded with light. Introducing the Mauna Loa, or Peace Lily, a plant which is rapidly becoming the cave-dweller's best botanical friend.

If you don't recognize this plant from your recent trek up Hawaii's Mauna Loa, the world's largest active volcano, you may recognize it from your trips to the shopping mall. Peace Lilies are favorites of commercial interior designers, for precisely the same reason they'll be good for you: they're easy to grow, and they can even grow in the dimmest, innermost sanctum of the shopping mall, where any kind of natural life seems in short supply.

The plants - which also go by their scientific name Spathiphyllum sp. - are easily identifiable by their dark green, elongated oval leaves. The deep green is offset by the white flower, providing a striking color contrast.

While shopping malls aren't known for their creative floral displays, these plants certainly won't look as fake and plasticky in your home as they do in the food court. A group of them, potted in an elegant black matte vase, will draw the eye to an otherwise "dead" corner of a room. Consider the colors in the room where the plant will be placed; the classic deep green foliage and brilliant white flower will enhance almost any color scheme.

Likewise, the Peace lilies will fit in with nearly any style of décor. You can imagine a large, old-fashioned planter, maybe with an elaborate vine design in bas relief, planted with Peace lilies and placed in a room furnished in a Victorian style, with an Oriental carpet and carved mahogany coffee table. Or, picture a Peace Lily planted in a sleek black marble planter, and set in a room with a glass coffee table and ultra-modern furniture. Either way, the plant would only enhance the room, bringing life to an otherwise dull corner.

  • Tip: The beauty of these plants doesn't end with their versatility. They are so easy to grow that even a novice with a dimly-lit "problem room" could keep one alive, and could even see it bloom.

First, consider just how deprived of light any plant feels when it's held captive indoors. Even as the days do grow longer, the light available indoors will only register 500 foot candles, or less - compare this to the 10,000 foot candles that are recorded by a bright sunny day outdoors. In the current political climate, we like thinking of the Mauna Loa by its popular name, "Peace Lily," but it's also known as the "Closet Plant," because it requires so little light.

Another good quality of the Peace Lily is that it does not require a lot of water. Keep the soil slightly moist and mist occasionally in dryer conditions. Keeping it humid will encourage it to bloom. It does, however, require heat, and the air must stay at 65 degrees or above, making it a good choice for you if you have an over-sized bathroom and you're looking to bring some color into it.

Just make sure, as with any houseplant, that you don't overwater it. Feel the soil every few days to see if it's moist, and water only when the soil begins to dry out.

Other good choices for low light areas are the Chinese evergreen, the Nephthytis or Arrowhead vine, and various palms, such as the Bamboo Palm, Lady Palm, and Parlor Palm.
Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Design.

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