S is for “Spathiphyllum.” It’s also for “simple.” And this wonderful group of tropical plants is simply sensational indoors. Even better, spaths (as they’re often called by horticulturists) are easy to care for and grow in the home.

Peace lily bloom

The flowers of large-leaved peace lilies can be quite dramatic.

Photo Credit: Donna W. Moramarco

Spath in urn container

Just slip your plant’s nursery pot into a decorative glazed urn for a dressed-up look.

Photo Credit: Donna W. Moramarco

Spathiphyllum ‘Domino’

Spathiphyllum ‘Domino’ has great variegated leaves that add loads of interest to any room.

Photo Credit: Donna W. Moramarco

Chances are you’ve probably seen spaths growing in all kinds of interior spaces, from malls and atriums to offices, and of course, homes. Commonly known as peace lily, these beauties are wonderful choices for medium- and low-light areas.

There are all kinds of spath varieties to choose from, but they’ve basically all got fairly long, oblong leaves that come to a point, and they all feature simple white blooms. A visit to your favorite local garden center should give you lots of choices. Ask a staff member to help you select the best one that fits your indoor space and needs.

I suggest that if you’re looking for something big, you check out Sensation Junior peace lily (Spathiphyllum 'Stwentynine' (Sensation Junior)), one of the largest spaths available. It’s adored for its dark-green, ribbed foliage and large, long-lasting, white flowers. You can expect Sensation specimens to reach 6 feet, so make sure you give it some space. At the other end of the spectrum is ‘Petite’ peace lily (Spathiphyllum ‘Petite’). This wee beauty provides the perfect scale of small, dark-green leaves and perky, white flowers for a small accent table or vanity. And there are many varieties in between, so one is sure to meet your indoor needs!

As I mentioned, spaths are easy to care for. And I’m not kidding: Just place them in the right spot, and about all they’ll need on a regular year-round basis is water. The best way to tell when your peace lily needs a drink is to stick your finger down a few inches into the medium. If it feels slightly dry, then water. If it’s moist, wait.

When you do water, add enough so the liquid drains out the bottom of the pot. If you’ve got a tabletop spath, just bring the plant over to the sink for a thorough watering. (But use a watering can for heavy floor plants that are hard to move!) And remember, never let your plants sit in water. A few minutes after watering, drain any saucers of excess liquid.

During the growing season (starting in spring), peace lilies can use fertilizer regularly. (Be sure to follow the package directions for the proper rate of application and frequency.) Then come November through February, give your spaths a rest from this ritual.

Like most houseplants, spaths are dust magnets, so the foliage can use a little cleaning from time to time. (Plants depend on their leaves to manufacture food, so keeping them free of dust allows the process to happen more efficiently!) If possible, put the plants in the shower and rinse them off with lukewarm water.

If your peace lily looks like it’s getting too big for its pot, don’t be too hasty to move it into a larger container. These beauties don’t mind being a little pot-bound. If you do decide to move your plant into a larger pot, it’s best to do so in late winter or early spring. You can also do it in fall, just before you bring them back indoors for the winter. When you do repot, select a container that’s no more than 2 inches larger in diameter than the old one, and use a multipurpose, well-drained potting soil. (And here’s a helpful reminder: If you’re reusing an old pot, make sure to sanitize it first!)

As beautiful and easy to care for as these plants are, they do occasionally run into problems with pests or diseases. Scale is a big pest culprit. One tell-tale sign of this pest problem is stickiness on the leaves or the floor area just below the plant. Before you treat the plant for scale, however, take a trip to your local garden center for help in selecting a proper and legal treatment for your plant.

Spaths can also have leaf spots, which generally are fungal or bacterial in origin. For an accurate diagnosis, take a plant sample to an expert at either your local garden center or Extension office.

To avoid these problems altogether, try following a few cultural hints: Keep the foliage dry (which means no misting the leaves); try for consistent, good air circulation around the plant (think about placing it near open windows during the warmer months or near overhead fans); and only handle your spath when it’s dry. Finally, don’t forget to wash your hands before you touch other plants to avoid spreading any disease or insect.

Root rot can be a problem, too. To prevent this issue, make sure you don’t overwater the plant. Also, only plant your peace lilies in pots with drainage holes. (And, again, do make sure to empty saucers of excess liquid.)

That said, place your peace lilies just about anywhere you’d like in your home – they’re a decorator’s dream! (Take it from me: I’ve got spaths in my living room, bathrooms and bedrooms.) Small-leaved varieties make excellent choices for coffee tables, end tables or nightstands. Large-leaved selections make wonderful choices as floor specimens. A single plant, when placed by a sofa or chair in a lovely decorative container can add all kinds of interest to any space. (Make sure if your pot is on any kind of porous surface, like wood, that you’ve got a liner or saucer under it to catch any drippings.)

Spectacular spaths are a wonderful, easygoing addition to any décor – whether you’re a seasoned houseplant gardener or new to the whole houseplant thing. With just a little care and attention, they’ll reward you with beautiful year-round flowers and foliage just about anywhere you place them. (What could be simpler than that?!)