We all want a healthy, thriving peace lily, right? But normal leaf aging can take its toll, and when you hit the sweet spot for care/location, your plant can truly explode in growth. So this can leave you wondering how to prune a peace lily, or if you even should.
Routine pruning for a peace lily plant involves cutting off dying leaves and spent blossoms to redirect energy into producing new growth. For controlling an overgrown peace lily, trim no more than 1/3 of the plant at a time. When pruning stems, cut them as close to the soil line as possible to avoid leaving dead, rotting material behind.
In this post, I’m going to show you how to prune a peace lily in routine circumstances, including where to cut and where not to cut. You’ll also learn why pruning is different than other common houseplants and whether you should try root pruning to control growth.
Let’s get started!
- Peace lilies grow from underground rhizomes, not stem nodes. Because of this, pruning should be done on an as-needed basis to remove dying leaves/flowers or to control stem crowding.
- Cut all stems and flower stalks off at the plant base, leaving as little material behind as possible.
- Remove older leaves on the outer perimeter to relieve crowding- don’t prune more than 1/3 of the plant off at a time.
- Place a newly-pruned peace lily in an open space with gentle light. Don’t water the plant for 2-3 days after pruning.
- Do not attempt to prune peace lily roots unless you’re experienced with the technique.
Why Do Peace Lilies Need Pruning?
First of all, peace lilies do not need pruning in the same way that many other common houseplants do. That’s because the growth pattern is completely different than that of pothos, many philodendrons, Monstera, syngonium and other popular plants. These plants can develop leggy, unruly growth if you don’t prune; peace lilies don’t grow that way.
Peace lilies grow out of rhizomes- chunky, root-like stems that grow underground. Every node (the plant’s growth point) is on the rhizome, rather than on the stem itself like many other plants. When you clip the stalks, they will not regrow, so you can’t do any propagation from a peace lily cutting. Instead, fresh leaves sprout from the rhizome.
I took this photo while I was dividinng my peace lily a few months ago- it gives you an idea of how the stems grow from the rhizome:
I asked Mo Bhula, RHS Chelsea medalist and founder of The Botanical Archive, for his insights on caring for a peace lily. “Pruning a peace lily is better done on an as-needed basis. Peace lilies by nature are evergreen plants and don’t often require pruning, especially indoors. However, you may end up needing to prune your plant if you find pests, leaf browning or just a trim if your plant is getting too large.”
With that being said, your peace lily plant can still benefit from thoughtful pruning in a couple of ways:
- Pruning peace lilies removes old, spent blooms while keeping the plant focused on producing new growth.
- Cutting overcrowded stalks also helps air and light reach all parts of the plant’s foliage, preventing diseases from taking hold.
How to Prune a Peace Lily
Good news for us: Pruning a peace lily is an easy task that only requires simple tools. You’ll need a set of sharp scissors or pruners, and because peace lily plants have toxins in their sap, you might want to wear gardening gloves if you have sensitive skin.
Here’s our lovely model for today- one of my own peace lilies:
I divided this plant several months ago, and overall it’s healthy and growing well. It’s just looking a little rough from some aging yellow leaves and a few brown tips from me forgetting to water it a few times (oops!).
So I’m going to give it some attention today and show you how to do it.
1. Preparing to Prune
Choose a well-lit spot for your pruning project- you want to be able to see what you’re doing!
In my experience, pruning a peace lily isn’t especially messy, but you could lay down newspaper or an old sheet if you want to protect your work surface.
Use isopropyl alcohol to wipe the scissor/pruner blades and allow to air dry. This step prevents introducing pathogens (like bacteria and fungi) into your plant.
2. The Pruning Process
Here’s a closer look at the kind of leaves you want to remove:
Now that you’re ready to prune, you need to make your cuts in the right place. Leave as little stem material behind as possible- dead, rotting material can be a source of infection, and that’s never good.
Don’t make your cuts in the middle of the stem. This is a photo where NOT to cut-
Get rid of as much stem material as possible by pruning the leaves at the plant’s base, close to the soil line. Here’s a good spot to cut:
Here’s another example of a good spot to prune:
I also had a few dried-up, dead stems in the center of my plant. Since it was totally crispy and dead, I was able to remove it by gently pulling each stem free. If you find that any of the material doesn’t release with light pressure, go ahead and use your scissor/pruner to trim it as far down as you can.
If you’re pruning to remove excessive growth and not just random spend stems, start with the outer leaves- they’re the oldest and therefore closer to the end of their natural lifespan.
My plant isn’t very large or crowded since I recently divided it, but these photos show you which perimeter leaves I would cut off if felt the plant needed some extra space:
If your goal is to thin the plant out or promote fresh growth, I recommend pruning no more than half of your plant at a time. Leaves are where the energy-producing photosynthesis process takes place, so over-pruning can cause major stress and weaken your plant. Unless you have to prune a lot if the plant has been sunburnt or invaded by pests, pruning moderately is wiser.
Once you’ve finished pruning, make sure to remove all leaf/stem material from the pot. And don’t throw the trimmed leaves into the compost. Most lilies have toxic compounds that really don’t belong in the compost bin, in my opinion. Instead, throw them in the trash.
Here’s what I ended up taking off this plant:
It’s not that much material, but I think it made a big difference:
3. After-Pruning Care
Treat your peace lily to a little pampering to help reduce shock, especially if you had to do more extensive pruning than just a few spent leaves or blossoms.
Any area where you made a cut is essentially an open wound on the plant, and you don’t want rot or infection to set in. Mo Bhula suggests a place with good air flow. “Keep the area well-ventilated, the plant will be vulnerable to infection until the wound has calloused (this usually takes a day).”
I recommend waiting a few days after pruning to do any watering, and Mo agrees. “Don’t water your plant until the wound has calloused over as moisture can lead to rot.”
Finally, make sure your plant gets gentle, indirect light. Peace lilies don’t like a lot of bright light at any time, and it’s particularly stressful right after pruning.
When to Prune a Peace Lily
As a tropical plant, peace lilies don’t need to conserve their energy in cold weather, although their growth slows down. And since they’re indoor plants, weather conditions affect pruning time very little.
So there’s no specific time throughout the year when it’s best to prune aging or damaged leaves from your peace lily- you can trim it whenever the plant needs it.
However, if you’re planning to do a more extensive pruning to remove excess growth, I recommend waiting until spring or summer. That’s when most peace lilies are in their prime grow-mode for the year.
Should You Cut off Brown Peace Lily Leaf Tips?
Peace lilies are prone to developing brown leaf tips, usually from one or more of these causes:
- Too much light exposure
- Root rot
I’ve got some on my plant, likely from under-watering a few times in the recent past:
Crispy brown tips don’t look very nice, and it’s tempting to prune them off- but while it makes your plant look better right away, it’s not a good long-term solution.
Every cut you make to a plant’s tissue is a wound, and the plant will develop a black, protective callous at the cutting site. Plus, the leaf can continue to turn brown or yellow even after pruning the dried-up tip off.
The better solution is to cut off any severely discolored leaves at the plant base and address the underlying light and watering problems. I wrote posts on saving an overwatered peace lily and addressing root rot, so stop by to get the details on these issues.
I think this video from Plants and Poetry shows a helpful illustration of what happens when you trim off brown tips:
How to Deadhead a Peace Lily
Deadhead pruning is trimming your plant to remove faded or dead flowers.
When your peace lily matures (it may be at least a year or more for your plant to do so), it will bloom. But did you know that the lovely white bloom we always call a peace lily flower is actually something else?
The blossoming process starts when a white leaf shoots up. This white leaf is what people assume to be its flower, but it’s not. A peace lily’s entire blossom is called inflorescence, but the flowers themselves are rows of tiny spikes at the center called the spadix.
The bloom can last more than two months if it is exceptionally healthy, but it will eventually reach the end of its lifespan and die. Many people find their white flowers turn green and then brown, eventually drooping and dying. In my experience, my plant’s flowers fade straight from white to brown before drying up.
Side note: Learn about some other reasons why your peace lily flower is turning brown!
Either way, before the bloom dies out completely, it’s time to snip it.
- Locate the stem from which the stalk of the inflorescence grows
- Go as low as possible on the stem to cut the stalk
- Cut at a 45-degree angle to prevent droplets of water from forming and damaging the plant
- Remove the parts you’ve cut out to avoid exposing your pets to its risks
Pruning Peace Lily Roots: Should You Do It?
It’s not too hard to find instructions on how to prune peace lily roots on the internet. But in my opinion, root pruning is a risky technique that’s best left to experienced growers. If done incorrectly, you could seriously harm your plant or even kill it.
So I don’t recommend root pruning, especially if you’re a beginner gardener. I believe you’re much better off dividing a large peace lily, and that’s what I do with my plants. For one thing, it’s easier, and then you end up with more plants for your own home or to share!
I wrote a post on dividing a peace lily for propagation with lots of photos, so be sure to check it out to learn how to do it in just a few steps.
And if you really don’t want to divide your plant, you can always repot it into a larger container that gives it more room to grow.
Frequently Asked Questions about Pruning a Peace Lily
I hope this guide for how to prune a peace lily has been helpful to you- I know cleaning up my plant sure made it look better right away! Thankfully, it’s not hard, and our peace lilies go back to being their beautiful, low-maintenance selves.
I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any other questions about pruning peace lilies, or maybe some care tips you’ve learned that you’d like to share? I love answering questions and learning from other gardeners (and others do too!) so please feel free to let us know what’s on your mind in the comments!