The stunning white flowers of the Peace Lilly and their low maintenance nature has made these plants very popular houseplants- especially for beginners. Yet, the many different causes for yellow Peace Lily leaves can leave new plant parents confused on what to do.
Even though Peace Lilies aren’t very demanding plants, they still have their needs and when these aren’t met, the first thing you’ll notice is yellowing of the leaves. Leaves are the primary way that plants display their deficiencies, so when anything is out of balance, yellowing leaves will be the first sign.
This makes yellow leaves concerning and confusing, because they’re a sign that something is wrong, but it’s a sign for many different issues. Luckily, Peace Lilies are both very expressive and resilient. If there’s a problem, the plant will tell you with yellow leaves, but will just as quickly recover.
However, once Peace Lily leaves have gone yellow they won’t turn back to green. The best you can do is treat the problem and remove the yellow leaves to make room for new growth, which will grow back very quickly when the plant is healthy.
It’s definitely disappointing when your Peace Lily begins to display yellow leaves since the plant is so gorgeous when it’s healthy and in full bloom. That’s why this comprehensive guide explains the most common causes for yellow Peace Lily leaves plus other causes that you might not even think about!
About the Peace Lily
Although I won’t do a complete care guide here, it’s still important to know some basics about your Peace Lily and its needs, so that you can better understand how you might need to change your Peace Lily care routine.
Most notably, Peace Lilies are tropical plants, native to southeastern Asia. The majority of problems with this plant come from its tropical needs that don’t get met as a houseplant since- for most of us- our home isn’t a tropical rainforest!
While it isn’t necessary for you to completely imitate tropical climate conditions, it certainly helps the plant when you do the best you can. Additionally, this plant naturally grows as ground cover in the tropical rainforest, so you want to mimic the kind of sunlight and moisture that the plant would normally receive in a setting like this.
Causes for Yellowing Leaves
Yellow leaves are the first symptom of many of the most common plant problems- which means that almost anything that you’re doing wrong could lead to yellow leaves. This means that once you notice yellow leaves, you should spend some time identifying what the cause might be.
As you read through the list, make a mental checklist to keep track of what you are and aren’t doing so that you can determine what the problem might be. Once you think you know why your Peace Lily has yellow leaves, treat the problem and stay attentive to make sure that the remedy worked and the yellow leaves weren’t due to something else.
For many of these problems, they result in brown leaves but, of course, the leaves turn yellow before fully brown. This means that yellow leaves are a sign that the problem has just begun and you can catch the problem early on to help the plant recover quickly.
Too Little Sunlight
This is often the cause of yellow Peace Lily leaves, since these plants are touted as having low sunlight needs. While it’s true that Peace Lilies don’t require full sun- since they’re ground cover plants- they grow at their best with several hours of indirect light.
Don’t forget that sunlight is needed for the photosynthesis process that creates chlorophyll, which makes the green pigment of leaves. Often if the leaves are turning yellow, it’s because the plant just isn’t receiving enough sunlight to produce the green color.
This may be the cause if you notice the leaves losing their green and fading into a lighter green or yellow color. This is definitely the case if the plant is struggling to produce flowers or if the flowers appear weak.
Since Peace Lilies need indirect light, it’s true that you don’t want the plant right in the view of the sun and it’s definitely better to err on the side of caution with this. However, the plant may be too far from the light or isn’t getting enough hours of light, and therefore needs to be moved closer to the sunlight.
It’s important that you do this gradually so that you don’t shock the plant by having a big change, but also moving incrementally helps you discern where that sweet spot is. You don’t want to move it too close and then have a problem with too much sunlight!
You definitely don’t want to overcorrect and place the plant in direct sunlight- you can’t make up for weeks of insufficient sunlight by giving it direct sun for two days!
If you have an east-facing window, this is a perfect spot for receiving indirect sunlight. While Peace Lilies need indirect light, they love sunlight nonetheless and prefer having indirect light all day long.
You can also use a sheer curtain to cover a window with lots of direct sunlight. This creates a similar effect to how the tree canopy shields lower growing plants from direct sunlight.
Too Much Sunlight
Of course, you can err on the other end of the spectrum and dry out your plant by leaving it in too much sunlight. This happens often for people who go on vacation and leave their plants in the sun while they’re gone- just to come home to yellow leaves!
It may seem confusing that Peace Lilies can have yellow leaves because of too much OR too little light, but the two look different so you should be able to tell which is the problem.
If your plant’s leaves are turning yellow because of too much sun, they’ll be a pale yellow, almost white. It’s also likely that the leaves feel very dry and crisp, or have brown streaks on them. If left in the sun for too long, Peace Lily leaves can get sunburnt fairly easily.
When you move the plant, again you want to be gentle and do this gradually rather than just bringing the plant into the shade. Start by taking the Peace Lily a foot or so away from the window. Or, if you have an indoor tree, try placing it under or behind the tree so it can enjoy the shade of the tree’s canopy.
If your plant is currently in direct sunlight, just bring it into indirect sunlight or under a bit of shade- Peace Lilies love getting tons of sun, just up to the point that it’s direct sun.
Too Much Water
Not knowing how often to water is another common mistake, especially with beginner plant owners. For those who haven’t been growing plants for long, many people think that the most important thing is watering the plants, so they focus too much on this aspect.
Often, if the plant displays yellow leaves, new plant owners think this means it’s thirsty and will water more- potentially worsening the problem. This is why it’s important to know the various causes for yellow Peace Lily leaves, so that you don’t add to the problem!
That being said, under watering can lead to yellow leaves (which I’ll explain in the next section!) but it’s more common that the problem is overwatering. Which may seem odd given the Peace Lily is a humidity-loving, tropical plant.
As with many tropical plants, like the Monstera Minima and all kinds of Pothos, the Peace Lily likes well-draining soil and does not grow well if it’s sitting in water. So, it might not even be a problem of overwatering, but of not having good drainage in the soil that allows the water to pass through.
It’s important that your Peace Lily is planted in a pot with holes on the bottom and a drainage tray so that the excess water drains out and doesn’t stay in the pot. Sitting water can very easily provoke fungus- which is a much bigger problem.
It’s also best to empty out the excess water that collects in the drainage tray, so that the roots aren’t sitting with it. But this doesn’t mean to just throw out the water- this water is still good to be used for other plants!
You also want to be using a soil mixture that allows for good draining, more so than normal potting mix does. To do this, just add in some coco coir or perlite into your potting mix to improve aeration.
Not Watering Enough
Of course, it’s possible that the cause of your yellow leaves are due to underwatering, but thankfully this issue is much easier to deal with. Peace Lilies are very drought-resistant plants, so they recover from lack of water very quickly.
If your Peace Lily’s leaves are yellow and drooping, looking a bit wilted, this is a sign that your plant needs more water. Peace Lilies should be watered about once a week, so if it’s been over a week, give your Peace Lily a nice shower! Or, check out these self-watering pots.
Keep in mind that it doesn’t need to be watered as often during the winter months, when it’s cooler and the plant is in its dormant period.
Something that’s really great with Peace Lilies is that they recover from lack of water very quickly, and will show it. In about 20 minutes after you water your dried out Peace Lily, it will perk back up and really appear lively.
Depending on how long you’ve gone without watering, there might be some leaves that are too far damaged and are dying. Just clip these off to allow the plant to focus its energy on the healthy leaves and new growth.
Although you don’t need a strict schedule for watering your Peace Lily, it helps to keep track of when you last watered and to not leave it without water for too long. If the plant doesn’t perk up at all and still seems wilted after you water, that’s a sure sign that underwatering is not the problem and you need to look elsewhere.
This isn’t something that many people consider, but the water that you use can be just as impactful as how often you water the plant. Peace Lilies aren’t super sensitive, but there can be build up of salts or residual chemicals if your water isn’t filtered.
Most people water their plants with tap water and don’t have problems, but this can be a contributing factor. The amounts depend on where you live, but chemicals like Chlorine or Flouride are frequently found in tap water and over time these chemicals can harm the roots or soil health.
Since these chemicals aren’t absorbed by the roots, they just stay in the soil, building up over time. Eventually this buildup will block nutrients in the soil from being used by the roots and the plant will suffer.
Luckily, this is super easy to avoid with a few different ways of using water. Firstly, if you have a filter and use filtered water for your plants, you won’t have this problem at all. You can also use rainwater, collected just by leaving a bucket or watering can outside.
You can also dechlorinate your water in two ways: fill up your watering can and let it sit out overnight or boil the water then use after cooling.
Peace Lilies aren’t super heavy feeders, so they don’t need tons of nutrients but, as with any plant, they will suffer if they aren’t receiving enough nutrients to produce their flowers. The most common nutrient deficiency is with Nitrogen, however it’s also possible that your plant is lacking additional nutrients like Iron or Magnesium.
Since Peace Lilies don’t require fertilizer, this problem isn’t due to lack of fertilizing but rather it’s usually from sitting in old soil. If you’ve had your Peace Lily for over a year and it’s grown a lot, it might be time for some fresh soil or repotting!
If the Peace Lily has begun to outgrow its pot, its roots will be too tightly bound and this suffocates them to where they can’t soak up nutrients.
Start by giving your Peace Lily a little fertilizer to boost it, either with organic liquid fertilizer, or compost or worm castings if you have some. However, if you see roots sticking out of the drainage holes or growing out of the top, this is a definite sign to repot.
Peace Lilies typically need to be repotted every 2-3 years anyways and should be repotted in a slightly larger pot with fresh soil. Give the plant some time to adjust after being repotted- it may need a week to show signs of regrowth.
Also note that sometimes Peace Lilies can go into shock after being transplanted. So, maybe you had a perfectly healthy Peace Lily and it didn’t turn yellow until after being repotted. This is very normal and you just need to give the plant some time! Hold off on fertilizer until it has adjusted.
On that note, be moderate with fertilizing Peace Lilies and don’t try to force their growth. They don’t need extra nutrients given to them, so light fertilizing is already something extra. If you fertilize too often you’ll be overwhelming your plant.
This is especially true if you’re not using an organic fertilizer- the chemicals in commercial fertilizers are too strong and can do lots of damage to your plant. Plus, it’s fairly easy to make your own liquid fertilizer!
If you see yellow leaves with browning edges, this is a likely indicator of over-fertilizing. Even with organic fertilizer, if you’re using it too often there can be residual buildup in the soil, preventing root growth.
If you know that you fertilize your Peace Lily often, take off for a month and allow your plant some time to absorb everything in the soil and recalibrate. Note that you shouldn’t fertilize in the winter, since this is the plant’s dormant period.
Peace Lilies aren’t sensitive to small temperature fluctuations, but harsh changes will definitely send the plant into shock. This is more of a concern with cold temperatures than with hot temperatures.
Being a tropical plant, Peace Lilies cannot withstand frost and will die if left in temperatures below 40 F. If they’re just exposed to cold temperatures, like from an open window for example, they might not die from this but they will be stressed and likely show yellow leaves.
It’s best to keep Peace Lilies away from drafty windows, air vents, and even heaters, as extreme heat can shock them as well. If you have a cold night and turn the heater on high, don’t be surprised to see your Peace Lily a bit yellow in the morning.
With a stressed out Peace Lily, you might find yellow and wilted leaves and the leaves may be curled and dried if it’s stressed due to heat. This may also happen if you have a Peace Lily outdoors and bring it indoors as the temperatures drop.
It’s normal for your Peace Lily to be disturbed due to change in temperature and the best you can do is to be proactive and avoid drastic changes in its growing environment. If this does happen, just be patient and let it recover, taking care to avoid another stressor and fertilizing for at least two weeks.
Stress from Pests or Diseases
If your plant is fighting off or is being eaten by bugs, this can also be a big stressor that causes some of the leaves to turn yellow. Also, if the plant is suffering from a disease, it won’t have the same energy to produce fully green leaves.
Fortunately, Peace Lilies aren’t vulnerable to any specific pests other than the typical aphids and spider mites that come into your home. If you do notice these, you can treat the plant with neem oil to get rid of the pests, then give your plant some time to recover.
However, Peace Lilies are prone to root rot fungus if they’re left in sitting water. Root rot is a nasty fungus that isn’t reversible, so it’s better to stay proactive and avoid it in the first place.
The best way you can prevent root rot is to water only when needed, use a pot with drainage holes, and a soil mixture that allows for good drainage. All of these things prevent there being too much water in the soil, so the fungus doesn’t grow in the first place.
Once root rot has developed, you can’t treat it, so all you can do is repot the unaffected parts or just toss the whole plant.
Lastly, even with a completely healthy plant, the leaves will die eventually! A part of the decay process, the leaves turn yellow and then brown before falling off. This is completely natural and necessary and not something to worry about.
If you see one or two leaves turning yellow and brown, it’s likely just that they’ve become old. Yellow leaves signal a problem if the majority of or the entire plant has turned yellow.
Of course there isn’t anything you can do to prevent or treat this, as it’s not a problem! As old leaves turn yellow you can take them off the plant so it can focus on the healthy growth. When leaves have wilted and fallen, it does help to remove them so there isn’t too much buildup at the base of the plant.
Since there are many potential reasons for yellow Peace Lily leaves, one of the best things you can do is to be mindful of what you’re already doing for the plant and be attentive to how it changes as you try to treat it.
Peace Lilies are very responsive, but won’t respond immediately. So, be patient after you’ve changed something and let the plant adjust before you decide if the problem is fixed or not.
Regardless, it’s important to do something! Peace Lilies are resilient and will be able to recover, but not entirely on their own. If you notice yellow or browning leaves, take some time to figure out what the issue might be so that your plant can get back to full health.
Remember that the leaves won’t revert to green, but taking action will help preserve the other leaves and will allow the plant to produce new, healthy leaves. Plus, it won’t produce those gorgeous flowers if it’s not at top health!
As long as you take good care of your Peace Lily and stay aware of its needs, you’ll have a beautiful tropical flower growing in your home!
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.