The Meaning and Symbolism of Peace Lilies 

Whether you’re looking for a low-maintenance plant for your office or hoping to add some greenery to your home, the peace lily is a great choice. Plus, these plants have more to offer than their looks! As symbols of peace and purity, these plants may be able to bring a sense of calm to your home. Keep reading to learn more about the rich meaning and symbolism of peace lily plant.

The Meaning & Symbolism of Peace Lillies – The Essentials

Peace lilies carry the symbolic meaning of peace, purity, and innocence. Their white flower-like spathes resemble a white flag of surrender, which inspires some symbolism. The plants are also considered beneficial in Feng Shui practices.


About Peace Lilies

About Peace Lilies

Family, Genus, and Taxonomy

All peace lilies belong to the Araceae family, which also includes philodendrons, calla lilies, monsteras, and more. Peace lilies are members of the Spathiphyllum genus. This name relates to the plants’ modified leaves called spathes.

There are many species of peace lilies, but Spathiphyllum cochlearispathum is the most commonly kept as a houseplant.

Botanical Characteristics, Colors, and Fragrances

Peace lilies have dark green, ovular leaves that form points at their tips. The leaves also include long petioles (leaf stems).

Most peace lilies have leaves that are solid green, but some cultivars exhibit patterned and variegated leaves. The exact variety also impacts leaf size and shape.

The environment and where you position the plant will affect how large a peace lily gets, but plants typically max out at three to four feet tall indoors. Peace lilies are also relatively easy to propagate if you’d like to expand your collection.

While peace lily plants are known for their white “flowers,” these are not true flowers. Instead, they’re modified leaves known as spathes. Each white spathe surrounds a spike covered with tiny flowers.

The vast majority of peace lily plants kept as houseplants have white spathes. However, some species have green spathes.

Peace lily flowers do not have much of a fragrance.

History & Origins of Peace Lilies

Peace lilies are native to South America or Southeast Asia. The native range varies between species.

Peace lily plants were brought to Europe in the late 1800s. From this point on, plant breeders began to develop new varieties suited for indoor life.

Popular Types, Species, and Cultivars

The most popular species of peace lily kept as a houseplant is Spathiphyllum cochlearispathum, but people do cultivate other species of peace lilies. Since plants are often unlabeled, it’s often hard to determine precisely what species each plant is.

Over time, people have developed numerous peace lily cultivars. Although these plants look similar, they vary in size, leaf shape, and leaf color/pattern.

Here are some popular peace lily cultivars:

  • Domino: dark green leaves covered with fine white lines
  • Power Petite: compact in size and perfect for small spaces
  • Allison: exquisitely pointed spathes that slightly resemble calla lily flowers

Etymological Meaning

The genus name Spathiphyllum comes from the word spatha meaning spade, and phyllum meaning leaf. This relates to the modified leaves known as spades that surround the plants’ spike-like flowers.

The name peace lily refers to the plant’s symbolism of peace. While the plant is not a true lily, some people think the spathes resemble lily flowers.

What Regions are Peace Lilies Native To?

What Regions are Peace Lilies Native To?

The majority of peace lily species are native to South America. Many of the plants grow in the understory of tropical forests in Colombia and Venezuela.

However, some species are native to tropical regions in Southeast Asia.

Peace Lily Toxicity

While peace lilies are not true lilies, they still present a danger to pets and humans. All parts of the plant contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals.

When a pet or human bites or ingests part of the plant, these crystals will create a burning sensation. The result is pain, swelling, and possible vomiting.


The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Peace Lily Plants

The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Peace Lily Plants

The Symbolism of the White Peace Lily Flower

One of the telltale signs of a peace lily is its white “flower”. The peace lily plant has spikes covered with many tiny flowers, and each spike is surrounded by a modified white leaf called a spathe.

While this spathe is not a flower, many people think of the true flowers and the spathe as the peace lily flower.

So how does this relate to symbolism? As you look at the spathe, you might think it resembles a white flag. And if you do, you’re not alone!

This resemblance to a white flag of surrender means that the peace lily is often seen as a symbol of peace. This resemblance to this flag is how the plant received its common name.

Peace Lily as a Symbol of Innocence and Purity

Like many white flowers, the peace lily is also seen as a symbol of innocence and purity. This applies to all peace lily plants with white flowers.

The peace lily is also able to remove some toxins from the air. This ability to purify the air also makes it a symbol of purity. 

Peace Lily in Feng Shui

Peace Lily in Feng Shui

The peace lily is a popular plant in Feng Shui due to its ability to add harmony and peace to a space. It can also help purify the air, which makes it even more valuable.

Although a peace lily can help bring calmness to any room, it’s an especially popular plant for offices and bedrooms.

The peace lily is also a great plant to place in the Southwest corner of a room, which relates to marriage and relationships. While we can’t make any promises, there’s no harm in adding a peace lily to a southwest corner of your living room if you’re looking to increase harmony within the home.

Peace Lilies and the NASA Clean Air Study

One of the peace lily’s claims to fame is its ability to remove toxins from the air. Much of this information came to light after NASA’s clean air study.

This study investigated plants’ abilities to remove toxins from indoor air. The researchers looked at three toxins—benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde—as well as twelve different plants. One of these plants was a peace lily.

The peace lily performed better than the average plant at removing all three toxins from the air. Further research has shown that peace lily plants can remove small amounts of ozone from the air.

Peace Lily in Christianity

Since the peace lily arrived in Europe in the late 1800s, there are few references to the peace lily in the Victorian era. However, the peace lily does sometimes come into play in Christianity.

Some people view the plant as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection from the grave. Therefore, it is sometimes displayed during Easter.

Other people think the peace lily is a symbol of the Virgin Mary’s purity and innocence.


Suitable Gifting Occasions for Peace Lily Plant

Suitable Gifting Occasions for Peace Lily Plant

Since the peace lily is a symbol of peace, healing, and purity, it makes a great gift for a variety of occasions.

If someone is sick at home or is recovering from surgery, a peace lily will send them healing vibes. Plus, peace lilies are easy to care for nature means that those who are sick or ill won’t need to fuss over the plant.

Peace lilies also make great gifts when someone has lost a loved one or gone through a breakup. The plant will remind them you care and send feelings of peace.

The peace lily also makes a good gift for the sometimes stressful events of moving into a new home or starting a new job.


Peace Lily Meaning FAQs:

What does a Peace Lily symbolize?

The peace lily symbolizes purity, innocence, and peace.

Are Peace Lilies lucky?

Peace lilies can be seen as lucky due to the belief that they can bring peace and serenity. However, they are not seen as lucky as other plants.

Do Peace Lily plants come back every year?

Peace lily plants are perennials indoors, so they continue to grow for multiple years. If they die due to a freeze, they will not regrow the following year.

How long do Peace Lilies last?

Peace lilies can live for more than five years (you’ll need to repot every three years or so) with proper care (including appropriate soil, light, temperature, watering, and occasional pruning). Each peace lily bloom lives for about a month.

Do Peace Lilies flower more than once?

If peace lily plants are healthy, they will bloom each spring and fall. During these periods, the plant will produce multiple blooms but you’ll need to stay on top of common pests, drooping plants, or yellowing peace lily leaves and provide occasional fertilizing to ensure optimal growth throughout the year. 


Peace Lily Meaning – The Final Word

As the name suggests, peace lilies are symbols of peace, purity, and healing. If you’re looking for a plant to bring some serenity to an area or loved one, the peace lily could be a great option.

If you’re looking for your next peace lily to add to your collection, see our depth guide to the best plant shops delivering peace lilies nationwide.


Briana Yablonski
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Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

Author

Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

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