Underwatered peace lily: How to tell and fix the spathiphyllum

Peace lily (Spathiphyllum) is a tropical plant whose native environment is on the forest floor of rainforests.

Peace lily (Spathiphyllum) is a tropical plant whose native environment is on the forest floor of rainforests. The plant can survive between three to five years if you provide it with conditions like well-drained soil, room temperature and filtered water, high humidity, twice-a-year fertilization, and indirect sunlight. However, if yours looks droopy, discolored, wilt or bends, it means there are some care tips you’ve overlooked.

Signs- How to tell a peace lily is underwatered

Photo by Iryna Imago from iStock

Peace lily needs week-to-week watering during spring, fall, and summer. Fortnightly watering during the months of winter is also advisable. The signs of an underwatered peace lily include:

Dry and brown spots on its leaves

A healthy peace lily looks green when watered correctly. But if you notice dry and brown spots on its leaves, it means you’ve not been giving it enough water. Prolonged underwatering may enlarge the brown and dry spots, preventing the plant from effectively carrying out photosynthesis.

Leaves turning yellow and crispy

Yellowed leaves that are crispy are early symptoms of an underwatered lily. However, when you provide enough water, the leaves will regain their greenness and puffy texture.

Dry soil in the pot

Perform a soil moisture test by sticking your index and middle fingers in the soil. If the top 1-2 inches are dry, it’s time to rehydrate your plant. Getting well-drained soil and investing in a terracotta earthenware pot can also help revive your underwatered plant.

Brittle roots

Prolonged periods of underwatering can also cause your peace lily’s roots to become dry and brittle. You can uproot your plant and test the roots for brittleness to determine if underwatering is the problem or something else.

Curled, shriveled, or wrinkled leaves

Plants like peace lily compensate for water insufficiency by curling their leaves to retain moisture. However, if the curling is accompanied by shriveling and wrinkles, it’s time to rewater it. After a few days, you should see the leaves spreading out and maintaining their turgidity.  

How to save an underwatered peace lily

Photo by LightFieldStudios from iStock

The right way to revive a peace lily plant exhibiting signs of underwatering is by administering the correct watering method. Follow these steps to save your underwatered peace lily plant.

Step 1: Fill a bowl or sink with lukewarm distilled water

Peace lily plants don’t do well with tap water as it contains fluoride and other contaminants. So, the first thing to do is fill a bowl or sink with lukewarm and distilled water.

Step 2: Place the holed-up pot in the water

Once you pour a generous amount of water into the bowl or sink, place the pot on top of it. This allows the container to sip in water through the holes.

Step 3: Give it 10 minutes to soak up water

Set your timer. If the alarm goes off after 10 minutes, you’ll know the bottom part of the soil has absorbed enough water. Remove the pot from the water and let it drain out excess water.

Step 4: Examine the leaves after 2-3 days

After 2-3 days, your plant should recover its green foliage. If it doesn’t, try out the following tips:

Change the pot

Plastic and glass containers generally retain water for long periods, suggesting overwatering. The right pot to go for is a terracotta pot since it drains off excess water fast.

Set the pot in a room with high humidity

Part of the reason your plant may be showing signs of underwatering is the position of the pot. Peace lilies enjoy high humidity, which is why you should place the pot near the bathroom or kitchen since these rooms provide generous amounts of water particles in the air. Alternatively, you can set the pot on top of a moistened gravel tray to offer high humidity around the plant.

Keep it away from direct sunlight

Peace lilies exposed to direct sunlight can easily wilt and die even if they’re properly watered. Instead, consider placing the pot in a bright and well-lit room facing the east.

Put it in temperatures above 61°F

Since a peace lily is a tropical plant, ensure you place the pot in a room with temperatures about 61 degrees Fahrenheit. During the cold months of winter, you may get tempted to place it near a heater or air conditioner. Avoid that by all means.

Step 5: Continue a once-a-week watering routine

After exposing it to the above conditions, continue with the once-per-week watering schedule, particularly during summer and parts of fall. You can water it after two weeks during winter.

How to tell if a peace lily is underwatered or overwatered

The table below compares the differences between an underwatered and overwatered lily:

Underwatered peace lilyOverwatered peace lily
top 1-2 inches of soil is dryWater-soaked soil
Dry and brittle rootsEdema- wet and mushy roots
Curled, shriveled, and wrinkled leavesWiltedness
Leaves turn yellow, dry, and crispyLeaves appear limp and turn yellow

Peace lily drooping but the soil is moist

Photo by Natasha Zakharova from iStock

The first sign of a peace lily plant approaching its near-death is drooping regardless of whether the soil is moist or dry. So, it’s easy to imagine that droopy leaves are a sign that a peace lily is dehydrated. While this may be true, sometimes droopiness may happen even if the soil has water. Here are some reasons your plant is droopy but in moist soil:


An overwatered lily struggles to receive enough oxygen and nutrients, leading to drooping. In addition, the size and type of container might prevent effective drainage of water. Correcting droopiness due to overwatering involves choosing earthenware for potting, well-drained soil, and avoiding the temptation to water it more often during the week.

Overexposure to direct sunlight

While sunlight is an essential ingredient fostering the growth of peace lilies, too much of it can burn the leaves even if the soil is adequately watered. The best place for the pot is in a room receiving partial sunlight. If you’re growing it outdoors, ensure to place it under a shade-like structure like your patio or terrace.

Root rot

A peace lily plant standing in excess water is likely to get root rot, causing it to become droopy. Symptoms of root rot include wilted and yellowing leaves and edema in roots that may turn black. If the droopiness doesn’t improve after treating the fungus infection, it’s time to replace the soil.

Transplanting shock

Did the droopiness happen after transplanting your plant? If yes, your plant could be suffering from potting shock. Check out the plant for wilted, shriveling, or yellowing leaves. If it shows these signs, now is not the best time to water it. Instead, give it time to adjust to its new setting.