SPATHIPHYLLUMS are stemless plants grown for their glossy leaves and arum-shaped flower heads. Many kinds have become popular house plants, but most of these are hybrids. All spathiphyllums have short underground rhizomes that send up clusters of lance-shaped or elliptic, dark green leaves on sheathed leafstalks. Flower heads arising from centers of leaf clusters are produced mainly in spring or summer (occasionally in early fall) on long stalks that tower above the foliage. Each flower head consists of a large, white spathe surrounding an erect, 2- to 3-inch-long spadix colored white, cream, or green. The usually fragrant flower head keeps its original color for only about a week. The spathe gradually changes from white to light green and remains attractive for a further five or six weeks. It then begins to become unsightly, and is best removed.
S. 'Mauna Loa,' a hybrid, can grow 2 feet tall. Its leaves, on stalks 10-12 inches long, are up to 9 inches long and 5 inches wide. This plant flowers mainly in spring, although it sometimes blooms intermittently throughout the year. The flower stalk can be 15-20 inches long, and the pointed-oval spathe backing the cream-colored spadix is 4-6 inches long and up to 4 inches wide. S. wallisii, the only true species commonly grown indoors, rarely grows more than 12 inches high. Its leaves, on 6-inch-long stalks, are 6 inches long and 3 inches wide. The flowers, which appear in spring and often again in late summer, are borne on stalks 8-10 inches long. The cream-colored spadix rises from the base of a pointed-oval spathe 3—4 inches long and 2-3 inches wide.
Light Grow all spathiphyllums in medium light. Direct sunlight will burn the leaves.
Temperature Normal room temperatures are suitable for these plants. Minimum tolerable temperature: 55°F. Spathiphyllums are particularly sensitive to dry air and should be kept on trays of moist pebbles throughout
the year. In temperatures of 650 and above there is unlikely to be a noticeable rest period. Growth may slow down during the winter, however.
Watering Water moderately, enough at each watering to make the potting mixture moist throughout but allowing the top half-inch of the mixture to dry out before watering again. If the temperature falls below 6o°F for more than a day or two, reduce the quantity of water, making the potting mixture barely moist. Never let the mixture dry out completely.
Feeding Apply standard liquid fertilizer every two weeks from early spring to late fall (when spathiphyl-lums grow most actively). Continue feedings throughout the year for plants that are actively growing in peat-based mixture.
Potting and repotting Use either a peat-based potting mixture or an equal-parts combination of soil-based mixture, leaf mold, and coarse sand or perlite. Move plants into pots one size larger every spring until the maximum convenient pot size (probably 6-8 inches) has been reached. Thereafter, topdress plants annually with fresh potting mixture .
Propagation Propagate in spring by dividing overcrowded clusters of leaves. Pull rhizomes apart gently, making sure that each piece has at least two or three leaves attached. Plant individual pieces in 3-inch pots of either of the recommended mixtures, burying each piece at the same depth as the entire rhizome was planted. Do not feed the newly potted rhizome sections for three months. Otherwise, treat them as mature spathiphyllums.
Special points Red spider mites will attack spathiphyllums, if humidity is low. Mist-spray foliage at least once a week, concentrating on leaf-undersides, which is where these mites collect.
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