Repotting Peace Lily Plants: When to Do it and How

Peace lily plants are not to be difficult for, but they occasionally need to be repotted. How are you supposed to do it?

Peace lilies are popular among both novice and experienced houseplant enthusiasts due to their bright white flower structures that rise above deep green foliage. They are low-maintenance and require little attention. All they need is moist soil, warm temperatures, and bright indirect light.

Peace lilies can survive for a long time without being replanted. They grow slowly and don’t mind being crammed into their pots. However, after a few years, you may notice signs that your spath requires a larger home.

Repotting is best done in late winter or early spring, when your spath is breaking dormancy but before it blooms. If your peace lily is in distress, don’t wait until spring. You can repot at any time, and your spath will benefit from it.

A beautiful and healthy lily plant with blooming flowers

Signs Your Peace Lily Needs Repotting

Although they can live for years in the same pot, repotting is required when growing Spathiphyllum varieties in containers. Here are some signs that your peace lily needs to be replanted, regardless of the season.

  • Roots are growing from the bottom of the pot, through the drainage holes. When there is no more room in the pot, the roots begin to seek water and nutrients elsewhere.
  • Roots are growing on the soil’s surface for the same reasons.
  • Water rushes through at rapid speed. As the roots grow, they displace more and more soil, compacting it into a hard mass that cannot be penetrated by water. No matter how frequently you water it, your peace lily may wilt and remain wilted.
  • The soil is gray, and the leaves of your peace lily may be pale green or yellow rather than the dark green they should be. This indicates that the soil has been depleted of its nutrients. Fertilizing can help, but it is only a short-term solution.
  • You haven’t repotted it in several years, and when you lift the plant out of the pot, you notice circling roots. When roots become so crowded that they form a circle, they are unable to absorb nutrients and water.
A peace lily plant with exposed roots for repotting

Tools You Need for Repotting a Peace Lily

To repot a spathiphyllum, you don’t need much equipment, but it’s a good idea to gather all of your tools before you start.

You will require the following items:

  • A brand-new pot. Or pots, if you intend to divide your spath. Only go up one or two pot sizes depending on the size of your plant. For example, if your spath was growing in a 6 inch pot, transplant it to an 8 inch pot. If your spath is very large, you can increase its size by two sizes. You may be tempted to go larger in the hopes of avoiding the task of repotting for a while, but resist. Planting in an overly large pot causes the root ball to become “lost” in a sea of too-wet soil for too long. This can lead to root rot, which can be fatal to your plant. Of course, divisions should be placed in smaller pots. A pot can certainly be reused. Rinse it thoroughly with dish soap and warm water. Then sanitize it with a 1:10 bleach water solution. Allow to dry naturally. Cleaning your pots before reusing them helps to keep diseases and insects at bay.
  • A good potting mix. You can either buy an all-purpose lightweight potting mix or make your own. Here’s one of our favorites:
    • 2 parts fine compost
    • 1 part vermiculite
    • 1 part perlite
    • 2 parts peat moss or coir (be sure to moisten the peat or coir before you mix it with the other ingredients)
  • A clean sharp knife, or a sharp pair of hand pruners.  You can also need an old butter knife.
  • A trowel or old measuring cup for transferring soil.  Some gardeners like to use their hands.
  • Gloves to protect your hands, and perhaps a dust mask.  Some soils contain microbes and bacteria that if breathed in or ingested can make you sick.   
  • Work surface protection if necessary, such as newspaper or plastic.

Repotting a Peace Lily

Water your spathiphyllum thoroughly a day or two before repotting. This will make removing it from the old pot easier and reduce the risk of transplant shock.

Collect your supplies, spread out your newspapers, and put on your gloves.

Take the plant out of its old pot. Depending on how root-bound your plant is, this could be difficult. Gently ease the plant out by grasping the foliage as close to the soil as possible.

A lily plant taken out of the pot for replanting

Sharp taps on the pot’s sides, wiggling, and shaking are all beneficial movements. To help the plant out, run a butter knife between the root ball and the sides of the pot. Proceed with caution!

If there are roots growing out of the drainage holes, removing the plant may be impossible without cutting the roots or breaking the pot. It is acceptable to cut the roots; they will regrow. Pruners can be used to cut apart a plastic pot.

Inspect the roots for damage and root rot once the plant has been removed. Root rot has a foul odor and causes the roots to turn black or brown. White or yellowish roots indicate healthy roots. Remove any broken or dead roots.

If you want to divide your spath, now is the time to do it.

A gardener cleaning the roots of a lily plant for repotting

Open the root ball. When roots begin to circle around and around, even after repotting, they will continue to grow in this manner unless given a new direction. Loosen and untangle the roots with your fingers before spreading them out. 

If the root ball is very thick, you can trim an inch or so off the bottom and then make three to five shallow slices all along the sides with your knife. This encourages the roots to grow out rather than around.

The exposed roots of lily plant being prepared for repotting

Fill your new pot about a third of the way with fresh potting mix. You want to make sure your peace lily is growing at the same depth it was before repotting, which is about 1 inch below the pot’s rim. Adjust the soil level as necessary. Set the plant in the center of the pot, roots fanning out, and then add more soil, tamping it down as you go.

A gardener filling in the new pot of a lily plant

Water thoroughly to eliminate air pockets and settle the soil around the root ball. After watering, you may need to add a little more soil.

For a month or two, keep your newly repotted plant out of direct sunlight and out of drafts. During this time, do not fertilize. Your spathiphyllum is adjusting to its new surroundings and will only require watering.

Avoiding Peace Lily Transplant Shock

Transplant shock is the stress that a plant feels when it is relocated to a new environment. It affects trees and shrubs, perennial plants, annual flowers, and even houseplants such as peace lily. Plants suffering from transplant shock wilt, lose leaves, and appear to die. The plant clearly appears to be in pain.

The best way to avoid transplant shock is to keep all environmental factors, such as temperature, sunlight, and water, as consistent as possible when moving your plant from one location to another.

Peace lilies are susceptible to transplant shock because they can be so dramatic when not given proper care. Make sure your plant has been well watered a day or two before repotting to avoid transplant shock. If you’re working outside, make sure the air temperature is equivalent to the temperature to which your plant has become accustomed, and that it’s not too hot, too sunny, or too windy.

Water thoroughly after repotting, but don’t overwater. Before adding more water, make sure the soil is completely dry. Keep your plant away from direct sunlight and in temperatures ranging from 65°F (18°C) to 80°(26°C). It should recover within a week.

After repotting, do not fertilize right away. Wait a few months before restarting your fertilization schedule.

Alaine Connolly
Alaine has been working way too hard in horticulture since 1992, beautifying golf courses, resorts, and hotels. She is a part time landscape designer who works full time caring for a 28,000 square foot public garden. At home, she maintains her own 400 square feet plot. Alaine lives in northern Illinois - zone 5b.
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