Peace Lily (in search of)

c.The Graceful Custom, 2016 (Observer Book, 1972)

This week we’ve had a breakthrough in tracing the moment it went from plain old Spathiphyllum to the rather more evocatively named Peace Lily.

In the early 2000s, the Peace Lily was the nation’s second favourite houseplant (behind orchids) and, having been introduced in 1872, was enjoying a boom in popularity – and a real moment in the spotlight – for the first time in its history.

For a plant that is so easy to care for, it is surprisingly quiet in early books on indoor plants.  Spathiphyllum Wallisii appears in Huxley’s 1957 plant picture book, but it is said that its foliage alone is ‘not very attractive by itself.’

By 1979, changing attitudes towards foliage have Longman saying that the Spathe flower (no mention of peace lily) is ‘one of the few house plants that has beautiful leaves and the extra attraction of delicate flowers.’

Yet, in the Observer Book of House Plants in 1972 (above), the Peace Lily is there – the first mention we’ve found in the library of its now ubiquitous common name, and a new lead for us to follow…

We’ll keep you posted on new discoveries.  And please do get in touch if you can help unravel this mystery further for us.

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