I talk to plants. I know it can look quite silly but I do find that they grow beautifully, and that I feel a companionship with them. So, it got me to thinking, what exactly is the science behind talking to plants? How is it beneficial to us, their human caretakers, and them, these green organisms we are so fond of? Let’s find out.
Benefits to the Plants
We will take a look at a few studies, formal and informal that test the age old adage of talking to your plants.
- The Royal Horticultural Society performed a study where over a one-month period ten different individuals were recorded reading literary or scientific works to their plants. The experiment’s controls were that each person received one tomato plant of the same variety, which was in the same soil and received the same care routine. At the end of the month it was found that the plants that had been read to by a female voice grew an inch taller than the male voices! Interestingly enough, the female voice whose plant grew the most was that of Sarah Darwin. Yes, that She is the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin and read from her ancestors’ seminal work, “On the Origin of Species”. However, it should be noted that this experiment was done over ten years ago and there is some criticism of it as a “publicity stunt”.
- The television show, “Mythbusters” performed an experiment as well where 60 pea plants were placed in three different greenhouses. One greenhouse had a recording of humans saying nice things to plants, one had recordings insulting the plants, and the last greenhouse was silent. After two months the plants with the recordings showed roughly the same amount of growth, while the silent one showed the least amount of growth.
You can watch the segment on YouTube.
- Some researchers have found a gene that responds to sound and music, in “a 2007 paper from scientists at South Korea’s National Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology proposed that two genes involved in a plant’s response to light—known as rbcS and Ald—are turned on by music played at 70 decibels.”
Overall, the scientific research is lacking a bit and we are going more off informal experiments and anecdotes. However, if you enjoy it and your plants seem to enjoy it, keep doing it! Comment or email me about your plant talking habits.
Benefits to Us
We’ve already covered all the benefits of bonsai in a previous post, but did you know that a lot of what’s covered there applies to houseplants and gardening?
Having green foliage around is better than a bare office and being around plants can help focus your attention and increase concentration. There’s also the feeling of pride and accomplishment. I know seeing a sick plant revive after some care makes me feel really good! There are numerous benefits like an increase in empathy and responsibility. Knowing that you have to take care of this living thing is beneficial to our state of being. Lastly, plants are proven to improve air quality, and for those of us in cities, that is important! Look at NASA’s air quality study here.
Of course, now we have to go over how talking to plants benefits you. Here are a few things I’ve found from talking to my plants:
- Loneliness dissipates – I find my plants to be my friends, and although they can’t respond talking to them brings me great joy. Don’t worry about me though, we all get lonely sometimes, if you are feeling so bad that a plant can’t help make sure you reach out to your loved ones.
- An alternative to pets – I love furry friends but due to allergies I can’t keep a pet, and there are lots of other reasons people may not be able to host a furry companion. A plant companion, while not as cuddly, can be rewarding and offer a semblance of companionship.
- An appreciative audience – This may seem silly but if you’ve got that song you love to belt out but you’re really not a singer, you’ve got yourself an audience that cannot boo you! Need to practice a presentation for school or work? Try it on your plants, they will appreciate the attention and give you the confidence for a real audience!
- The plain fun of it – how fun is it to just talk to something and feel the freedom in that? If any of us have or had pets, I know I used to talk to them like humans and it was great. There’s nothing to be self-conscious about and talking to plants helps with that.