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Do Plants Have Feelings? Here’s What We Know

Woman singing and listening to music surrounded by her plants
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Plants are known to be extremely sensitive to their environment — a necessity for their growth — but can they hear and even feel? Avid gardeners have long been known to get a little chatty with their plant companions or will swear that they have a favourite genre of music. The idea dates back to 1848 in Gustav Fechner, Nanna, according to an article by Penn State. But is this idea, despite being long-accepted by gardening communities, actually true? Do plants grow better when spoken to, and can they feel positive versus negative sentiment?


How Talking to Plants Can Help Them Grow

There are several theories behind the science of why talking to or playing music for plants helps them grow. While plants do not have central nervous systems like other animals, they can sense changes to their environment, both positive and negative, and they will respond to them. Here are some of the hypotheses behind increased plant growth from chatter or music:

Increased Output of Carbon Dioxide

One theory is that speaking to plants created more carbon dioxide (exhaled as humans speak) which many plants use to stimulate growth. This is discredited in the same article from Penn State, where head of horticulture Rich Marini shares that, “People would have to speak to their plants for at least several hours a day to enhance photosynthesis enough to influence plant growth.”

Sound Vibrations Spur Growth

Another hypothesis for why talking to your plants could help them grow is that sound carries vibrations. That vibration causes a growth reaction in plants, particularly around 115-250hz, according to an article by The Guardian. The article explains that this specific vibration range creates a more ideal environment for the plant, similar to it being happy, however, too strong of a vibration can cause the opposite effect.

Developing a Strong Relationship


Finally, a third potential reason that talking to plants can help spur growth is the most simple one. When you develop a close relationship with your plants, talking to them and singing to them, you’re likely spending more time with them and looking at them more closely. This added attention means the average gardener is likely to notice more nuances; when a plant is dry, any new growth or potential diseases.

A record player and small houseplant

Related: How to Rescue Dying Houseplants – Everything You Need to Know

Do Plants Feel Pain?

Many plants have natural defense responses to threats in their environment. For example, some are able to close up their leaves when a predator comes near. Those natural reactions are processed through a plant’s senses, not emotional responses like we see in humans. However, some studies point to the idea that plants do react to negative emotional environments, including being spoken to with insults.

IKEA’s ‘Bully a Plant’ Experiment

In 2018, IKEA conducted an experiment to see if beyond simply talking to plants, the intent behind the words made a difference to their growth. Two plants were installed in a school in UAE under relatively identical environments and the students of the school were invited to speak positively to one plant and negatively to the other. Global News reported on the experiment, that while not scientific, did show some pretty interesting results. The plant spoken to with positive messages was visibly more healthy than the “bullied” plant, which showed signs of drooping.

While the science isn’t conclusive, there’s certainly no harm in developing a closer relationship with your plants by giving them a compliment or seeing if they like the new Taylor Swift album. So go ahead, chat away!

You Might Also Like: Here’s How to Plan the Best Layout for a Vegetable Garden


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