Can plants hear music?

There has been a lot of interest in the question of whether plants can hear or respond to music. Some people claim that playing music, especially classical music, helps plants grow faster and stronger. Is there any truth to this idea? Let’s take a look at what the science says.

Do plants have ears?

No, plants do not have ears like humans and animals do. Ears are specialized organs designed to detect sound waves. Plants lack these specialized structures. However, they do have sensory abilities that allow them to detect and respond to sounds and vibrations in their environment.

How do plants sense sound?

Plants sense sound through tissues that are sensitive to vibration, changes in air pressure, and mechanical stresses. For example, the tiny hairs on plant leaves, stems, and roots can perceive vibrations. Plants also have proteins in their cell membranes called mechanoreceptors that allow them to respond to physical pressure and touch. Even though plants don’t have ears, they can still detect sounds through these sensory mechanisms.

Do plants respond to music?

There have been several scientific studies investigating how plants respond to music. The results have been mixed, but some studies have shown that music can influence plant growth and development. Here is a quick summary of some key findings:

– Plants seem to respond more to sounds in certain frequencies. High frequencies around 10,000-15,000 Hz and low frequencies around 50-200 Hz produce stronger reactions. These frequencies correspond to those that plants might naturally encounter from insects or the vibration of wind.

– Loud music around 90-100 decibels can damage and potentially kill plants. However, quieter music around 70-80 decibels can stimulate positive responses.

– Fast tempo upbeat music seems to increase respiration, chlorophyll production and germination rates in some plants, while slower classical music does not seem to have the same effects.

– Music affects vibration sensitive structures like roots and stomata. Exposure to certain frequencies may increase root length and density.

– The effects of music depend on the plant species. Different types of plants seem to respond differently to various sounds.

So while plants may not “hear” music, some studies suggest they can perceive sounds and vibrations, which may influence their growth patterns and behaviors. More research is still needed to understand these effects.

Proposed mechanisms for plant responses to music

Scientists have proposed a few possible mechanisms for how plants might respond to music:

1. Vibrations: The physical vibrations from sound waves can directly affect plant structures and cells, leading to changes in growth and morphology. For example, sound vibrations may increase nutrient uptake by roots.

2. Cavitation: Tiny cavities or pores in plant tissues can amplify vibrations. This acoustic amplification may allow plants to better sense high frequency sounds.

3. Changes in gene expression: Sound and vibration may trigger changes in plant gene expression and biochemistry. Some studies found music can change levels of various hormones and compounds in plants.

4. Damaged tissue: Loud music may damage or destroy plant cell structures, just like very loud sounds can harm animal ears. This may explain why loud music has negative effects.

The exact mechanisms are still being studied, but it seems likely that several effects contribute to plants’ ability to respond to music and other sounds.

Evidence that music helps plants grow

There are a number of commonly cited studies that suggest music can help promote plant growth:

– In 1962, Dr. T.C. Singh conducted experiments exposing plants to violin music, resulting in increased plant growth and biomass, especially with raga (classical Indian) music played at 70 decibels.

– In 1973, Canadian engineer Eugene Canby exposed wheat fields to J.S. Bach classical music and reported increased crop yields.

– In the 1950s-’60s, Ohio biophysicist Dr. George Milstein played rock music to his plant specimens and observed accelerated growth rates compared to plants not exposed to music.

– More recently in 2008, Korean scientist Mi-Jeong Jeong played classical music for flowering plants and found increased flower size, mass, and pigmentation.

However, many of these early studies had experimental flaws or have failed to be replicated by follow up studies. While music may sometimes have modest positive effects, the extent, reproducibility and mechanisms are still unclear.

Studies finding no effect or negative effects of music on plants

Not all studies have demonstrated a beneficial effect of music on plant growth and health. Here are some examples of studies that found neutral or negative impacts:

– In 2012, a student science fair project by two 16-year-old girls tested the effects of different genres of music on Arabidopsis thaliana plants. They found no significant differences between music-exposed and control plants.

– In 2016, Appalachian State University researchers exposed Chrysanthemum plants to classical music for 3 weeks. There were no significant differences in plant growth metrics between music-exposed and control groups.

– A 2013 study by the University of Adelaide exposed dried peas to various styles of music 24 hours a day for a week. There were no significant differences in germination rates between different music treatments and the control.

– Loud music exceeding 100 decibels has been found to damage plant tissues and impair growth. One greenhouse study found leaf damage and stunted growth in marigolds exposed to loud rock music compared to quieter classical music and a music-free control group.

The evidence remains mixed on how beneficial music really is for most plants under normal growing conditions. More research may help clarify this, but too loud music can certainly harm plants.

Reasons the “music helps plants grow” idea has been challenged

While exposure to sound and vibration can elicit modest effects on plants, many scientists have critiqued and challenged the notion that playing music routinely will help plants grow stronger. Here are some of the reasons this idea is controversial:

– Results of studies are mixed, with many showing no effect. More rigorous follow up studies are often unable to replicate initial positive results.

– Mechanisms are not entirely clear. Proposed theories for how plants might respond to music are still speculative.

– Playing gentler classical music is unlikely to substantially affect metabolism or growth rates.

– Music is more relevant for influencing behaviors (like seed germination), not necessarily growth.

– Effects, when present, tend to be small in magnitude and unlikely to make a meaningful difference in yields or health.

– Sound quality from normal speakers has limited effects compared to direct vibration or ultrasound.

– Most previous studies used small numbers of plants in artificial lab conditions, which may not reflect real-world field conditions.

– Commercial applications using music for higher crop yields are lacking, suggesting limited real world relevance.

While interesting from a scientific perspective, the hype around music influencing plant growth rates does not seem strongly supported when considering the evidence as a whole. More research in agricultural field settings is needed.

Some potential benefits of playing music for plants

Despite mixed evidence for plant growth effects, there may still be some potential benefits to playing music for plants in certain scenarios:

– Music creates a pleasant environment for people tending to the plants, improving the wellbeing of gardeners and plant caretakers. The enjoyment factor should not be underestimated.

– Gentle music approximately 75-85 decibels can sometimes (but not always) stimulate faster seed germination, earlier flowering, and greater fungal resistance based on limited studies. These effects are relatively small though.

– Music may aid plant health via effects on soil microbes like mycorrhizal fungi. The vibrations may stimulate fungal associations that benefit plant nutrient uptake.

– Music can mask loud construction or other noises that might otherwise potentially stress plants. Ambient noise may be preferable to intermittent banging.

– Since plants seem to respond best to high pitched frequencies, specialized high frequency music optimized for plants may have more profound effects. This is an area for further research.

What is the best music for plant growth?

Based on the limited research available so far, here are some characteristics of music that might have the best chance of benefiting plants:

Volume: Moderate volume around 70-85 decibels, not exceeding 90 db, is less likely to damage plants than loud music.

Pitch: Very high frequencies above 10,000 Hz seem to elicit stronger responses. Specialized “plant music” optimized for high pitches may have more effect.

Tempo: Faster rhythms around 120-140 beats per minute may enhance responses.

Genre: Some studies have found classical and Indian raga music to be most effective, but results vary across plant species.

Frequency: Playing music for a few hours per day, rather than 24/7, may reduce habituation effects.

Vibration: Direct contact with speaker vibrations may enhance effects on plants.

Ultrasound: Extremely high frequency ultrasound above 20,000 Hz can also affect plant growth and may represent an alternative to audible music.

More research is still needed to definitively conclude what music genre and acoustic properties are “best” for plants. Taking some of these characteristics into account may offer slight benefits for some plants in some conditions.

Potential risks or negative impacts of playing music for plants

While music is unlikely to harm plants under most normal conditions, there are some potential risks to be aware of:

Loud volumes exceeding 90 decibels can damage plant tissues and impair growth. Speakers that are too close or turned up too high can stress and damage plants.

Excess vibrations from high amplitude sound and bass frequencies near 50 Hz may physically weaken or damage fragile plants.

Music played 24/7 can lead to acclimation where plants start tuning out the stimulus. Shorter daily exposures may work better.

Changes in plant metabolism from music may have tradeoffs. For example, accelerating growth may also make plants more susceptible to pathogens or otherwise less fit.

Auditory stress for humans listening to loud music daily can impair work quality when tending to plants. Possible hearing damage is also a risk.

Overall, playing moderate levels of music for short periods is unlikely to cause issues for most plants. But care should be taken to avoid excessive volume and vibration.


The scientific evidence remains fairly mixed on whether playing music for plants regularly results in significant growth, yield or health benefits under normal agricultural conditions. While some studies have indicated modest positive effects, others have found no differences or negative impacts from music. The proposed mechanisms for how plants might respond to music are also still speculative. There are likely some effects of vibration and frequency on plant structures, but their practical significance is questionable.

When played at reasonable volumes, music is unlikely to harm plants directly. And there are some potential secondary benefits like improving worker mood or masking background noise. But growers should be skeptical of claims that music alone will increase crop performance. More research in agricultural field settings is needed to determine if playing certain types of music can provide any consistent, meaningful benefits to plant health and yields. In general though, factors like nutrients, water, sunlight and genetics play a much greater role in plant growth than acoustic stimuli. While serenading plants in the garden can be enjoyable, it is unlikely to dramatically accelerate growth on its own.

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