The idea that yelling or talking to plants can help them grow better has been around for decades. Some people swear by it, claiming their plants grow faster and stronger when exposed to regular one-sided conversations. Others dismiss it as an old wives’ tale. But what does the science say? Can shouting at your succulents really make them thrive? Let’s take a look at the evidence.
The history of talking to plants
The notion that plants might benefit from human vocalizations goes back centuries. In 1848, a German professor named Gustav Fechner published a book called Nanna (Soul-life of Plants), which claimed that plants are capable of feeling. He believed that plants could not only sense human presence, but also respond positively or negatively to human interactions like talking or yelling.
This concept really took off in the 1970s with the publication of The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird. The book documented controversial experiments that supposedly showed plants responding to human care and attention. The authors claimed plants that were scolded or shown aggressive emotions withered and died, while plants that were lovingly cared for thrived.
Though many scientists criticized these experiments as poorly designed and lacking controls, the book sparked popular interest in the idea of communicating with plants. Over the decades since, talking or yelling at plants has become a common gardening practice for some green thumbs.
The science behind talking to plants
So what does the scientific evidence actually tell us? Can shouting and yelling really influence plant growth, or is it just a waste of breath?
Unfortunately, there are not many rigorous scientific studies investigating whether yelling affects plants. A few small studies provide tentative evidence both for and against the idea:
– A 2013 mythbusters-style study by the television show QI found that plants grow faster when spoken to lovingly each day. However, the sample size was extremely small.
– In a 2012 paper, researchers measured biochemical markers of stress in tomato plants after exposing them to noise. The results were mixed, with some markers showing a stress response and others unchanged. The study was limited to short-term noise exposure.
– Analyzing plant responses to sound in general, rather than yelling specifically, a 1977 paper found increased oxygen production and accelerated growth in pea seedlings exposed to music. But not all subsequent studies have found music to benefit plants.
Overall the scientific evidence remains limited and inconclusive when it comes to yelling. More controlled, large-scale studies are needed to determine if shouting, swearing, or expressing anger directed specifically at plants actually influences their health and development. Many plant scientists remain skeptical.
Potential mechanisms behind yelling at plants
While data is lacking, there are a few hypotheses that could explain why yelling might affect plants:
– Vibration effect: The physical vibration of loud yelling could theoretically stimulate plant growth. Studies show plants may grow faster and stronger when exposed to certain vibrational frequencies.
– Stress response: Being yelled at could act as a stressor for plants, causing them to grow slower and become weaker. The stress hormone ethylene is known to cause plants to droop and wither at high levels.
– Carbon dioxide: The extra CO2 released by yelling in close proximity to plants provides them additional carbon they need for photosynthesis. However, it is unlikely the small amounts of CO2 from yelling would make a difference.
– Priming effect: Regular yelling could prime plants to respond differently to future stresses. This sort of priming effect has been shown for other stimuli like heat and drought, but not specifically yelling.
Much more research is needed to investigate these potential mechanisms behind auditory effects on plant growth.
Arguments for yelling at plants being beneficial
While solid scientific evidence may be lacking, plenty of gardeners swear by the practice of chatting up their plants. Here are some of the main arguments in favor:
Personal accounts of faster growth
Many plant owners insist they have noticed faster growth after adopting the habit of talking or singing to their plants daily. While anecdotal, these accounts continue to inspire others to try conversing with their plants. Some notice particularly strong effects with song or classical music. Personal testimonies certainly aren’t proof, but they are a compelling reason for yelling-proponents to keep the faith.
Increased human attention benefits plants
Even if the yelling itself doesn’t help plants, the extra time and attention required provides indirect benefits. People who talk to their plants inevitably end up spending more time tending to, observing, and caring for them. This alone could account for the faster growth many devotees report.
Extra carbon dioxide from breath
When yelling at close range, the elevated CO2 emitted in breath could provide a small fertilization effect. In theory, the extra carbon absorbed through leaves may allow for slightly faster photosynthesis and growth. Controlled studies have shown increased CO2 levels generally boost plant productivity. Of course, the CO2 concentrations from yelling would be far lower than enriched greenhouse growing conditions. But perhaps every little bit helps.
Vibrations may encourage growth
Acoustic vibrations have been shown to influence plant growth and development. In limited studies, vibrations appeared to increase germination rates, accelerate plant growth, and improve plant hardiness. The physical shaking caused by loud yelling could provide low-level vibration stimulation. More research on yelling specifically is needed to test this theory.
Psychic or spiritual energy
Less grounded in science, some argue yelling creates positive psychic or spiritual energy that promotes plant health. Related philosophies like biodynamics suggest passing positive human intentions to plants through speech or song. Skeptics view such mysticism as pseudoscience at best. But yell-encouragers feel their emotional energy tangibly helps plants flourish.
Arguments against yelling being beneficial
Despite the circumstantial evidence in favor, many remain unconvinced that subjecting plants to shouting offers any real benefits. Here are some reasons why skeptics urge quieting down around your plants:
Lack of rigorous scientific support
Controlled scientific studies have so far failed to find strong, consistent evidence that yelling accelerates growth. Anecdotes and preliminary results showing faster growth lack proper experimental controls to rule out confounding factors. They conflict with basic plant biology knowledge. Until more definitive proof emerges, many scientists continue dismissing yelling as plant pseudoscience.
No plausible mechanism identified
Research has yet to find a physiological mechanism by which shouting or yelling could help plants grow. Proposed theories about sound vibrations, exuded CO2, or stress hormones remain speculative and poorly supported in plants specifically. The more likely explanation is there simply is no real growth-promoting effect.
Yelling as an unnecessary stressor
Rather than helping plants, yelling may act as an irritant or stressor and impede growth. Some limited studies have hinted at inhibited germination, stunted growth, and even reduced survival when plants are exposed to aggressive yelling. Loud noise has been shown to harm plant health in similar ways to drought. Excessive stimulation may do more harm than good.
Differences in acoustic sensitivity across species
Plants experience and react to sound and vibration differently depending on species. Some plants, like corn, are more sensitive than others. What stimulates growth in one type of plant may overstimulate and distress another. Yelling consequently could help some plants while hindering others. Specificity is needed, rather than general yelling advice.
Risk of attracting pests
Yelling regularly in the garden may inadvertently attract unwanted insect pests. For example, tomato hornworm moths use vibrations to locate host plants and lay eggs. Caterpillars and other pests may zero in on plants being yelled at as potential targets. The consequences from attracted pests could counteract any marginal growth benefits.
Studies on effects of sound on plant growth
Relatively few scientific studies have directly tested how plants respond to specific sound stimuli like yelling. However, some related research has probed how music, noise, and vibration may influence plant development and health. Here is a summary of some notable studies in this area:
Music’s effects on plant growth
|Effects of music on plant growth (India, 2010)
|Exposed mustard plants to different genres of music 1hr daily and measured growth over 15 days
|Plants exposed to classical music grew taller and had more biomass than controls. Rock, jazz, and dance music also increased growth modestly.
|Influence of music on Brassica rapa (Canada, 2001)
|Played Mozart, Beethoven, or pop music 3hr daily for plants. Measured seed germination and growth.
|Music overall increased germination rate and biomass compared to controls. Mozart led to largest effects, followed by Beethoven.
These studies overall found mostly positive effects of music exposure on plant development, with classical music boosting growth the most. Of course, these results may not extend to the very different acoustic stimulation of yelling.
Noise pollution effects on plants
|Road traffic noise induces stress response in tomato (Belgium, 2012)
|Grew tomato plants near loud highway noise for 2 weeks. Analyzed leaf stress physiology.
|Noise caused upregulation of stress-related enzymes but downregulation of others. Mixed stress response.
|Aircraft noise suppresses growth of soybean (Japan, 1975)
|Grew soybeans in soundproof vs. porous enclosures near airport.
|Plants exposed to aircraft noise had reduced stem length, leaf width, and overall dry weight.
These papers found mostly negative impacts of transportation noise pollution on plants, including inhibited growth and visible stress. However, conclusions may be limited since yelling has very different acoustic qualities from engine noise.
Vibration effects on plants
|Effect of substrate vibration on tomato growth (China, 2018)
|Grew tomato plantlets on shaker providing low-frequency vibration.
|Vibrated plants had more leaves and roots and longer stems versus static controls.
|Vibrations accelerate transition to flowering in Arabidopsis (Canada, 2017)
|Applied daily stem vibration to Arabidopsis plants and tracked time to bolting.
|Vibration induced earlier transition to reproductive growth phase.
In limited studies, certain patterns of vibration have been shown to speed up plant growth and development. If yelling creates similar vibrational effects, it could theoretically provide benefits. But more direct study of yelling is needed.
Practical tips for trying out yelling at plants
Curious if yelling at your plants might help them grow? Here are a few practical tips to consider if you want to test out this controversial gardening technique:
Monitor growth carefully
The key to testing out any new plant growth strategy is taking careful measurements so you can accurately assess the effects over time. Start by recording key growth parameters like plant height, leaf number, flower/fruit counts, or stem width. Track growth metrics every few days or weekly.
Yell consistently over time
Don’t just yell at your plants once or twice and expect dramatic results. As with other gardening interventions, you need consistency over time to notice effects. Try yelling at plants daily for at least 2-3 weeks. Keep track of yelling sessions to ensure equal exposure across plants.
Include appropriate controls
To isolate the impact of yelling alone, grow control plants in the exact same conditions but without yelled exposure. This could mean plants of the same species in the same greenhouse or garden bed. Differences between yelled-at plants and controls will indicate if yelling had an effect.
Consider your plant species
Certain plants, like radishes and marigolds, may respond better to yelling or acoustic stimulation than others. Do some background research to choose plant types that may be more sensitive to vibration or sound effects. Comparing different species could reveal more insights.
Be mindful of neighbors
Regular shouting in your yard may not go over well with nearby residents. If noise complaints are a possibility, consider acoustically insulating any yelling sites or limiting sessions to daytime hours. Invest in a car ride to remote yelling locations.
Have realistic expectations
Don’t expect dramatic overnight growth spurts from a few halfhearted yells. Subtle effects that emerge over weeks or months of measured yelling are more likely. Of course, yelling may have no impact at all. Keeping an open but skeptical mindset is key.
The notion that shouting, swearing, and venting anger at plants can help them grow better certainly captures the imagination. Anecdotes from plant owners seem compelling. Yet hard scientific evidence remains slim, with plenty of reasons for skepticism. Controlled yelling experiments are still needed to separate fact from fiction.
For now, yelling-related plant advice should be taken with a grain of salt. Some may find it an amusing gardening experiment, but claims of incredible growth benefits from yelling alone are clearly exaggerated. Any positive effects are likely subtle or even negligible for most growers. Still, playing classical music and chatting calmly with plants are certainly harmless practices that just might make caring for your garden a little more enjoyable.