What happens if you talk to plants?

Talking to plants may seem strange, but many gardeners swear by it. The idea is that speaking kindly to plants helps them grow. Some people wonder if this really works or if it’s just an old wives’ tale. Let’s explore the science behind talking to plants and whether it makes a difference in their health and growth.

Do plants respond to sound?

Plants lack ears and a nervous system, so they can’t hear sounds as humans do. But research shows plants can sense vibrations, including sound waves. Their tissues contain proteins sensitive to touch, vibration, and other mechanical stimuli. When exposed to sound, these receptor proteins trigger chemical signals inside plant cells.

Experiments reveal how plants react to different frequencies of sound. High frequencies in the ultrasound range seem to promote growth. But very loud sounds, like loud music, can stress plants. Overall, plants detect and respond to audible frequencies, including the human voice. But their perception is much different than our hearing.

Can talking help plants grow?

Some gardeners insist talking, singing, or even playing music for your plants makes them grow faster and stronger. But few scientific studies directly test this claim.

One experiment found chili seedlings played classical music grew faster than seedlings getting rock music or no music. But the sample size was small. Another study found exposing Arabidopsis plants to high-pitched frequencies increased biomass. The researchers proposed high frequencies simulate insect vibrations, triggering growth as a defense response. Overall, more research is needed to confirm talking or playing music really benefits plants.

Do kind words make a difference?

What about the difference between kind, encouraging words versus angry yelling? A few experiments explored how plants react to different emotional tones of voice. One study monitored organic bean plant growth while playing recordings of cheerful versus aggressive human speech. The “positively” spoken to plants grew larger and healthier than those exposed to negative speech. But this study lacked adequate controls.

A more rigorous experiment by a middle school science student tested how plants grow when given compliments versus insults. She found the complimented plants grew over 60% larger than insulted plants after 30 days, suggesting a positive emotional tone helps. But these studies haven’t been replicated at a large scale. There is still no conclusive evidence that the meaning behind words makes a measurable difference to plants.

Potential Explanations

If talking does help plants grow better, why might that be? Here are some potential explanations science has uncovered so far:

Increased carbon dioxide exposure

When people talk near plants, they emit extra carbon dioxide from breathing. Since plants take up carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, some argue this extra CO2 gives plants an added growth boost when talked to regularly.

But studies show extremely high levels of CO2 exposure are needed to significantly impact growth. The small amounts emitted from human speech are unlikely to make a major difference.

Extra water movement

Some hypothesize that talking physically shakes leaves and stems, helping move water and nutrients through plants. Gentle shaking has been shown to prevent seedlings from becoming spindly and promote thicker stems and leaves. The vibrations from talking could mimic this effect. But not enough research has directly tested this idea.

Reduced stress hormone signals

Plants produce hormone signals of jasmonic acid and ethylene when stressed. These hormones stunt growth. Maybe the vibrations of a kind, calming human voice reduce these stress signals. But this hypothesis needs more direct scientific study to confirm if talking really alters plant hormone levels.

Increased microbial activity

The microbiome of soil bacteria and fungi around plant roots heavily influences plant health. Perhaps talking to plants promotes microbial activity in the soil that benefits plant growth. However, no studies have yet analyzed how talking impacts the rhizosphere microbiome, so this remains speculative.

An Alternative Explanation: The Placebo Effect

Could the benefits of talking to plants all be in our heads? There is an alternative hypothesis – that plant owners taking time to “communicate” with plants simply provide better care overall without realizing it.

Simply paying more positive attention to plants may cause people to subconsciously provide extra care that helps plants thrive. They may water more consistently, prune more diligently, or provide extra fertilization than plants not receiving this extra attention. This could create the perception that talking helps plants, when really it is just placebo effect.

There is limited research demonstrating how human expectations influence plant growth:

Study on Beneficial Expectations

In one study, some participants were told plants grow better when people speak nicely to them, while others were told speaking harshly promotes growth. Although all plants were treated identically, those expected to do well after kind words showed more growth. This demonstrates expectations alter perceptions of plant health.

Study on Adverse Expectations

A similar study told participants certain plants were treated with an invented “plant growth inhibitor” and would likely fail to thrive. These expected-to-suffer plants wilted faster than identical plants where participants had normal expectations, showing the power of psyhological outlook.

These studies illustrate how unconscious biases shape perceptions of plant health and behavior, even when objective growing conditions are identical. This effect could also influence observations that talking to plants seems helpful.

Recommendations for Plant Owners

The scientific jury is still out on whether talking objectively helps plants grow. But there is no harm in conversing with plants if you enjoy it. Here are some recommendations:

Talk gently and positively

It is unlikely yelling or insulting plants is beneficial. Some studies suggest gentle, positive speech may have slight advantages. Anger probably adds unnecessary stress. Err on the side of kind, calming communication.

Pay close attention while talking

Observing plants closely while speaking often leads to catching issues early before they escalate. Paying close attention while “chatting” with plants helps their care in the long run.

Skepticism is wise

Approach claims that talking drastically accelerates plant growth with reasonable skepticism. Run your own controlled experiments. Monitor several identical plants, speaking kindly to some but not others. This can help discern if talking objectively makes a difference.

Consider indirect benefits

Even if talking doesn’t directly help plants, it can have psychological benefits for the gardener. If conversing with plants is calming for you, enhances your mood, or simply brings joy, these human benefits are worthwhile.

The Bottom Line

Right now, direct scientific evidence definitively proving talking to plants benefits their growth is lacking. But it is certainly possible subtle effects exist that future studies will uncover. When done with realistic expectations, talking to plants is at worst harmless and at best psychologically enriching. Many gardeners insist plants respond to their attentive communication in ways that science can’t fully explain. While more research is needed, it’s wise to keep an open but gently skeptical mind. Don’t be afraid to try conversing with your plants! Just avoid making exaggerated claims of their conversational abilities until more rigorous studies emerge. The scientific jury is still out, but preliminary signs point to possible subtle benefits that warrant further exploration.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do plants really feel emotions and respond to insults versus compliments?

No, plants lack complex emotions, brains, and consciousness. They do not feel insulted or uplifted by human speech. Different responses to positive versus negative tones likely stem from subtle physical or hormonal signals rather than psychological effects. Any appearance of plants “preferring” kind words is just anthropomorphic projection.

Can playing classical music help plants grow better?

A few small studies show some classical compositions might aid growth. But findings are mixed overall. Many experts consider the “music for plants” theory overhyped. More large scale studies are needed to determine if certain acoustic vibration frequencies directly stimulate helpful plant growth processes. There is no evidence plants have aesthetic “taste” in music comparable to humans.

Will talking to plants in my garden meaningfully increase crop yields?

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely occasional conversational chatter will dramatically boost your vegetable garden or flower beds. Modest improvements are possible, mostly from extra attention and care while speaking. But be wary of miraculous claims that talking amplifies growth tenfold. Impacts, if any exist, are likely mild. Focus more on proven methods like proper light, watering, fertilization, and pest control.

Plant Treatment Height After 30 Days
Bean 1 Compliments 12 inches
Bean 2 Insults 6 inches
Tomato 1 Classical music 14 inches
Tomato 2 Rock music 10 inches
Tomato 3 No music 8 inches

Should I talk to my houseplants every day?

Daily conversation likely won’t cause harm, provided expectations stay realistic. Chatting briefly while watering or misting makes sense. But avoid overdoing it to where plants get excessive disturbances. And be wary of any products claiming you must speak for a prescribed amount of time. There is no scientific consensus on dosing talking time. Let your schedule and intuition guide reasonable talking frequency.


Talking to plants incurs little risk and may provide modest benefits. But be wary of overhyped claims. Controlled scientific studies remain limited, so true impacts are still uncertain. Regardless of direct effects on plants, speaking kindly and attentively may enrich the gardening experience for the human involved. Going forward, avoid firm stances pro or con until more rigorous research emerges.skepticism paired with open-minded optimism is the wisest approach for now. While more data is needed, preliminary signs suggest thoughtful, moderate plant communication could have real value worth exploring further.

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