Ask the Expert: Should You Talk to Your Plants?

Ask the Expert: Should You Talk to Your Plants?

Do plants respond to sounds? Should we be chatting them up? Or playing symphonies for them? Our horticulture expert weighs in.
Do plants respond to sounds? Like speaking or music? Should we be chatting them up? Or playing symphonies for them?

Horticulture expert, Justin Hancock, answers questions for new plant parents.

QUESTION: Costa Farms grows hundreds of thousands of plants. Do they play music in the growing houses and fields?

JUSTIN: We don’t play music for them here at Costa Farms, but since we grow most of our plants under shadehouses or right in the field, they do get to enjoy the soothing sounds of nature—the birds, rustling of leaves in the breeze, etc.

QUESTION: So perhaps the better question is “do plants hear?” In a study from The University of Western Australia, “scientists found that the plants could tell where the source of the water was and their root systems grew towards that source based on sensing the sound of running water alone.”  That’s interesting, don’t you think? And if they hear, shouldn’t we be talking to them?

JUSTIN: I’m not sure we understand enough behind the science there to say talking to them will have a definitive impact on their growth. For example, would the sound need to be constant like the running water? That said, talking to your plants certainly shouldn’t harm them—and may be good for you and your relationship with them.

QUESTION: Good point. There are other studies that show that while plants may not hear us, it helps US to talk to our plants. Because communicating with our plants means we’re bonding with them.

In an interview on NPR, Heidi Appel, professor of environmental sciences at the University of Toledo says, “there is no conclusive scientific proof that talking to your plants helps them grow.” But she also says that talking to your plants may help you. “However, if you connect emotionally with your plant better because you're talking with them, that means you're probably going to take better care of it. And therefore, talking to your plants indirectly could be helpful.”

So do you talk to your plants?

JUSTIN: I do talk to my plants, but it’s not necessarily always intentional. As my Baltic Blue Pothos puts out a new leaf, for example, I’ll say out loud how beautiful it is.

Or if I forget to water my Spathiphyllum when she needs it, I’ll exclaim “you poor thing!”

As a caregiver for my plants—living beings—I have a relationship with them and I think it’s perfectly natural to talk to them. (Especially when I’m watering my outdoor potted plants every day.) And it does make me feel closer to them.

Written by Karen Weir-Jimerson