Does talking to your house plants actually help them grow?

illustration of plants and people speaking

It’s safe to say that lockdown (and the subsequent norm of staying at home a lot more) hasn’t helped the nation’s plant obsession.

We are more committed to our houseplants than ever and, being the doting plant parents that we are, we’re always looking for different ways to keep them thriving – from knowing how to water them correctly to researching the best technology and gadgets to help them along.

One theory that’s been floating around over the years is the idea that talking to your houseplants can help them grow faster.

With us being stuck inside a lot this year (and likely to be so a fair amount more over the coming months), this is something we thought we would investigate.

So, does chatting to your greenery really help it grow?

Back in 2009, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) ran some trials on some tomato plants and found that the ones that were spoken to grew a little taller than ones who were given the silent treatment. It was also women, in particular, who had the most effect on plants and that their voices made plants grow faster than men’s voices.

However, expert ecologist, educator and author Michael Holland – who also formerly worked at Chelsea physic Garden and Kew Gardens – says he has doubts around how controlled this frequently-mentioned scientific study was.

But, he adds there’s definitely something in plants responding to sound.

He tells Metro.co.uk: ‘There have been other trials where different types of music have been played to plants, too, and even ones where nice things are said to some batches of plants, nasty things said to others and nothing said to other batches etc.

‘Generally speaking, plants have senses that most people don’t appreciate or notice – they can sense light and dark, daylight length, gravity (up versus down), they can feel their way to where they want to grow and send each other messages via chemicals when in danger. Some can move to outwit and catch flies or close their leaves when the rain begins. 

‘Some plants – including beans – have been found to use a form of echolocation to “hear” the distance to the nearest solid object by breaking some of their cells in their growing tips and “listening” for the echo.’

So it’s clear that sound really does have some impact on plants.

Michael adds: ‘With these super senses in mind, I have no doubt that plants can sense speech, music or any sounds for that matter and perhaps some frequencies are more audible to them than others.’

But Michael states he’s still unsure about how exactly it can affect their growth.

There is, however, another element to speaking to plants (apart from the conversation itself) which could be having an impact.

Michael says: ‘I would also add that if we speak to our plants (especially indoor ones), we are breathing carbon dioxide (and water vapour) onto them – both of which they need, so that’s an important factor too.’

David Lewis at Perennial – a charity for people in horticulture – also points out that if you’re talking to your plants generally, that means you’ve formed an attachment to them – so are more likely to care for them.

He tells Metro.co.uk: ‘If you are talking to your plants, it means you are caring for them and giving them the attention they need. This, in turn, means they will be healthier and help them to grow.

‘From the human side, talking to plants has mental health and wellbeing benefits. Therefore, although there may not be a clear link between the act of talking to a plant and its rate of growth, caring for plants can be equally beneficial to the plant and the person caring for it.’

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