- Probing Question: Does talking to plants help them grow?
- Gardening: Is it true that talking to plants helps them grow?
- Plants And Talking: Should You Talk To Your Plants
- Do Plants Like Being Talked To?
- Science, Plants and Talking
- Benefits of Talking to Plants
- Students insult plants in unique anti-bullying experiment
- A parting shot
- What Science Says
- Talking to Plants May Help Them Grow and Bear Fruit
- The Results
- MythBusters Experiment
- Talking to Your Plants Help Them Grow: But, Why?
- Can Plants Actually Hear?
- Being Kind to Plants: Will It Help Them Grow?
- But Wait, It’s Time for Some Caveats
- IKEA’s Flawed Experiment
- Talking to Plants: A Brief History
- Should You Talk to Your Plants?
- IKEA conducts bullying experiment on plants — the results are shocking
- Talking to Plants Virtual lab
Probing Question: Does talking to plants help them grow?
In a 1986 interview, England’s Prince Charles discussed his gardening habits, commenting “I just come and talk to the plants, really. Very important to talk to them; they respond.”
The theory that plants benefit from human conversation dates to 1848, when German professor Gustav Fechner published the book “Nanna (Soul-life of Plants).” The idea is a popular one, and has spawned several more books and even an album — recorded in 1970 by an enterprising dentist — titled “Music to Grow Plants By.” But will crooning compliments to your ficus really have any effect on its growth?
“There isn’t a lot of research in this area,” said Rich Marini, head of Penn State’s horticulture department, “But there is evidence that plants respond to sound.” In fact, plants react readily to a host of environmental stimuli, as the ability to respond to changing environments is vital to their survival. Explained Marini, “Wind or vibration will induce changes in plant growth. Since sound is essentially vibration, my guess is that vibration is causing a response.”
Research supports Marini’s guess. A 2007 paper from scientists at South Korea’s National Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology proposed that two genes involved in a plant’s response to light — known as rbcS and Ald — are turned on by music played at 70 decibels. “This is about the level of a normal conversation,” said Marini. The Korean researchers found differing responses depending on the frequency of the sound. The higher the frequency, the more active was the gene response.
But other studies suggest that conversation may not be enough, notes Marini. A Canadian paper showed that seed germination is influenced by sound at 92 decibels — much louder than one would normally speak.
Regarding why plants would have evolved to respond to vibration in the first place, Marini speculated that it may have occurred as a way to help them survive in windy environments. “Plants exposed to wind produce a growth-retardant hormone called ethylene, which causes the plant to be shorter and to have thicker stems. So plants exposed to wind can better survive very windy conditions.”
As to another popular theory, that plants respond to the carbon dioxide produced by human speech, Marini isn’t buying it. Carbon dioxide levels do influence the rate of plant photosynthesis, he explained, but “people would have to speak to their plants for at least several hours a day to enhance photosynthesis enough to influence plant growth.”
Of course, all the good vibrations in the world aren’t going to help the plants if people forget to water them. The bottom line? “The best thing people can do to help their plants grow is provide them with light, water, and mineral nutrition,” said Marini. While the studies suggest that sound may spur plants to faster growth, there is no definitive evidence that a gift of gab will turn people into green thumbs. Ideal conditions for growth have more to do with temperature than talk. But if you want to whisper sweet nothings to your begonias, well, nobody’s stopping you.
Source: By Alexa Stevenson, Research Penn State
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Gardening: Is it true that talking to plants helps them grow?
Science says No. MythBusters says No. So the answer must be No, right?
But wait, there’s more! Lots of people tell you their plants look better when they talk to them, look sadder, or droopier or whatever, when they don’t. Are they lying? I doubt it. Mistaken? Deluding themselves? Maybe, maybe not.
Is it the CO2? Come on, get real. Unless, as someone suggested, you’re talking through a funnel into a closed chamber.
So, if people aren’t lying, mistaken, or delusional, what the heck is going on?
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy
I think there are things about plants that we’ve only just begun to grasp.
The Secret Life of Plants is a very interesting book. It’s easy to overlook the true value of it by focusing on what some people refer to as “pseudo science,” parapsychology, spiritualism, and just plain crazy talk. However, among all of that, it contains nuggets of ideas, speculations, wonderment. For instance, James Backster describes some experiments he did by attaching response meters to plant leaves. He found that the plants produced measurable responses to his care, his intentions, even his emotional reactions. More surprising, he could get measurable reactions to events that affected him emotionally even when he wasn’t near the plants. He could be in the next room, outside on the street, across town, or hundreds of miles away. And the responses were simultaneous with the occurrence of the events.
What could possibly be going on here? Are there principles of communication that we don’t understand? Are things going on at levels of which we are at present unaware? Are there things happening that we can’t explain with orthodox science? Is time/space itself still a mystery?
I think perhaps, in some unknown way, plants may respond to human thoughts and emotions, and those thoughts and emotions might well affect the plants. Presumably, good thoughts would equal good, healthy plants. We don’t understand the mechanisms by which the plant would do this. That does not mean it doesn’t happen.
This is just one of the things about plants that remains to be studied. And the study may open vistas of human achievement as yet only dreamed about.
So you’ve been singing Let it Go from Disney’s movie Frozen all day, every day? Yeah… me too.
It’s not just because it’s a catchy song that is bombarding us from everywhere (although that helps). I personally suffer from a syndrome called can’t-stop-singing-and-don’t-even-realize-I’m-doing-it. Just ask my husband and former co-workers… they’ll tell you. My condition often manifests itself in a rare condition I refer to as Disney-Tourettes. It’s the best way I can think of to describe my inclination to randomly, frequently, loudly burst into Disney song (and sometimes dance). A Whole New World (Aladdin), Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid) and I Just Can’t Wait to be King (The Lion King) frequently worm their way out of my mouth. It has proven embarrassing a time or two, but at this point my life I just choose to embrace it.
That being said, it can still be really (really) annoying personally to have songs stuck in your head. They just go on and on, don’t they my friend?
Further compounding the situation is this: If you’re not sick of the sound of your voice warbling ala Queen Elsa, someone else in your life probably is. Regardless of the quality or quantity of your singing, I’m happy to share with you that an audience exists that will never tire of hearing you bellow Disney tunes!
Singing to Plants
I first heard about this idea in high school. I haven’t been lying to you when I’ve shared that I love a good experiment, as further evidenced by my teenage (but admittedly not scientific) test to see if singing to plants really works. First I just sang while I cleaned my room. I experienced early onset of can’t-stop-singing-and-don’t-even-realize-I’m-doing-it syndrome, so it was pretty convenient. I observed that singing near my plant caused it to noticeably perk up! Cool!
Next I tried playing this archaic thing called a Compact Disc (otherwise called a CD for those of you who aren’t historians) while I was away. I couldn’t tell you how long I played it or exactly what it was (although at that point in my life it was likely either the soundtrack to Titanic or something by Boyz II Men). What I can tell you is that when I returned my spider plant was noticeably learning toward the radio. Well isn’t that neat!?
Naturally my next step was to move the radio to the other side of the plant. Sure enough when I returned the plant was leaning toward the radio again – the opposite direction from its lean the previous attempt.
I’d like to cite this little experiment from my childhood as the reason why I shamelessly sing while gardening, but you and I both know that’s just not the case. (Couldn’t keep it in, Heaven knows I’ve tried.) My constant crooning isn’t going to work like Miracle Grow, but it’s probably having a positive effect. The question is – how?
Carbon Dioxide or Vibration
I’m familiar with two different theories about why singing to your plants could be beneficial. The first theory is that the carbon dioxide emitted as humans sing helps plants to photosynthesize more efficiently, thus making them stronger and helping them to grow faster.
That’s a reasonable theory, but consider this: My plant showed noticeable change listening to Celine Dion declare “My heart will go on and on!” through a machine and not in my bedroom. No humans present. No carbon dioxide emitted. Yet the fact that the music had an effect on the plant, whether beneficial or not, was undeniable. Fortunately those crazy kids at MythBusters took a much more scientific approach to this question and yielded an interesting result. Their findings suggest that the effect of singing (or talking) on plants may have much more to do with vibration than breathing.
Myth Busters Experiment
In this experiment, two soundtracks of spoken words (not singing) were used.
“The skeptical MythBusters procured 60 pea plants and divided them into three greenhouse groups. Then, they recorded two soundtracks — one of loving praise and one of cruel insults — and played them on repeat in two separate greenhouses. A third greenhouse remained mum as an experimental control.
To give the myth a fighting chance of flourishing, the team charted the plants’ growth over 60 days. Afterward, the MythBusters determined the winning greenhouse by comparing plant masses from the three groups. To their surprise, the silent greenhouse performed poorest, producing lower biomass and smaller pea pods than the other two. Although there was no difference in plant quality between the nice greenhouse and the mean greenhouse, the soundtracks seemed to produce a positive effect in both.
Based on the plausible myth, botanists might want to chat with their plants more often, even if what they have to say isn’t all-too friendly.”
The folks at MythBusters aren’t the only researchers who’ve looked into this idea. Several studies, some scientific and some more general, have been done. There’s no point in recounting gobs of them in this brief article, but I did want to share one I found very interesting. The authors of the blog Dry Stone Garden write:
“A 2007 paper from scientists at South Korea’s National Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology proposed that two genes involved in a plant’s response to light—known as rbcS and Ald—are turned on by music played at 70 decibels. ‘This is about the level of a normal conversation,’ says Marini. The Korean researchers found differing responses depending on the frequency of the sound. The higher the frequency, the more active was the gene response.”
To my knowledge no one has conclusively determined why or how well singing (or talking) to plants helps them grow, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. The next time you feel like channeling your inner Elsa, wander out to your garden. Your neighbors might not thank you, but your tomatoes will.
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Posted by Katie @ 12:33 PM EDT
Plants And Talking: Should You Talk To Your Plants
Dr. Doolittle talked to the animals with excellent results, so why shouldn’t you try talking to your plants? The practice has an almost urban legend legacy with some gardeners swearing by it while others nay say such sentimental culture. But do plants respond to voices? There are many compelling studies that seem to point to a rousing “yes.” Keep reading to see if you should talk to your plants and what benefits can be reaped.
Do Plants Like Being Talked To?
Many of us had a grandmother, aunt or other relative that seemed to have a very close relationship with their plants. Their gentle murmurings as they watered, trimmed and fed their floral darlings supposedly made the plants grow better. Don’t feel crazy if you like talking to plants. There is actually a science behind the practice.
There are many studies verifying that plant growth is influenced by sound. At 70 decibels, there was increased production. This is the
level of the average human conversational tone. Plant experiments using music have been done but very little study has gone into plants and talking.
So, should you talk to your plants? There is no harm to them and it may give you a psychological boost. Spending time with plants is calming and promotes good human health, both mentally and physically.
Science, Plants and Talking
The Royal Horticultural Society did a month-long study involving 10 gardeners. Each participant read to a tomato plant daily. All grew larger than control plants but the ones that experienced female voices were an inch (2.5 cm.) taller than those with male talkers. While this isn’t strictly science, it does start to point the way to some potential benefits in talking to plants.
The notion goes back to 1848, when a German professor published “The Soul Life of Plants,” which indicated that plants benefited from human conversation. The popular TV show, Myth Busters, also conducted an experiment to determine if growth was influenced by sound and the results were promising.
Benefits of Talking to Plants
Outside of the obvious de-stressing benefits to you, plants also experience several verified responses. The first is the response to vibration which turns on two key genes that influence growth.
The next is the fact that plants increase photosynthesis production in response to carbon dioxide, a by-product of human speech.
One thing is for sure. Plants are influenced by all of the environmental changes around them. If these changes are good health and growth and caused by your reading the paper or a book of poetry to your plant, then the lack of science doesn’t matter. Nobody who loves plants is going to call you nutty for trying – in fact, we will applaud.
Students insult plants in unique anti-bullying experiment
Ikea got a load of children to record insults — and play them back at plants in a bizarre experiment.
The retailer wanted to stress just how harmful bullying can be by staging the live test at schools across the United Arab Emirates.
Audio messages were recorded and then played on loops for 30 days. Half the plants were taunted with insults while the others were played compliments.
All the plants were given the exact same amount of sunlight and water.
In a video highlighting the results, one message says: “You look rotten.”
Another says: “Are you even alive?”
But the compliments include, “I like you the way you are,” and “You’re making a difference in the world.”
Incredibly, the plants which got played the negative comments withered after 30 days while the ones played compliments remained healthy.
One pupil said: “As the weeks passed, I started noticing that the one was being bullied started to droop.”
Thomas Nelson, teacher and head of house at GEMS Wellington Academy in Dubai, a school that participated in the initiative, said: “It has raised the profile massively of different forms of bullying and the effects that bullying can have on people.”
But gardeners have also been impressed by the study. It has long been considered a myth that saying nice things to plants help them grow.
One green-fingered YouTuber posted: “It’s true that if you talk to your plants and even sing to them, they grow better and are healthier. I know so because I have done the same experiment on my own plants.”
Alana Schetzer of the University of Melbourne wrote online: “Plants may not have eyes, ears or a tongue, but their skin can perform many of the same functions… can respond accordingly.”
Plants use their roots to “listen in” on their neighbours, according to research that adds to evidence that plants have their own unique forms of communication.
The study found that plants in a crowded environment secrete chemicals into the soil that prompt their neighbours to grow more aggressively, presumably to avoid being left in the shade.
“If we have a problem with our neighbours, we can move flat,” said Velemir Ninkovic, an ecologist at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala and lead author. “Plants can’t do that. They’ve accepted that and they use signals to avoid competing situations and to prepare for future competition.”
Previously, scientists have shown that when plant leaves are touched as they brush up against the leaves and branches of neighbours they alter their growth strategies. Mature trees have been seen to experience “canopy shyness” and rein in their growth under crowded conditions. Others, take a more combative approach, diverting resources from root growth to expand more rapidly above ground.
The latest study reveals that this behaviour is driven, not just by mechanical cues picked up by leaves, but by chemical secretions in the soil.
The study, published in the journal Plos One, focussed on corn seedlings, which tend to boost growth in a stressed environment. Ninkovic and colleagues simulated the touch of a nearby plant by stroking the leaves for a minute each day using a makeup brush.
When they then removed the plant and placed a new one its growth solution they found that the new plant also diverted its resources to growing more leaves and fewer roots. Seedlings that were planted in growth solution that had previously hosted untouched plants did not show this pattern.
The possibility that plants communicate has surfaced periodically as a crackpot idea – in the 1980s it was suggested that trees send out electrical pulses, called W-waves, when their neighbours were chopped down. However, in recent years, fresh evidence has emerged that plants are constantly sending and receiving signals that scientists are now learning to eavesdrop on. As well as canopy shyness and aggression, plants warn their neighbours of impending aphid attacks via thread-like filaments of fungi that connect roots in complex communication networks and are able to detect whether they are surrounded by “strangers” or their own kin.
Cecil has heard this “vibes” stuff for years, Gato, and with all due respect to your mother, he regards it as mush-brained bunk. I have never come across any serious study suggesting that your phlox will flourish if you whisper in their little ears, or whatever it is phlox have got. On the other hand, there’s a fair amount of research indicating that sound in general (i.e., vibes in the literal sense) can stimulate growth. Admittedly, a lot of this research has been conducted by high school students in New Jersey and whatnot, but hey, we gotta be open-minded about this. Some years ago, for starters, little Evalyn Horowitz won a prize for her science fair project showing that radish seedlings exposed to ultrasonic vibrations of 50,000 cycles per second for a month grew 89% taller than a control group. Curiously, the tall radishes were much spindlier than their untreated cousins, which were stubby but sturdy. Evalyn hypothesized that the ultrasonic sound acted somehow on auxins, which are plant hormones that encourage elongated growth.
Other types of sound are also credited with encouraging plant growth. University of Ottawa biologist Pearl Weinberger found that wheat seedlings exposed to 5,000 CPS sound (within the range of human hearing) weighed 250 to 300 percent more than untreated controls, and had four times as many potentially grain-bearing shoots. Music, too, will do the job, although it’s not clear what type is best. In 1970, Mrs. Dorothy Retallack, then a 48-year-old housewife-turned-college-student (like I say, the researchers in this field aren’t exactly on the cutting edge) attempted to demonstrate that “soft, semi-classical music” — e.g., Mantovani, or one of those cornball “Music to Grow Plants By” records — would cause plants to thrive, whereas hard-core rock and roll would make them wither and die. (She also believed that there was “a link between loud rock and anti-social behavior among college students,” which gives you an idea of Mrs. Retallack’s level of social insight.)
More recent work by four University of North Carolina scientists casts doubt on Mrs. Retallack’s hypothesis. Their research indicates that 100 to 110 decibel noise (the equivalent of standing 100 feet from a 727 jet) will cause 100 percent more turnip seeds to germinate in 10 percent less time than with a control group. This suggests, of course, that a healthy jolt of industrial-strength heavy metal may be just the thing to invigorate your rutabagas. Give it a shot and let Uncle Cecil know what happens. If you’d rather build your own ultrasonic sound generator instead, there’s a diagram in the May/June 1984 Mother Earth News.
A parting shot
Cecil’s assistant little Ed was on the old Pat Sajak show when this question came up. In one of his rare flashes of wit, little Ed said, “Well, some people say plants will thrive if they hear dentist’s office music, but they’ll die if they hear rock ‘n’ roll. Which to me says that plants may have feelings, but they don’t have any taste.” The audience was destroyed.
Send questions to Cecil via [email protected]
A couple of weeks ago, I came across an article in the Daily Mail on how plants scream when you cut off their stems. This claim of human-like, if morbid, behavior in plants led me to investigate, and soon enough, I was looking into scientific journals on whether talking to plants can affect their growth.
Does talking or singing to your plants make them healthier and grow faster? While there are a few studies that show that plants are affected by talking and other sounds the results are inconclusive. The research that has been done has been tantalizing and sometimes had some surprising results. Most scientists think additional research is needed.
However, the belief that your plants need conversation has been around for quite some time, and expert gardeners swear by its effectiveness. Plus, the studies that did touch on the subject have some pretty interesting findings.
What Science Says
A review of the literature was conducted in 2013 by researchers at Yeungnam University and Chungnam National University in Korea. This review shows the various studies on the effects of sound waves on plants.
These studies show that:
- Sound can encourage seed germination and plant growth.
- Different plants respond to different frequencies and intensity of sound.
- Music can help tomato and barley grow better.
- Music or sound with frequencies of 5 kilohertz and intensity of 92 decibels led to more roots and denser plant dry weight of winter wheat.
- Sound not only made strawberry plants flourish, but it also made them more resistant to insects and diseases.
- Music made okra and zucchini seeds sprout, while the noise did not.
- Sound waves at 1,000 Hertz and 100 decibels helped seeds of Echinacea Angustifolia, a species of sunflower, to germinate faster, as well as have a higher germination rate.
- Aside from the higher and faster germination rate, sound can lead to plants having longer stems and better roots.
- At proper intensity and frequency, sound promotes cellular growth in plants.
- Sound waves increased the production of protective enzymes and allowed it to release more oxygen and other free radicals.
Now that we have an idea of how sound affects plant growth, let’s look at some of the more interesting studies on the subject.
Talking to Plants May Help Them Grow and Bear Fruit
The Royal Horticultural Society decided to look into the claims that talking to plants will help them grow. In an experiment (which you can read about here), they used tomato plants exposed to a variety of voices that were piped into their pots via headphones.
Different plants received recordings of different voices. For instance, one plant had a woman reading snippets of literature, while another plant listened to a male voice. There was also the control group or the tomato plants that did not have the MP3 headphones piping sound into their pots and were allowed to grow in peace and quiet.
The RHS study (found here) claimed that women’s voices made the tomato plants grow taller than those that were exposed to male voices.
More specifically, the tomato plants exposed to female voices grew an inch taller than the plants that were listening to male voices.
Music Can Help Plants Grow
The RHS study was built on the fact that music between a specific frequency range can alter gene expression in plants. Gene expression is the process wherein the DNA code in plants is translated into instructions for growth and other biological processes. This effect helps the plants grow better.
In 2007, Mi-Jeong Jeong, a South Korean scientist at the National Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology, and his team found that playing Moonlight Sonata helped rice plants grow and blossom faster. The researchers played several musical pieces and then monitored the gene expression of these plants.
In this particular study, the researchers found that frequencies between 125 to 250 Hertz made the genes identified as Ald and rbcS more active. Music at these frequencies had the same effects, even at night.
Meanwhile, a different study conducted by researchers at the Sheth LUJ and Sir MV College of Science in India showed that plants exposed to ancient Indian chants grew taller by more than five inches compared to those that were grown in silence.
Sound Helps Plants Protect Themselves, Too
Sound not only helps plants grow, but it also helps them protect themselves from predators. When plants encounter an insect or bacteria for the first time, they “learn” from experience. The next time they face the same predator, they will release defense chemicals that will either drive the invader away or kill it.
Researchers from the University of Missouri used the sound of a chewing caterpillar and found that it was enough to prime the plant for future “attacks.”
The plants that were exposed to the sound released a higher volume of chemicals that acted like an insecticide, while those grown in silence produced a lesser amount.
Probably the most well-known experiment on this topic comes from the TV show MythBusters.
The show set up seven greenhouses where two played nasty speech, another two played complimenting recordings, one played classical ditties, and yet another played heavy metal music. The control greenhouse was left in silence.
The plants that sat in silence grew the least out of all the greenhouses. The winner was the greenhouse that played—ready for this–heavy metal music!
The greenhouses that played music had healthier and taller plants, and they also had larger pea pods.
Talking to Your Plants Help Them Grow: But, Why?
Plants have no ears to hear the sound of your voice when you talk or sing. What could possibly make them grow?
The simple answer is that they might be responding to the vibration created by sound, not by hearing it. This idea is shared by Rich Marini, who heads the horticulture department at Penn State.
Marini, in this article, points out that there is evidence that shows plants can respond to vibration, which can induce or hinder plant growth.
Can Plants Actually Hear?
While most studies conclude that the effects of sound, talking, and music on plants are brought about by the vibrations that these sounds make, there is one study that suggests that plants can hear.
Researchers from the University of Missouri exposed a thale cress plant to a recording of a caterpillar eating its leaves. The plant released a mild toxin for caterpillars when it detected the sound.
The plant did not release the toxins in response to other sounds. The researchers are not sure whether the plant feels or hears the sound and how it is doing it. But the results suggest that plants can determine one sound from another.
The study builds on the findings of Monica Gagliano, a researcher at the University of Western Australia.
In 2012, Gagliano and her fellow researchers published their study that showed roots leaned towards the sound. They suspended a corn plant in water and continuously blasted sound with a frequency of 220 Hertz.
The frequency of the sound is roughly the same frequency that the corn roots also emitted.
And it seems plants are not just silent listeners, but they also communicate. NPR’s science correspondent, Robert Krulwich, explains that plants can warn their neighbors about predators.
Krulwich notes that if you put plants side by side and introduce an insect that will eat its leaves on one plant, the others will be unscathed while the first plant is thoroughly damaged. He explains that if you put aphids, for instance, on a bean plant, it will emit volatile organic compounds that drive away from the aphids. These VOCs can also attract wasps, which feed on aphids.
But the protection isn’t limited to the plant with the aphids eating it. Neighboring bean plants will also emit the same VOCs even when they are not being chewed on by any predator.
While the first plant with the aphids will eventually die or suffer from extensive damage, the others will be protected.
Being Kind to Plants: Will It Help Them Grow?
If you believe that it is the vibration that makes plants grow better when you talk or sing to them, then it should not matter what you say, right? A recent experiment conducted by the furniture maker, IKEA, begs to differ.
IKEA asked children to come up with an insult and a compliment and recorded them. They then exposed one plant to the recorded insults and another plant to the compliments. After a month, the stark differences between the two were very evident.
The plant that was exposed to compliments flourished and was very healthy, while the one exposed to bullying statements wilted.
But Wait, It’s Time for Some Caveats
Why aren’t we hiring singers to sing to our plants? And why aren’t we talking to them about how great our day was or discussing the merits and flaws of the latest Marvel Universe movie?
Because while there may be studies out there that prove plants love music, our voices, and sounds, these studies also acknowledge that plants actually respond to the vibration produced by sound and that they do not exactly hear the sound per se.
There is some scientific evidence that plants love the vibration you create when you sing or talk to them. But it really doesn’t matter if you can sing like Adele or can speak for hours on end, because your plants won’t care.
These studies show that there is indeed a strong relationship between plant growth and sound waves. This means that singing or talking to your plant is beneficial if you want it to grow healthy, but only at certain decibels and frequencies.
Further research is needed to confirm and explore this relationship. What’s more, nobody is quite sure why sound can help your plants flourish. The exact mechanisms have never been pinpointed.
IKEA’s Flawed Experiment
So what about the IKEA experiment then? Some people have taken this experiment as the ultimate proof that plants can indeed hear and that they have human-like emotions. How else can you interpret plants withering and dying at negative words?
Psychology Today published an article written by author and anti-bullying movement critic Izzy Kalman. In his article, Kalman called IKEA a fraud and accused them of rigging the results. He also pointed out that the experiment was not carried out by impartial researchers but by an advertising agency.
Meanwhile, IFLScience noted that the IKEA experiment was based on a study by Dr. Masaru Emoto. However, Dr. Emoto’s studies were pseudoscientific. IFLScience also pointed out that another one of Emoto’s claims was that prayer cleanses polluted water.
In short, the website wrote that the IKEA experiment doesn’t prove anything.
Going back to the MythBusters experiment, the researchers also looked into the effects of nasty vs. nice voice recordings. They concluded that there was no difference between the plants exposed to nasty comments and those that are given compliments.
In that controlled and more scientific setup, both plants grew to the same height and did better than those that were growing in silence.
The MythBusters experiment showed that plants do not care whether you cuss at them or dote on them. They just need the sound waves.
Or, Can It Be Because of Carbon Dioxide?
It is apparent that plants love sound waves because these help them grow. But another thing that plants need is carbon dioxide, which we breathe out when we speak. One prevalent notion is that when you talk or sing to plants, you give them a good dose of CO2.
- The BBC Earth Facebook page asked their followers about how effective singing is in helping their plants grow healthy. Several people responded with their own anecdotes on how their singing also gave them a green thumb.
- Some respondents offered their own explanations, and one of which was that when you sing or talk to plants, you produce carbon dioxide that plants use for photosynthesis.
- There is also evidence that carbon dioxide fertilizes plants. A comparison of satellite observations showed that as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, green foliage also increases.
However, Marini explains that while carbon dioxide does help your plant produce its own food, you might need to talk for hours to get a beneficial effect.
Talking to Plants: A Brief History
Given all the interesting things that we are learning about plants and how they respond to our talking and singing to them, it would be nice to look into how all of these experiments started in the first place. Who was the first person to even think about the possible effects of chatting with plants or singing to them?
It was in the 1840s when a German professor Gustav Fechner published a book titled Nanna (Soul-life of Plants). Fechner proposed that plants can experience the emotions that we humans do.
The idea took root, and over the decades, researchers have been looking into plants sensing the world around them. Talking to plants to make them grow faster and healthier became the subject of several other books. In the 1970s, a dentist named George Millstein recorded an album aptly titled “Music to Grow Your Plants By.”
But the idea of talking to plants had its most famous advocate in no less than England’s Prince Charles. In 1986, the Prince of Wales commented in a television interview that it is very important to talk to plants.
But while Prince Charles was called eccentric and loony for his gardening habits, research indicates that he may have been right all along.
Should You Talk to Your Plants?
Should you ditch that soap on TV and just talk to your plants? There’s literally nothing to lose.
The science might be inconclusive, and there’s no telling if the plants are growing for sure because of your voice. But research has been encouraging, to say the least, and it indicates that plants do derive benefits from the sound of your voice; it makes them healthier, keeps them protected from insects and pests, and makes them grow faster.
Science isn’t just sure why. In the end, however, you are helping them grow healthy, or at least keeping them alive longer.
But even as you to wait for something more definite from the scientific community, you should still consider talking to your plants mainly for yourself.
Interacting with plants has been proven to reduce anxiety and stress, both physically and mentally. And as you give them carbon dioxide, they return the favor by giving you oxygen, improving air quality, and regulating moisture inside the room. Plants can also help you become more creative and help improve your problem-solving skills. They can facilitate healing, too.
These benefits are just some of the things that you can get from a plant, plus the obvious ones like having a constant source of food if you’re growing a tomato or kale plant. If your singing or talking helps keep them alive, it’s a small price to pay. Not to mention that talking about things out loud helps clear your mind. Besides, talking to plants is much better than pouring your heart out to your judge-y best friend.
IKEA conducts bullying experiment on plants — the results are shocking
We’ve already seen too many examples of the negative effects of bullying on humans, but IKEA took it one step further when the retailer conducted an experiment to show what can happen to a plant that’s been relentlessly bullied.
Bully A Plant, a niche experiment conducted at a school in the United Arab Emirates leading up to Anti-Bullying Day on May 4, showed students how destructive negative comments can be. The DIY furniture giant set up two identical IKEA plants in the school, and for 30 days invited students to compliment one plant and bully the other.
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Although it’s not the most scientific of experiments — the company has admitted as much — the plants were kept under identical controlled environments. They each received the same amount of light, nutrition and water.
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The students’ comments were fed through speakers rigged into each enclosure. They were encouraged to record their words of praise, and to record their insults or send them via social media. A recording device then transmitted the messages to each plant.
After 30 days, the plant that received compliments was healthy and thriving, while its insult-riddled counterpart was wilted and noticeably droopy.
“This is an incredibly effective initiative that has encouraged people to make room for change,” said Vinod Jayan, managing director of IKEA UAE, Qatar, Egypt and Oman, in a statement. “It has helped children and their families understand the impact that words can have.”
Although this was obviously a marketing and awareness initiative on the part of the Swedish retailer, many have rushed to show there’s little real evidence to prove that plants will die if they receive an onslaught of negative chatter.
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We may not know for certain that plants are susceptible to words, but we do know they respond to noise. In a Mythbusters experiment involving seven plants — two received positive speech, two received negative speech, one listened to classical music, another to death metal and the last was left in silence — the plant left in silence fared the worst. Surprisingly, the one to flourish the most was the death metal plant.
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That may have more to do with the decibel level of the music than the words it was hearing, however, since researchers have proven that decibel levels below 45 are ideal for indoor living. By that rationale, Mozart would be just as soothing as some hushed Slayer to the average indoor fern.
Regardless, the Swedish retailer is eager to use this as a platform to continue perpetuating an anti-bullying message. And it would seem other schools are keen to adopt the experiment.
“It was so successful in driving awareness and reducing bullying amongst these children that more schools in the UAE have approached us to conduct the experiment at their locations,” Jayan said. “In fact, it is an easy experiment to try at home — we have a garden section at IKEA complete with complimented plants for anyone to take a little bit of happiness home.”
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Talking to Plants Virtual lab
Talking to Plants Virtual lab
- 1. Talking to Plants Virtual Lab
- 2. State the Question: Will playing voice recordings to your houseplants make them grow bigger? Plants need water, sunlight, carbon dioxide, soil Collect Information:
- 3. Form a Hypothesis: IF you play voice recordings to plants, THEN, they will grow bigger OR… IF you play voice recordings to plants, THEN they will grow normally.
- 4. Test the Hypothesis: Get 2 plants Play voice recordings to plant A Don’t play recordings to plant B They get the same amount of light. They get the same amount of water. They get the same kind of soil.
- 5. Terms you need: Control: No sound played for plants – silence Independent variables: sound played for plants- nice talk, mean talk, rock music, classical music. Dependent variables: growth of the plants – how much they grew.
- 6. Observe: (this is part of the test/experiment) Measure the mass of each plant after 3 months of growth.
- 7. Record and Study Data: Write down the mass of each of the plants in a data table. Graph the results to get a clear picture of which greenhouse grew the biggest plants.
- 8. Draw a Conclusion Was your hypothesis correct? Example of a conclusion would be: My hypothesis was not correct; the data from the experiment show that playing music to plants helps them grow bigger.
- 9. Publish your Findings: Scientists will tell other scientists about their experiments by writing in scientific journals (kind of like magazines for science nerds). Then other scientists can build off of what has already been done. Or they can do the same experiment to double check their friend’s work to see if their results are really true.
- 10. More on control and variables: Control – The part of the experiment you do not change – the part that is the same, just like it would normally be. Nothing is changed. Independent variable – The part of the experiment you change – what you are testing. Dependent variable – what changes because of the independent variable. This is usually part of the results of the experiment.