Does Speaking Kindly to Plants Really Help Them Grow?

Does Speaking Kindly to Plants Really Help Them Grow?

Could speaking kind words to your plants actually help them grow? The practice may not be as far-fetched as it sounds. We dug into the research to find the roots of this interesting claim.

The Connection Between Plants, Words, and Health

The concept of speaking to plants to help them grow may have its origins in an experiment made famous by Masaru Emoto, a Japanese author, researcher, and alternative medicine practitioner. In his experiments, Emoto and his colleagues found that water exposed to positive thoughts and words would form aesthetically beautiful ice crystals when frozen. Contrarily, water exposed to negative thoughts and words (as well as pollution, for that matter) formed "ugly" ice crystals when frozen.

While Emoto's experiments have had their fair share of criticism—including concerns over whether the experiments were properly controlled to reduce the risk of bias and other types of confounding—the potential implications of his findings are significant. We only have to remember that the human body is up to 60% water to realize how impactful our thoughts, beliefs, and words can be on our health.

Plants, meanwhile, contain even more water—up to 90%. And interestingly, research suggests that they're more sensitive to their environment than we may realize.

For example, a 2004 study published in Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces found that a sound of about 1.4 kHz can stimulate endogenous growth hormone production in chrysanthemum plant cells. This may trigger seed germination and better plant growth overall. For reference, 1.4 kHz falls within the normal range of the human speaking voice.

In 2007, a team of South Korean researchers found that playing music at about 70 decibels (comparable to a normal conversation) activates two genes that play a role in plant photosynthesis. The researchers also found that a higher sound frequency would elicit greater gene activation. In other words, sound induced an epigenetic effect on the plants that could potentially boost growth. (This is relevant to human health, by the way, as a growing body of epigenetic research shows that negative emotions and stress can trigger changes in an organism's DNA which may contribute to the development of chronic disease.)

Finally, as reported by the BBC and other news outlets, a month-long study by the Royal Horticultural Society found that tomato plants grew faster if they were able to "listen" to recorded male and female voices. Recordings were played through headphones that were positioned directly onto each tomato plant's pot, and all the tomato plants in the experiment were exposed to the same surroundings (soil, care routine, and so on). In the study, female voices triggered greater growth than male voices. The exact mechanism behind this observed phenomenon is still being investigated, but many researchers propose that the vibrational energy from sound has a beneficial impact on plant cells.

Of course, there may be a simple and even more elegant explanation as to why speaking kindly to plants seems to boost their growth:

Plenty of researchers and horticulturists suggest that people who offer verbal affection to their plants are probably more likely to care for the plants in other important ways—such as by remembering to water them, give them light and fertilizer, and tend to them attentively.

Speak Up: Why Talking to Plants May Boost Your Health, Too

Keep in mind that speaking kindly to our plants is probably good for us, too.

For example, we know that smiling may boost a person's mood, even if the smile is initially posed. And a 2015 study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found that interacting with an indoor plant may reduce psychological and physiological stress. The researchers suggested that actively interacting with plants (transplantation, in this study) suppresses the stress-related sympathetic nervous system, reducing blood pressure, and promoting "comfortable, soothed, and natural feelings."

So go ahead: sing and talk to your favorite plants! It's quite possible that your verbal interaction may support trigger mechanisms in plant biology that promotes growth—and at the very least, the practice could make you smile and help you feel better.