Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > April 2014 > HEY, SCHEFFLERA, NAME THAT TUNE!


A customer asked me recently if I thought that music helps plants to grow.  I told her that I neither talked to my plants nor played music for them.  However, upon consideration, they do get a rather steady diet of television and radio geared to my tastes.  My cats ignore both sources of sound, except for an amusing display of confusion when a doorbell rings on the television and one cat disappears while the other runs expectantly to the door.

Real research into this matter is a little slim, but what does exist suggests that plants react to vibrations, specifically wind, but the sound waves of music may simulate that of wind.  Some of the theories posited by scientists and pseudoscientists are fairly reasonable, while others are a little “crazy”.  For instance, experiments to detect which kinds of music and at what decibel level they are played are the most common, suggesting that plants grow taller or shorter, or lean toward or away from the particular musical genre.  The idea that the vibrations produced by loud, heavy metal music could cause plants to lean away from the sounds makes sense to me…I lean away too.

One study concluded that seeds “listening” to classical music responded better to the dynamic strains of Wagner over the romantic lilts of Chopin.  (By the way, the response by my neighbors is precisely the opposite.)  Another study found that the plant’s stomata (pores in the leaves where exchanges of gases and nutrients occur) reacted to music that simulated the tones in bird songs??...feed the birds!

My favorite is the scientist who, also a musician, composes songs that are specific to each plant.  This would mean that our garden center would no longer be arranged by hardiness or light requirements, but rather by musical preference.  You would come in and ask for the Doobie Brothers or Show Tunes!   

Perhaps people who talk to their plants are simply paying more attention to them, so that their proven needs for adequate light and water are being met.  My own plants have shown no interest in that catchy “Big Bang Theory” theme song, but they do perk up when I water and fertilize them in a timely manner.  Most agriculture takes place with only the subtle sounds of nature and the occasional roar of a jet plane flying overhead.  Maybe chasing the crows away from the corn field causes the crop to suffer from the lack of stimulating “cawing.”

All this being said, and my own skepticism aside, just as I have had to accept the existence of the mysterious “green thumb,” who am I to say that people who have the kind of relationship with their plants that impels them to hold conversations or leave the radio on for them while they go off to work haven’t gotten it right! 

Posted: 4/2/2014 by Margot | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: MargotGunn, TheGreatIndoors
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