Let it Grow! Singing to Your Plants0
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.