Wednesday, May 5

‘They respond to vibrations’: does talking to plants really help them grow? | Inside plants

There’s an orchid plant that lives on my kitchen window sill. For the first two years in my care, it produced two flowers a year. When it comes to houseplants, I am more tan than green so this performance exceeded my expectations. I attribute it to sheer luck (mine) and great willpower (that of the orchid). I was thankful for this miracle of the two flowers that survived despite my lack of gardening knowledge.

But last year it was an anomaly. Like many of us, I spent many hours cooking, baking, singing, and talking in the kitchen.

This meant that my orchid received an exponential amount of company and attention. She responded by producing 13 glorious flowers between May and October. He hadn’t improved skills, he was just there more, I paid more attention to her, and yes, she may have directed some conversation in her direction. But did its blossoming really have something to do with my presence? Had he been responding to my voice?

Seetha Dodd's orchid in bloom
After years of producing just one or two flowers, in 2020 Seetha Dodd’s orchid achieved 13 blooms. Photography: Seetha Dodd

“Plants probably don’t listen like we do,” says Dr. Dominique Hes, biophilia expert and principal investigator for Horticulture Innovation Australia’s Balance of plant life. “But some investigation shows that speaking kindly to plants will help their growth, while yelling at them will not. However, more than the meaning of the words, this may have more to do with vibrations and volume. Plants react favorably to low levels of vibrations, ideally around 115-250 Hz ”.

Maybe it was a combination of my sweet tones and my taste for music? Could these good vibes explain the sudden vigor of my orchid?

“The Smithsonian and NASA show that mild vibrations increase plant growth, while harsher and stronger vibrations have a negative effect,” explains Dr. Hes. “The vibrations improve communication and photosynthesis, which improves growth and the ability to fight infection. You could say that the plants are happy! “

Happy plants are also important to Rachel Okell, horticulturist and founder of the Sydney-based plant consulting business Our Green Sanctuary. “I often talk to my plants when I look at them,” he says. “I get excited when there is new growth, it means that they are happy and that I am doing everything right.”

So if your dracaena leans dramatically like a sullen teenager, would a gentle stimulation make a difference?

Dr. Hes says, “I think relationships are key here, whether it’s the way you talk or you realize they need water, new soil, or nutrients. Tone is also important, since they respond to vibrations. “

When it comes to our relationship with plants, Tim Pickles, a horticulturist and owner of Tim’s Garden Center in Campbelltown, southwest Sydney, certainly witnessed a change in the past year. “People are falling in love with gardens,” he says. “They are looking for something to nurture and love.”

Pickles believes that the slower pace of 2020 gave us more time to think and breathe, making us more aware and more observant of our surroundings.

Pickles theory can explain the enthusiasm of my orchid. Are you thriving because I talk to you or just because I’m more attentive to your needs? Since excess water is one of the leading killers of houseplants, perhaps being home more has allowed me to realize, rather than reaching for the watering can in a hasty attempt to be a responsible plant parent. .

A flowerpot near a record player.
Gentle vibrations can be good for a plant’s health, says Dr. Hes. Photograph: Katarzyna Bialasiewicz / iStock

Whether or not we believe that plants benefit from conversation, we cannot deny that there is something for us. The therapeutic effects of plants and gardening have been widely documented; benefits include improving our mood, sharpening our focus, and reducing our stress levels.

But what if the idea of ​​chatting with your plant-children feels like eccentric behavior?

“If you look at science, vibrations, biophilic connection, and relationship building, then it’s clear to me that time with plants is worth spending time,” Hes says. “For some it’s talking, for others it’s playing music, for others it’s just having them quietly with us while we work and relax.”

Okell agrees. She is reaping the benefits of her practice of caring for plants. “The routine of checking, dusting, rotating, and watering my plants is meditative,” he says. “It has helped me stay calm and focus on the moment. There is also a sense of accomplishment when your plants bloom under your care. It’s very rewarding. “

As we move into 2021, my orchid is still thriving. And since my fingers aren’t green yet, I can only attribute this to our daily interactions: the adoring looks, the greetings and check-ins, and the attention (both intentional and incidental). She listens to my phone conversations and is often my only audience for pre-dinner versions of I Will Survive. She doesn’t join, my orchid, but I think she feels the love. I know who I am.

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