Beethoven or Rap? What Effects Music Has on Your Plants’ Growth

Have you been wondering whether your houseplants like your taste of music or if they secretly cringe their leaves when you loudly sing along to your favorite songs? Does music make them grow better at all? I have wondered – and have come across this topic so many times that it got me into thorough research on it. Here’s what the latest studies tell us about our plants’ musical sense.

Music affects plants by stimulating cell growth through the vibrations of the sound waves. Vibrations stimulate cytoplasmic streaming within cells which leads to a more effective and faster circulation of water and nutrients, hence promoting the overall health and growth of a plant.

When learning about plants, we realize that hearing doesn’t necessarily take ears to do so. In this article, I’ll explain how exactly plants hear you and how music affects their growth. Also, stay tuned for some practical tips on how to make your houseplants feel acoustically at home in your place!

Can Plants Hear? What Scientists Say

How Sound Waves Work

To understand how plants hear, first of all, we need to know how sound works. The best and most comprehensive definition of sound waves for non-physicists (like me) I found on Pasco’s website:

“Sound is produced when an object vibrates, creating a pressure wave. This pressure wave causes particles in the surrounding medium (air, water, or solid) to have vibrational motion. As the particles vibrate, they move nearby particles, transmitting the sound further through the medium.” ( Access: 2023-04-29)

Just like us, plants are made up of mainly water as well as some solid substances. Vibrations of sound waves will reach their bodies just like ours. But are plants able to interpret – hence hear – the sound waves hitting their bodies?

Paradigm Shift in Science: Plants Can Really Hear!

In recent years, scientists have changed their minds about what plants are able and unable to sense and intelligence is being redefined in the course of this paradigm shift. Humans are no longer regarded as the one and only intelligent species living on this planet.

Book Recommendation: If you’re interested in this topic, I can only recommend reading Italian biologist’s Stefano Mancusos book “The Revolutionary Genius of Plants – A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior” (2017) which I found a fascinating read.

While it is still an ongoing debate about the scope of plants’ hearing abilities, many scientific studies show that plants certainly do hear, as Dr. Monica Gagliano (University of Western Australia) explains in this short but informative video:

Contrary to human ears, plants don’t hear with one organ. Instead, they hear with several morphological characteristics that are spread throughout their whole bodies to capture the sound vibrations around them. It is certainly a different way of hearing, but can definitely be considered hearing.

An experiment from the California Academy of Science where plants were exposed to the sounds of munching caterpillars showed that plants are able to distinguish between different sound vibrations. This means that plants can not only sense vibrations but also interpret and distinguish them accordingly.

“[…] plants have many of the same responses to outside influences that animals do, even though the responses look different.”
( Access: 2023-04-29)

What I found also interesting is that research has not only shown that plants can hear but also that plants produce sounds themselves. They are not sounds as we imagine them and are in frequencies much lower than what the human ear can perceive.

Amplified to a level where humans could hear it, we can imagine these sounds as sort of crackling, popping sounds. Plants produce sounds mainly through the growth and movement of their bodies, such as cell membranes popping or the movement of the tip of roots. These sounds are used as communication with their environment, as Frongia et al. mentions in their study:

“Through the use of small highly sensitive sound receivers, it has been shown that plants emit sound from the xylem and faint ultrasound in case of stress. Plants can hear caterpillar’s chewing and set up the appropriate defenses but they can also hear the moving close of a pollinator using flowers as ‘ears’ and responding with minutes by sweetening the nectar.”
(Frongia et al., 2020. Access: 2023-04-29).

Do Plants Grow Better With Music?

Botanical experiments on the effects of music on plants started in the 1960ies and have gained much popularity in recent years, not least due to the high interest in finding new sustainable and organic growth methods for crops.

What if we could induce high yields of crops by exposing them to music instead of pesticides? Sounds utopian? Scientists have long been debating whether or not, but recent research tends to show that music really makes plants grow better.

Music Stimulates a Plant’s Metabolism

We have already learned that plants are capable of hearing sound vibrations. Now how does that affect a plant’s growth?

The vibration of sound waves from music affects the cytoplasmic streaming of a plant. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines this as follows:

“Cytoplasmic streaming, also called protoplasmic streaming, [is] the movement of the fluid substance (cytoplasm) within a plant or animal cell. The motion transports nutrients, proteins, and organelles within cells.”
( Access: 2023-04-29)

In short: Music can stimulate the metabolism of a plant by promoting a faster movement of its liquids.

What cytoplasmic streaming looks like in real-time is shown magnificently in this video of chloroplasts moving through the leaf of the aquatic plant Elodea:

Little side-note: I found the video especially fitting for this post because of the classical music added to it!

Sound vibrations can change the cell cycle of a plant, activating its metabolism so to say. In a way as if you are listening to an uplifting song that motivates you to do work faster than you would without listening to music.

As Chowdhury & Gupta mention in their article on the effects of music (2015), soft rhythmic music seems to be better for their growth and blossoms than unharmonious or loud music.

Music is not only beneficial to plants, though. Treating yourself with calm, harmonious music might just be the start of a morning mindfulness routine you were longing for. Being yourself in a happier and calmer space will also improve your plant care.

Tip: Not just music makes plants grow better. There are plenty of natural ingredients you can add to plant water as fertilizers or resistance boosts. In this post on what you can add to your plant water, you will learn more about the various effects all of these beneficial ingredients have on your plants’ well-being and growth.

What Other Effects Do Sounds and Music Have on Plants?

Generally, music and other sound vibrations induce increased cell growth and productivity.

Stimulating the cytoplasm transportation of a plant means that nutrients circulate and are produced faster which leads to a more productive and healthier plant.

As the vibrations of sound waves are also interpreted by the plant, sounds also affect its interpretation of its surroundings and therefore its behavior, such as growing roots towards the sound of water or moving its leaves away from the source of disturbing noises.

Therefore, sounds can just like any other environmental cues affect the overall plant behavior and health.

Be aware: Very loud and hard music (such as frantic beats or guitars) can harm your plants’ growth as the vibrations are too much to take for your green housemates.

3 Tips on How to Stimulate Plant Growth with Music

Are you keen to try out for yourself how your houseplants react to music? Here are three essential tips to keep in mind for your musical plant treatments:

1. Choose Calm, Harmonious Music

All of the studies I read mention that the plants reacted better to harmonious and calm music. Harsh, unharmonious, or very loud music has been shown to rather harm plants’ growth and productivity as the sound vibrations are just too much for them to take.

Here’s a list of some of the good and bad genres that are mentioned in the studies:

Favorable music genresUnfavorable music genres
JazzHard Rock
MeditationHip Hop
Tibetian Singing BowlsTechno
ViolinsHigh-pitched singing
Symphonic Orchestras

Please note that this list is only a guideline and there are always exceptions. Maybe you’re listening to this very melodic or calm type of metal or hip-hop that your plants might appreciate – try it out to find out!

2. Choose Daytime Hours

Just like humans, your houseplants have active and rest times. Make sure you respect those when treating your plants with music.

As your plants are active during the day when they do photosynthesis, it is best to choose daytime hours for playing music to them.

I would recommend morning hours as these are amongst the most productive. This not only boosts your plants’ productivity for the day but also your own motivation to start the day and gives both you and the plants time to rest and calm down in the evening hours.

3. Choose an Appropriate Volume

The volume is important! Even the calmest music can be harmful if you let it shatter through your flat at a deafening volume.

What volume exactly is best for houseplants is not really discussed in the studies, though a few mention that the volume of a normal conversation or a bit louder has positive effects on plants which range from 60 – 80 dB.

Do you wonder how loud that this? Here’s some comparison for you:

  • The rustle of leaves on the ground: 10 dB
  • Whispering: 20 dB
  • Normal conversation: 60-70 dB
  • Lawn mower: 85 dB
  • Concert: 90-100 dB

Thinking of a concert in your living room, you can well guess that this is too loud for your plants as well as for your own ears. Anything up to around 80 dB of calm, harmonious music should be stimulating for your plants – anything much louder or heavier than this could cause them harm.

If you’re unsure about the volume, I’d recommend keeping it not higher than an average conversation – better be safe than sorry.

Conclusion: Stimulate Your Plants’ Growth With Calm Music During Daytime Hours for Best Effects

Science may still be debating and looking for the final proof of whether music really affects a plant’s growth, though I think it’s high time to treat your plants and yourself to some music sessions regularly.

Good vibrations won’t only enhance your plants’ stimulus but also make your home a happy, vibing place to live in!

Do Plants Grow Better if You Talk to Them?

If you’ve read through the post above, you might already guess the answer to this question.

Talking is just like music made up of sound waves that the plant perceives as vibrations. Same as for music, plants prefer harmonious and calm voices.

Lots of experiments have shown that plants grow better and healthier if they are talked to kindly and soothing. On the other hand, screams, insults, and fights with higher-pitched and loud voices tend to inhibit plants’ prosperity.

Hence: If you talk to them or around them, make sure to keep a soothing tone. Think of how you’d sing a lullaby to a kid.

Do Plants Like to Be Touched?

If your plants like being touched depends a lot on the species. Some plant species have a protective layer on their leaves that appears like dust or glimmer. If that is the case, do your best to not touch the leaves as the oils from your skin might damage the protective layer and therefore harm the plant.

Generally, touching plants can cause them distress as they constantly need to interpret the touches and whether they need to respond to them by producing certain chemicals as they would in nature to protect themselves against possible predators wanting to eat their leaves.

Tip: Certain species love it though when you give them a good shower over their leaves, washing away any dust on them. This is the case with Ficus benjamina or also various types of philodendron species.

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