Why You Should Talk to Your Plants

Houseplants are hotter than ever — but should we be talking to them?. Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock

It's never been a better time to be a Plant Parent.

There are Instagram handles devoted to houseplant trends, designer watering cans, custom plant delivery services, moisture sensing kits, and now — bedtime stories for plants.

This new book for our leafy friends is a clever marketing idea from SpareRoom, a U.K. website dedicated to helping people finding roommates and lodging. "Bedtime Stories for Plants," written by children's author Alice Hemming and illustrated by Livi Gosling, includes a collection of three short stories titled "The Three Ferns," "Longing" and "What Goes Around."

The stories are designed to be read aloud to plants and can be downloaded for free from SpareRoom as an eBook or audiobook.

Matt Hutchinson, director of SpareRoom, says in a press release: "Owning a property seems like a distant dream for many young renters but living somewhere that feels like home shouldn't be. With so few tenancies allowing pets or letting tenants redecorate, we're seeing more and more people are turning to houseplants as the ideal way to personalise their space."

This savvy promotional tool is also grounded in truth. In an ever-shifting economy and topsy-turvy real estate world, younger people are struggling to afford their first house or are moving back in with their parents. So it makes sense that plants are an accessible and cozy way to make an otherwise generic space just a little more homey.

The perks of being a Plant Parent

a guy in bed reads a book to his three plants
launched 'Bedtime Stories for Plants' book to punch up the cozy factor at your house. SpareRoom

"It makes perfect sense," adds Hutchinson. "Plants can totally change the feel of even the most functional space, plus they're relatively affordable and, unlike bulky furniture or colour schemes, you can take them with you when you move."

Before you roll your eyes and blame millennials for yet another frivolous accessory, remember that plant-chatting isn't exactly new. Back in 1848, a German professor named Gustav Fechner published a book called "Nanna (Soul-life of Plants)," taking mainstream the idea that talking to plants promoted their health and growth.

One noted individual who took this to heart was a man by the name of Prince Charles. In a 2010 BBC documentary about his home, Highgrove House, he says, "I happily talk to the plants and trees, and listen to them. I think it's absolutely crucial. Everything I've done here, it's like almost with your children. Every tree has a meaning for me."

In 2009, the Royal Horticultural Society did a month-long study involving 10 gardeners, both men and women. The gardeners were recorded reading both literary and scientific works, which were then played through a set of headphones attached to a tomato plant. After one month, all of the plants had grown taller than the two control plants, but the ones receiving female voices did better by a whole inch.

To make the study even more meta, consider that one of the female readers was none other than Charles Darwin's great-great-granddaughter, Sarah Darwin. And what did she bring to read to her plant student? None other than Darwin's seminal work, "On the Origin of Species."

Plant talk

a man holds a book and plant in his hands while in bed
If you've run out of things to say, consider reading a bedtime story to your plants. SpareRoom

Rich Marini, head of Penn State's horticulture department, doesn't discount the idea of plant lullabies, either. "There isn't a lot of research in this area," he says. "But there is evidence that plants respond to sound."

Researchers have been studying how plants communicate with one another for awhile, so it makes sense that adding a human element certainly couldn't hurt. "Wind or vibration will induce changes in plant growth," adds Marini. "Since sound is essentially vibration, my guess is that vibration is causing a response."

Of course, all the reading in the world won't help your plant if you don't remember to water it. If you want to be a successful Plant Parent, just stick to the basics. "The best thing people can do to help their plants grow is provide them with light, water and mineral nutrition," says Marini.

But if you find yourself crooning lullabies at night to your ferns or whispering sweet nothings to your succulents, don't be embarrassed. It certainly won't hinder your plant's growth, and who knows? It might just help your own inner growth.