Using the word ‘talking’ loosely, it’s possible if not essential that we learn to communicate with plants. The flora already know how to bridge the gap on their end, but we as humans are often too insular and egocentric to take the time to listen and reciprocate.
First, let’s go through how plants speak. All life communicates in many ways, through chemicals, electromagnetic pulses, body language, and more. Most of these means are outside our ability to translate with our inherent senses though with technology we can, but one way is able to be recognized by anyone.
As an autistic person I studied body language in my peers to better socialize as I wasn’t born with the skill to instinctively interpret this form of expression. Growing up I realized while the conditions of body language aren’t universal, the mode of communication almost always is. The most obvious sign of this is in animals— I took the time to learn the behaviours of cats and dogs, how they communicate with their bodies. A dog smiling is a nervous dog. A cat wagging its tail is angry. There’s another layer to this when it comes to diagnosing problems.
Living creatures show problems both with any actual physical manifestation of the issue (injuries, sickness, parasite, etc) and how they react. With this in mind we can infer that these means of communication also apply to plants. Just as for each animal we learn their specific language, we must give the same respect.
A houseplant is a good start to begin to practice learning plant-speak. There are a few general rules that can be applied: a happy plant is lush and has new healthy looking growth, one that’s water deprived will be limp or have shrivelled foliage (you’ll also notice the soil to be dry, cracking, and/or compacted), a plant in need of more sun will stretch and reach for the light with faded colouration starting in parts with least exposure, a plant with too much sun will be stunted and bleached started from the parts getting the most exposure, and illnesses or pests are visible by discolouration, welts, holes, and overall obvious ‘unhappiness’.
Plants do experience sensations, they suffer and thrive, they express contentment and dissatisfaction. They also communicate readily with the world around them, animals and other plant life. The world has created endless connections and relationships within our ecosystems.
Which brings us to flowers, a system of communication which may mean several different things. Taking a few epiphetites for examples, orchids bloom many times throughout their life and are a sign of ideal conditions, but with bromeliads and air plants they bloom when their lifespan is coming to an end. There are also many plants which will bloom when in distress— consider the purpose of a flower, to communicate with and attract insects and wildlife in order to spread pollen and seeds. Often plants in optimal conditions will want to reproduce because the area is obviously good for growth as they’ve grown so well, but a dying or suffering plant will also feel extra pressure to pass on its genes before perishing. How tragic is it, to put all your draining energy towards blooming one last time in a desperate bid to continue your lineage.
Plants are alive and the world is full of emotion. The more you learn to hear what it has to say the more connected you will be to reality.
How do we speak back? The title isn’t ‘How to Listen to Plants’. What would you like to say?
Just as the flora don’t communicate with words, we most effectively express our intentions to them in nonverbal ways, but don’t underestimate the power of literally talking to plants. I know we’ve all heard it before, but like ‘meditate, connect with nature, and prioritize your sleep schedule’ also rings true, plants do benefit from being spoken to if only because of the expulsion of carbon dioxide in our exhale.
Otherwise, we can express intention by being caretakers. Most often I find that what I want to say to a plant is ‘I love you, you’re beautiful, I want you to continue growing beautifully’, and the best way to say this is to facilitate it. If you enjoy how lovely a plant is, work to sustain it.
Take care of your forests and your parks. Clean up litter. Plant new trees and flowers. Attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. Adopt an eco friendly lifestyle. Educate others. Open your mind.
For a moment of classic kookiness, I’ll give you the true answer to the question at hand, “how do I talk to plants?”… meditate. Personally I believe in the possibility of authentically communicating with anything by quieting the mind. Sense the plants presence, let your mind be clear of mundane thoughts so you’re open to experiencing everything for what it is. Feel the life coming from the being before you, and feel outward what you wish to communicate. Project it not with words, but with the deep sense of truth within you. ‘I want you to be happy.’ A heart that’s full, warmth, comfort, peace, show this. Don’t be afraid to fall into a thought. Project the thought, but try to translate it also with intention.
Thank you for reading. I hope you’ll think more about how you communicate with the world around you.