Do Plants Respond to Touch? Garden Tips 2023

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do plants respond to touch

As humans, we have five senses: touch, sight, hearing, taste, and smell. But what about plants? There are indeed many plants that respond to touch but there are also some that prefer to be left alone.

Do plants respond to touch: Plants respond to touch and even the slightest contact can lead to them curling away in stress. Touching plants can crowd their access to water and light and can also spread bacteria and fungus. Place your plants in areas that protect them and do your best to minimize your contact with them.

Understanding the science

Before we explore which plants like to be touched and why it’s important to pause to understand a bit about the science behind plants. It can get a little confusing, so we’ll try to keep it simple.

Similar to animals, including humans, plants use a combination of chemical and electromagnetic stimuli in order to grow. This includes the action of photosynthesis or converting light energy into nutrients.

In order to take advantage of their environment, plants take in their surroundings, measure the light, air, and water sources, and then move accordingly. You may notice that plants will naturally grow in the direction of a light source and if you move a potted plant around, the leaves will start to shift back to where the light is coming from.

How do you know plants liked to be touched?

Overall, you should assume that plants don’t like to be touched. While you may think that you are caressing your plants, showing them your love, what actually happens is they can turn to a highly stressed response.

In the wild, if plants are touched, it means only negative connotations. An animal may eat the plants, step on the plants, or even urinate on them.

While you can conduct some trial-and-error experiments around plant-touching, this is tedious work as you will need to slowly increase the pressure on your plants and try different stimulations to properly ascertain if they like to be touched.

There have been numerous studies on plants and touch and most agree that touch is often more harmful than beneficial. At best, your plant might be a bit healthier. At worse, it can die.

Can Touching Plants Kill Them?

Most plants are resilient, so if you brush against your plants, place a new plant too close to an existing one, or have children that can’t keep their hands to themselves, your plant will most likely be okay.

However, repeated touching can spread germs, stunt growth, and prevent them from absorbing nutrients. Enough touch, and yes, it can kill your plants.

Plants that don’t like to be touched

plants that dont like to be touched

Mimosa Pudica

This plant frequently tops the list of plants that hate to be touched. Even the slightest bit of physical contact can result in their leaves starting to shrivel away.

Maidenhair Fern

This plant is particularly susceptible to the fine oil that is on human skin. The oilier your skin is, the stronger the stress reaction is.

Venus Flytrap

In general, carnivorous plants hate to be touched. Their tiny hairs are incredibly sensitive as the receptors tell the plant when their prey has landed.

Risks of touching your plants

Spread of germs

Unfortunately, many plants are highly susceptible to germs, fungi, and bacteria. The more contact they have with humans or other plants, the easier it is for these microorganisms to spread.

When gardening, either wash your hands or use clean gardening gloves. The same goes if you are using gardening tools: always wash them so contaminated soil isn’t mixed around.

If you have houseplants, you will want to wash your hands before you complete routine tasks such as watering and pruning. Our hands are full of bacteria and while most are good for humans, you may transfer unwanted elements to your plants.

Stunted growth

Some studies have shown that repeated touch among plants can lead to a reduction in the growth of up to 30%. Most of the time, this repeated touch comes from nearby plants.

Plants need their space. There is a finite amount of light, water, and food that plants receive and if they are too close together, the competition will be too fierce.

When planting, be sure to spread your plants out so they have their own environment. Many plants will grow larger each year and if this is the case, you will need to think about transplanting or dividing your plants so they don’t end up touching each other.

How to prevent touch

The simplest way to prevent too much touching among your plants is to keep your hands to yourself. However, there are many other substances that contribute to plant-touching, so here are some ways to protect your greenery.

Height differences

Placing plants of different heights together can ensure that they won’t naturally touch each other. The foliage and blossoms will be at different heights, which will naturally guarantee more space between the plants.

If you have a lot of plants that are the same height, consider containers that are tiered so you can arrange your plants at various heights.

Use protective space

Instead of placing a houseplant right in the middle of a room or in a high-traffic area, take the time to arrange them slightly out of the way. By doing so, you can still have the visual appeal of plants but you won’t have to worry about frequent touching.

Small children and pets can accidentally touch or knock over plants, so place them on higher shelves or even hang them from the ceiling.

Snip them back

Many plants are fine if they are pruned back and many welcome this tidying. If you have plants with leaves that sweep into communal areas, engage in a bit of light pruning to put them back in their place.

Conclusion

While there may be some plants that don’t mind touching, for the most part, it’s best to avoid touching plants. This includes human touch, close proximity to furniture, and being too near other plants.

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