Ikea’s plant bullying experiment yielded powerful results

It’s been proven that plants are affected by sound and that talking to your plants can impact their growth, but does what you say matter? Ikea put this to the test to show how “bullying” and talking negatively to a plant can affect its health. As part of an initiative to “create happier communities,” the company used the experiment to show children that if bullying could affect a plant in this way, just imagine the toll it takes on a person.

The experiment yielded powerful results and hopefully taught these children a valuable lesson: What you say really does matter — especially if you’re talking to a person rather than a plant.

See how the experiment panned out in the video below:

In the experiment, two plants supposedly received the same amount of light and water, and the only difference in how they were treated was the type of comments directed toward each plant.

As you can see, the plant that was bullied and bombarded with negative comments did not fare well. By the end of the 30-day trial, it was wilted and not nearly as healthy as the other plant, which seemed to flourish under the niceties it received.

Now, this could have happened for any number of reasons. For example, perhaps the “bullied” plant was accidentally over-watered. Or, while it’s not been proven that what you say to plants matters, plants are sensitive to noise and the decibels of the sounds do matter. According to City Lab, researchers Lisa Goines and Louis Hagler found that noise levels above 80 decibels “are associated with both an increase in aggressive behavior and a decrease in behavior helpful to others.”

So, if the negative comments were played at a higher decibel than the positive comments, that could explain the difference in the plant growth over time.


Regardless of how the negative comments may have affected the plant, it’s certainly true that these types of comments can have terrible effects on people. If we internalize what others say and start to believe it ourselves, it can linger in our psyche and make our own sense of self-worth “wilt.”

Ikea may not be able to solely isolate the negative comments as the reason why the plant didn’t fare well, but it’s surely a great tactic for showing kids just how damaging bullying can be. In that way, the experiment served its purpose because if bullying could affect plants in a negative way, it should make us all think twice before saying something mean to a fellow human.