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Music at Home: Songs for Your Plants

Bringing back the Seventies genre of plant music, from Stevie Wonder to Mort Garson, just in time for your summer

Since May, Rolling Stone has brought you “Music at Home,” a weekly playlist series for the pandemic era. Whether it’s feel-good pop jams, songs for lonely nights, or a collection of classics from October 1980, these playlists are meant to ease isolation and make you forget that your daily consumption consists of frozen pizza (and, you know, all the other reasons to be stressed out at the moment). But now, it’s time to turn the attention away from you and direct it to something else: your plants.

It’s been nearly 50 years since Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird’s The Secret Life of Plants became a bestseller, a book that suggested that not only are plants sentient, but that music influences their growth. Despite being largely discredited by scientists, the book spawned an entire plant music genre in the Seventies. Even Stevie Wonder recorded the soundtrack to the book’s film adaptation.

Nearly 50 years later, plant music has made an inkling of a comeback. As recent as last month, a Barcelona opera reopened after months of closure from the pandemic, with a string quartet performing to a packed house of 2,292 house plants. With summer upon us and these green creatures as popular as ever, here’s a playlist to help your friends grow, from forgotten ditties to classic rock songs that your philodendron can vibe with.

(Find this playlist on Spotify here.)

Mort Garson, “Plantasia” 
The Blonde on Blonde of plant music. Mort Garson’s 1976 album Mother Earth’s Plantasia was obscure at the time of its release, but a strong cult following led to a reissue last year. Made entirely on a Moog synthesizer, the record’s 10 songs are a sheer delight, particularly the title track, which opens with a twinkling greeting and warmly crescendos into your plants’ stomata.

Stevie Wonder, “The Secret Life of Plants” and “Venus’ Flytrap and the Bug”
Come for the lovely title track, stay for the bonkers account of an insect’s fatal attraction (“Please don’t eat me/I’m trapped in your love”). The Secret Life of Plants is essentially what broke the legendary streak of Stevie Wonder albums that ran from Talking Book through Songs in the Key of Life, but critics have warmed to it in recent years, with Solange citing it as an inspiration behind her 2019 record, When I Get Home. 

Grateful Dead, “Sage & Spirit”
This soothing Blues for Allah instrumental features a flute and acoustic guitar — a combination that’s sure to bring rapid growth and prosperity.

Joni Mitchell, “Judgement of the Moon and Stars (Ludwig’s Tune)”
What did you think we were going to pick, “Cactus Tree”? For her follow-up to Blue, Mitchell headed to British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, where she hunkered down in a stone cottage and surrounded herself with nature. “Judgement of the Moon and Stars (Ludwig’s Tune),” is her tribute to Beethoven, a gorgeous piano piece that, like much classical music, contains the frequencies that plants supposedly respond well to.

Ann Chase, “A Chant For Your Plants
Just when you thought you knew Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédie no.1,” Chase takes a wild spin on it with a flute. The bizarre spoken-word piece is incredibly of its time: “My thoughts are with you, dear plants,” she says. “You are such wonders to me!”

Dr. George Milstein, “Music to Grow Plants
Milstein was a dentist-turned-horticulturist. His 1970 album Music to Grow Plants would fit right in at cocktail hour at a jazz club.

The Beatles, “Flying”
You may have missed this groovy instrumental from Magical Mystery Tour, but your African violet definitely didn’t.

Nature Sounds Artists, “A Light From Home”
An enchanting piano piece from 2010’s Music for Plants: To Stimulate Plant Growth, Plant Music & Music for Gardens.

David Bowie, “Moss Garden”
When your succulents have had enough of the wonderfully chaotic instrumentals on Low, there’s always more on “Heroes” — particularly the cerebral “Moss Garden,” with a sound that only Bowie and Brian Eno could have come up with.

Baroque Bouquet, “Silver Queen
A mystical track off a largely forgotten 1975 record, with liner notes that read “Music to keep your plants healthy and happy. We know our music will stimulate a favorable response within your growing plants.” It’s not available digitally, but crate diggers are selling it on Discogs.

David Edren, “Dance of the Cordariocalyx”
An electronic stunner from Belgian composer David Edren’s 2015 piece Music for Mimosa Pudica & Cordariocalyx. “Plants never cease to inspire with their various shapes, forms, textures, rhythmic balance and repeating patterns,” he wrote. “For this project I was, like many artists before me, inspired by the botanical world and aspired to make sounds that reflect a sensitivity towards plants.”

Genesis, “The Return of the Giant Hogweed”
Treat your aloe plant to some prog rock, in the form of the second longest track off Nursery Cryme (right behind “The Musical Box”).

Simon and Garfunkel, “Leaves That Are Green”
A seasonal song from the Sounds of Silence about the passage of time, reminding you that although some plants don’t survive the winter, many of them return. Time hurries on.