Electroculture Gardening Is Trending but Does It Actually Work?

One horticulture professor says you shouldn't believe the hype.

<p>Philippe Gerber/Getty Images</p>

Philippe Gerber/Getty Images

Electroculture is the latest gardening craze to sweep through social media, with over 27 million posts on TikTok tagging the phrase. The method, which is premised on the idea that you can stimulate plant growth using electricity, is not new. In fact, it's been around since the 1800s! But it makes sense that this technique is now going viral—the claims are somewhat based on science, it's relatively inexpensive to execute, and there's a growing desire to use fewer chemical fertilizers. Plus, gardeners love experimenting and trying all things DIY.

While the claims behind electroculture sound legit because of all the science jargon, they're too good to be true, says Linda Chalker-Scott, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Washington State University, who has spent years busting garden myths. Here's what she had to say about electroculture gardening and why it doesn't actually work.

Related: The 11 Top Gardening Trends of 2024, So Far

What Exactly is Electroculture Gardening?

Believers of this gardening technique claim that by placing twisted copper wires into their planting beds they can harness the power of electricity to boost their plants’ growth.

Does Electroculture Gardening Really Work?

Electricity is in the air around us, and copper does conduct electricity, but a coiled copper wire stuck into the ground is not going to bring electricity to the soil—and even if it did, electroculture enthusiasts are vague on what exactly is happening to stimulate plant growth.

Believers point to electroculture’s long history as proof of its effectiveness, and it is true that the field has existed since the 18th century. The USDA also did extensive research and testing in the field in the early 20th century. However, the reason it didn’t go any further was that scientists determined that there was no real proof that electricity improved yield or plant growth in any measurable way.

When Chalker-Scott searched the scientific literature for electroculture, there were zero publications on the topic after 1968; she was able to unearth some more recent reports on electroculture (like one from 2021), but these were not peer-reviewed, scientific journal publications.

Writing on the website The Garden Professors, Chalker-Scott said, “When recognized plant science experts publish positive results that are confirmed by other plant researchers, those results will be in bona fide plant science journals and be worth discussing.” But Chalker-Scott doesn’t think serious plant scientists would ever take this up, noting, “If there was some indication that this could work, then 'Big Agriculture' would throw money at it.”

The Evidence for Electroculture

Some believers point to a study published in the journal Nature Food that used a device called a triboelectric nanogenerator to create an electric field over a crop of peas. The device increased germination and yield, a promising result that deserves more study, but triboelectric nanogenerator is a far cry from the simple copper coils being marketed for electroculture.

Another study that has been cited as “proof” of electroculture’s effectiveness studied the impact of simulated lightning strikes on shiitake mushroom bed logs, which indeed increased the funghi’s growth, but again, has nothing to do with plant growth or the electroculture antenna being hawked online.

Our conclusion: Don’t waste your money on electroculture gadgets. If someone tried to sell you a magic stick that you put in the soil to make plants grow, you’d probably never consider buying it, right? 

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