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The description of the mending cantrip says:

This spell repairs a single break or tear in an object you touch, such as a broken chain link, two halves of a broken key, a torn cloak, or a leaking wineskin. As long as the break or tear is no larger than 1 foot in any dimension, you mend it, leaving no trace of the former damage.

This spell can physically repair a magic item or construct, but the spell can't restore magic to such an object.

For the purpose of mending, are plants considered to be objects? If a patch of bark falls off of a tree, or a limb or branch, could it be reattached with mending?

I understand that living creatures are unaffected by this cantrip, as they are not objects, which is directly stated by Chris Perkins on Twitter. But, while plants are living, usually, could the cantrip be cast to restore them if they've been damaged?
It could be argued that once the plant has been destroyed, it is now an object. How would still living trees and other plants be ruled?

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By very strict RAW, mending cannot be used on plants.

The rules that define objects in D&D say (emphasis mine):

[...] an object is a discrete, inanimate item like a window, door, sword, book, table, chair, or stone, not a building or a vehicle that is composed of many other objects.

Using the "plain language" approach, we can use a dictionary to define any ambiguous terms that are not otherwise defined in the books.

The definition of inanimate is:

not alive, especially not in the manner of animals and humans

And the definition of plant is:

a living organism of the kind exemplified by trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses, ferns, and mosses...

Using these definitions, we can determine that plants are indeed not inanimate, and are therefore not objects, making them ineligible targets for the mending cantrip.

If we go with this admittedly very strict interpretation of the RAW, then you seem to be out of luck.

But isn't this all a bit silly?

If we wanted to be a little more lenient while still adhering to this strict interpretation, you might be able to get away with using a spell like druidcraft - but as a cleric, you wouldn't normally have access to that spell without multiclassing unless you are a Nature Domain cleric and learn it using the Acolyte of Nature feature (PHB, p. 62), or you take the Magic Initiate feat (PHB, p. 168) and choose the druid class.

But really, though, why?

Honestly, this DM can't find a particularly game-breaking side-effect to allowing mending to be used on plants, and I'd probably allow it just fine at my table.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There might be some wiggle room in the choice of the word 'inanimate' since plants (usually) don't move on their own (with notable exceptions). That would be the GM stretching the intent, but it's probably harmless to do so. \$\endgroup\$
    – user47897
    Jan 24 '19 at 15:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarkTO if you want to get nitpicky, technically plants do move when they grow (it's just very slow), although the definition of "inanimate" says nothing about moving in the first place. \$\endgroup\$
    – G. Moylan
    Jan 24 '19 at 15:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @G.Moylan - If the plants were cut and had faded (like in a vase), then then could be mended and brought back to vibrant colors? \$\endgroup\$
    – VVilliam
    Jan 24 '19 at 15:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VVilliam that would fall along the lines of the interpretation of a plant "corpse," as included in my edit. It also might depend on how long they've been dead/cut/faded. That one will ultimately come down to a DM decision, since I don't think there's a rule specifically regarding plant matter. That might fall more into the Prestidigitation category, although again it's a DM decision at that point for what "clean or soil" explicitly means \$\endgroup\$
    – G. Moylan
    Jan 24 '19 at 15:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Of note, Mending works on constructs... and that blurs some lines around what's an object and what isn't. \$\endgroup\$
    – schroeder
    Aug 5 at 18:05
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Yes, as long as they are not plant creatures

The Plant type description says, in part:

Plants in this context are vegetable creatures, not ordinary flora. Most of them are ambulatory, and some are carnivorous. The quintessential plants are the shambling mound and the treant. Fungal creatures such as the gas spore and the myconid also fall into this category.

emphasis added. If ordinary flora were creatures, they certainly ought to possess this type. Since the type calls out that it's talking about 'vegetable creatures', as opposed to 'ordinary flora', we can safely conclude that ordinary plants aren't creatures.

The rules expect that most things are creatures or objects. There are exceptions-- a fireball effect coming at you is quite possibly neither, for example-- but ordinary flora are ubiquitous and mundane and making them an exception here has really weird and counter-intuitive consequences, like making them immune to the disintegrate spell. It's much simpler and has much better consequences for verisimilitude and balance to rule that, as in previous editions, ordinary plants are objects.

And, of course, once you've ruled that ordinary plants are objects, it's clear mending should work even though they are alive-- the spell can target anything that counts as an object.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ But would it restore plant function? Sure the fibers might knit, the bark might stick, but would that part be dead? \$\endgroup\$
    – schroeder
    Aug 5 at 18:07
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A whole plant, no; a discrete object that was part of a plant, yes

I agree with G Moylan that the relevant rule involves the DMG’s definition of an object for the purposes of the rules:

...an object is a discrete, inanimate item like a window, door, sword, book, table, chair, or stone, not a building or a vehicle that is composed of many other objects.

However I don’t think inanimate is the disqualifier. While a strict definition of the word might include plants, even the dictionary one quoted by G Moylan says (emphasis mine):

“not alive, especially not in the manner of humans and animals

In common English usage plants are included in the category of things which are inanimate, so I think even living plant matter might be an object…

Except that even a small living plant is not a “discrete object”. Like any living creature, it is “composed of many other objects” connected together by living tissue: trees, trunks, bark, roots, flowers etc.

We could go too far with this, but remembering that D&D worlds generally have a medieval level of understanding about the world and it’s composition, I think stopping at whatever a common person might think of as an object is sufficient - so maybe a flower, definitely a petal, definitely not a tree or whole plant. (Even a flower is made up of stem, petals, stamens and so on, but if it’s intact I think most folks would consider “a flower” an object.)

So: can you use mending to reattach stripped bark or a fallen leaf back onto a tree? No. The piece of bark or the leaf is a separate object.

But mending could mend a single leaf torn in half, if the leaf were no longer attached to the tree, and similarly a torn petal, snapped stick, split log (if it is small enough), and maybe a torn flower - if they weren’t still attached to a bigger plant.

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