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Horticulture (History, Types, Practices & Techniques) – GIY Plants


Horticulture is the cornerstone of gardening. It has contributed to our understanding of growing plants at home both inside and out. Horticulturists are scientists who study horticulture.

Products like horticultural sand are named for their importance in the horticulture industry. For instance, scientists created horticultural oils to protect fruit trees from insects. The study of fruit trees is a specific type of horticulture known as pomology.

In this article, we’ll tell you all about horticulture. We’ll cover its history, types, and modern techniques. Let’s start with a brief overview of what horticulture is.

What is Horticulture?

Horticulture is a branch of crop science. It focuses on growing vegetables, fruits, flowers, herbs, nuts, and ornamental landscape plants. It is unique because of its emphasis on both plant aesthetics and productivity[4].

The word horticulture comes from the Latin words hortus and cultura. Hortus means garden and cultura means culture. Makes sense because horticulture is practiced on a smaller, home garden-size scale.

History of Horticulture

History of horticulture

Humans began cultivating plants in the Neolithic period, 7,000 to 10,000 years ago[3]. Horticulture, like agriculture, did not develop until humans began abandoning their nomadic lifestyles. The cultivation of plants for food allowed and required humans to stay in one place.

Ancient Egyptians made some of the first big advancements in horticulture. They developed the first known irrigation systems. Evidence shows Egyptians cultivated more than 200 plant species between 3000 and 30 B.C.[3].

During the Classical Era (500 B.C. to 500 A.D.), the Romans and Greeks also made huge contributions to horticulture. They developed new techniques like grafting and specialized tools such as pruning knives[3]. Yet, we lost many of their advancements when the Roman Empire fell.

There was no distinction between agriculture and horticulture until the Middle Ages (500 B.C. to 1500 B.C.). During this time, the rediscovery of many Roman horticulture practices occurred. Horticulture was also declared as its own field of science.

Botany began to emerge from agriculture and horticulture during the European Renaissance. A renewed emphasis on scientific discovery led to an interest in naming, classifying, and describing the world. This led to the birth of botany, the scientific study of plants.

Historically, women practiced horticulture while men worked in agriculture fields. This is still common practice in many cultures today.

Types of Horticulture

Types of horticulture

There are several different branches of horticulture. Each focuses on the growth of a specific group of plants. Most horticulturists choose a single type of horticulture to study.

The three main types of horticulture are olericulture, pomology, and ornamental horticulture. Horticulturists classify fruits or vegetables based on whether they’re annuals or perennials.

Name Plant Focal Group Characteristics
Arboriculture Perennial Woody Plants A type of ornamental horticulture focused on cultivating trees, shrubs, or woody vines.
Floriculture Flowers A type of ornamental horticulture focused primarily on cultivating cut flowers for the floral industry and houseplants.
Olericulture Vegetables In horticulture, vegetables are any seed-bearing product from an annual plant. Melons, eggplants, and tomatoes all fall into this category.
Pomology Fruits and Nuts Horticulturally, fruits are any seed-bearing product from a perennial plant.
Viticulture Grapes A type of pomology focused on cultivating grapes.
Viniculture Wine grapes A type of viticulture specializing in wine grape production.
Turf Management Turfgrass A type of ornamental horticulture specializing in the growth and management of grass species used as turfgrass.
Ornamental Horticulture Landscape plants Cultivation of ornamental plants for use in landscape design.

Modern Horticulture Practices & Techniques

Horticulture techniques include propagation, plant selection, bed preparation, pruning, mulching, and pest management. Recent advancements in horticulture practices have increased production and decreased losses.

In recent decades, the use of genetics in horticulture has exploded. New, genetically superior plant cultivars can produce higher yields. Some plants are also bred to be insect and disease-resistant.

One of the pillars of horticulture is sustainability. Products like horticultural soaps and oils provide gardeners with an organic pesticide option. Research aimed at finding new organic pest control options is ongoing.

Biological control methods are also getting more attention from horticulturists these days. This technique uses natural enemies of pests to control them. As we discover more biological control methods, we can reduce our use of chemicals.

Controlling environmental variables is an important horticulture technique. Modern greenhouses allow you to control temperature, light, and water. They take the guesswork out of maximizing plant growth.

As human populations continue to fuel urban sprawl, urban gardening is gaining popularity. Research into techniques like vertical gardening and rooftop gardening is increasing. New developments will allow people in cities to maximize space and food production.

Horticultural Societies

The American Horticultural Society (AHS) was created in 1922[1]. They emphasize community-driven outreach and education focused on sustainable gardening. Their mission is to share how gardening and plants contribute to health and sustainability.

John Wedgwood created the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in 1804. The RHS funds research, education, and training hoping to enrich the lives of UK citizens through gardening[2]. The guiding principles for their organization are to inspire, involve, inform, and improve.

Horticulture vs Agriculture

The main difference between horticulture and agriculture is the aesthetic aspect. Both use science to increase crop productivity. But, only horticulture emphasizes the use of science to increase the beauty of plants.

Horticulture also differs from agriculture in scale and specialized practices. Unlike agriculture, horticulture is rarely practiced on more than a few acres of land. The only exception to this would be tree nurseries and orchards.

Since horticulturists are working on a smaller scale, they can use specialized techniques. Examples include propagation by plant cuttings and grafting.

Agriculture is practiced on a larger scale, up to hundreds or thousands of acres. This limits the use of specialized techniques.


[1] American Horticultural Society. Retrieved from https://ahsgardening.org/

[2] Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved from https://www.rhs.org.uk/

[3] Von Baeyer, E. (2010). The development and history of horticulture. Oxford, United Kingdom: Eolss Publishers.

[4] What is Horticulture? American Society for Horticultural Science. Retrieved from https://ashs.org/page/Horticulture

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