Horticulture is an intensive subset of agriculture that deals with flowers, landscape plants, vegetables, and fruits. Today, horticulture is focused on finding new and environmentally-responsible ways of managing plants and pests to help increase crop and ornamental plant viability. Sam Houston State University sums it up as a science, "dealing with production and management of plants for food, comfort, feed, recreation, and beauty."
Plants are also very important in environmental protection. They are used to re-vegetate and restore land disturbed by human or natural activities, they control erosion, and they help to clean the air and water. Plants also have an important role in the beautification of urban and rural landscapes and recreation areas.
Horticulture is socially important because it improves how we use plants, for food and other human purposes, as well as repairing the environment and personal aesthetics.
The Academic Requirements
Students pursue curriculum similar to that of other agriculture programs. Coursework will include biology, chemistry, soil science, and plant science. Students should also take communications, business and management courses in order to prepare for operating or managing a horticultural business. Students will have some laboratory classes as well as field work to give you hands-on experience.
Upon graduation, students should have gained a firm understanding of how plants work, what they are used for, why they are important in different environments, and how humans and plants affect one another. Graduates should be able to work with others to help solve plant issues and make our world a better place by using crops, ornamental plants and plants in nature.
Here are some courses that we've seen:
- Plant Propagation
- Herbaceous Landscape Plants
- Landscape Contracting and Management
- Biotechnology in Agriculture
- Professional Floral Design
- Management Strategies in Public Horticulture
- Horticulture in the Home
- Production and Management of Ornamentals
- Agronomic Crop Science
- Turf Grass Science
- Fruit and Vegetable Production
- Botany & Physiology of Cultivated Plants
- Restoration Ecology
- Intersections of Nature and Culture
- Nutrient Cycling and Management
- Agroforestry: Global and Local Perspectives
Horticulture majors have a wide variety of careers open to them. They can choose to work in production (operating a greenhouse, landscaping service, vegetable farm, or orchard), landscape design and maintenance, marketing of horticultural products, applied research to help further our knowledge of plants, crops and pests, teaching, crop inspection, and many other fields.
Private industries, such as chemical and fertilizer companies, often hire horticulturists - those with Master's or Ph.D. degrees can do applied research in the field. Other private companies that hire horticulture program graduates include theme parks, athletic fields and golf courses, and nurseries and private farms. Government agencies, botanical gardens, and higher-learning institutions also hire horticulturists.
Those seeking to manage, operate or own a business (such as a nursery) need to have some college education, most likely a Bachelor's degree, and several years of experience in the field in order to qualify and be successful. Even after obtaining a degree, graduates may find it helpful to work under a successful operation before starting one. Horticulture majors who know that they want to go into the fields of management, marketing or agricultural management should consider a minor in business. No matter what field you pursue, it is important to keep up-to-date on the latest developments in agriculture, including changes in government regulations and advances in research.
The demand for horticultural services will continue to grow; the need for environmental restoration and stopping erosion will require more experts in environmental horticulture, and the need for bigger and better crops will increase demand for workers in agriculture. However, the mechanization of agriculture and ever-increasing efficiency of managing a farm means that there will probably be less of a need for people to do tasks that machines can do. The Bureau of Labor warns that the overall job outlook for farmers is expected to fall during this decade.
Here are some job titles that we've seen, including some of the organizations that offer them, all of which included a requirement for experience in Horticulture:
- Landscape Designer (Garden Design Landscaping)
- Landscape Supervisor (ELC)
- Greenhouse Manager/Grower (Down Home Ranch)
- Horticulturist (River Crest Country Club)
- Postdoctoral Research Associate (North Carolina State University)
- Native Plant Nursery Manager (Environmental Careers Organization)
- Assistant Professor (University of Arizona)
- Assistant City Arborist (City of San Antonio)
- Vegetable Production/Ecosystem Specialist (AVRDC, Taiwan)
- Post Doctoral Fellow in Molecular Plant Breeding (AVRDC, Taiwan)
- Senior Lecturer in Production of Woody Horticultural Crops (The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences)
- Senior Lecturer in Botanic Taxonomy (The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences)
- Associate Grower (Yoder Foods)
- Production Supervisor (Greenleaf Nursery Company)
- Garden Center Manager (Penn State Seed Company)