Horticulture- An Introduction

Horticulture- An Introduction


Horticulture is the branch of agriculture that deals with the art, science, technology, and business of vegetable garden plant growing (fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs, seeds, and flowers). In short, it deals with garden crops, generally fruits, vegetables, and ornamental plants. 

Horticulture is derived from Latin words hortus, which means “garden” and cultura which means “to cultivate”.

Thomas Andrew Knight is known as father of Horticulture.

Horticulture includes the cultivation of all plants including ornamental trees/shrubs/plants, fruits, vegetables, flowers, turf, nuts, seeds, herbs and other medicinal/edible plants.

Therefore, Horticulture is divided into:

  1. Pomology: It deals with fruit and nut crops.
  2. Olericulture: It deals with herbaceous plants for the kitchen. Olericulture= Oleris meaning ‘potherb’ + cultura meaning ‘cultivation’. Example: carrots (edible root), asparagus (edible stem), lettuce (edible leaf), cauliflower (edible flower buds), tomatoes (edible fruit), and peas (edible seed).
  3. Floriculture: It deals with the production of flowers and ornamental plants; generally, cut flowers, pot plants, and greenery.
  4. Landscape horticulture is a broad category that includes plants for the landscape, including lawn turf but particularly nursery crops such as shrubs, trees, and vines.

Basically, Pomology and Olericulture is the cultivation of plants for food; whereas, Floriculture and landscape horticulture is related to plants for ornament.

Other divisions of Horticulture include:

  • Arboriculture: Raising of perennial trees for shade, avenue or ornamental purpose. Example: Gulmohar, Cassia, Polyalthia etc.
  • Plantation crops: Such crops are cultivated on extensive scale in large contiguous areas and their produce are utilized only after processing. Examples: Coffee, Tea, Rubber, Coconut, Cocoa etc.
  • Spices & Condiments: These crops are used as food adjuncts and adds aroma, taste and flavour. Example: pepper, cardamon, clove, turmeric, zinger, garlic etc.
  • Medicinal & Aromatic plants: Cultivation of medicinal plants such as opium, menthi, cinchona, belladonna, yam, Dioscorea, Tulsi, sarpagandha, ashwagandha etc. are rich in secondary metabolites and are potential source of drugs. Aromatic plants contain essential oils, e.g. citronella, lavender, lemon grass, palm Rosa, vetiver etc.
  • Landscape gardening: ornamental garden, park, landscape garden.
  • Nursery & Seed production: Raising nursery and production of seeds and planting materials of horticultural plants on commercial basis.
  • Fruit Technology: Processing and preservation of horticulture produce.

Types of Horticulturists

There are many different types of horticulturists with different names based on their job profile. It includes:

  • Gardener
  • Gower and farmer
  • Arborist
  • Floriculturist
  • Landscaper, landscape architect
  • Designer
  • Lawn-care specialist
  • Nursery manager
  • Botanical garden curator
  • Horticulture therapist etc.


It refers to multiplication or reproduction of plants. It is the most basic of horticultural practices. Commercialisation of crops leads to the development of various techniques and procedures of plant propagation. There are two main objectives of propagation:

  • to achieve an increase in numbers and
  • to preserve the essential characteristics of the plant.

Propagation can be achieved:

  • sexually by seed or
  • asexually by utilizing specialized vegetative structures of the plant (shoots, leaves, roots, stem, buds etc.) or by employing such techniques cutting, layering, grafting, and tissue culture.

Sexual Propagation

 Propagation or multiplication of plants by seeds is known as ‘sexual propagation’. It is an old and easy method and is widely used for the propagation of crops like ornamental annuals, vegetables, medicinal and fruit plants, such as papaya.

Asexual propagation

It is also called ‘vegetative propagation’. The vegetative parts of a plant like leaf, stem, root or their modified forms are used for propagation. Most of the horticultural crops are commercially propagated by vegetative or asexual method of propagation.

Propagation by Cutting

Cutting means detached vegetative part of a plant, which on separation and planting is able to regenerate the missing parts and develop itself into a new plant. It is an inexpensive, quick method and generally does not require specialised skills. The method is named after the part of plant used for cutting, e.g., stem, root and leaf.

Propagation by Layering

It is an attached method of propagation wherein; roots are allowed to develop on the covered portion of the stem while still being attached to the mother plant. After the emergence and development of the roots, this portion is separated from the mother plant and allowed to grow as a new plant on its own root stem. Such root stem is known as ‘layer’. Layering may be Simple, Compound or serpentine, Trench layering, Mound layering or stooling and Air layering.

Propagation by Grafting

Here parts of two plants are joined in a manner that they form a unit and function as one plant. It is an expensive method and require specialized skills. However, plants can be multiplied and preserved by grafting, even local or old variety can be improved to superior variety.

‘Rootstock’ is part of the graft that provides root system to the grafted plant. It is, normally, raised by seeds in the seedbed, and then, transplanted in the nursery bed for budding and grafting.

‘Scion’ is upper portion of graft combination taken from the desired plant to be multiplied.

Propagation by Budding

It is also a type of grafting. Here a single mature scion bud is inserted into the stem (rootstock) in a way that results into a union and continues to grow as a new plant.

Tissue Culture

It is a technique for growing plant tissues isolated from the parent plant in an artificial medium and controlled environment over a prolonged period under aseptic conditions. It is used on commercial scale in gerbera, orchid, banana, carnation, anthurium, etc. It is based on the phenomenon of ‘totipotency’ of a cell.

Scope of Horticulture

Horticulture is essential for meeting the growing demand of food, ornamental plants, and other various related products. Some key areas are:

  1. Nutritional security: Nutritional security is important aspect after achieving food self- sufficiency in our country. In order to meet vast demand of heavy population, horticulture crops must be grown in sufficient quantities to provide a bare minimum of 85 g of fruits and 200 g of vegetables per head per day to fulfil nutritional needs in terms of vitamins and minerals.
  2. Higher yield: Horticulture crops produce relatively higher yield per hectare than field crops. Thus, small and marginal farmers can benefit from horticulture crops.
  3. Incentive for the farmer: Horticultural crops provide more returns per unit area as compared to field crops, it has also more export value, value addition as compared to agricultural crops.
  4. Fruit and vegetable production: Fruits and vegetables are rich source of vitamins and important elements. Horticulture fulfils needs of that.
  5. Floriculture: Horticulture produces cut flowers, potted plants, and beautiful foliage for both indoor and outdoor usage. The study of flowers needs a deep understanding of plant physiology, breeding, and propagation.
  6. Environment protection: Horticultural crops benefit the environment by minimizing waste, conserving soil and water, and enhancing the farmer’s socioeconomic status. Besides, it purifies and make beautiful to the environment around us.
  7. Landscape horticulture: Designing and maintaining outside facilities like parks, gardens, and other recreational areas is known as landscape horticulture. Landscapes that are visually beautiful, sustainable, and ecologically beneficial are made by horticulturists using their skills and knowledge. Thus, it enhances the environment’s attractiveness.
  8. Plant breeding: Horticulturists develop new crops and varieties having disease-resistant properties, high-yielding, and have better nutritional value using breeding method, employing strategies like genetic engineering and hybridization.
  9. Adaptability: India has a wide range of climatic and edaphic conditions, including tropical, subtropical, and temperate climates, as well as humid, semi-arid, desert, and frost-free temperate climates. We have also a variety of soil types, which allows for a very high level of adaptation for a wide range of crops.

Importance of Horticulture

  1. Food production: Fruits, vegetables, and other foods are vital source of vitamins and minerals. It is also source of fibre, alkaloids, oleoresins, vitamins, minerals, flavour, fragrance, and other nutrients.
  2. Source of Raw materials: As a raw material for processing-friendly industries, particularly the sector of fruit and vegetable preservation and the production of pharmaceuticals.
  3. Environmental value & conservation: Biodiversity conservation.
  4. Income generation: Horticultural crops, particularly fruits, vegetables, and plantation crops, have higher output than other field crops. Many are high value crops including spices, medicinal, aromatic, and floricultural ones. Market prices for these crops are higher. Hence provide more returns per unit are and increment to the farmers as well.
  5. Economic development: Horticulture is a significant contributor to the economy, providing employment opportunities and generating income for farmers, traders, and other stakeholders. The horticulture industry is also a major source of foreign exchange earnings in many countries.
  6. Employment generation: Horticulture provides vast employment through its broad range of scope.
  7. Aesthetic value: Horticulture plays an important role in enhancing the beauty of the environment by creating aesthetically pleasing landscapes and gardens. It helps to improve the quality of life by providing a pleasant and relaxing environment for people to enjoy.
  8. Medicinal value: For their well-known importance in healthcare systems, medicinal plants including Dioscorea, Senna, Ocimum, Aloe, Buchh, Chitrak, Ashwagandha, Sarpagandha, Isabgol, Musli, Chamomile, Sweet Marjoram, Khas, Kala Zira, Pipli, etc., are heavily utilized in the therapeutical sector.
  9. Nutritional value: Due to their vitamin and mineral content, fruits and vegetables are regarded as preventive foods. Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) advises consumption of 120 g of fruits and 280 g of vegetables per person each day, realizing the importance of fruits and vegetables to human health. A person’s health and vitality may be maintained by consuming a proper
    number of fruits and vegetables.
  10. Industrial development: Many businesses use horticulture plants or their products as raw materials, either directly or indirectly. All of the plantation crops, including tea, coffee, rubber, cardamom, coconuts, oil palms, and others, constitute commercially viable entities. The cultivation of decorative plants is a separate business. Plants with significant marketing potential include indoor pot plants, bulbous plants, orchids, etc. Rose, Jasmine, Tuberose, Sandal, and other aromatic plants endowed with scent essence are employed in the perfumery business. The manufacturing of soaps, shampoos, creams, lotions, ointments etc. depends a lot on the plant-based products.

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