Purdue HorticultureHorticulture Overview

Are you interested in:

  • growing, managing, or designing with landscape plants?
  • producing and marketing fruits and vegetables?
  • teaching in a high school?
  • improving the environment through intelligent use of plants?
  • finding out more about how DNA or RNA works in plants?
  • working in a foreign country?
  • growing food in a space station?
  • writing for a gardening magazine or newspaper?
  • helping a mentally handicapped person relate to the natural world?​ 
Horticulture is a broad and varied field. It applies aspects of biology, chemistry, ecology, engineering, communications, business, and education to growing, handling, marketing, and managing landscape plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables. It is traditionally described as an intensive form of agriculture dealing with crops in the areas of floriculture (flowers), landscape horticulture (trees, shrubs, vines, etc.), olericulture (vegetables), and pomology (fruits).

Horticulture in the 21st century includes:

  • the challenge of supervising a culturally diverse work force,
  • finding new, environmentally responsible ways to manage plant pests
  • dealing with the safe and legal use of pesticides
  • working internationally with people from other cultures 

Check out these links for more information on careers in Horticulture:

History of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Purdue

The Horticulture Department at Purdue University has its roots in the Morrill Act of the U.S. Congress that allowed for the creation of the Land-Grant System of Agricultural and Mechanical Colleges in the states. Purdue University was founded under that Act in 1869. It was in 1884, with the arrival on campus of Professor James Troop, that the Department of Horticulture and Entomology was founded. Horticulture became a separate department in 1912 and was renamed the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture in 1998.

The original Horticulture Greenhouses were built beginning with the Headhouse, or Service Building, in 1911. The Horticulture Building itself was constructed in 1925-26. The new Plant Growth Facilities were completed in 1998. The department has grown over the decades to where it now includes 30 faculty in Horticulture and Landscape Architecture involved in teaching, research, and extension programs.

Baccalaureate degree programs in Horticulture have been part of the Horticulture and Landscape Architecture Department since the very early days. The Landscape Architecture program, with its degree B.S.L.A. was begun in 1966. Currently, students in the department number approximately 177 in Horticulture and 148 in Landscape Architecture.

Horticulture Careers

Professional horticulturists engage in many kinds of work:

Landscape Design, Installation & Maintenance
You can design planting plans with trees, shrubs, ground covers, herbaceous ornamentals, and turf grass. You may get involved in the sales of the plants, their planting at the site, or their long-term management. Or you might practice these activities indoors as an interiorscaper!

You can become involved in the wholesale or retail sale of seed, gardening supplies, cut flowers, fresh or processed fruits and vegetables, house plants, floral arrangements, or nursery stock. Or, you might choose to be a buyer of these items for a chain store, a government or private institution, or wholesale distributor.

You can be a scientist. Horticulturists seek ways to improve the yield and quality of fruits, vegetables, flowers and ornamental plants, and to develop methods for handling, storing, and marketing them. You may choose to specialize in plant breeding, plant nutrition, plant growth regulation with chemicals, or other fascinating areas of plant research.

Pest Management
You can be trained for work with state and federal regulatory agencies, agricultural suppliers, processing corporations, large farm organizations, and as agricultural agents. In addition, you could prepare for graduate work in any area of pest control.

You can be a teacher. The United States needs qualified teachers of horticulture in high schools, technical schools, and universities. County extension educators and university extension specialists teach horticulture to adults. 

Industries Serving Growers of Horticultural Crops
Seed firms, manufacturers of fertilizers, pesticide materials, and landscape or farm equipment, and canning and freezing companies need personnel with horticultural training to perform a wide variety of tasks in research, development, technical service/sales.

Men and women are employed by government or private agencies as inspectors of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, to maintain a high level of quality and uniformity in the produce industry.

Writing for gardening or agricultural magazines, newspapers, television and radio can be a rewarding field for men and women trained in horticulture.

Public Gardens
Managing landscapes and plant collections in public gardens and conservatories offers the person interested in both plants and people the best of both worlds.

Horticultural Employers

Below are examples of companies that hire horticulturists. 

Agricultural Chemical Companies Junior Colleges and Universities
Arboreta/Botanic Gardens Landscape Construction Companies
Cooperative Agricultural Extension Service Landscape Management Companies
Fertilizer Companies Nurseries
High Schools Orchards
Food Processing Companies Park Systems
Garden Centers Seed Companies
Garden Magazines U.S. Department of Agriculture
Golf Courses Vegetable Growers
Greenhouse Flower & Vegetable Growers Wholesale/Retail Food Distributors