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HortiCultural Therapy

Updated: Aug 28, 2022

hor·​ti·​cul·​ture | \ ˈhȯr-tə-ˌkəl-chər \

Definition of horticulture the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants.

An emerging strategy for mental health, horticultural therapy is rooted in science, research, scholarship and results. As we continue to raise awareness on mental health our focus will accompany these particular aspects of the treatment.

The American Horticultural Therapy Association describes horticultural therapy has the participation in horticultural activities facilitated by a registered horticultural therapist to achieve specific goals within an established treatment, rehabilitation, or vocational plan.


The “roots” of horticultural therapy were established in the early 19th century by Dr. Benjamin Rush, a physician considered to be the first psychiatrist. Dr. Rush observed and documented the benefits of working with plants for his patients at his Philadelphia clinic.

His efforts led to the use of Horticultural Therapy as a treatment option for individuals with mental illness


Although a relatively new discipline, horticultural therapy has shown promise. In one study, it was shown to improve the quality of life in the elderly, thus reducing the costs of long-term care. In addition, although not a current standardized form of treatment, has been instrumental in evaluating mental illness through engagement and social activities.


According to the National Institute of Mental Health, mental illnesses are common in the United States. Nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness (52.9 million in 2020). In 2019, about one-fifth (20.6%) of the American population reported mental health challenges, and 18.4% of that subpopulation also dealt with substance use issues, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).


Horticultural interventions are specifically being used as natural and cultural assets to deliver health and social support.

  • Physical and mental health benefits are derived from engagement with nature and culture-based activities, which lead to medical cost savings.

  • Increased physical activity and social interaction.

  • Improved stability in careers and professional obligations.

  • A sense of worth and purpose.


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