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What is horticulture?

Horticulture is the growing of flowers, fruits and vegetables, and of plants for ornaments and decorating. It is the art and science of plant production for both beauty and utility. It is the working with fruits, vegetables, ornamental plants, and turf grass, in a variety of labs, fields, golf courses, garden centers and your back yard. Horticulture focuses on fruit, vegetables, flowers, and landscape plants. Horticulturalist use creativity to seek sustainable solutions in horticultural research to enhance health and quality of life for the world at large. Horticulture affects everyone. The skills you learn in horticulture will help you to positively impact the world around you.

ornamental plants

What are ornamental plants?

Ornamental plants are plants grown for mainly for beautifying the environment rather than food and other purposes, they are plants grown for decorative purposes.

Examples of Ornamental Flowers

The Tulip

The Tulip was actually originally a wild flower growing in Central Asia. It was first cultivated by the Turks as early as 1000AD. Mania in Turkey struck in the 16th century, at the time of the Ottoman Empire, when the Sultan demanded cultivation of particular blooms for his pleasure. The name ‘tulip’ came from the Turkish word for turban.

Tulips in Turkey continued to remain popular, and in the early 18th century, the ‘Age of the Tulips’ or ‘Tulip Era’ began. There were tulip festivals and it was a crime (punishable by exile) to buy or sell tulips outside the capital.

The Allium

Allium is basically a Latin word which means garlic. In 1753 the specie was first reported by Linnaeus. Due to the smell of garlic, some historians associate it to Greek words which means to avoid. There are various other species of Allium that were cultivated in ancient times and their economic importance can also be traced by studying these species.

Many different species of Allium family, most prominently onions were used by the ancient Egyptians which is quite apparent by looking at their inscriptions and drawings on their various monuments.

The Daffodils

The Narcissus, known as the Daffodils were introduced into gardens in about 300BC. The Greek botanist and philosopher Theophrastus listed and described many of the earliest known kinds of narcissus in his nine-volume ‘Enquiry into Plants‘. Daffodils were brought to Britain by the Romans who thought that the sap from daffodils had healing powers.

Classification and breeding in the 19th century

Although the name ‘daffodil’ is often applied only to the larger trumpet-flowered cultivars, with the short-cupped and multi-headed cultivars referred to as narcissi, breeders and other enthusiasts refer to all kinds as daffodils.

Today, many cultivars have brightly colored coronas (cups) which may be yellow, white, pink, orange, red, green or a combination of these.


Lilacs are part of New England’s horticultural heritage, but like much of the region’s diverse citizenry, are not native to North America. Of the 20-plus species of lilacs, two derive from Europe and the others are from Asia. The common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) originated in eastern Europe. This species and hybrids of it were so frequently grown and selected by French nurserymen that France became synonymous with fine lilacs; we know them today as “French hybrids.”

Most lilac species hail from Asia, including two of the most popular choices for the contemporary landscape, Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’ and S. meyeri ‘Palibin.’ The compact, later flowering ‘Miss Kim’ is noted for its intense fragrance; the neat growth habit of ‘Palibin’ fits well in the modern garden.


lily, (genus Lilium), genus of 80 to 100 species of herbaceous flowering plants of the family Liliaceae, native to temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere. Many lilies are prized as ornamental plants, and they have been extensively hybridized.

The word lily is also used in the common names of many plants of other genera that resemble true lilies. These include the daylily (Hemerocallis) and various species of the family Amaryllidaceae.


Petunia, genus of about 35 species of flowering plants in the nightshade family (Solanaceae), native to South America. The common garden petunia (Petunia ×atkinsiana) is an ornamental plant whose showy trumpet-shaped flowers make it popular for summer flower beds and window boxes.

Petunia species are mostly annual herbs. The leaves are sessile (e.g., lacking a petiole, or leaf stem) and are usually oval-shaped with smooth margins; some feature fine sticky hairs. The flowers are funnel-shaped, consisting of five fused or partially fused petals and five green sepals. Most species are insect-pollinated, though P. exserta is pollinated by hummingbirds. The minute seeds are borne in a dry capsule. Molecular evidence has led to the reclassification of some former Petunia species into the closely related genus Calibrachoa, known for the ornamental plant called “million bells” (C. ×hybrida).


Rose, (genus Rosa), genus of some 100 species of perennial shrubs in the rose family (Rosaceae). Roses are native primarily to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Many roses are cultivated for their beautiful flowers, which range in colour from white through various tones of yellow and pink to dark crimson and maroon, and most have a delightful fragrance, which varies according to the variety and to climatic conditions.

Most rose species are native to Asia, with smaller numbers being native to North America and a few to Europe and northwest Africa. Roses from different regions of the world hybridize readily, giving rise to types that overlap the parental forms, and making it difficult to determine basic species. Fewer than 10 species, mostly native to Asia, were involved in the crossbreeding that ultimately produced today’s many types of garden roses.

Examples of Ornamental Foliage


Artemisia absinthium (aka Wormwood) is a woody perennial with finely cut, silvery gray, aromatic foliage. Its small yellow flowers have little ornamental value. Wormwood is useful in beds, borders, and rock gardens, and it makes an excellent foil for bright colors and dark foliage. This plant needs excellent drainage.

Noteworthy Characteristics Silver-gray, aromatic foliage. Has naturalized in some areas, including New England. All parts of the plant should be considered poisonous.

Care Needs excellent drainage and full sun to grow well. Soil may be poor to moderately fertile. Deadhead to control self-seeding. Cut to the base in autumn, or shear in spring.


Caladiums (Caladium species) are in the arum (Araceae) family and native to Central and South America. They are hardy only to USDA zone 9 or 10; therefore, caladiums should be used as annuals in South Carolina gardens.
These tropical foliage plants are grown for their decorative, multicolored foliage. They are used in containers,
borders, or as bedding plants throughout the state to provide summer color in shady locations and will thrive in
heat and humidity.


The name Canna originates from the Celtic word for a cane or reed [Johnsons 1856, Chaté 1866]. The plants are distributed from southeastern North America through South America. Many are cultivated as ornamentals for their showy flowers and attractive foliage, and a number of cultivars have been developed. Cannas are also used in agriculture as a source of starch for human and animal consumption.

Although plants of the tropics, most cultivars have been developed in temperate climates and are easy to grow in most countries of the world, as long as they receive at least 6–8 hours average sunlight during the summer, and are moved to a warm location for the winter. See the Canna cultivar gallery for photographs of Canna cultivars.


Coleus is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae. Like other members of the mint family, it has square stems and opposite leaves. This plant is native to the tropics of Asia but grows well in just about any environment.

Unlike most annuals, coleus cultivars are grown for their foliage, not their flowers. They have a wide variety of leaf shapes, sizes and colors.

Historically, Coleus were shade-loving plants and would not tolerate full sun but some new cultivars are sun tolerant. Plants grow between 6 and 36 inches tall and often nearly as wide as they are tall. Various combinations of green, yellow, pink, red and maroon are common foliage colors. 

Coral Bells

The Scientific name of the Cora Bells is Heuchera. Heuchera is a genus of largely evergreen perennial plants in the family Saxifragaceae, all native to North America. Common names include alumroot and coral bells.

 The genus was named after Johann Heinrich von Heucher (1677–1746), an 18th-century German physician,[5] and Professor at Wittenberg University. There are approximately 37 species, but the taxonomy of the genus is difficult because the species often intergrade with one another, hybridization is common, and the flowers change markedly in proportion as they develop.

Unlike most annuals, coleus cultivars are grown for their foliage, not their flowers. They have a wide variety of leaf shapes, sizes and colors.


Hosta (/ˈhɒstə/, syn.Funkia) is a genus of plants commonly known as hostas

plantain lilies and occasionally by the Japanese name gibōshi. Hostas are widely cultivated as shade-tolerant foliage plants. The genus is currently placed in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily 

Agavoideae, and is native to northeast Asia (China, Japan, Korea, and the Russian Far East). Like many “lilioid monocots”, the genus was once classified in the Liliaceae. The genus was named by Austrian botanist Leopold Trattinnick in 1812, in honor of the Austrian botanist Nicholas Thomas Host. In 1817, the generic name Funkia was used by German botanist Kurt Sprengel in honor of Heinrich Christian Funck, a collector of ferns and alpines; this was later used as a common name and can be found in some older literature.

Lamb’s Ear

The Scientific name of Lamb’s Ear is Stachys byzantina. Stachys byzantina is also known as Donkey’s Ears, Jesus Flannel, Lamb’s Ear, Lamb’s-ears, Lamb’s wool and Wooly Betony.

Lamb’s ear is a native to the rocky hills of Turkey, Armenia, and Iran. 

Lamb’s ear is a popular silver-leaved herbaceous perennial ground cover in the Lamiaceae or mint family. The plant grows into a dense clump of thick, soft, velvety, silver-green leaves that form a low-spreading groundcover. They are evergreen in warmer climates. In summer, tiny, purplish-pink flowers appear that are best removed to enhance the foliage and to help maintains its compact habit.  

Editable Root Plants


Scientific name: Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris Conditiva Group. The domestication of beetroot can be traced to the emergence of an allele which enables biennial harvesting of leaves and taproot. Beetroot was domesticated in the ancient Middle East, primarily for their greens, and were grown by the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. By the Roman era, it is thought that they were cultivated for their roots as well. From the Middle Ages, beetroot was used as a treatment for a variety of conditions, especially illnesses relating to digestion and the blood. Bartolomeo Platina recommended taking beetroot with garlic to nullify the effects of “garlic-breath”.

The beetroot is the taproot portion of a beet plant, usually known in North America as beets while the vegetable is referred to as beetroot in British English, and also known as the table beet, garden beet, red beet, dinner beet or golden beet.


The carrot is a root vegetable, typically orange in color, though purple, black, red, white, and yellow cultivars exist, all of which are domesticated forms of the wild carrot, Daucus carota.

Both written history and molecular genetic studies indicate that the domestic carrot has a single origin in Central Asia. Its wild ancestors probably originated in Persia (regions of which are now Iran and Afghanistan).


The scientific name of ginger is: Zingiber officinale. Native to parts of Asia, such as China, Japan, and India, ginger has a leafy stem and yellowish-green flowers. The spice comes from the rhizome (underground stem) of the plant. Ginger has been used for medicinal purposes in China for more than 2,500 years, and it has had a prominent role in Chinese, Indian, and Japanese medicine since the 1500s. 

The ginger root or ginger, is also widely used as a spice. It is a herbaceous perennial which grows an annual false stem made of the rolled bases of leaves about one meter tall bearing narrow leaf blades.


The scientific name of the potato is: Solanum tuberosum. The Inca Indians in Peru were the first to cultivate potatoes around 8,000 BC to 5,000 B.C. Potato History: The ancient civilizations of the Incas used the time it took to cook a potato as a measurement of time. While they spread throughout the northern colonies in limited quantities, potatoes did not become widely accepted until they received an aristocratic seal of approval from Thomas Jefferson, who served them to guests at the White House.

The potato is a starchy tuber of the plant Solanum tuberosum and is a root vegetable native to the Americas. The plant is a perennial in the nightshade family Solanaceae. Wild potato species can be found from the southern United States to southern Chile.