Horticulture is science involving the management and cultivation of land and gardens. How you might want to go about learning horticulture will depend a great deal on why you are interested. If you are interested in pursuing horticulture professionally, your answer is likely to be different than if you are interested in horticulture as a hobby. Horticulture can be a pleasant avocation or one’s life work.
Hobbyists may learn horticulture mainly from working in the gardens about their home or with their houseplants and assessing the results. Often, they can find assistance from a variety of sources: in books for non-specialists; from greenhouses and garden supply stores that they visit; and on Internet sites run by greenhouses, garden supply stores, and state extension services. Neighbors and friends who garden may also be sources of advice for the casual gardener, particularly for problems unique to your area.
A greater level of depth can be achieved with classes. Garden supply stores, garden societies, and extension services all offer classes which take learners into more depth than a short consultation when they are, say, buying a bougainvillea. In addition, there are several magazines for avid but non-professional horticulturists, such as Horticulture and The American Gardener, put out by the American Horticultural Society.
A noteworthy effort is the Master Gardeners initiative, which is active throughout the United States and several Canadian provinces. The Master Gardeners program provides intense training in horticulture followed by a period in which the trainee “pays back” the local extension service by volunteering. Details are available on the American Horticultural Society website.
For those interested in professional practice as a horticulturist, however, an accredited course of study is probably the most effective path. The study of horticulture may lead to a certificate or a degree, either associates, undergraduate, or graduate. There are even distance learning programs in horticulture, such as those from Texas Tech University and University of Nebraska, but you will have to determine if online interaction will provide sufficient training for the subspecialty of horticulture you are interested in.
The specialties within horticulture include landscape management, floriculture and greenhouse management, turfgrass management, landscape design, fruit and vegetable production, ornamental horticulture, and golf course management. Those with a horticulture certificate or degree may find work in nurseries and greenhouses, commercial food producers, federal and state agencies, landscape services, seed production, teaching, research, conservation, agronomy, forestry, environmental science, and other areas.