Recognizing the Benefits of Horticulture Therapy

Horticulture therapy is the purposeful use of plants and gardens to promote individual mental, emotional, physical, spiritual and intellectual well-being. The therapeutic use of plants is an ancient art but it wasn’t until 1973 that the American Horticulture Therapy Association named horticulture therapy as an established profession in the United States.

The benefits of horticulture therapy include physical activity, relaxation and enjoyment, skill development, creative expression, social interaction, a sense of productivity, intellectual and personal growth, sensory stimulation and a spiritual connection with life. Horticulture therapy activities can be applied to almost all situations, indoors or outdoors, in homes, hospitals, schools, prisons, and residential care facilities. Horticulture therapy is low-cost, effective and versatile in meeting therapeutic goals of both individuals and groups through task adaptation and environmental modification.

Horticulture therapy has been proven to benefit older adults in senior centers, nursing homes, retirement communities and adult day-care facilities as well as children in hospitals, school-based programs, and residential treatment programs. Horticulture therapy can also benefit people with disabilities in residential, day treatment and rehabilitation programs along with prison inmates, hospice clients and at-risk youth.

Physically, horticulture therapy increases range of motion, improves fine motor skills, tones under-used muscles, improves coordination and balance, and increases muscle strength. Mentally, horticulture therapy increases independence, increases self-esteem, increases observation skills, provides choice and ability to use problem solving skills, encourages creativity, and provides an outlet for stress/anger/emotions. Socially, horticulture therapy provides an opportunity to interact with others, a commitment to a living thing, cooperation and team work skills, teaches how to deal with success and failure, and provides an environment to learn and be inspired by others.

Cognitive Benefits of Horticulture Therapy

  • Enhance cognitive functioning
  • Improve concentration
  • Stimulate memory
  • Improve goal achievement
  • Improve attentional capacity

Physical Benefits of Horticulture Therapy

  • Improve immune response
  • Decrease stress
  • Decrease heart rate
  • Promote physical health
  • Improve fine and gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination

Social Benefits of Horticulture Therapy

  • Improve social integration
  • Increase social interaction
  • Provide for healthier patterns of social functioning

Psychological Benefits of Horticulture Therapy

  • Improve quality of life
  • Increase self-esteem
  • Improve sense of well-being
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve mood
  • Decrease anxiety
  • Alleviate depression
  • Increase sense of control
  • Improve sense of personal worth
  • Increase feelings of calm and relaxation
  • Increase sense of stability
  • Improve personal satisfaction
  • Increase sense of pride and accomplishment