The use of nature and plants as a form of therapy is practiced all around the world. The term “horto-therapy” was first used by Richardson Wright in 1945 while the term “horticultural therapy” was introduced by Ruth Mosher in 1948 (Olszowy, 1978). Horticultural therapy as a profession is said to have begun following the end of World War II, due to a rise in occupational therapy programs in the United States (Relf, 2006; Shoemaker & Diehl, 2012). Subsequently, the profession has gained interest in other countries and regions including but not limited to Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, Israel, China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Australia, Peru, Spain and France.
With a growing interest in horticultural therapy (HT), its development varies across countries and regions (Reed, 2015). Some have established associations to provide professional registration, accreditation, training and networking opportunities. The United States and Canada offer professional registration and training in horticultural therapy through the American Horticultural Therapy Association and the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association respectively (Haller et al., 2019). The Hong Kong Association of Therapeutic Horticulture, which was established in 2008, provides HT professional certification, with its first registered horticultural therapist accredited in 2011. The Taiwan Horticultural Therapy Association was founded in 2013 and provides courses and accreditation for horticultural therapists (THTA, 2021). Other associations focus on training and knowledge sharing – the Horticultural Therapy Association of Victoria was established in 1984; it offers opportunities for training and networking for horticultural therapists and other interested people in Australia. Therapeutic Horticulture Australia (2021) represents therapeutic horticulture in Australia and offers support “through networks, training, education and research.” The Asociación Española de Horticultura y Jardinería Social y Terapéutica (AEJHST) connects Spanish-speaking professionals and promotes training and research in horticultural therapy, while the Instituto de Horticultura Terapéutica in Peru offers a certificate program in horticultural therapy for Latin American professionals (Alcalde, 2020).
Mapping of national and regional HT/TH associations around the world
Organizations such as the International People Plant Council (IPPC) and regional HT groups within the United States and Canada do not provide professional registration but serve as platforms for sharing knowledge and promoting research internationally.
Horticultural therapy and therapeutic horticulture is also practiced in several countries such as India, China, the United Kingdom and Singapore, where no national associations have been established (Sia et al., 2018; Zhou & Relf, 1991). The Horticultural Therapy Healing Centre in India focuses on training professionals in horticultural therapy and serving children with special needs (Bonazzi, 2020). United Kingdom-based organisations Thrive and Trellis Scotland practice social and therapeutic horticulture, which they define as “the process of using plants and gardens to improve physical and mental health, as well as communication and thinking skills” (Thrive, n.d.). The National Parks Board Singapore offers therapeutic horticulture programs which are “suitable for elderly groups, persons with dementia and other special needs” (National Parks Board, 2021).
Professional associations and networks can create better alignment of horticultural therapy as a profession within the country/region as well as globally. However, the accessibility of information today has equally enabled practitioners to enhance and share their knowledge even without the presence of professional associations in their countries. Despite the different stages of development of horticultural therapy as a profession in various countries, practitioners all have a common goal of serving their clients.
By Siang Yu Tham, MA
Alcalde, L. (2020). Bringing HT to Spanish Speaking Countries. Retrieved from https://htinstitute.org/community/bringing-ht-to-spanish-speaking-countries/
American Horticultural Therapy Association. (2021). Definitions and Positions. Retrieved from https://www.ahta.org/ahta-definitions-and-positions.
Bonazzi, D. (2020) HT programs for children with autism. Retrieved from https://htinstitute.org/community/ht-programs-for-children-with-autism/
Haller, R, Kennedy, K. & Capra, C. (2019). The Profession and Practice of Horticultural Therapy. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
National Parks Board. (2021). Therapeutic horticulture programmes. Retrieved from https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/therapeutic-gardens/therapeutic-horticulture-programmes
Olszowy, D. (1978). Horticulture for the Disabled and Disadvantaged. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
Reed, C. (2015). The Origins, Development and Perceived Effectiveness of Horticulture-based Therapy in Victoria. [Doctoral dissertation, Deakin University].
Relf, PD. (2006) Agriculture and health care: The care of plants and animals for therapy and rehabilitation in the United States. In J. Hassink & M. van Dijk (Eds.), Farming for Health (pp.309-343). The Netherlands: Springer.
Shoemaker, C. & Diehl, ERM. (2012). The practice and profession of horticultural therapy in the United States. Acta Horticulturae 954; 161-163.
Sia, A, Ng, KST, Ng, MK, Chan, HY, Tan, CH, Rawtaer, I, Feng, L, Mahendran, R, Kua, EH, & Ho, RCM. (2018). The effect of therapeutic horticulture on the psychological wellbeing of elderly in Singapore. Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture 28(1).
Taiwan Horticultural Therapy Association. (2021). THTA成立起源 [Establishment of THTA]. Retrieved from
Therapeutic Horticulture Australia. (2021). Therapeutic Horticulture Australia. Retrieved from https://tha.org.au/
Thrive. (n.d.). Social and therapeutic horticulture. Retrieved from https://www.thrive.org.uk/how-we-help/what-we-do/social-therapeutic-horticulture
Zhou, W. & Relf, D. (1991). Horticulture for special populations in China. Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture 6; 10-15.
American Horticultural Therapy Association https://www.ahta.org/
Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association https://www.chta.ca/
Taiwan Horticultural Therapy Association… http://www.thta.org.tw/
Horticultural Therapy Association of Victoria https://www.horticulturaltherapy.com.au/
Therapeutic Horticulture Australia https://tha.org.au/
Asociación Española de Horticultura y Jardinería Social y Terapéutica https://aehjst.org/
Instituto de Horticultura Terapéutica (Peru) https://www.horticulturaterapeutica.pe/
International People Plant Council https://peopleplantcouncil.org/
Trellis Scotland https://www.trellisscotland.org.uk/
National Parks Board Singapore https://www.nparks.gov.sg/