Horticultural Therapy

Horticultural therapy is a program of the NC Botanical Garden that provides gardening and nature experiences to underserved populations in the Triangle. Read this article about the program.

Our mission is to promote health and well-being through positive interactions with plants and nature.

NEW! NCBG is excited to offer a Certificate in Therapeutic Horticulture for allied-health professionals who want to incorporate therapeutic horticulture into their practice with clients. The program will begin in September 2018 and run through June 2019. To learn more about the Certificate in Therapeutic Horticulture, click here.

Watch our Horticultural Therapy program on UNC-TV's North Carolina Science Now

The Horticultural Therapy Program depends on outside contributions. Please click here to help support the program. Thanks!!

Horticultural Therapy volunteers

"I went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in." — John Muir

What is Horticultural Therapy?

Horticultural therapy is the purposeful use of plants and gardens to promote individual mental, emotional, physical, spiritual and intellectual well-being. While the therapeutic use of plants is an ancient art, horticultural therapy as a named profession was established in the United States in 1973 by the American Horticultural Therapy Association.

What are the benefits of Horticultural Therapy?

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

We've provided a sample horticultural therapy activity analysis [PDF] for further information.

"When I look at these flowers, I feel the stress going right out of me."
— Prisoner, age 44

Who benefits from the Horticultural Therapy Program?

  • Older adults in senior centers, nursing homes, retirement communities, and adult day-care facilities.
  • Children in hospitals, school-based programs, and residential treatment programs.
  • People with disabilities in residential, day treatment, and rehabilitation programs.
  • Many others, including prison inmates, hospice clients, and at-risk youth.

How does the Horticultural Therapy Program work?

The Garden's staff provides individual or group therapy sessions, program consulting and development, staff training, workshops, conference presentations and demonstrations, and activity classes. Please inquire for fee for services. The Program's resources include credentialed horticultural therapists, a reference library, adaptive tools, Horticultural Therapy Gardens and Facilities, and a network of horticultural therapy contacts.

How can I support the Horticultural Therapy Program?

Horticultural therapy offers a unique opportunity to individuals, corporations and foundations to become involved in a program that meets important needs of people. We depend on your support to continue offering this engaging and creative service. Your donation to the North Carolina Botanical Garden Foundation may be designated to support new and innovative efforts in our Horticultural Therapy Program.

For more information about the North Carolina Botanical Garden's Horticultural Therapy Program, please contact:

Sally Haskett, HTR (haskett 'at' email.unc.edu)
Horticultural Therapy Program
North Carolina Botanical Garden
University N. Carolina at Chapel Hill, CB 3375
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3375
Phone: 919-962-0522

Outreach Programs

The NCBG horticultural therapy staff provides consultation and support services for horticultural therapy programs in our community to include areas of accessible garden design, plant selection, activity analysis, and program planning.

On-site Programs

On-site programs include horticultural therapy sessions with persons with developmental disabilities, mental illness, dementia, traumatic brain injury, depression, eating disorders, and persons in adult day care.


"Therapeutic Horticulture: An Introductory Workshop" offers training to persons who will assist in the implementation of therapeutic horticulture programs in our community. These workshops are offered annually. Our program also serves as a site for internships for students of horticultural therapy, recreational therapy, social work and occupational therapy. For more information about future trainings, please submit this form.

NCBG is excited to offer a Certificate in Therapeutic Horticulture for allied-health professionals who want to incorporate therapeutic horticulture into their practice with clients. The program will begin in September 2018 and run through June 2019. To learn more about the Certificate in Therapeutic Horticulture, click here.

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteers are a valuable support to our program. We offer a variety of ways to participate, including direct work with participants, planning and program development and training assistance. Please visit the Garden's volunteer page on this website.

Gardens & Facilities

The Horticultural Therapy Demonstration Garden:
Five 4-foot by 4-foot, 24-inch-high raised beds behind the Totten Center illustrate gardens designed for persons with limited mobility and reach. Gardeners who use wheelchairs, who have difficulty standing for long periods of time or who must stand upright are able to enjoy working in these gardens. The gardens are planted with heirloom vegetables and flowers varieties that have been handed down from generation to generation and help preserve our biodiversity.

The Mercer Reeves Hubbard Herb Garden:
This "Garden of Plants and People" offers a garden for active and passive interaction, and includes a variety of herbs for sensory stimulation and seasonal interest, outdoor rooms and spaces for privacy and social interaction, safe and stable surfaces, raised beds, shade and seating, playful areas and natural distractions that elicit emotional responses, including, moving water, art, and animals. The Herb House is a re-creation of a wooden cottage and is used for indoor horticultural therapy activities.

The Growing Classroom:


In 2009, the North Carolina Botanical Garden moved into a state-of-the-art Education Center, which includes a large, well-equipped horticultural therapy room. The "Growing Classroom" is 30' by 36', with abundant natural light and a 2-story window-wall that overlooks the woodlands and nature trails. The room is equipped for plant propagation, potting, and plant crafts, with accessible sinks; multiple working surfaces and storage areas for pullout bins of soil, pots, etc.; multiple storage cabinets and closets for craft materials and tool storage; and painted concrete floors. Sunlight provides an optimal space for plant growth. The room can accommodate groups of 30 people with chairs and different table configurations.

Other Outdoor Gardens:
For information about our plan for a NEW dedicated Horticultural Therapy garden, please see the sidebar—link to a visual of the plan is there!

The Botanical Garden's Piedmont Nature Trailsand Habitat Display Gardens offer beautiful woodlands and and additional plant collections for use by the horticultural therapy program.

Related Sites

American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA)

Updated on November 17, 2016 at 09:34:58 am.