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Horticulturist vs. Gardener: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Horticulturists and gardeners are both professionals who work with plants. Though they have some similarities, there are several key differences between the two. If you’re interested in a career in horticulture or gardening, learning more about each field can help you decide which is the best fit for you. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between horticulturists and gardeners, and we provide tips for choosing the right career.

What is a Horticulturist?

Horticulturists are professionals who work with plants, generally in a garden setting. They may work with flowers, fruits, vegetables, trees, shrubs, or other types of plants. Horticulturists may work in private homes, public parks, or greenhouses. They may also work for nurseries, landscaping companies, or golf courses. Horticulturists typically have a background in botany, horticulture, or a related field. They use their knowledge of plants to care for them, including planting, watering, fertilizing, and pruning. They may also be responsible for pest control and other maintenance tasks.

What is a Gardener?

Gardeners care for gardens and lawns by planting, watering, weeding and trimming plants and grass. They may also use tools such as lawn mowers, leaf blowers and hedge trimmers to keep gardens and lawns looking their best. Gardeners typically work for landscaping companies, gardening companies or private residences. Some Gardeners may also work for parks or other public outdoor spaces. Gardeners typically have some knowledge of plants and how to care for them, although they may receive training on specific tasks or techniques.

Horticulturist vs. Gardener

Here are the main differences between a horticulturist and a gardener.

Job Duties

Both horticulturists and gardeners perform physical labor, such as digging, planting, trimming and weeding. However, horticulturists typically manage large projects that require advanced planning, such as landscaping commercial properties or designing gardens for public spaces. They may also work with specialized equipment to install irrigation systems or use scientific methods to track the growth of plants in a particular area.

In contrast, gardeners often work on private property to maintain existing gardens. Their duties are more routine and include tasks like pruning trees or mowing lawns. Gardeners may also have supervisory responsibilities, such as leading volunteer groups or teaching children about gardening.

Job Requirements

Horticulturists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in horticulture or a related field, such as plant science or agricultural science. Some horticulturists also pursue a master’s degree or doctorate to specialize in a particular area of interest, such as fruit production or landscape design. Many horticulturists complete an internship as part of their education to gain practical experience in the field.

Gardeners do not need a formal education, but many complete training programs offered by community colleges, vocational schools or professional organizations. These programs typically last one year or less and cover topics like plant identification, soil science and landscaping techniques. Some gardeners also become certified through professional organizations like the National Association of Landscape Professionals. Certification is not required, but it can demonstrate a gardener’s commitment to the profession and help them stand out to potential employers.

Work Environment

Both horticulturists and gardeners work outdoors, but the type of environment they’re in can differ. Horticulturists often work on large farms or in greenhouses where they have access to a wide variety of tools and resources. They may also travel to different locations for their job. Gardeners usually work in smaller settings like residential yards or community gardens. They may use hand tools rather than heavy machinery and don’t typically have access to as many resources as horticulturists do.


Horticulturists and gardeners share some basic skills, such as plant identification and care, soil analysis and seed propagation. They also both need to have a strong understanding of horticultural principles, such as photosynthesis, pollination and plant nutrition.

However, horticulturists typically use more advanced skills than gardeners. For example, they may use grafting or micropropagation techniques to grow plants that are difficult to propagate. They may also use their knowledge of plant physiology to develop new ways to improve plant growth or combat pests and diseases. In addition, horticulturists often work with larger scale operations, so they may need project management skills to oversee the work of other horticulturists or gardeners.


The average salary for a horticulturist is $44,812 per year, while the average salary for a gardener is $39,370 per year. Both of these salaries can vary depending on the type of work you’re doing, your location and your experience level.


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