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Ornamental plants are plants that are grown for decorative purposes in gardens and landscape design projects, as houseplants, for cut flowers and specimen display. The cultivation of these, called floriculture, forms a major branch of horticulture.
Most commonly ornamental garden plants are grown for the display of aesthetic features including: flowers, leaves, scent, overall foliage texture, fruit, stem and bark, and aesthetic form. In some cases, unusual features may be considered to be of interest, such as the prominent and rather vicious thorns of Rosa sericea and cacti. In all cases, their purpose is for the enjoyment of gardeners, visitors, and/or the public.
Similarly certain trees may be called ornamental trees. This term is used when they are used as part of a garden or landscape setting, for instance for their flowers, their texture, form and shape, and other aesthetic characteristics. In some countries trees in 'utilitarian' landscape use such as screening and roadside plantings are called amenity trees.
For plants to be considered to be ornamental, they may require specific work and activity by a gardener. For instance, many plants cultivated for topiary and bonsai would only be considered to be ornamental by virtue of the regular pruning carried out on them by the gardener, and they may rapidly cease to be ornamental if the work was abandoned.
Ornamental plants and trees are distinguished from utilitarian and crop plants, such as those used for agriculture and vegetable crops, and for forestry or as fruit trees. This does not preclude any particular type of plant being grown both for ornamental qualities in the garden, and for utilitarian purposes in other settings. Thus lavender is typically grown as an ornamental plant in gardens, but may also be grown as a crop plant for the production of lavender oil.
The term ornamental plant is used here in the same sense that it is generally used in the horticultural trades. The term largely corresponds to 'garden plant', though the latter is much less precise, as any plant may be grown in a garden.