Certificate in Horticulture

Learn the techniques, science and plant knowledge underpinning all horticulture industry sectors; then gain specialised training in your chosen sector.

Course CodeVHT002
Fee CodeCT
Duration (approx)700 hours

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This is a vocationally-oriented course comprising core studies in general horticulture plus specialised stream studies in an area of your own choice. The course is designed to lay a foundation for a long-term career in horticulture by developing your ability to identify a large range of plants, your knowledge of essential horticultural principles and practices, your practical skills in plant propagation, growth and care, and your ability to adapt to changing situations.

  • Learn to identify and grow a wide range of different plants
  • Study the science that underpins all knowledge of horticulture
  • Enrol anytime, study from anywhere, learn at your own pace
  • Receive feedback from highly qualified and experienced tutors
  • Specialise in an area of interest to you

    This certificate involves the following: 

    Core studies - half of the course involving approximately 350 hours over 15 lessons. Every student must complete these studies.

    Elective studies – another 350 hours, involving stream studies specific to any one of the following areas:

    • Organic Plant Growing
    • Permaculture
    • Ornamental Horticulture
    • Grounds Management
    • Turf
    • Nature Park Management
    • Arboriculture
    • Plant Protection
    • Propagation
    • Landscaping & Garden Design
    • Crops
    • Viticulture
    • Cut Flower Growing 
    • Horticultural Technology
    • Herbs                        

    Note: Brief outlines of some streams are included below. ACS Student Comment: "Yes, [the course is a valuable learning experience] the reading is informative, the assignments are practical and the feedback is great. I find the assignments challenging and a lot of work to do properly, which is great. Overall, really enjoying the learning experience." Penelope Parsons, Australia, Certificate in Horticulture course.

    Why Choose this Course?
    • International Recognition
    • Highly qualified tutors (Industry leaders, distinguished gardening authors, accomplished academics, practicing professionals, etc)
    • More choice and Flexibility (When, where & what you study)
    • Unlimited one on one access to tutors
    • More focus on science and plant identification than many other colleges or courses.
    • More focus on learning, less on Assessment
    • Outstanding track record - graduates actually succeed, and get jobs!
    • We are an Ethical and Green College


    Students must complete and pass all of these core units.  

    1. Introduction to Plants           Minimum 40 hours instruction

    The purpose of this study area is to explain the binomial system of plant classification and demonstrate identification of plant species through the ability of using botanical descriptions for leaf shapes and flowers.


    • Describe the relevant identifying physical features of flowering ornamental plants.
    • Demonstrate how to use prescribed reference books and other resources to gain relevant information.
    • Dissect, draw and label two different flowers.
    • Collect and identify the shapes of different leaves.
    • Demonstrate how to identify between family, genus, species, variety and cultivar.

    2. Plant Culture                        Minimum 60 hours instruction

    The purpose of this study area is to demonstrate the ability to care for plants so as to maintain optimum growth and health while considering pruning, planting, and irrigation.


    • Describe how to prune different plants.
    • Demonstrate how to cut wood correctly, on the correct angle and section of the stem.
    • Describe how to plant a plant.
    • Demonstrate an awareness of different irrigation equipment, sprinklers, pumps and turf systems available by listing their comparative advantages and disadvantages.
    • Demonstrate competence in selecting an appropriate irrigation system for a garden, explaining why that system would be preferred.
    • Define water pressure and flow rate and how to calculate each.
    • Explain the need for regular maintenance of garden tools and equipment.
    • List factors that should be considered when comparing types of machinery for use in garden maintenance.

    3. Soils and Plant Nutrition      Minimum 50 hours instruction

    The purpose of this study area is to provide students with the skills and knowledge to identify, work with, and improve the soil condition and potting mixes, and to evaluate fertilisers for use in landscape jobs to maximize plant growth.


    • Describe the soil types commonly found in plant culture in terms of texture, structure and water-holding and nutrient holding capacity.
    • Describe methods of improving soil structure, infiltration rate, water holding capacity, drainage and  aeration.   
    • List the elements essential for plant growth.
    • Diagnose the major nutrient deficiencies that occur in ornamental plants and prescribe treatment  practices.
    • Describe soil pH and its importance in plant nutrition.
    • Describe the process by which salting occurs and how to minimise its effect.
    • Conduct simple inexpensive tests on three different potting mixes and report accordingly.
    • Describe suitable soil mixes for container growing of five different types of plants.
    • List a range of both natural and artificial fertilizers.
    • Describe fertilizer programs to be used in five different situations with ornamental plants.

    4. Introductory Propagation     Minimum 40 hours duration

    The purpose of this study area is to improve the student's understanding of propagation techniques with particular emphasis on cuttings and seeds. Other industry techniques such as grafting and budding are also explained.


    • Demonstrate propagation of six (6) different plants by cuttings and three from seed.
    • Construct a simple inexpensive cold frame.
    • Mix and use a propagation media suited to propagating both seed and cuttings.
    • Describe the method and time of year used to propagate different plant varieties.
    • Describe and demonstrate the steps in preparing and executing a variety of grafts and one budding technique.
    • Explain the reasons why budding or grafting are sometimes preferred propagation methods.

    5. Identification and Use of Plants        Minimum 60 hours instruction

    The purpose of this study area is to improve the student's range of plant knowledge and the plant use in landscaping and the ornamental garden, and the appreciation of the different optimum and preferred growing conditions for different plants.


    • Select plants appropriate for growing in different climates.
    • Select plants appropriate to use for shade, windbreaks, as a feature, and for various aesthetic effects.
    • Categorise priorities which effect selection of plants for an ornamental garden.
    • Explain the differences in the way plants perform in different microclimates within the same area.
    • List and analyze the situations where plants are used.

    6. Pests, diseases and weeds  Minimum 50 hours instruction

    The purpose of this study area is develop the student’s ability to identify, describe and control a variety of pests, diseases and weeds in ornamental situation, and to describe safety procedures when using agricultural chemicals.


    • Explain in general terms the principles of pest, disease and weed control and the ecological (biological) approach to such control.
    • Explain the host-pathogen-environment concept.
    • Describe a variety of pesticides for control of pests, diseases and weeds of ornamental plants in terms of their active constituents, application methods, timing and rates, and safety procedures.
    • Photograph or prepare specimens, identify and recommend control practices for at least five insect pests of ornamental plants.
    • *Photograph, sketch or prepare samples, identify and recommend control practices for three non-insect ornamental plant health problems (e.g. fungal, viral, bacterial).
    • *Describe the major ways in which diseases (fungal, viral, bacterial and nematode) affect turf, the life cycle features that cause them to become a serious problem to turf culture and the methods available for their control.
    • Identify, describe and recommend treatment for three different weed problems.
    • Collect, press, mount and identify a collection of ten different weeds, and recommend chemical and  non-chemical treatments which may be used to control each.
    • List and compare the relative advantages and disadvantages of different weed control methods.

    Lesson Structure

    There are 30 lessons in this course:

    1. Introduction to Plants
    2. Parts of the Plant
    3. Plant Culture - Planting
    4. Plant Culture - Pruning
    5. Plant Culture - Irrigation and Machinery
    6. Soils & Media
    7. Soils & Nutrition
    8. Propagation - Seeds & Cuttings
    9. Propagation - Other Techniques
    10. Identification and Use of Plants - Landscape Application
    11. Identification and Use of Plants - Problem Situations
    12. Identification and Use of Plants - Indoor and Tropical Plants
    13. Pests
    14. Diseases
    15. Weeds
    16. Stream Lesson -from this point the next 15 lessons may vary according to the stream you elect to follow.
    17. Stream Lesson
    18. Stream Lesson
    19. Stream Lesson
    20. Stream Lesson
    21. Stream Lesson
    22. Stream Lesson
    23. Stream Lesson
    24. Stream Lesson
    25. Stream Lesson
    26. Stream Lesson
    27. Stream Lesson
    28. Stream Lesson
    29. Stream Lesson
    30. Stream Lesson

    Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


    (some of the options only -choose one)


    Landscape and Garden Design Stream
    The aim of the stream studies is to develop skills and knowledge in landscape design, construction, features and landscape business management. The aims of this stream are:

    • Review the historical evolution of gardens.
    • Obtain pre-planning information and use of that information to draw plans.
    • Identify different principles and styles of landscape designs.
    • Analyze garden designs.
    • Develop graphic skills, and a knowledge of drawing materials and techniques.
    • Prepare cost estimates for a landscape job.
    • Describe surfacing materials and their effects.
    • Explain the quality and cost of different landscape materials.
    • Develop a knowledge of plants, both native and exotic, suitable for local conditions.
    • Select plants for difficult sites and conditions.
    • Describe advantages and disadvantages of various pipes, sprinklers and pumping equipment.
    • Recommend irrigation systems for different landscape situations.
    • Design a simple irrigation system.
    • Design a bush garden and the value and relevance of using native plants.
    • Analyze and report on a cottage garden design.
    • Analyze and report on a playground design.
    • Prepare a playground design for a school or public park.
    • Draw layout plans for a range of gardens.
    • Conduct a detailed survey of a site, prepare a detailed plan based on that survey, estimate costs and develop contract documentation for that project.
    • Explain earthworks and soil preparation techniques used in landscaping.
    • Describe alternative techniques for establishing and growing plants.
    • Explain a range of landscape construction techniques including building fences, walls, rockeries, paths, water gardens, paving and drainage.
    • Compare different landscape materials with respect to their quality, cost, availability and application in garden construction.
    • Describe the correct procedures for the proper and safe removal of a limb from a tree, and for the felling of trees.
    • Develop a detailed maintenance program for a garden.
    • Demonstrate the ability to prepare for, and plant a new lawn.
    • Explain how to establish turf on a steep slope.
    • Write and advertisement for a landscaping business.
    • Explain basic management procedures.
    • Show a reasonable level of communication skill.
    • Explain health and safety requirements on a landscape site.


    Ornamental Horticulture Stream

    This part of the course involves four main areas of study: Landscaping, Plant knowledge, Plant Care, Nursery Practices

    This stream covers all of the following:

    • Landscape design (including pre-planning and drawing plans).
    • Principles and styles of landscape designs.
    • Analysis of garden designs.
    • Graphic skills, materials and techniques.
    • Estimating costs for landscape jobs.
    • Surfacing materials and their effects.
    • Quality and cost of different landscape materials.
    • Plant knowledge, both native and exotic, suitable for local conditions.
    • Plant selection for difficult sites and conditions (including treating degraded sites and interior plantscaping).
    • Tropical and indoor plants.
    • Environmental factors important for indoor plant culture.
    • Bulbs, perennials and annuals.
    • Planting design for flower beds (annuals and bulbs) suitable for the locality of the student.
    • Herb culture and garden design.
    • Miscellaneous growing techniques including; bonsai, terrariums, pot culture, baskets and hydroponics.
    • Describe the importance of trees to humans.
    • Procedures for the proper and safe removal of a limb from a tree.
    • Tree problems and their treatment.
    • Compartmentalisation and its effect on the spread of disease in trees.
    • Preparing a detailed maintenance program for a garden.
    • Seed selection, storage, preparation and spreading (sowing).
    • Preparation, planting and establishment of a lawn.
    • Establishing turf on a steep slope.
    • Turf maintenance techniques.
    • Analysis of nursery production systems.
    • Preparing a flow chart for the production of a particular plant, from propagation to marketing.
    • Preparing a maintenance program for green life in a garden centre.
    • Preparing guidelines for the disposal of surplus or below standard stock in a nursery.
    • Write an advertisement for a nursery or garden maintenance business.
    • Basic management procedures for a one man nursery or garden maintenance business.
    • Basic communication skills.
    • Health and safety requirements for a nursery or garden maintenance workplace.
     Turf Management Stream

    This part of the course involves the following four areas of study

    Turf Culture, Engineering and Irrigation, Management, Landscaping Scope:
    • List and describe the situations where turf is used.
    • Describe features of turf plants including roots, stems and leaves.
    • Explain the function of roots, stems & leaves; and describe variations which can occur in these parts.
    • Use knowledge of cutting effects and recuperative potential of various turf plants to choose varieties for different purposes.
    • Identify and describe the difference between the turf varieties.
    • Describe plant growth in both scientific and unscientific terms.
    • Describe how day length, temperature, moisture and light affect turf plants.
    • Explain how turf is affected by variations in watering and mowing techniques.
    • Describe different methods of preparing an area for planting turf.
    • Describe the methods (including timing) of establishing turf.
    • Identify and describe tools and equipment used in turf establishment and maintenance.
    • Explain how to determine if a turf area requires renovation and describe different renovation methods.
    • Describe how weeds are spread and methods of controlling common weeds.
    • Prepare, name and submit a collection of weeds of significance to turf culture.
    • Describe how pests and diseases affect turf and the methods available for their control.
    • Describe horticultural chemicals in terms of chemical group, application methods, rates and timing.
    • Photograph or prepare pressed specimens, and identify a selection of turf varieties.
    • Explain soil moisture, hydraulics and other aspects of water management
    • Review the operation and programming of a multi‑stage irrigation system.
    • Design and explain the operation of a simple irrigation system.
    • Explain the operation and maintenance of different types of engines.
    • Consider hiring vs. purchase of a range of different items of machinery
    • Explain the uses of different tools and equipment available for turf culture.
    • Select appropriate tools and equipment for a range of turf management tasks.
    • Recommend techniques for storage and care of tools and equipment.
    • Plan and write reports, articles and letters that clearly express what is intended.
    • List the communication skills necessary for effective instruction of staff and scheduling of work.
    • Develop an annual works program for at least two turf management situations.
    • Draw layout plans for selected plants in a range of garden situations.
    • Design a garden to achieve year round flowering by a selected range of plants.
    • Prepare a bill of materials and costing for a landscape development.
    • Describe to construct a variety of landscape features including paths and paved areas, water features,
    • Retaining walls, fences and pergolas.
    • Describe how to excavate, shape and cultivate a landscape site.
    • Describe the forces that act on water in the soil and their significance to drainage.
    • Describe how to determine levels for, and how to install drainage systems.
    • Review erosion control methods (eg. mulching, terracing, retaining walls).
    • Describe the construction details of different sports grounds.
    • Identify the steps necessary to minimise wear and tear on various sports grounds.
    • Describe the construction details of different greens.
    • Explain workplace health and safety practices in the turf industry.


    Plant Propagation Stream
    The student will learn different methods of propagating plants for small scale or nursery operations.


    • Collect seed from and propagate different varieties of plants with that seed.
    • Describe the method and time of year used to propagate at least 200 different plant varieties.
    • Draw and label the parts of a seed.
    • Explain how a seed germinates, and grows in the early stages of its development.
    • Explain a variety of different harvest and post harvest treatments for seed.
    • Explain a variety of pre-germination treatments for seed.
    • Collect, identify and prepare cuttings for at least 50 different varieties of plants.
    • Propagate from cuttings and successfully grow on ten different plant varieties to the stage of a saleable tube.
    • Mix and use a propagation media suited to propagating cuttings and seed.
    • Explain the reasons why particular propagation methods are preferred to other methods.
    • Explain the propagation of at least 40 different varieties of plants by grafting or budding.
    • Prepare examples of at least ten different types of grafts.
    • Successfully execute at least ten grafts using at least ten different plant variety combinations.
    • Propagate fifteen different plants by methods including separation, division and layering.
    • Explain tissue culture techniques and their commercial relevance in plant production.
    • Consider site features which are important to the operation of a nursery.
    • Explain different nursery production systems.
    • Construct a simple inexpensive cold frame.
    • Prepare a routine maintenance program for plants in a production nursery.
    • Analyse and report on the operation of two different production nurseries.
    • Prepare a floor plan for the interior layout of a propagation/potting area.
    • Describe how to pot up and plant out at least 20 different types of plants.
    • Describe soils and potting media in terms of texture, structure and water holding and nutrient holding capacity.
    • Prescribe methods of improving soil structure, infiltration rate, water holding capacity, drainage and aeration.   
    • Describe how to grow plants successfully in containers.
    • Describe suitable potting mixes for container growing of five different types of plants.
    • List safety procedures to be followed in a nursery.
    • Show an awareness of irrigation equipment and its operation in a nursery.
    • Explain growing structures and equipment used to enhance the propagation of plants including, hot beds, misting, fogging, cold frames and greenhouses.


    Other stream options include:

    To view detailed course outlines for each of the individual modules click here Exams:There are two exams for the core

    There are a further 2, or 3 exams for the stream, depending upon which stream you choose to do.

    Want to work in the Horticulture Industry?

    • Grounds Management
    • Arboriculture
    • Organic Plant Culture
    • Permaculture
    • Viticulture
    • Herbs
    • Horticultural Technology
    • Horticultural Science
    • Learn to grow plants, establish and maintain gardens and grow horticultural produce
    • Start your own business
    • Seek work with a parks department, nursery, golf course, farm or landscaping company


    You don't become a competent horticulturist through undertaking fast tracked or short courses It takes time to learn properly and embed knowledge into your mind; and it takes a properly constructed learning experience supported by capable and knowledgeable educators.
    Plant knowledge is absolutely vital -and with tens of thousands of different plants being cultivated; it takes years to build your knowledge up to a point where you can identify and cultivate most of the different types of plants that you encounter. Even the best course can only take you so far!

    If you have a good foundation though; you will have an framework to build on.  Your learning will naturally expand after you graduate; through experience; and your learning is probably going to be faster, easier and more appropriate.

    We give you the framework and foundation that gives your career a boost, and makes it easier for you to move forward!

    How Can This Course Help You?

    This course is the ideal course for people who wish to work in horticulture. Through the cores studies it provides a solid foundation in horticultural principles and practices, and through the stream studies it allows students to develop specific knowledge in the area of horticulture of most interest to them. It is the happy medium between elementary studies and higher level studies but provides enough depth to make graduates desirable to employers. This course will be of value to people wishing to work in a wide range of horticulture positions including:

    What Should You Study?

    Let us help you make the Best Decision for You!

    We've always found it is better to communicate with someone before they enrol. If we understand your passions, capabilities and ambitions, we can help you map out a course of action to give you the best chance of achieving your goals.

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    Rosemary Davies

    Leading horticultural expert in Australia. Rosemary trained in Horticultural Applied Science at Melbourne University. Initially she worked with Agriculture Victoria as an extension officer, taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (c
    Adriana Fraser

    Freelance writer, businesswoman, educator and consultant for over 30 years. Adriana has written extensively for magazines including free living publications -Grass Roots and Home Grown; and has authored or co authored many books ranging from a biography
    John Mason

    Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.
    Robert James

    B.App. Sc. (Horticulture), Dip.Ag., M.Sc., Grad Dip.Mgt. Over 50 years experience that includes, Nursery Manager Brisbane City Councoil, Grounds Manager (University of Qld), Lecturer Qld Agricultural College, Propagator/Nurseryman at Aspley Nursery, Hort
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