Certificate In Horticulture (Cut Flowers)

600+ hours, comprehensive foundation in both general horticulture and cut flower production; prepares you for a lifelong career or successful business. Learn cut flower production studying from home.

Course CodeVHT002
Fee CodeCT
Duration (approx)700 hours

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Learn to Grow Cut Flowers

A course for anyone involved in the production and distribution of cut flowers.
The flower industry is a large and sophisticated business; which involves a huge amount of both national and international trade. It can be extremely profitable if you acquire and apply appropriate technical, managerial and marketing skills. This course is designed to set you on a path to achieving these goals



The Core Units comprise fifteen modules that are divided into the following sections:

  • Introduction to Plants
  • Plant Culture
  • Soils and Nutrition
  • Plant Identification and Use
  • Pests, Diseases and Weeds

Students must complete and pass all of these core units.

1. Introduction to plants (40 hours)
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 (60 hours)
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 (50 hours)
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 (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 (60 hours)
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 (50 hours)
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

A further three modules need to be selected from the following options:
  • Growing Annuals BHT115
  • Growing Carnations VHT110
  • Growing Iris VHT111
  • Australian Natives II BHT225
  • Cut Flower Orchids VHT240
  • Growing Lavender BHT228
  • Plant Breeding BHT236
  • Roses BHT231
  • Cut Flower Bulbs BHT317
  • Perennials BHT316
  • Proteas BHT318

The fact that you can choose half of what you are studying in this certificate, allows you a degree of specialisation that is not offered in other cut flower courses. It gives you the opportunity to effectively become aqn expert with two or three different types of plants; and that level of expertise may well give you a significant advantage over your competitors in the cut flower industry.

Tips for Growing Tulips

There are somewhere around 75-100 species of tulip which come from Europe to the Himalayan regions of Asia and the Middle East. There are hundreds of different cultivated varieties, forms, and hybrids. Common garden tulips have been developed over three centuries of breeding, predominantly from the species Tulipa gesneriana, which is now also thought to be an early hybrid. T. gesneriana has a papery slightly hairy surface to the bulb. Its hybrids are generally taller, late-flowering varieties.

Most have one or two basal leaves with several shorter ones up the stem. A few have a basal tuft of leaves. They typically bear single flowers which are goblet-shaped or cup-shaped with six petals which may be rounded or pointed on the upper edge. A few have two or more flowers per stem. The height of plants varies with the species from as low as 10cm to as tall as 70cm.

They prefer an alkaline, well-drained, fertile soil. Most should be planted at a depth of around 10-20cm, 15cm on average. They may be planted deeper in light soils but not in heavy soils i.e. plant deeper in sandy soils or warmer localities and shallower in heavy soils or colder areas. In warmer climates, plant when ground temperatures are at, or lower than, 14°C and are falling. Plant in late autumn in snow prone areas. Plant in winter in milder areas (earlier flowering varieties have a better chance of performing well in milder climates). Select large, firm, healthy bulbs for planting, and only buy bulbs from a reputable nursery to avoid bringing disease into your garden.
In  heavy soils, grow in raised beds. Plant in full sun - if grown in shade, the bulbs will deteriorate over several seasons. Bulbs will grow well in pots or tubs (plant about 15cm deep in pots). Smaller types grow well in rockeries. Commercial crops are often treated with a pre-emergent herbicide after cultivation and forming the soil into mounded rows.
Dig in manure or blood and bone some time before planting. Water regularly but not heavily. The soil must remain moist but not saturated. In pots, only water in the morning.
If growing as a garden plant, remove faded flowers as rotting stems can spread infections to other parts of the plant.
In mild areas, it is best for bulbs to be lifted annually after flowering when foliage is dying back. In snow prone, cold climates, they can be left in the ground for several seasons provided drainage is reasonable. Species tulips normally only need lifting every two to three seasons.  After lifting, clean the bulbs (and possibly dust with a fungicide) before storing in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place. Bulbs should be kept at a temperature no higher than 20°C over summer.

The easiest way to propagate tulips is by lifting the bulbs and separating offsets. These should be stored dry over winter. When planting out in spring, plant larger bulbils deeper than smaller ones. Larger bulbs may flower that season but smaller ones may take several years to flower.
Species and their natural varieties may be grown from ripe seeds harvested and sown in pots at the end of summer. Seedlings die off in the summer but the soil should be retained and kept dry. Commence watering the following spring. After the leaves die off in summer the bulbs can be planted out permanently. Garden varieties grown from seeds rarely grow true to type.

Tulips are prone to virus diseases such as arabis mosaic virus and cucumber mosaic virus  which are often visible as disturbances in the colours of petals or bleached marks on the leaves. Other viruses cause brown blotches and death of plants. Grey bulb rot may destroy new shoots and is swiftly followed by blackening and destruction of bulbs. Tulip fire may result in scorched spotting followed by fungal growths and black bodies on the bulbs which rot. Various physiological disorders may also affect stored bulbs or cause withering or blindness in growing bulbs.
Pests include eelworms which may infest stems or bulbs causing distorted growth or death. Aphids may attack stored bulbs or young shoots. Slugs and rodents also eat bulbs.   
Uses: Massed plantings, border plants, bedding plants, rockeries, pot plants, cut flowers. 

Tulips are classified into fifteen groups based upon botanical origin, time of flowering, and flower shape. There are over 4,000 registered cultivars. The groups are:

Division 1. Single Early Tulips - to 15-40cm tall. These have single flowers, the flower petals sometimes flatten out in full sun, and they flower early to mid-spring in cool temperate climates.
T. 'Diana' - with white flowers.
T. 'Pink Beauty' - deep pink flowers with a white base.

Division 2.  Double Early Tulips – to 25-40cm tall. These have double flowers 6-10cm wide. They flower in early to mid-spring in cold temperate climates
T. 'David Teniers' - purple to mauve flowers.
T. 'Peach Blossom' - dark pink flowers.

Division 3.  Triumph Tulips - to 60cm tall. They have sturdy, conical-shaped flowers which resist bad weather. They flower in early to late spring in cold temperate climates.
T. 'Garden Party' - pink flowers with a white base and margin.
T. 'Orange Wonder' - deep orange with red tinge.

Division 4. Darwin Hybrids - to 60-70cm tall. These have large and showy flowers. They flower in mid to late spring. They are crosses of Darwin tulips and T. fosteriana.
T. 'Beauty of Apeldoorn' - orange inside with a black base and red tinge on outside of petals.
T. 'Golden Oxford' - yellow flowers with red margins.

Division 5.  Single Late Tulips (Sometimes called Darwin tulips, but not Darwin hybrids) - to 50-75cm tall. Their petals are rounded. They flower in late spring, or in cold areas sometimes in early summer.
T. 'Charles Needham' - with bright red flowers.
T. 'Queen of Night' - with deep purple flowers.

Division 6. Lily Flowered Tulips - to 45-60cm tall. The petals are curved outwards and pointed. The flowers are delicate. They flower in late spring in cold temperate climates.
T. 'Arkadia' - bright golden yellow flowers.
T. 'China Pink' - pink flowers with a white base.
T. 'La Tulipe Noire' - with dark chocolate purple flowers.

Division 7. Fringed (Crispa) Tulips - to 60-80cm tall. The flower petals have a fringed edge.
T. 'Arma' - red flowers with dark red outer shading.
T. 'Blue Heron' - mauve-purple flowers.

Division 8.  Viridiflora (Cottage) Tulips - to 30-90cm tall. The petals have some shades of green in them.
T. 'Artist' - salmon petals with a green vertical central stripe.
T. 'Deirdre' - white flowers with green stripes.

Division 9. Rembrandt Tulips - 40-70cm tall. The petals have streaks of colour (caused by a virus). They are late flowering.
T. 'May Blossom' - cream flowers with purple blotches.
T. 'Zomerschoon' - pinkish-red flowers with cream blotches.

Division 10. Parrot Tulips - to 45-60cm tall. Their petals are twisted and have a frilly or fringed edge. They are late flowering.
T. 'Black Parrot' - deep purple flowers
T. 'Blue Parrot' - blue to purple flowers

Division 11. Double Late Tulips (also known as Paeony Tulips) - to 40-60cm tall. These have double, showy flowers. They are delicate flowers with sturdy stalks. They flower mid to late spring in cold temperate climates.
T. 'Blue Flag'- violet flowers.
T. 'Brilliant Fire' - fragrant red flowers.

Division 12. Kauffmanniana Tulips - These are bred mainly from Tulipa kaufmanniana. To 10-25cm tall. They have 6cm diameter flowers similar to those of a water lily. The flowers usually bicoloured.
T. 'Mendelssohn' - cream and red flowers.
T. 'Johann Strauss' - cream, white and red flowers.

Division 13. Fosteriana (Emperor) Tulips - These are derived mainly from Tulipa fosteriana. To 45cm tall. They have very large and brightly coloured flowers.
T. 'Canatata' - red flowers.
T. 'Purissima' - yellow and cream flowers.

Division 14. Greigii Tulips - These are bred mainly from Tulipa greigii. To 20-40cm tall. Their foliage usually has streaks of colour and an attractive twisted or wavy shape. They flower in mid to late spring in cold temperate climates.
T. 'Red Ring Hood' - red flowers.
T. 'Yellow Dawn' - yellow and red flowers.

Division 15. Species (Botanical) Tulips - characteristics vary greatly. Some are commonly grown, but not usually for cut flowers.
T. kaufmannia (Water Lily Tulip) - to 25cm tall. White flowers with red and yellow outer marks.
T. pulchella - to 15cm tall. Violet flowers with greenish bases.



A graduate from this course is more capable of growing better quality cut flowers; and making a success of it.
For some, this may lead to better employment opportunities, and for others it may be better business opportunities.

If you want to be successful with cut flowers, you first need to acquire the general horticultural skills covered in the first half of this course. That provides an underpinning foundation needed to develop an ability to grow any type of plant in any type of situation, from woody shrubs to perennials, herbs, bulbs and even annual flowers.

Being successful however requires more than just an ability to grow. You also need to understand what can be grown, then choose what you grow according to the resources you have and the market potential that exists where you are operating.

Cut flower operations can be commercially viable on relatively small properties (even a quarter acre or less); if you are growing appropriate plants in an appropriate way.

This course raises your knowledge and awareness in all of these areas, and leaves you with a highly valuable foundation upon which you can build a career or business in the cut flower industry.


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Diana Cole

B.A. (Hons), Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector), P.D.C. In addition to the qualifications listed above, Diana holds City & Guild
Yvonne Sharpe

RHS Cert.Hort, Dip.Hort, M.Hort, Cert.Ed., Dip.Mgt. Over 30 years experience in business, education, management and horticulture. Former department head at a UK government vocational college. Yvonne has traveled widely within and beyond Europe, and has
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.
Adriana Fraser

Over 30 years working in horticulture, as a gardener, propagator, landscape designer , teacher and consultant. Adriana has spent much of her life living on large properties, developing and maintaining her own gardens, and living a semi self sufficient li
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