Learn to grow perennial plants, identify and select the best cultivars, design perennial gardens and more, studying from home

Course CodeBHT316
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Learn all about Perennial Plants

Perennials cover a wide range of plants including both ornamental and useful plants. There are perennial plants for all situations.

  • Learn to Identify and Grow over 100 different Perennials
  • Pursue a passion, grow your plant knowledge, work with perennials
  • Design colourful perennial gardens and flower borders
  • A course for the amateur enthusiast, or the professional nurseryman, landscaper, gardener or plants-man

This course was developed by John Mason and staff of ACS Distance Education, authors of "Growing and Using Perennial Plants"

A copy of this ebook is supplied as bonus complimentary reading for anyone enrolling in this course through this web site.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Review of the system of plant identification
    • Physiology
    • Information sources
  2. Culture
    • Planting
    • Staking
    • Mulching
    • Watering
    • Feeding
    • Pruning, etc.
  3. Propagation and Hybridization
    • Seed
    • Pricking out seedlings
    • Cuttings
    • Factors affecting cutting strike
    • Propagating media
    • Types of cuttings
    • Hardening off young plants
    • Division
    • Separation
    • Layering
    • Potting mixes
    • Potting up
  4. Review of Major Types of Perennials
    • Herbaceous perennials
    • Establishing herbaceous plants
    • Popular bulbs, corms and tubers
    • Supporting herbaceous plants
    • Herbs in a perennial border
    • Wildflower meadows
    • Maintaining herbaceous borders
    • Perennials for different purposes/uses
    • Artemisia
    • Lavandula
    • Scented Geraniums
    • Ornamental; grasses
    • Bamboos
  5. Pests and Disease Plant pathology
    • Parasitic and non parasitic problems
    • Conducting an inspection and identifying problems
    • Tell tale symptoms
    • Common terminology
    • Common pests on perennials and their management
    • Diseases
  6. Irrigation and Hydroponic Culture Techniques
    • Significance of water
    • Infiltration and water retention
    • Water needs for perennials
    • Watering methods
    • When to water
    • Testing water needs
    • Reducing water needs
    • Watering perennials in pots
    • Drip irrigation
    • Hydroponics Introduction
    • Types of hydroponic systems
  7. Landscaping with Perennials
    • Designing the garden
    • Landscape principles and components
    • Landscape effects
    • Design styles
    • Flower bed design
    • Colour themes
    • Cottage gardens
    • What perennials to grow in cottage gardens
    • Scented plants
    • Landscaping with bulbs
  8. Further Uses for Perennials
    • Cut Flowers
    • What flowers the longest
    • Harvest and storage
    • Growing Carnations
    • Chrysanthemums
    • Herbs
    • Herb crafts

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.


  • Describe the identification of Perennial Plants
  • Determine sources of further information for identifying and growing different varieties of perennials.
  • Discuss a variety of cultural techniques used to improve success in growing of different perennial plants
  • Determine the propagation of different perennial plants.
  • Discuss the horticulture of a range of commonly grown perennial genera.
  • Discuss the management of pests and diseases occurring on a range of perennial plants.
  • Manage irrigation and drainage to ensure optimum water levels are maintained for healthy growth in perennials.
  • Determine appropriate use of perennials in a range of horticultural situations.
  • Describe a variety of uses for perennials.

Perennials are Diverse

Perennials are a diverse group of plants providing the gardener with a wide range of plant material suited to an equally wide range of climate and soil conditions. Whilst trees and shrubs provide the backbone of the garden, perennials, with such diversity of structure, flowers and leaf shapes, fill in the spaces to provide (if chosen carefully) year round colour and interest.

Most perennials are very beautiful but at the same time quite tough – this is a bonus for people living in areas with low rainfall or water restrictions. The diversity of perennials means that you can have a beautiful garden, full of perennial plants, any where in the world. There are perennials suited to a Mediterranean climate, wet climates, dry climates, tropical regions and anywhere in between.

Perennials have played an important part in garden design over the centuries; they have been used in the herbaceous borders of grand European gardens as well as in the humble cottage garden. Today perennials are used in similar (if not so labour intensive) ways.

Perennials can be used as fillers for garden beds (such as rose gardens); to line a driveway; to edge walls and ponds; to tumble down embankments or retaining walls; in rock gardens; gravel gardens, in a herbaceous border; in woodland gardens; as ground cover plants and in wild flower meadows.

They can also be used as accent plants to create impact, diversity and movement in the garden, grasses and grass-like plants are an obvious choice. (Grasses are covered in more detail later this lesson).

Most perennials are tough, easy care plants that apart from initial soil preparation, and regular division, will provide the garden with years of colour and interest.

How to Choose What Perennials to Buy
  • Plants that are healthier and not pot bound are more likely to grow faster and overcome the effects of disease or insect attack.
  • Larger plants often take more effort to get established, but if you are prepared to put the effort in, will give a more immediate effect. If you don’t put the effort in, they are more likely to die.
  • Plants with a good, uniform shape, i.e. straight stem, uniform branches and a good coverage of leaves, will get off to a good start as soon as they’re planted out.
  • Watch out for plants with lots of soft, lush new growth – these aren’t necessarily the healthiest or best plants to buy. Unless you can give the plant ideal conditions (moist, fertile soil in a sheltered position) lush growth is likely to wilt and die back once the plant is put in the ground. The plant will most likely recover but it may take several weeks for new shoots to grow.
  • A plant covered with flowers is appealing, but isn’t necessarily in good health. Even very sick plants can flower well. Instead, look for sturdy well-formed plants with healthy green leaves. If you really want a plant that will give you flowers quickly, choose one with lots of buds rather than fully opened flowers.
  • Check that your plants have not been exposed to a fluctuating water supply that will cause problems later on.
  • Try and ascertain whether the plants have been fed, and if so on what.  A change in their nutrient supply can be devastating.
  • If the plants have been stored in a shade house or under a cold frame they may need acclimatising.  Try to replicate their growing conditions in your garden.
  • Avoid plants with any sign of insect attack or visible disease.  Not only are these plants potentially going to die on you, but they could devastate the rest of your garden by spreading pests and diseases.
  • Observe the standards set around the nursery.  A clean and tidy site where health concerns are readily observed is more likely to produce healthy plants than one where cuttings are left lying around, compost is left exposed and pots are not sterilised before re-use.    


Working with perennials may not always be glamorous, but it is a very healthy and rewarding way to spend your time, whether at home or at work; whether in sunshine or rain.

Some graduates use what they learn to grow their passion as an amateur, while others use this developing knowledge to further their career or business interests.

You may expand your collection of perennials, or you may be a breeder of new cultivars or a propagator of many different types of perennials. Some graduates will start a small plant nursery, perhaps in their backyard, selling plants to garden centres, landscapers or at a local market.

Of course, others who do this course may have already begun to establish a career or business in horticulture; and with additional skills and awareness acquired though study, they will have significantly expanded what they can achieve at work.

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Maggi Brown

Maggi is regarded as an expert in organic growing throughout the UK, having worked for two decades as Education Officer at the world renowned Henry Doubleday Research Association. She has been active in education, environmental management and horticulture
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
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.
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