Plant Selection And Establishment

Learn how to identify & name many different plants as well as their cultural needs. This plant knowledge is the cornerstone of good landscaping design. Choose the right plants for the job & make a vast difference to planting success.

Course CodeBHT107
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Select the Right Plant for the Right Garden

Plant knowledge is the foundation for any good landscaping. If you choose inappropriate and unpredictable plants, a garden can grow into something that was unforeseen by the landscaper (and that really defeats the whole reason for landscaping).

Choosing the right plants for the right purpose is often the difference between a good garden designer and a not so good one. In order to do this effectively gardeners and landscapers have to have knowledge of how different elements of the environment impact upon plant growth, and particular types of plants.

Take the guesswork out of plant selection

This extremely detailed course is a go-to resource for anyone involved in making planting decisions. Discover all the factors which influence growth of the main plant groups so that you can decide on their suitability for any particular location. Also learn about how to establish new plants in gardens and what they require in terms of ongoing maintenance. 

Learning about plants is in reality, a lifelong journey of discovery; but that journey is so much easier to walk, and more productive; if you have a proper and fundamental understanding of "plant selection and use".


Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • What to plant where, Plant selection, Plant varieties, Colourful year round foliage, Establishment (timing, soil preparation, plant size, planting technique), Maintenance programs, etc
  2. Woody plants
    • Selecting woody plants, trees, shrubs, deciduous/semi deciduous/evergreen; flowering shrubs, Establishing woody plants, Planting procedure, Dealing with shade, etc
  3. Windbreaks, hedges and screens
    • Plant selection, establishing windbreaks & screens, Trimming a hedge, etc
  4. Alpine and water plants
    • Selecting & establishing alpines, Selecting water plants, Establishment & maintenance of water plants
  5. Annual and herbaceous plants
    • Selecting annuals, Types of annuals (by height, flower, edge plants, dot plants, groundwork plants), types of bedding schemes, Planting seed or seedlings, Container culture, Selection & Establishment of herbaceous plants (Bulbs & Perennials), Maximizing flowering effect, etc
  6. Turf
    • Varieties, Lawn mixes, What to grow where, Wildflower Meadows, Turf establishment, Soil Preparation, Seeding, Sodding, Stolonizing, Sprigging, Plugging, Mowing, Fertilising, etc
  7. Maintenance
    • Fertilizing, Managing pH, Replacing plants, Pruning, Irrigation, Humidity, Mulch, Developing a maintenance Program,
  8. Pest and disease control
    • Problem prevention, Non chemical control, Chemical control,
  9. Weed control
    • Non chemical control, Chemical control, Safety, Alternative strategies.
  10. Risk assessment
    • Identifying risk, Duty of care, Workplace safety, Protective clothing, Safety with tools, Significance of illness, etc

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.


  • Develop knowledge of the range of applications for and selection and establishment of horticultural plants.
  • Develop knowledge in the establishment and maintenance of a range of woody plants, with different modes of growth, for different situations
  • Develop knowledge in selection, establishment, and maintenance of species suitable for hedges windbreaks and screens.
  • Describe the cultivation of alpine and water plants.
  • Describe the selection, cultivation, and maintenance of herbaceous plants.
  • Explain the selection, establishment and maintenance of turf and lawns.
  • Explain the maintenance and cultural requirements of herbaceous, woody, and other plants.
  • Consider the different pest and disease control implications resulting from the choice of different plant varieties.
  • Determine pest and disease control requirements for a new garden.
  • Explain the control of weeds in a garden.
  • Explain the implications upon weed management that result from selection of particular plants for use in a garden.
  • Manage establishment and maintenance of plants in a way that minimizes safety risks to people working in or visiting a garden.

What You Will Do

  • This course involves far more than just reading and answering questions. Here are just some examples of other things which you might be doing:
  • Visiting different gardens, nurseries and/or parks. These could include home gardens, parks, commercial or any other type of site. The choice is yours.
  • If for some reason (eg. Disability or isolation) you are unable to physically visit gardens or other places, you may undertake a "virtual visit" using the internet; and liaise via email.
  • Survey or interview industry people.
  • Analyse and devise maintenance plants for different areas.
  • Research the cause of an incident.
  • Prepare a weed collection of either pressings, photographs or illustrations.


How to establish and maintain a Border of Bulbs and Perennials

Herbaceous borders are a high maintenance area in a garden and include multi-crowned perennials and bulbs.

Often an herbaceous plant does not need heavy feeding when first planted as it will initially utilise its stored food supply. Because they are mostly grown for flowers, they generally need larger amounts of potash than other nutrients.

They usually also have a dormant period and can be susceptible to rotting if left in a moist situation during dormancy (i.e. their metabolism is slow in dormancy - this means their defence mechanisms are lower). Most herbaceous plants prefer a rich, organic, well-drained loam. They thrive in soil that has been prepared with rotted manure or compost prior to planting. Sunny but cool positions are excellent. They can often burn if there is too much heat or wind.

  • Some plants will need to be lifted and divided every two to three years to stop them spreading and taking over the entire border and also to rejuvenate the plants. Plants can be lifted from the ground and pulled apart using two garden forks or by hand. Place the forks back to back in the centre of the plants and pull the handles together then apart again to separate the crowns. Trim the top growth and replant the outer vigorous young growth or crowns.
  • Whilst the borders are free of plants cultivate the areas to be replanted and incorporate compost and rake level.
  • Re-plant perennial crowns with the top of the crown just above the soil surface, spacing them according to the rate of growth and the frequency they are separated. Bulbs will need to be planted at double the depth in relation to the size of the bulbs. Rhizomes are planted level with the surface.
  • Mulch the surface to a depth of approximately 3-5cm.
  • Aerate the surface by lightly forking the area regularly throughout the growing season.
  • Check irrigation systems whilst the beds are empty and adjust/maintain or install a system a necessary.
  • Trim perennials with floppy growth early in the season and remove spent flower heads to promote further flowers.
  • Stake taller perennials (inconspicuously) such as delphiniums etc for support and protection from strong winds
  • Fertilise perennials during spring and/or early summer.
  • Remove dying or dead foliage in autumn.
How to Grow Bulbs

Though there are variations and exceptions, the following generalisations can be made about bulbs, corms, rhizomes and tubers:

  • Because they all have a store of food, they do not need heavy feeding when first planted.
  • Because they are all grown for flowers, they do need larger amounts of potash than other nutrients.
  • They have a dormant period, they can be susceptible to rotting if left in a moist situation during dormancy (i.e. their metabolism is slow in dormancy - this means their defence mechanisms are lower).
  • Most prefer a rich, organic, well drained loam.  They thrive on soil which has been prepared with rotted manure or compost prior to planting.  These things provide a slow release for nutrients which is very appropriate for bulbs.
  • Sunny but cool positions are excellent.  They can often burn if there is too much heat of wind.

Bulbs usually have sufficient nutrients stored within the dormant tissue to produce flowers, without additional feeding; however, growth will be stronger and the bulb that forms when the plant enters dormancy again with more fertility. You can get concentrated, fast acting fertilizers (which will feed more to the plant, quicker); or slower acting, long term fertilizers, and there are many possibilities in between these two extremes.

Most bulbs are better with slower acting fertilisers. Usually a slower acting fertilizer is more appropriate with planting - particularly in sandy soils. Avoid stronger fertilisers directly contacting tender tissues (e.g. leaves, new roots or the dormant bulb).  Organic fertilisers are in the main slower; as are pellet fertilisers or anything that does not dissolve readily and thoroughly in water.

Opportunities After Your Studies

This course is likely to be of value to people who have an interest in garden design and landscaping. It will also appeal to anyone with a general interest in growing plants. People who take this course are most likely those working in or aspiring to work in:

Garden design
Parks & gardens
Botanical gardens
Garden maintenance

The course will also be of value to people wishing to start a garden design or general gardening business.

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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.
Jacinda Cole

B.Sc., Cert.Garden Design. Landscape Designer, Operations Manager, Consultant, Garden Writer. He was operations manager for a highly reputable British Landscape firm (The Chelsea Gardener) before starting up his own landscaping firm. He spent three year
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
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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