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 Code: BHT107
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement 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, Which plant
    • Colourful year round foliage
    • Establishment (timing, soil preparation, pot plant size, planting technique)
    • Maintenance programs
    • Plants that tolerate poor drainage
    • Coastal plantings.
  2. Woody plants Selecting woody plants
    • Trees
    • Deciduous and Semi deciduous trees
    • Evergreen trees
    • Flowering shrubs
    • Selecting flowering shrubs
    • Establishing woody plants
    • Planting procedure
    • Planting deciduous and bare rooted plants
    • Shade Plants
  3. Windbreaks, hedges and screens
    • Purpose of windbreaks
    • Hedges and screens
    • Selecting plants for screening
    • Establishing screens, hedges and windbreaks
    • Pruning an established hedge, Hedge trimmers.
  4. Alpine and water plants
    • Selecting alpine plants
    • Establishing alpines
    • Rock gardens
    • Raised beds
    • Sinks and troughs
    • Selecting water plants
    • Establishment and maintenance of water plants.
  5. Annual and herbaceous plants
    • Advantages of annuals, Types of annuals (edging plants, groundwork plants, dot plants), Low, medium and tall annuals
    • Scented annuals
    • Colourful foliage
    • Bedding schemes (pure, mixed, single variety, single genus, standard garden, standard park)
    • Annuals from seed or seedlings
    • Annuals in containers, Selecting & establishing herbaceous plants
    • Popular herbaceous plants, Supporting herbaceous plants
    • Maximising flower displays.
  6. Turf Selecting turf
    • Turf varieties, Lawn mixes
    • What to grow where
    • Wildflower meadows
    • Turf establishment, Soil preparation, Seeding, Sodding, Instant turf, Stolonizing, Sprigging, Plugging
    • Mowing turf, Mo0wers, Mowing guidelines, Mowing heights
    • Fertilizing turf.
  7. Maintenance
    • Fertilizing, pH
    • Replacing plants
    • Pruning, Pruning deciduous trees & shrubs
    • Irrigation systems, Irrigating turf, Irrigating garden beds and container plants, Designing an irrigation system, Sprinklers, Flow rates, Micro irrigation, Avoiding watering
    • Humidity, Mulch
    • Developing a maintenance program.
  8. Pest and disease control
    • Preventing pest and disease problems
    • Non chemical control
    • Chemical controls
    • Environmental problems
    • Insect pests, Viruses, Fungal diseases, Bacterial diseases.
  9. Weed control
    • Chemical and non chemical control
    • Safety with weedicides
    • Alternative weed control strategies.
  10. Risk assessment
    • Identifying risks
    • Preventative maintenance
    • Duty of care, Workplace safety
    • Illness
    • Protective clothing
    • Safety equipment
    • Safety with tools and equipment
    • Safety with electricity
    • Tool maintenance.

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.

Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.

How can I start this course?

You can enrol at anytime and start the course when you are ready. Enrolments are accepted all year - students can commence study at any time. All study is self paced and ACS does not set assignment deadlines.

Please note that if a student is being assisted by someone else (e.g. an employer or government subsidy), the body offering the assistance may set deadlines. Students in such situations are advised to check with their sponsor prior to enrolling. The nominal duration of a course is approximately how long a course takes to complete. A course with a nominal duration of 100 hours is expected to take roughly 100 hours of study time to complete. However, this will vary from student to student. Short courses (eg. 100 hrs duration) should be completed within 12 months of enrolment. Certificates, Advanced Certificates and Awards (eg. over 500 hours duration) would normally be completed within 3 -5 years of enrolment. Additional fees may apply if a student requires an extended period to complete.
If a student cannot submit their assignments for 6 months to ACS, they should advise the school to avoid cancellation of their student
registration. Recommencement fees may apply.

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What do I need to know before I enrol?

There are no entry requirements that you need to meet to enrol in our courses, our courses are for everyone.
If you are under 18, we need written permission from your parent/ guardian for your enrolment to continue, we can arrange that after you have enrolled.

You don’t need to purchase any additional resources to complete our courses.

We aim to teach you the essentials without you having to purchase any specific computer program.
We recommend that you have access to a word processing program, such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs, so that you can easily complete and submit your assignments.

You sure can. We are here to help you learn whatever your abilities.

Yes, if you are enrolling in a Certificate or Advanced Certificate, you might be eligible for credits if you have evidence of your previous studies or relevant experience. More information is here.

We recommend that you are able to browse websites, send emails and conduct online research. You will need to be able to type and submit your assignments.
If you have limited computer skills, we can make special arrangements for you.

This is possible, it depends on the institution. We recommend that if you would like to use our courses that you contact the institution first. Our Course Handbook is a good resource for this.

Our courses are written in English and we only have English speaking academic staff. If you can read and complete your assignments in English, our courses are ideal for you.

Our courses are designed to build knowledge, hands on skills and industry connections to help prepare you to work in the area, running your own business, professional development or as a base for further study.

This course has been designed to cover the fundamentals of the topic. It will take around 100 hours to complete, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and anything else that is contained in the course. Our short courses are a great way to do some professional development or to learn a new skill.

It’s up to you. The study hours listed in the course are a rough guide, however if you were to study a short course (100 hours) at 10 hours per week, you could finish the course in 10 weeks (just an example). Our courses are self-paced, so you can work through the courses in your own time. We recommend that you wait for your tutor to mark and return your assignment before your start your next one, so you get the benefits of their feedback.

The course consists of course notes, videos, set tasks for your practical work, online quizzes, an assignment for each lesson (that you receive feedback from your tutor from) and ends in an exam (which is optional, if would like to receive the formal award at the end), using our custom built Learning Management System - Login.Training.

Our courses are designed for adults to gain professional development and skills to further their careers and start businesses.

Our custom online learning portal allows you to conduct your learning online. There may be practical tasks that you can do offline. You have the option of downloading your course notes or print them to read later.

There is also the option to pay an additional fee for printed course notes and or USB (availability limited to location and deliverability).

Yes, if you don’t have access to the internet, you can receive the course as paper notes or on a USB stick for an additional fee. We can also make alternative arrangements for you to send your assignments to us.

We offer printed notes for an additional fee. Also, you can request your course notes on a USB stick for an additional fee.

Yes, your tutor is here to help you. Simply post any questions you have in your portal or contact the office and we can pass on a message to your tutor.

We are more learning focussed, rather than assessment focussed. You have online quizzes to test your learning, written assignments and can complete an exam at the end of the course (if you want to receive your certificate). You will not receive a pass/ fail on your course work. If you need to add more details on your assignment, we will ask you to resubmit and direct you where you need to focus. If you need help, you can ask your tutor for advice in the student room.

Each module (short course) is completed with one exam.

Exams are optional, however you must sit an exam if you would like to receive a formal award. You will need to find someone who can supervise that you are sitting the exams under exams conditions. There is an additional cost of $60 incl. GST for each exam.
More information is here

There are practical components built into the course that have been designed to be achieved by anyone, anywhere. If you are unable to complete a task for any reason, you can ask your tutor for an alternative.

When you complete the course work and the exam and you will be able receive your course certificate- a Statement of Attainment. Otherwise, you can receive a Letter of Completion.

You can bundle the short courses to create your own customised learning bundle, Certificates or Advanced Certificates. More information is on this page.

Yes, our courses are built to be applicable for people living anywhere in any situation. We provide the fundamentals, and each student can apply their own unique flair for their own interests, region and circumstances with the one-on-one guidance of a tutor. There is also a bit of student directed research involved.

Employers value candidates with industry skills, knowledge, practical skills and formal learning. Our courses arm you with all of these things to help prepare you for a job or start your own business. The longer you study the more you will learn.

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Who are ACS Distance Education?

ACS Distance Education have been educating people for over 40 years.

We are established and safe- we have been in education for over 40 years.
We are focused on developing innovative courses that are relevant to you now and what you will need to know in the future.
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You can enrol at any time, you can work on your course when it suits you and at your own pace.
We are connected to many industry bodies and our staff participate in continuous improvement and learning activities to ensure that we are ahead of what learning is needed for the future.

Our courses are not accredited by the Australian Government. However many of our courses are recognised and held in high regard by many industry bodies.

Our courses are written by our staff, who all have many years experience and have qualifications in their speciality area. We have lots of academic staff who write and update our courses regularly.

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Adriana Fraser (Horticulturist)

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 lifestyle. She has decades of practical experience growing her own fruit, vegetables and herbs, and making her own preserves. She is well connected with horticulture professionals across Australia, and amongst other things, for a period, looked after Australia's national collection of Thymus. Advanced Diploma in Horticulture, Advanced Certificate in Horticulture.

Jacinda Cole (Horticulturist)

B.Sc., Cert.Garden Design. Landscape Designer, Operations Manager, Consultant, Garden Writer.
She was operations manager for a highly reputable British Landscape firm (The Chelsea Gardener) before starting up her own landscaping firm. She spent three years working in our Gold Coast office, as a tutor and writer for Your Backyard (gardening magazine) which we produced monthly for a Sydney punlisher between 1999 and 2003. Since then, Jacinda has contributed regularly to many magazines, co authored several gardening books and is currently one of the "garden experts" writing regularly for the "green living" magazine "Home Grown".

John Mason (Horticulturist)

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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