Problem Based Learning – Sample Project: CACTI or SUCCULENTS


Project Aim
Plan the establishment of a collection of different cultivars of either Cacti OR Succulents suited to growing in a specified locality.

Learning Outcomes
1. Identify factors that will affect the successful culture of a specified group of cacti or succulents in a specified locality.

2. Determine criteria for selecting cultivars of cacti or succulents

3. Select cultivars of cacti or succulents appropriate for cultivation in a specified situation

4. Choose plant establishment techniques appropriate to the cultivation of selected cacti or succulent cultivars in a specified locality.

5. Determine a routine 12 month maintenance program for a selected collection of cacti or succulent cultivars to be grown in a specified locality.

Problem Definition

You are (hypothetically) a horticultural consultant who has been asked to visit a client who has a keen interest in either cacti or succulents.

Your client’s property is located within 20 km of where you live, with soils, topography (ie. ground slopes) and climatic conditions roughly similar to your own home.

The client has a desire to create a garden of some type, to display a collection of cacti or succulents but is uncertain of how to plan this project in order to ensure optimum success.

Team Structure and Mode of Interaction

Being a relatively short project, the quantity of interaction with others needs to be limited. Your team will consist of yourself, your tutor, and a friend or relative who you will use as a hypothetical client.

You are in the hypothetical role of a horticultural consultant. Your tutor is in the hypothetical role of a cacti or succulent specialist who you refer to for specialist advice on the project. You should approach your tutor in the same way that you would approach a consultant in a real life situation.

You need to enlist the assistance of someone as a client (hypothetical or real: it is your choice). This client will need to talk to you at least once, and perhaps more, about what they would like to have you plan for their garden.

*You must interview the client (once or more) and determine their requirements.

*You must contact your tutor two times via phone, fax or email during the project, before attempting to commence the final submission. At each point of contact, you should be mindful that the hypothetical consultant (tutor) is both an expert but also one that charges by the hour. Therefore, questions you put should be meaningful, designed to contribute toward achieving the stated project aim, and above all, should not be repetitive. Contact should be concise and time efficient.

*You must also seek support from your tutor and any other interested parties within the school, by submitting relevant questions to a student room forum, seeking meaningful feedback, on at least two occasions during the project, before attempting to commence the final submission. You must also check for responses and if useful, incorporate the responses into your final report.

You may ask for guidance, assistance or simply report on your progress. You may request more frequent assistance if necessary, within reason. It is not your tutor’s role to solve the problem.

Discussion Questions

• What criteria must your plan meet to satisfy the client? (eg. Is low maintenance a high priority or not so important? Are aesthetics critical or not so important as long as the plants are healthy?)
• What are the site characteristics that are relevant to this project?
• What site characteristics might affect growth of the plants detrimentally?
• What times of the year are the plants more likely to suffer problems on this site, and what sort of problems might they be?
• What resources are available and what limitations exist that may affect what can be achieved? (eg. Manpower, time, tools and equipment, money, etc).
• What are reasonable goals in this situation?
• How can you ensure that plant survival and ongoing health is maximised.

These are examples of issues or questions that you may address in your solution, whether or not you can find answers.


Human resources (optional) – You may draw on the skills, knowledge and assistance of others – other students, experts whom you consult, friends. All assistance must be formally acknowledged.

Other resources (compulsory)– You are expected to use some resources, but the choice of which ones are yours) You may gather the information required to solve this problem from course readings, books, journals, news programs, the internet, etc. All sources must be acknowledged.

Internet Resources may include:


Duration - This project should take up to 14 hours (including communications with a tutor or others). When between 10 hours of work has been completed, you should be moving onto the final report; and when 14 hours is completed, submit what you have, no matter what stage it is in. You may be penalised for exceeding this time limit.

Assessment - You will be assessed on your capacity to work through the problem to a logical conclusion. You are not being assessed on the report.

The report will be part of what shows the school that you have worked through the problem in an appropriate way. Your interaction with a tutor and use of a forum in the student room are also indicators that you have worked through the problem appropriately

Final Report
You may use any if a variety of means to present your project but should not spend more than a quarter of the total time involved in the project, on preparing the presentation.

Most students are likely to submit a written presentation, possibly with one or more illustrations. If you have the equipment at hand, and appropriate skills, it is acceptable for you to submit a presentation any other way (eg. Multi media presentation with Power point or Flash, Video, CD, DVD).

Your presentation must include:
1. a summary of the site conditions on the property (hypothetical or real),
2. a list of plant selection criteria you used to choose plants to include in the collection,
3. a list of issues that arose during the project, that you either could not deal with or that were not essential to the project
4. a list of resources used, including human resources.
5. a list of plants you selected to include in the collection,
6. a description of the way you would plant and establish the plants
7. a summarised 12 month maintenance program, listing briefly the actions you would take each month of the first 12 months after planting, including such things as feeding, pest control, watering, pruning, plant inspections or anything else.

Presentation Component Minimum Required Maximum Allowed
Site conditions Half a page or 1 minute presentation or equivalent One page or 3 minute presentation or equivalent
Plant selection criteria List of four points or 20 second presentation, or equivalent Half page or 1 minute presentation or equivalent
list of issues A few words for each point bulleted or equivalent Half page or equivalent
list of resources A few words for each point bulleted or equivalent Half page or equivalent
List of plant cultivars List of 6 cultivar names List of 25 cultivar names
How to establish the plants 150 words or 30 second presentation or equivalent Full page or 90 second presentation, or equivalent
Maintenance program Half page One full page