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Deciduous Trees

Course CodeBHT244
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment



Learn to Identify and Grow Deciduous Trees

A course for:  Nurserymen, landscapers, arborists, foresters and horticulturists

Deciduous Trees are widely planted, particularly in temperate and colder areas of the world. They are very important for both amenity horticulture and forestry. This course is a great foundation study for new or experienced horticulturists, landscapers, arborists, nursery workers, gardeners, parks managers; or anyone else concerned with the selection, propagation, care, maintenance or harvesting of deciduous trees

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Taxonomy
    • Planting
    • Plant Selection
    • Soils
    • Nutrition and Fertilisers
    • Pruning
    • Propagation
  2. Maple (Acer)
    • Introduction
    • Propagation
    • Culture
    • Pest and Disease
    • Species and Cultivars
    • Growing Acers in Pots
    • What affects foliage Colour Changes
  3. Birch (Betula)
    • Characteristics of the Betulaceae Family
    • Betula genus overview
    • Commonly Cultivated Betula species and cultivars
    • Betula species not commonly grown
    • Birch Propagation; cuttings, layering, seed, grafting
  4. Ash (Fraxinus)
    • Introduction
    • Fraxinus sub groups; sub genus Ornus, sub genus Fraxinaster
    • Variations in leaf colour
    • Selected cultivars
    • Less commonly cultivated species
    • Culture; pests, disease, propagation, etc
  5. Oak (Quercus)
    • Overview of genus Quercus
    • Species and Cultivars
    • Culture
  6. Prunus
    • Overview of the genus Prunus
    • Culture
    • Cultivars and Species
    • Plums
    • Apricot
    • Prunus persicae (Peach and Nectarine)
    • Cherry
    • Prunus Propagation
  7. Other Deciduous Trees
    • Alnus
    • Cedrella
    • Lagerstroemia
    • Liriodendron
    • Liquidambar
    • Magnolia
    • Malus
    • Platanus
    • Populus
    • Pyrus (Pear)
    • Salix
    • Sambacus
    • Syringia
    • Ulmus (Elm)
  8. Special Project

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.


  • Review foundation knowledge in plant identification and culture as needed to properly build expertise specific to deciduous trees
  • Develop knowledge in classification, identification and culture of plants, from the genus Acer.
  • Develop knowledge in classification, identification and culture of plants, from the genus Betula
  • Develop knowledge in classification, identification and culture of plants, from the genus Fraxinus.
  • Develop knowledge in classification, identification and culture of plants, from the genus Quercus.
  • Develop knowledge in classification, identification and culture of plants, from the genus Prunus.
  • Review a range of other significant deciduous tree genera not covered previously in this course.
  • Plan the establishment of a collection of different cultivars of deciduous trees suited to growing in a specified locality.


Deciduous plants shed their leaves in autumn or early winter, and are fully or partially devoid of foliage over the colder months of the year. This is an adaptation that allows the plant to better survive unfavourable conditions (such as extreme cold).

  • Prior to leaves dropping they undergo a period of senescence.
  • Senescence is the period during which leaf cells progressively die.

Over the senescence period, tissue at the leaf base progressively dies, until finally a complete section of tissue between the leaf and the stem is dead (At this point there is nothing left to hold the leaf to the stem; so it detaches and drops to the ground).

As senescence occurs, the amount of chlorophyll in the leaf (which gives it the normal green colour) reduces. Chlorophyll is actually only one of many pigments that generally occur in leaves; but it is usually the strongest pigment, and for that reason alone, most leaves usually appear green if the plant is healthy.

Other types of pigment chemicals commonly found in leaves include:

  • Anthocyanins –Reds, Blues and Purples
  • Carotenoids –Yellows and Oranges

Generally Carotenoids also decompose rapidly in Autumn, but Anthrocyanins break down much more slowly.

Often Anthrocyanins can still be at close to 100% normal levels when only 40% of normal chlorophyll and carotenoids remain.

Anthrocyanins are produced through chemical processes, from excess sugars in the leaves, particularly in the presence of bright light. In view of this fact; the level of anthrocyanins will be stronger if the plant has been actively photosynthesising (producing sugars) over summer, combined with lots of bright autumn days (if weather is frequently overcast and dull in late summer and autumn; the production of anthrocyanins is decreased).

Lower temperatures in autumn reduce the movement of sugar around the leaf, so if the weather changes from warm to cool fast, the leaf sugar remains high and anthrocyanins build up; otherwise the levels of these pigments might not be so high.

High levels of anthrocyanins will generally result in more vivid autumn foliage colours

Tips for Growing Deciduous Trees

Popular Autumn Foliage Plants

Acer palmatum cultivars
Azalea (deciduous types)
Berberis cultivars
Betula species and cultivars
Cornus baileyi
Cotinus coggygria
Crataegus species
Enkianthus cernus, campanulatus
Euonymus alatus
Fagus sylvatica
Forsythia viridissima
Fraxinus oxycarpa
Ginkgo biloba
Liquidamber styraciflua
Liriodendron tulipifera
Luculia grandifolia
Mahonia species
Nandina domestica
Quercus species and cultivars
Prunus cerasifera, serrulata
Sorbus species
Spiraea thunbergii
Ulmus procera cultivars
Vaccinium corymbosum

Viburnum opulus ‘sterile’


Maples (Acer)

  • There are approximately 200 species in this genus
  • Acers are hardy in cool and temperate climates. Some species tolerate warmer climates, but they are best grown in cooler areas. Some species will tolerate extreme cold and dryness, but few, if any, tolerate hot humid climates.
  • They prefer a position in full sun to semi-shade.
  • Most maples need cool, moist, well-drained soils for best results. Many maples prefer soil with a higher pH, so the addition of lime to acidic soils is beneficial.
  • They have a spreading, often shallow, root system and small species are unlikely to cause any major problems in terms of root damage.
  • Protect from hot and strong winds.
  • Mulch and feed annually. Well rotted organic fertilisers or manures can be applied in early spring.
  • Irrigate during dry periods, particularly during drought times.
  • Light pruning might be undertaken to shape a plant or remove dead wood; however, regular pruning is generally not needed, and may detract the from the natural shape of the plant.
  • Pests are rarely serious but may include mites, thrip and borers.

Ash (Fraxinus)

  • Approximately 60 species, deciduous trees.
  • Lifespan may be up to 300 years.
  • Generally spreading crown, sometimes upright. Many dwarf, and weeping cultivars available.
  • Avoid high pH or sandy soils.
  • Grow in full sun or partial shade.
  • Pruning is generally not necessary.
  • For best results, ash trees must have well drained soils, but prefer some moisture – never fully dry, never very wet. Some will tolerate very dry soils though, particularly once well established.
  • Prefers ample organic matter – if soil is hard clay or sandy, mulch thickly.
  • Generally very hardy once established.
  • Winter buds of most are felt like to the touch.


Birch (Betula)

  • Approximately 60 species.
  • Shallow, fibrous roots   not as damaging as many other large trees.
  • Tolerates extremes of wind, cold and snow.
  • Most are relatively short lived (they do not live for hundreds of years like Ash or Oak).
  • Extended periods of heat and dryness will cause leaf margins to burn, will slow growth, and may cause death.
  • Main problems are wood rot and leaf rust. Avoid making large cuts into live wood, remove dead wood early spring each year. If growing rapidly they will heal over cuts, but if growth is slow, cuts can become infected and cause rot. Fast growing young plants are best pruned to one leader, to encourage a single trunk. (This makes a stronger framework that is less likely to develop splits in branches as a mature specimen.)
  • Surface roots are relatively aggressive, making it difficult to grow all but very hardy plants below a birch.
  • Will grow in most soil types, but prefers freely draining moist and acidic soil.
  • Will grow in sheltered or exposed positions, many tolerate coastal conditions or do well in mountains, but most are not good in arid areas.
  • Most tolerate temperatures to minus 15 degrees Celsius; some lower.


Oak (Quercus)

  • Approximately 450 species.
  • Prefer cool mountain areas, and moist well-drained, fertile soils.
  • Avoid wet or sandy soils. Most don’t like shallow soils.
  • They have a deep taproot and strong root system which can be damaging.
  • They grow best in full sun to filtered sunlight.
  • Most have leaves with a wavy or indented edge.
  • Canopy is often broad, and usually dome shaped.
  • All are long lived.
  • Most are hardy to at least minus 10 degrees Celsius.
  • Foliage allows filtered sunlight through.
  • Almost all species are large trees.
  • Autumn foliage colour can be reds through yellows to brownish tones.







We also offer a range of eBooks that may be of interest to you. Please visit our online horticulture bookstore. 

You may find the following of particular interest –

Growing Conifers eBook - The great thing about conifers is they look good all year round. Most of them are grown for foliage, and in general, foliage remains the same pretty well all year. Unlike other trees and shrubs,you do not have a month of attractive flowers, followed by an obscure plant the remainder of the year. A brilliant blue of gold foliage conifer will be blue or gold month in, month out.

Growing Trees and Shrubs in Small Gardens eBook - This ebook is an essential guide for anyone who wants to make the most of a small garden, balcony, verandah or courtyard. The psychological benefits of having living plants in your environment can not be underestimated. If you live in a city, an apartment or just a small cottage this ebook will help you re-connect with nature and make the most of your garden.

Trees and Shrubs eBook - Useful for students, or the tradesman already working in the field; or the home gardener; who needs a quick reference when choosing plants for a garden.

Trees and Shrubs For Warm Places eBook - Never before published! This ebook is a major reference work, 15 years in preparation, containing around 300 colour photos! It is a comprehensive guide to plants grown in any type of warm place – tropical, sub-tropical, greenhouses, and court yards that have become heat traps in temperate places.

Meet some of our academics

Marie BeermanMarie has over 7 years in horticulture and education in both Australia and Germany. Marie has been a co author of several ebooks in recent years, including "Roses" and "Climbing Plants". Marie's qualifications include B. Sc., M.Hort. Dip. Bus. Cert. Ldscp.
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 (clocking up over 24 years as a presenter of garden talkback programs, initially the only woman presenter on gardening in Victoria) and she simultaneously developed a career as a writer. She then studied Education and Training, teaching TAFE apprentices and developing curriculum for TAFE, before taking up an offer as a full time columnist with the Herald and Weekly Times and its magazine department after a number of years as columnist with the Age. She has worked for a number of companies in writing and publications, PR community education and management and has led several tours to Europe. In 1999 Rosemary was BPW Bendigo Business Woman of the Year and is one of the founders and the Patron, of the Friends of the Bendigo Botanic gardens. She has completed her 6th book this year and is working on concepts for several others. Rosemary has a B Ed, BSc Hort, Dip Advertising & Marketing
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 construction qualifications and an NPTC pesticide spraying licence (PA1/PA6). Diana runs her own landscape gardening business (Arbella Gardens). Active in many organisations including the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.
Yvonne SharpeRHS 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 worked in many areas of horticulture from garden centres to horticultural therapy. She has served on industry committees and been actively involved with amateur garden clubs for decades.

Check out our eBooks

Trees and ShrubsA great little encyclopaedia that is valuable for students, tradespeople, or the home gardener needing a quick reference when selecting garden plants. It covers the care and culture of 140 commonly grown genera of trees and shrub, plus many hundreds of species and cultivars. 169 colour photos 94 pages
Trees & Shrubs for Small GardensGet it right the first time - choose plants for small places that will enhance property values, and that won’t become a costly nightmare later! This invaluable book covers trees for small gardens, balconies, verandas or courtyards; 46 genera of small trees, 80 shrub genera and hundreds of species. 74 pages, over 150 colour photos
What to Plant WhereA great guide for choosing the right plant for a particular position in the garden. Thirteen chapters cover: plant selection, establishment, problems, and plants for wet areas. Shade, hedges and screens, dry gardens, coastal areas, small gardens, trees and shrubs, lawns and garden art.
Landscaping & Gardening in the ShadeThe ‘Landscaping and Gardening in the Shade’ ebook explain what you need to know about designing a shaded garden. It will go through specific plants you could use, how to care for them and different plant varieties that will give you a great shaded area.