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Plant Selection And Establishment

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

Understand How to Make Smart Plant Choices

In order to choose appropriate plants for gardens and other landscapes it is important to have a sound knowledge of how plants are affected by the environment such as soil types, nutrients, wind, extremes of weather, altitude and latitude, weed competition, pest and diseases, and so forth. Often the reason a plant fails to thrive in a given location is because of many factors combined. It is more difficult to try and modify the environment for plants than to choose the best plant for the site in the first place. 

Don’t make planting mistakes

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. 

  • Learn to identify lots more plants
  • Learn to select plants for specific situations
  • Learn different ways of establishing plants

Broaden your horticultural knowledge and expand your career opportunities.

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.


  • Understand the nature and scope of water gardens.
  • Identify and describe generic construction materials and techniques suitable for water gardens and pools.
  • Select appropriate equipment for use with water features.
  • Specify the design and construction of a pond or watercourse.
  • Specify the design, construction and maintenance of a spa or swimming pool.
  • Specify the design & construction of a Water Feature other than a pond or water course.
  • Identity the water plants commonly used in water gardens.
  • Identify a variety of aquatic animals suitable for water gardens, and their requirements

Why You Need to Learn to Better Select Plants

Plants are living things. They grow better and look better if they are in the right soil and environmental conditions; and growing in an appropriate part of a garden. Putting a plant in the wrong place is like putting a round peg in a square hole.
When you plant anything though; success will be determined by not only your choice of plant; but also how you treat it after you plant it.
Some plants will grow well in some places with very little attention. You can plant them anywhere; and largely forget them. Most plants however do require attention; particularly during the first months (and perhaps years), following planting.
This course helps you understand the criteria for selecting plants; and at the same time builds the variety and number of plant cultivars that you are familiar with.

Consider just one type of plant: bulbs

From late winter to early summer is a wonderful time for spring flowering bulbs in the garden. Your choice of bulbs and the time you plant them all depends on what you like, what you want, and of course, your climate. If you want bulbs that will flower in summer or autumn, you may need to plant them at a different time.
In general:
  • By choosing a different variety, you can get a type of bulb to flower earlier or later.
  • By planting a bulb earlier in the autumn, it may flower sooner.
  • By planting a bulb later in autumn, it may flower later in spring.
  • In colder climates, the same bulb will flower later in the season.
  • In warmer climates, the same bulb might not flower as well.
  • If you plant a bulb too late, it may need to be placed in the refrigerator for at least 6 weeks before it can be planted.
Some Spring Bulbs 
Freesias are great for cottage gardens, or for planting under trees.  The older cream-coloured freesias have the best scent.  They need cool, moist conditions while the roots are growing.  Plant them from mid to late autumn and you can harvest the flowers within 10 to 12 weeks of planting.  Freesias are prone to disease problems including fusarium, botrytis and viruses.  Aphis, thrips and mites can also be serious problems.
Flowering in late winter/early spring, Hyacinths require good drainage and a cool situation until their roots develop.  Plant them 10-15cm apart with tips 7-10cm below the soil, in late summer/early autumn after the worst heat has passed.  Don’t fertilise heavily, as this will burn the plant. Hyacinths need cold (around freezing point) over winter. In milder locations (eg against a hot wall or in a courtyard), the bulbs will deteriorate over a few seasons.  For this reason they are best grown in cooler mountain areas. 
Daffodils are one of the hardiest spring flowering bulbs.  They will do well in most climates, except tropical areas. Soil should be well drained and fertile (enrich soil before planting with organic matter), with the planting site in full sun or part shade.
Planting should be done in early autumn. Plant bulbs at 10 15 cm depth and 10 25 cm apart (depending on the effect you wish to create). Flowering time varies according to variety   the earliest varieties appear in June and July, whilst the latest varieties flower in late September/October.  
Closely related to the Buttercups and Anemone; Ranunculus are excellent as a bedding plant display or in drift plantings. The semi double and double flowers range in colour from shades of white, pink, orange, yellow and red.  
Plant corms during autumn in well drained and fertile soil, with the claw facing downwards.  Provide full sun and a fertile, moist, but well drained soil in a mild temperate climate. Corms can flower in as little as 8 weeks from planting.
Tulips are not suited to hot climates.  Plant them 10-20cm deep (deeper in sandier soils or warmer localities and shallower in heavier soils or colder areas) when ground temperatures are at or lower than 14 degrees celsius and falling.  In snow prone areas, plant in late autumn.  Plant in winter in milder areas (earlier flowering varieties have a better chance of performing in milder climates).  
Provide light, fertile, well-drained soil and full sun.  Keep the soil moist but not saturated.  Tulips also grow well in pots or tubs (plant about 15cm deep in pots).  Tulips can suffer from fungal diseases, particularly botrytis mould. Aphis can spread viral disease, and slugs and snails sometimes eat the foliage.
Growing Cold Climate Bulbs in Warmer Places
Daffodils, Tulips, Hyacinths and some other cold climate bulbs do not grow so well warm temperate to sub tropical places. This is because they need a minimum period of exposure to cold in order to produce flowers.  
This can be fixed though, by simply putting them into the refrigerator for a period of time before planting.  If you want to know how long to put them into the refrigerator, or ask the nurseryman you buy them from.


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.


Do you have any questions about this course? If yes, then please click here.


Meet some of our academics

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; author of more than 70 books and editor for 4 different gardening magazines. John has been recognised by his peers being made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture in the UK, as well as by the Australian Institute of Horticulture.
Maggi BrownMaggi 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 across the UK for more than three decades. Some of Maggi's qualifications include RHS Cert. Hort. Cert. Ed. Member RHS Life Member Garden Organic (HDRA) .
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.
Timothy WalkerB.A.(Botany), RHS.M. Hort., P.G.Dip.Ed.

Check out our eBooks

Garden Design Part 1This stunning full colour Garden Design ebook is full of useful tips, information and inspiration. It contains around 300 colour illustrations! It is comprised of three parts: Design, How a Garden Functions, and Aesthetics (making it look good). Let your inner designer out (outside). A great introductory text for garden designers. 299 high quality inspirational colour photos. 106 pages
Garden Design Part 2Part 2 of the Garden Design series is an inspiring accompaniment to the first book, but works equally well in its own right. It's brimming with ideas and practical advice for designing a wide variety of different gardens. You will learn about different styles of gardens and how to create a style to suit a particular site or client. It contains around 300 colour photos! Knowledge gained by John Mason over several decades of visiting and photographing gardens, writing, teaching and creating gardens. This ebook deals mostly with different types of gardens from water gardens to Mediterranean, formal and oriental. 287 high quality inspirational photos. 104 pages
Plant Pests & DiseasesThis is a great guide to understanding, identifying and treating problems in your garden. Discover how to systematically examine and determine what is wrong with plants. Read about all of the main types of pests, diseases, and other problems that can occur, from frost damage to viruses. 197 pages
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.