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Course CodeVHT114
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn how to Grow and Use Acacia Plants

  • for the enthusiast or commercial grower.

Wattles can be grown for a range or amenity purposes (eg. land rehabilitation, decorative garden plants, windbreaks etc), timber production, a cut flower, for tanning, as a food (bush tucker plant), etc.

Their flowers are small, grouped in large numbers to create round balls or cylindrical spikes. These balls or spikes normally occur on peduncles (ie: a ball or a cylinder on the end of a stalk). They occur either singly, in pairs or racemes emerging from the axils of the leaves or phyllodes. The tiny flowers each have 4 to 5 sepals, 4 to 5 petals and numerous stamens. The fruit is a leguminous pod, often long. When mature, the pod will open releasing large hard coated seeds from inside.
In most species, there are no leaves. Instead, the plant has leaf like structures (considered to be modified petioles or leaf stalks), called "phyllodes".

Lesson Structure

There are 7 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Review of the system of plant identification, information sources, etc.
    • Plant reviews
  2. Physiology of Acacias
    • Flower structure
    • Foliage types within the genus
    • Flower types within the genus
    • Acacia fruits
    • Plant reviews
  3. Culture
    • Planting, staking, mulching, watering, feeding, pruning, etc
    • Plant reviews
  4. Propagation
    • Methods of propagating Acacias.
    • Propagation of selected varieties.
    • Plant reviews
  5. Acacias in the Garden
    • Landscape uses
    • Plant selection
    • Acacias for different situations (Cold hardy, drought hardy, humid climates, summer flowering, autumn flowering, etc)
    • The Design Process
    • Plant reviews
  6. Other Uses for Acacias
    • Timber uses
    • Tanning
    • Cut Flowers
    • Food Source
    • Gum Arabic
    • Plant reviews
    • Pest & Diseases
    • Galls, Beetles, Weevils, etc
    • Environmental problems: Frost, Shade, Temperature, Wind
  7. Special Project
    • PBL project where you plan the establishment of a collection of different cultivars of Acacias suited to growing in a specified locality.

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.


  • Describe the way in which Acacias are classified.
  • Determine how to find reliable resource information that relates to Acacias
  • Describe the physiology of Acacias
  • Determine cultural requirements that are common to Acacias
  • Determine propagation methods that are commonly applicable to Acacias.
  • Describe a variety of commercial uses for Acacias.
  • Describe a range of other practical uses for Acacias.
  • Identify and recommend treatment for a variety of health problems occurring with Acacias.
  • Develop an in depth understanding of one aspect of Acacia Growing.

How to Propagate Wattles from Seed

Almost all Acacia species seeds have hard seed coats which will inhibit germination, hence need some treatment before the seeds are sown.The seed coats make it difficult for water to penetrate into the seed,which is necessary to initiate germination. Breaking the coat's surface therefore is necessary to ensure a good rate of germination.
How Hard?
The hardness of the seed coat is influenced by several things including:
  • The variety of Acacia (some varieties have harder coats than others).
  • The geographical location where the seed came from.
  • The weather conditions which occurred over the period of time while the seed was developing on the plant
Seed Treatments
The most commonly used treatment is to pour near boiling water over the surface of the seed, then allow it to soak for between 1 and 24 hours before planting.  Seeds that float after this soaking treatment are almost certainly not viable (discard those seeds).
Another method is to carefully cut a chip of the coat off with a sharp blade (eg: a Stanley knife). This must be done without damaging the soft tissue below the seed coat. The seed coat has also been broken successfully by rubbing seed between two sheets of fine sandpaper. Once again, the tissue below the seed coat must not be damaged.
Filing, cracking or burning with acid are other methods which can work, however due to the delicate nature of the tissue below the coat, they are not normally practiced.
  • A few Acacia species have soft seed coats and do not require pre germination treatments (eg. A. argyrodendron, A. cambagei, A. harpophylla, A. peuce and A. xiphophylla)
  • Some species will germinate readily from green seeds, harvested before they change colour in the pods, and sown immediately while still green.
  • Seeds from very cold (snow prone) regions usually need soaking for longer (ie. Several days) if treated with boiling water. In nature these seeds would be exposed to a period of cold before germinating. As an alternative to the water treatment; such species may respond better to stratification (ie. Place seed in a sealed container and put into the refrigerator for 5 or 6 weeks before sowing).
Germination is generally good when treated seed are sown into a freely draining propagating mix or direct seeded into soil in the open ground. Ideal propagating mixes would be 50% gravel and 50% sandy loam; or 75% coarse granitic sand and 25% peat moss. There is an advantage in sowing into a sterile mix (to reduce fungal attack on the germinating seedling), though this is not always a commercial necessity.
  • Try to spread seeds so they are around 1cm apart (If propagation space is limited, they can be at four or five times this density; but be aware that with a greater density, seedlings are more susceptible to fungal problems.
  • Seed is normally sown in spring; but can be germinated almost all year.
Seed ideally should be covered with a few millimeters of propagating mix after they are sown, then kept moist until germination occurs.
Seed will generally germinate best in a warm sunny position (eg: on a greenhouse bench or a cold frame in temperate climates). 
If seed is put into a situation with automated watering (spray irrigation or mist); a freer draining media (with a little less peat or vermiculite) might be preferable.
Seed should normally begin to germinate in 3 to 10 days if the conditions are suitable.
Keep intense direct sunlight off germinating seeds
The seed containers should never dry out  watch the watering carefully and water when the surface appears dry. Seedlings can be potted up any time after the 4 leaf stage, usually into tubes which are then transferred to a shade house

Meet some of our academics

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
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.

Check out our eBooks

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Landscaping with Australian PlantsLandscaping with Australian Plants gives you a new perspective on how to use Australian Plants when designing a garden. This ebook is perfect for gardening students, landscapers and keen gardeners.
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
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.