Qualification - Foundation Certificate in Horticulture

Course CodeVHT003
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)150 hours

Start Your Horticulture Career with this Entry Level Qualification

This vocationally-oriented course comprises core studies in general horticulture plus specialised elective studies. The course is designed to lay a foundation for a long-term career in horticulture by developing the ability to identify a large range of plants, knowledge of essential horticultural principles and practices and practical skills in plant propagation, growth and care.

Student Comment: "I have found the course material to be comprehensive and informative and have learnt a lot and really enjoyed my year of study. The office staff at ACS have always been helpful and efficient and quick to respond to requests or queries. My tutor, Adriana, was encouraging and supportive, as well as being really thorough in the way she marked my assignments. I had not studied for 20 years before I started my  Certificate 2 in Horticulture and the feedback and reassurance I received from my tutor made all the difference." (Katherine Parry, Australia - Horticulture)


Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. The Plant Kingdom (part a)
  2. The Plant Kingdom (part b)
  3. The Plant Kingdom (part c)
  4. Plant Propagation
  5. Outdoor Food Production
  6. Garden Planning
  7. The Root Environment and Plant Nutrition
  8. Protected Cultivation
  9. Horticultural Plant Selection, Establishment and Maintenance
  10. Horticultural Plant Health Problems


  • Demonstrate a broad range of horticultural knowledge; communicate clearly and coherently in writing on horticultural matters; and relate horticultural science to its practical application.
  • Understand the classification of higher plants and appreciate the internal structure of higher plants.
  • Understand the external structure of higher plants
  • Develop an understanding of the principles and main practices of plant propagation in horticulture.
  • Understand the fundamental physiological processes within the plant including photosynthesis, respiration, water movement, pollination, fertilisation, seed formation and germination.
  • Develop an understanding of the principles and main practices of plant propagation in horticulture.
  • Understand basic cultural operations and production methods necessary to obtain outdoor food crops.
  • Understand basic surveying and design principles and apply them to basic garden design and planning requirements.
  • Develop an understanding of the constituents, properties and management of soils and growing media.
  • Develop an understanding of environmental control and plant cultivation in greenhouses and other protected environments.
  • Develop an understanding of plant selection, establishment and maintenance of a range of ornamental plants.
  • Develop an understanding of pest, diseases and weeds that affect horticultural plants, and the cultural, biological, chemical and integrated systems used to control those problems.


Most students should budget on spending 150 hours or more doing this course.

THE EXAM - To gain the foundation certificate you must sit and pass an exam; after completing all assignments satisfactorily. An additional fee applies for sitting the exam.


How to Grow Healthy Plants

This course will teach you how to grow healthy plants. Learning this starts with learning about the different parts of a plant (eg. Leaves, stems, flowers, fruit, roots, etc); then developing an understanding of how these different parts look and function differently in different species and different conditions. This is what a horticulturist calls "plant knowledge"; and this is the starting point for all horticulture.


A plant will not be healthy if it does not have a healthy root system. Inspecting roots can tell you a lot about a plant. Nurserymen will often look at roots through holes at the base of a pot. If the root tips are rotting, this indicates an unhealthy plant

The size and structure of root systems are influenced by how often the plant is watered and also the nature of the soil. A plant that has a healthy root system will cope more easily through times of stress or disease attack.

Root Structure
Looking at the internal structure of a root system reveals that it is very much like the structure of a stem. The older roots of trees and shrubs, like the stem, also have phloem, xylem and cambium layers. The phloem is the cork-like bark on the outside, the xylem is the wood inside and the cambium is a layer in-between the two. The xylem transports water and minerals to the stem and the phloem transports the food manufactured in the plant to the roots for storage.

The growth zones of both the root and shoot are almost identical. The root cap situated on the end of the root initiates new growth through cell division in the meristematic zone at the tip, as does the growing tip of a shoot. As the new cells grow in size, the root increases in length. Once the cells reach full size they differentiate to form the various parts of the root system. The constant production of new cells, that rub off as the root passes through the soil, help to protect the root cap and newly developed roots. As the root ages, side roots form that become increasingly larger.  

Minerals and water are absorbed from the soil into the root system through root hairs. Root hairs are projections from some of the epidermal cells and they increase the surface area of the root substantially. Because of this, they also increase the plant’s ability to uptake minerals and water from the soil. These hairs are fine, easily damaged and occur on young actively growing roots.
Some plants cannot survive without them. Root hairs are found just behind the growing region of the root cap (zone of elongation) in an area called the zone of differentiation.

The most common root systems are:

  • Tap root system, which consists of a primary root that grows straight down and smaller, secondary (lateral) roots that branch sideways from it.
  • Fibrous root system, which consists of a mass of roots of almost the same length, as seen in grasses.
  • Adventitious root system, with roots that arise from the base of the stem. Each root bearing a number of smaller secondary roots.


    A bud is an undeveloped shoot or flower, largely composed of meristematic (actively dividing) tissues, protected by modified leaf scales. Buds are generally positioned apically (at the tip of the branch) or axillary (along the sides of the branch, in the axil of the leaf/stem union).

    Apical Buds
    Meristem tissue, an area of active cell division, is located near the tips of roots and shoots. This type of tissue is responsible for meristematic growth that ensures, a) leaves are quickly lengthened and, thus, exposed to sunlight, and b) roots are able to penetrate into the soil. Once they achieve adequate length and/or height the stems thicken. The growing tips on the shoots of plants are known as apical buds. They inhibit lateral growth.

    Removing the apical bud is an important pruning strategy. It is used by horticulturists to stimulate new, bushy growth and improve the overall shape of the plant. When the apical bud is removed through pruning, the lower, dormant lateral/axillary buds are able to develop. The buds between the leaf stalk and the stem produce new shoots which compete to become the lead growth.

    Adventitious Buds
    Adventitious buds develop in places where buds do not usually form, for example, on root pieces when root cuttings are taken, or on stem internodes. Sometimes this is due to damage or pruning.
    They develop close to the surface of a branch or root, arising from deeper, mature tissue. Branches arising from these buds often lack strength and are easily broken.

    Adventitious growth is essential for vegetative (cutting) propagation. When a cutting is taken from the parent plant, adventitious buds are stimulated into growth, becoming either shoots or roots on the new plant.

    Flower or Vegetative Buds?
    Flower and vegetative buds can usually be told apart by their shape. Flower buds are plumper than vegetative (i.e. leaf or stem) buds. Some plants also have mixed buds, where there are both flowers and shoots within the one bud. This occurs commonly in the terminal buds of the apple.

    If you cut a bud open and look at it with a magnifying glass, you can usually see the premature leaves or flowers.

    Often the only way to learn the differences between bud types is through observation. Look at the plants in your garden and attempt to distinguish bud types. It is very easy to see the difference once you know how. This is particularly the case with fruiting trees.


Career Opportunities

Study alone can never guarantee career success; but a good education is an important starting point.

Success in a career depends upon many things. A course like this is an excellent starting point because it provides a foundation for continued learning, and the means of understanding and dealing with issues you encounter in the workplace.

When you have completed an ACS course, you will have not only learnt about the subject, but you will have been prompted to start networking with experts in the discipline and shown how to approach problems that confront you in this field.

This and every other industry in today’s world is developing in unforeseen ways; and while that is unsettling for anyone who wants to be guaranteed a particular job at the end of a particular course; for others, this rapidly changing career environment is offering new and exciting opportunities almost every month.

If you want to do the best that you can in this industry, you need to recognise that the opportunities that confront you at the end of a course, are probably different to anything that has even been thought of when you commence a course.




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