Learn to identify and grow ferns, Australian indigenous fern propagation, landscaping with ferns and planting ferns, by studying online.

Course Code: VHT115
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn to Identify and Grow Australian Ferns 

  • Professional development for nurserymen, horticulturists, gardeners
  • An indulgence for the passionate amateur fern enthusiast
  • Start any time, study at your own pace from anywhere. 




Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction - Review of the system of plant identification, general characteristics of the ferns, main groups, information contacts (ie: nurseries, seed, clubs, etc.)
  2. Culture - Planting, mulching, watering, pest & disease, feeding, pruning, protection from wind, salt air, etc.
  3. Propagation - Methods of propagating ferns. Propagation of selected varieties.
  4. The Most Commonly Grown Varieties - Maidenhair, tree ferns, stags, elks, common ground ferns.
  5. Other Important Groups - Blechnum, Nephrolepis, Pteris, etc.
  6. Other Varieties - Hares foot ferns, Bracken, Fans.
  7. Making the Best Use of Native Ferns - In containers, in the ground, as indoor plants, growing and showing, growing for profit (to sell the plants or what they produce).
  8. Special Assignment - Investigate in detail, one genera of ferns.


  • Discuss the diverse range of ferns native to Australia and the plant naming and classification system.
  • Describe the cultural requirements of ferns
  • Propagate ferns and identify various propagating media and methods.
  • Describe a range of ferns that are commonly grown and freely available at nurseries.
  • Explain the significance of a range of important Australian fern species
  • Differentiate less common species of Australian fern genera
  • Demonstrate more in depth the knowledge acquired through research, of a specific group of ferns

What You Will Do

  • Explain the structure and origins of scientific plant names such as; Asplenium howeanum and Cyathea australia norfolkiensis
  • Grow ferns and observe them.
  • Submit the list of resource groups, people and organizations you have compiled.
  • Explore areas where it can still be difficult to obtain information about native ferns?
  • Give your own definitions for each of different terms, such as:
    • Bulbil
    • Pinnule
    • Fastigate
    • Prothallus
    • Spore
    • Rhizome
    • Glabrous
    • Sporophyte
    • Falcate
    • Stipule
    • Midrib
    • Sorus
    • Sporangium
  • Visit and report on a nursery or garden growing native trees.
  • Observe how and where different ferns grow; which plants are the healthiest; Are there any pest or disease problems on these plants etc?
  • Contact an irrigation company and obtain any information you can about trickle or drip irrigation systems. Preferably, visit an irrigation company and look at their products if you have not seen a drip system before.

How and Where Can you Grow Ferns?


Australian Ferns

Australian ferns can be found growing as epiphytes, as aquatics (e.g. floating ferns such as Azolla spp.), and as terrestrials (growing in the ground). 

They vary in form from tiny filmy ferns such as Hymenophyllum to tall, woody trunked species such as Cyathea and Dicksonia, from spreading plants that form large colonies (Pteridium, Culcita, Histiopteris) to single tuft like plants, and to climbers and scramblers (Gleichenia).
One of the more popular terrestrials is Adiantum, the maidenhair ferns. These are mostly delicate looking ferns from moist areas such as stream banks, amongst rocks, and in rainforests; they are creeping ferns forming small clumps, sometimes spreading over large areas. They are generally hardy, sometimes drought tolerant and fast growers under suitable conditions. Tropical species require warm conditions and high humidity. Most prefer ample water during warm months but should have little water during winter. They are usually heavy feeders and respond well to regular small doses of fertiliser. Many make excellent pot plants but potting mixes should be well drained, with an acid pH.
Other terestrial ferns vary in size, up to the largest of the tree ferns; Angiopteris. This "king tree fern, is from Eastern Australia, New Guinea and the Pacific. It needs well drained, moist organic soil and some shade. Fronds can grow to 4 metres or more long creating plants up to 8 metres across.

Some people study this course because they are simply passionate about ferns. Others might be working with, or wanting to work with ferns, perhaps as a nurseryman, gardener or landscape designer.

Whatever your reason, this is a course that offers an opportunity to take your knowledge and awareness of ferns to a whole new level.
Maidenhair Ferns -One of the Most Popular
Maidenhair Ferns belong to the genus Adiantum  There are many species and lots more varieties; including a large number that come from Australia. Maidenhairs are one of the most widely cultivated ferns, both as an outdoor and indoor plant. They can be sensitive to sudden changes in temperature, or very dry conditions; but also have a surprising ability to spring to life from the roots even when the top of the plant has died off completely.
Number of Adiantum Species: Over 200

Natural habitat: Mainly tropical, some temperate; moist positions, often sunny, sometimes shaded

Hardiness: Hardy (but can die in extreme conditions)

Habit: Small clumps, often spreading

Growth rate: In ideal conditions, rapid

Fronds: Thin, delicate, simple or divided into full shaped pinnules. Small up to 1m long, black, or brown stalks.

Adiantum Culture

  • Tropical species require 18-22ºC and a humid environment

  • Varies greatly according to variety

  • Most need frequent watering over summer but little water over the winter Respond to small doses of fertiliser regularly

  • Some are very heavy feeders

  • Potting mix should be well-drained and its pH should not drop low

  • Problems can include snails, caterpillars, aphids, earwigs, botrytis

  • Spores germinate best at a pH between 7 and 8.5.


This course will build your plant knowledge.

Can you already identify lots of different ferns? If not, this course can dramatically change that. Even if your knowledge of ferns is already reasonable; it will expand well beyond what you already know.

You will become much better at choosing what fern to grow where; and knowing how to properly care for that cultivar, whether in ground or in a container; in the garden, a shade house, greenhouse or indoors.

This course can also help improve your business or career opportunities, across a wide range of industry situations, including:

  • Nursery Production
  • Plant Retailing
  • Interior Plantscaping
  • Green Wall Landscaping
  • Garden Management
  • Plant Breeding
  • Urban Horticulture
  • Park Management
  • Land Conservation
Member of the Future Farmers Network

UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

Our principal John Mason is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture

Accredited ACS Global Partner

ACS Distance Education is a member of the Australian Garden Council, Our Principal John Mason is a board member of the Australian Garden Council

Member of the Nursery and Garden Industry Association since 1993

ACS is a silver sponsor of the AIH. The principal, John Mason, is a fellow. ACS certificate students are offered a free membership for this leading professional body.Provider.

Member of Study Gold Coast

Institute of Training and Occupational Learning (UK)

Recognised since 1999 by IARC

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Gavin Cole (Horticulturist)

Gavin started his career studying building and construction in the early 80's. Those experiences have provided a very solid foundation for his later work in landscaping. In 1988 he completed a B.Sc. and a few years later a Certificate in Garden Design. I

Bob James (Horticulturist)

Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry.
He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Maste

Adriana Fraser (Horticulturist)

Adriana has worked in horticulture since the 1980's. She has lived what she preaches - developing large gardens and growing her own fruit, vegetables and herbs and making her own preserves.
In 1992 she formalised her training by graduating with a certif

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