Course CodeVHT115
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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.

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.


  • 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

Meet some of our academics

Adriana Fraser 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 certificate in horticulture and a few years later, completed a Advanced Diploma in Horticulture amongst other qualifications. Adriana has worked across a broad spectrum of the horticulture industry and has developed a strong network of contacts in horticulture around Australia and beyond. She has written and contributed to many books and magazine articles. She has a passion for plant knowledge and sustainability and a natural understanding of how people learn about horticulture and has taught in various institutions and organistions as well as ACS. Adriana has been a tutor with ACS since the mid 90's and based on the feedback from past students has been an overwhelming success in helping people develop their skills and further careers in horticulture.
Bob James 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 Masters Degree in Environmental Science. He has worked a Grounds Manager at a major university; and a manager in a municipal parks department. Over recent years he has been helping younger horticulturists as a writer, teacher and consultant; and in that capacity, brings a diverse and unique set of experiences to benefit our students.
Gavin Cole 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. In the mid 90's he worked as a manager and garden designer with the well respected UK company -The Chelsea Gardener. A few years later he formed his own garden design business, at first in the UK, and later operating in Queensland Australia. He has since moved to, and works from Adelaide. Apart from his work in landscaping, Gavin has been a prolific garden writer and a tutor with ACS Distance Education since 2001. He is currently part of the team of garden experts that produce Home Grown magazine.
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

Landscaping with Australian PlantsDiscover more about Landscaping with Australian Plants with this ebook, add a different design element in your garden by using beautiful and highly practical Australian Native plants. Attract wildlife, save water by using plants that are suitable for your area. Perfect for passionate gardeners, students and gardening professionals.
Getting Work in HorticultureFind out what it is like to work in horticulture; how diverse the industry is, how to get a start, and how to build a sustainable, long term and diverse career that keeps your options broad, so you can move from sector to sector as demand and fashion changes across your working life.
Growing FernsA complete guide to growing Ferns in Australia, New Zealand and beyond. A great reference for professional and amateur gardeners, and fern enthusiasts from anywhere around the world.
Landscaping & Gardening in the ShadeThe ‘Landscaping and Gardening in the Shade’ ebook will guide you through everything that you need to know about designing your own shaded garden.



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