Horticultural Qualification in Propagation - learn all aspects of plant propagation including tissue culture, seed and cutting propagation.

Course Code: VHT002
Fee Code: CT
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 700 hours
Qualification Certificate
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The Certificate in Horticulture (Plant Propagation) is a vocationally oriented course comprising a core of studies common to all horticulture certificates, plus specialised studies in plant propagation.

The objective of the course is to:

  • develop skills and knowledge about propagating different types of plants by seed, cuttings, budding and grafting, separation, division and layering in a commercially viable way.
  • develop skills and knowledge about tools, equipment & growing structures used in a nursery for plant production.
  • develop general skills in horticultural practices and plant identification.

This Certificate involves the following areas of work:

*CORE STUDIES - fifteen lessons involving at least 350 hours.

*STREAM STUDIES - stream studies on plant propagation involving at least 350 hours of study.


Through these specialised stream studies, the student will attempt to achieve the following objectives:

  • Collect seed from and propagate different varieties of plants with that seed.
  • Describe the method and time of year used to propagate at least 200 different plant varieties.
  • Draw and label the parts of a seed.
  • Explain how a seed germinates, and grows in the early stages of its development.
  • Explain a variety of different harvest and post harvest treatments for seed.
  • Explain a variety of pre-germination treatments for seed.
  • Collect, identify and prepare cuttings for at least 50 different varieties of plants.
  • Propagate from cuttings and successfully grow on ten different plant varieties to the stage of a saleable tube.
  • Mix and use a propagation media suited to propagating cuttings and seed.
  • Explain the reasons why particular propagation methods are preferred to other methods.
  • Explain the propagation of different varieties of plants by grafting or budding.
  • Prepare examples of at least ten different types of grafts.
  • Successfully execute at least ten grafts using at least ten different plant variety combinations.
  • Propagate fifteen different plants by methods including separation, division and layering.
  • Explain tissue culture techniques and their commercial relevance in plant production.
  • Consider site features which are important to the operation of a nursery.
  • Explain different nursery production systems.
  • Construct a simple inexpensive cold frame.
  • Prepare a routine maintenance program for plants in a production nursery.
  • Analyse and report on the operation of two different production nurseries.
  • Prepare a floor plan for the interior layout of a propagation/potting area.
  • Describe how to pot up and plant out at least 20 different types of plants.
  • Describe soils and potting media in terms of texture, structure and water holding and nutrient holding capacity.
  • Prescribe methods of improving soil structure, infiltration rate, water holding capacity, drainage and aeration.
  • Describe how to grow plants successfully in containers.
  • Describe suitable potting mixes for container growing of five different types of plants.
  • List safety procedures to be followed in a nursery.
  • Show an awareness of irrigation equipment and its operation in a nursery.
  • Explain growing structures and equipment used to enhance the propagation of plants including, hot beds, misting, fogging, cold frames and greenhouses.


Students must complete and pass all of these core units.

1. Introduction to Plants

The purpose of this study area is to explain the binomial system of plant classification and demonstrate identification of plant species through the ability of using botanical descriptions for leaf shapes and flowers.


  • Describe the relevant identifying physical features of flowering ornamental plants.
  • Demonstrate use of references and other resources to gain relevant information for identifying and describing plants.
  • Dissect, draw and label different flowers.
  • Collect and identify the shapes of different leaves.
  • Demonstrate how to identify between family, genus, species, variety and cultivar.

2. Plant Culture

Demonstrate the ability to care for plants to maintain optimum growth and health, while considering pruning, planting, and irrigation.


  • Describe how to prune different plants.
  • Demonstrate how to cut wood correctly, on the correct angle and section of the stem.
  • Describe how to plant a plant.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of different irrigation equipment, sprinklers, pumps and turf systems available by listing their comparative advantages and disadvantages.
  • Demonstrate selection of appropriate irrigation systems for a horticulture, explaining why particular systems would be preferred.
  • Define water pressure and flow rate and how to calculate each.
  • Describe regular maintenance of garden tools and equipment.
  • List factors to be considered when comparing types of machinery for use in garden maintenance.

3. Soils and Plant Nutrition

Develop the skills and knowledge to identify, work with, and improve the soil condition and potting mixes, and to evaluate fertilisers for use in landscape jobs to maximize plant growth.


  • Describe the soil types commonly found in plant culture in terms of texture, structure and water-holding and nutrient holding capacity.
  • Describe methods of improving soil structure, infiltration rate, water holding capacity, drainage and aeration.
  • List elements essential for plant growth.
  • Diagnose the major nutrient deficiencies that occur in ornamental plants and prescribe treatment practices.
  • Describe soil pH and its importance in plant nutrition.
  • Describe how salting occurs and how to minimise its effect.
  • Conduct simple inexpensive tests on different potting mixes and report accordingly.
  • Describe suitable soil mixes for container growing of different types of plants.
  • List a range of both natural and artificial fertilizers.
  • Describe fertilizer programs to be used in different situations with ornamental plants.

4. Introductory Propagation

Develop an understanding of propagation techniques with particular emphasis on cuttings and seeds; and to a lesser degree other techniques including division, grafting and budding are also explained.


  • Demonstrate propagation different plants by cuttings and seed.
  • Construct a simple inexpensive cold frame.
  • Mix and use a propagation media suited to propagating both seed and cuttings.
  • Describe the method and time of year used to propagate different plant varieties.
  • Describe and demonstrate the steps in preparing and executing a variety of grafts and one budding technique.
  • Explain the reasons why budding or grafting are sometimes preferred propagation methods.

5. Identification and Use of Plants

Increase the breadth and depth of your plant knowledge, including taxonomy and also plant use in different situations. You should develop a tradesman level appreciation of different optimum and preferred growing conditions for different plants.


  • Select plants appropriate for growing in different climates.
  • Select plants appropriate to use for shade, windbreaks, as a feature, and for various aesthetic effects.
  • Categorise priorities which effect selection of plants for an ornamental garden.
  • Explain the differences in the way plants perform in different microclimates within the same area.
  • List and analyze the situations where plants are used.

6. Pests, Diseases and Weeds

Learn to identify, describe and control a variety of pests, diseases and weeds in ornamental situation, and to describe safety procedures when using agricultural chemicals.


  • Explain in general terms the principles of pest, disease and weed control and the ecological (biological) approach to such control.
  • Explain the host pathogen environment concept.
  • Describe a variety of pesticides for control of pests, diseases and weeds of ornamental plants in
  • terms of their active constituents, application methods, timing and rates, and safety procedures.
  • Prepare illustrated reviews of different problems.
  • Identify and recommend control practices for different insect pests of ornamental plants.
  • Illustrate, identify and recommend control practices for three non insect ornamental plant health problems (e.g. fungal, viral, bacterial).
  • Describe the major ways in which diseases (fungal, viral, bacterial and nematode) affect turf, the life cycle features that cause them to become a serious problem to turf culture and the methods available for their control.
  • Identify, describe and recommend treatment for different weed problems.
  • Illustrate and identify different weeds, recommending chemical and non-chemical treatments which may be used to control each.
  • List and compare the relative advantages and disadvantages of different weed control methods.


ACS operates a student bookshop that supplies a range of horticulture texts to supplement our courses.
Many are written by the principal (well known gardening author John Mason), or other staff. All have been reviewed and approved by our academic experts (to be accurate and relevant to students studying our horticulture courses).



    Despite all the good advice in this and other books on cutting propagation; there are always conditions that vary from site to site.

    • The stock plant you use might be the same cultivar as what another propagator uses; but it will be growing in a different place, and have been treated differently; so the health, vigor, juvenility and other characteristics of cuttings taken from one will vary a little from those from the other.
    • The propagation area (eg. greenhouse, hotbed, etc) in one location will have slightly different characteristics to another. Even if they are both identical equipment, the aspect (orientation to the sun) may vary, the site may be more or less prone to cold or heat, one facility may be sealed to the outside better than the other (so humidity and ventilation may be more variable in one), etc.
    • The hygiene of one site might be better than another. Through no fault of the propagator even, neighbouring properties to one might be harbouring disease that does not exist at the other.
    • Both might propagate using perlite or peat; but the type of perlite or peat might be different. Even the same brand of a product might vary a little from one production batch to the next.

    The answer is simple:

    • Monitor everything you do, and learn from experience.
    • Keep a daily diary, and label everything.

    Over time you will get to know your property, and the best way to propagate the plants you want to grow, on your property, with your equipment.

    You might discover that a hot bed needs to be turned slightly higher or lower than what the norm is in the text books; or you might decide that a vent needs to be left open at certain times to reduce carbon dioxide build up. Some propagators will learn to take a particular type of wood from a particular time to get optimum results from cuttings. I have known nurserymen to grow their stock plants at sites away from the propagation site, because the conditions at a different site will produce a better quality cutting.

    Generally the ability to form roots easily or not so easily, appears to be cultivar specific (ie. this can vary significantly between two varieties of the same species), although there are usually general similarities that apply to most cultivars within a genus or species (always be aware that exceptions exist).

    Often (not always) some characteristics, which alone only have a minor affect upon rooting, can act together and have a much more significant affect. For example, if you provide the ideal conditions for rooting but select cutting material at the wrong stage, rooting may be as good as if you selected material at the right stage. If you select material at the right stage, and get hormone treatment, propagating media, and cutting preparation correct, but don’t have the temperature right, rooting may still occur…but slower….but when you get temperature AND type of cutting material wrong, the results might be very poor. 

    In hardwood winter cuttings, the level of dormancy may affect success. If taken late in winter, the cuttings will have been chilled already and the arrival of spring will encourage new foliage and root formation. Cuttings taken too early and not given the chance of dormancy may fail to initiate roots.


    Juvenility refers to the age of material used for propagation. 

    Juvenile wood or tissues, are those plant materials which have grown recently. Material that is perhaps 6 months old, is usually considered juvenile; material that is 1 year old is less juvenile, and material 2 years old is even less juvenile. Juvenility is a relative thing, and what is juvenile for one species might be considered older wood for another.

    As a general rule, juvenile cutting material is more likely to be healthier, more vigorous, and provide a higher strike rate. For some plants, excessively juvenile tissue is also very tender tissue, and highly subject to dehydration. As such, that material might not strike well because it will dehydrate and weaken extremely fast.

    Eg: Cuttings taken from 3 year old Picea aibes trees can strike at more than double the rate of cuttings taken from a 12 year old tree.

    Strike rates for many plants can be improved by pruning the stock plant to encourage sprouting of clean, vigorous and juvenile shoots that can be taken for cuttings.

    Rejuvenation and stimulation of juvenile cutting material may be achieved by:

    • Hedging…keeping the distance between the plant root & growth tip short, juvenility is able to be maintained, and routine tip pruning promotes greater numbers of growth tips (for tip cuttings)
    • Adventitious shoots (eg. suckers can be Adventitious or Axillary), are usually more juvenile (eg. a stool bed)
    • Shoots or sprouts from stumps, suckers etc.



    No course will guarantee you a job - but choosing the right one will certainly help!

    Not all courses are equal - some tend to focus on just getting you to the end, rather than helping you to learn.

    The fundamental aim of a 'good education' depends very much on three processes:

    1. Gathering knowledge - what you learn.
    2. Retaining knowledge - how you learn and store it.
    3. Recalling knowledge – recollecting what you have learned, even years later.

    Choosing what you learn: Education should be broad as this develops your knowledge and skills. When choosing an industry such as horticulture it is always best to learn the basic fundamentals first i.e. the core skills needed to work in the industry in general, that way you can move across inter-industry sectors if needed. The core units for a Certificate in Horticulture (for example) will give you good basic industry skills that can equally apply to nursery work such as propagation, crop growing, gardening or other inter-industry sectors. Once you have these skills, your future prospects for employment are far brighter as you are a value to the industry in general, rather than to just a single industry sector but if you want to specialise, it will add to your opportunities rather than take away from them. You always have that core knowledge to fall back on should you need to move sectors in the future.

    Retaining knowledge: There are keys to retaining knowledge – most of us will only store knowledge in short term memory the ‘if you don’t use it you will lose it scenario’. As educators we have found at ACS that the best system for storing knowledge is to really know your subject. This may sound obvious but many courses just teach the facts. When students are set problems to solve and practical set tasks, like we do at ACS, rather than just reading and regurgitating facts and figures from text books, they are much more likely to gather pertinent knowledge and retain that knowledge.

    Recalling what you have learned: there is a difference between retaining what you have learned to short term memory and recalling what you have learned years later. Undertaking problem solving tasks and projects are much more likely way to commit information to long term memory. We consider that, along with a passion for what they are studying, to be the key reason our students do so well in their courses, our courses are based on a Problem Based Learning system. Problem based assignments and practical set tasks mean that students have to work at finding solutions and developing skills. These may come from various sources - in the process they gather knowledge through experiential learning, which is more likely to be retained in long term memory.  

    So although a course and qualification won’t necessarily get you a job – choosing the right course and learning the right things will certainly help 

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    Member of the Nursery and Garden Industry Association since 1993

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    Recognised since 1999 by IARC

    Course Contributors

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

    Rosemary Davies (Horticulturist)

    Rosemary trained in Horticulture at Melbourne Universities Burnley campus; studying all aspects of horticulture -vegetable and fruit production, landscaping, amenity, turf, aboriculture and the horticultural sciences.
    Initially she worked with the Depart

    John Mason (Horticulturist)

    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 edito

    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

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