Learn about gardening with tropical plants, in greenhouses, protected garden spaces, indoors or in warmer climates. An entry level course suitable for anyone new to horticultural study.

Course Code: AHT109
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn about Gardening with Tropical Plants

Some people would think a tropical plant is a plant that comes from the tropics. Others might consider tropical plants to also include plants from sub-tropical places. Gardeners in some parts of the world would also consider any plant that has a tropical appearance, to be a tropical plant.

This course is concentrating on plants which originate from tropical or sub-tropical climates; but there may be some plants covered which fit a looser definition of ‘tropical’.  It aims to provide a sound introduction to gardening with tropical plants, in greenhouses, protected garden spaces, indoors or in warmer climates. It provides a good first step for anyone new to horticultural study, whether amateur gardeners, volunteers or aspiring professionals.

NOTE - This course is based on our "Tropical Plants" course - adapted to be more suitable for entry level students.



Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introducing Tropical Plants
    • What does the term "Tropical Plant" mean
    • What tropical plants can you grow
    • Plant naming - levels of division, genus, species, hybrid, variety, cultivar
    • Monocotyledon versus dicotyledon
    • Plan families
    • Growing tropicals - climatic zones
    • Tropical and Sub tropical
    • Temperate
    • Arid
    • Climatic variations - seasonal or constant, mountain, savannahs, rainforest, coastal
    • What causes an area to be warm
    • Good an bad news about tropical gardens
    • Common hot garden area
    • Heat traps
    • Warming the garden
    • Greenhouse growing
  2. Plant Cultural Practices
    • Common garden problems
    • Understanding soils - texture, pH, nutrient availability, improving soi, fetility
    • Water and plant growth
    • Water deficiency and excess
    • Water loss from soil
    • Improving water retention
    • Planting
    • Plant establishment methods
    • Trickle irrigation
    • Light requirements
    • Mulches
    • Tree guards
    • Common problems
    • Plant nutrition - nutrient elements, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, etc.
    • Deficiencies and toxicities
    • Propagation
    • Cuttings & Seeds - techniques, propagating mixes, equipment
    • Potting mixes
    • How to pot up a plant
    • Taking care of young plants
    • Pruning
  3. Tropical Annuals, Perennials, Bulbous Plants, Bamboos and Lawns
    • Some Bamboos and Grass like plants
    • Arundinaria, Bambusa, Pennisetum, Phyllostachys, Saccharum, Cortaderia
    • Carex, Dianella, Imperata, Liriope, Ophiopogon
    • Bamboos and selected bamboo species
    • Bulbs and Herbaceous Perennials
    • Achimenes,Agapanthus, Clivia, Crinum, Crocosmia, Cyrtanthus, Dichorisandra, Dierama
    • Amorphophallus, Aristea, Babiana, Boophone, Brunsvigia, Calostemma,Eucharis, Eucomis, Gladiolus, Gloriosa, Haemanthus, Hippeastrum, Hymenocallis, Hypoxis,Iris, Kniphofia, Lilium, Lycaris, Moraea, Ornithogalum, Sparaxis Phaedranassa, Sprekelia, Tacca, Zephyranthes, Alstroemeria, Amaryllis
    • Alocasia, Caladium, Calathea, Colocasia, Heliconia, Maranta
  4. Ornamental Gingers and Heliconias (and Related Plants Including Alpinia, Hedychium, Zingiber, Musa and Costus)
    • Zingiberales
    • Musaceae - bananas
    • Strelitziaceae - bird of paradise
    • Lowiaceae
    • Heliconiaceae -heliconias
    • Zingiberaceae - gingers
    • Costaceae - costus
    • Cannaceae - cannas
    • Marantaceae - prayer plants
    • Ginger genera
    • Heliconias
    • Parrots beak heliconia
    • Heliconia species
    • Cannas
    • Costis
    • Strelitzias
  5. Palms and Palm Like Plants
    • Self cleaning or not
    • Solitary versus clumping
    • Pinnate or fan leaves
    • Palm propagation
    • Review of significant palm genera
    • Cycads
    • Yucca
    • Cordylines
  6. Shrubs, Trees and Climbers
    • Abelia, Abutilon, Acalypha, Adenium, Aphelandra, Ardisia, Barleria, Breynia, Browallia, Brunfelsia, Bouvardia, Calliandra, Callistemon, Camellia, and many others
    • Albizzia, Allocasuarina, Bauhinia, Bixa, Brachychiton, Caesalpinia, Callicarpa, Cannanga and many others
    • Conifers - covering 9 genera
    • Climbers - covering over 30 genera
  7. Orchids, Ferns and Bromeliads
    • Guidelines for orchid culture
    • Temperature
    • Light
    • Ventilation
    • Watering
    • Feeding
    • Potting media
    • Epiphytes
    • Cattleya
    • Epidendrum - crucifix orchid
    • Cymbidium
    • Dendrobium
    • Odontoglossum
    • Oncidium
    • Paphiopedilum -slipper orchid
    • Phalaenopsis
    • Pleione
    • Vanda
    • Orchid pests, diseases, viruses
    • Bromeliads - culture
    • Ferns - culture, genera, ferns as indoor plants
    • Tree ferns
    • Rock ferns
    • Terrestrial Filmy ferns
    • Other ferns
    • Epiphytic ferns
    • Fern families
    • Sun tolerant ferns
    • Dry soil ferns
    • Aroids
  8. Tropical Herbs, Vegetables and Fruit
    • Growing methods
    • Organic
    • No Dig, Sheet mulching, raised bed
    • Hydroponics
    • Permaculture
    • Container growing
    • Greenhouse growing
    • Plant needs - light, temperature
    • Choosing a good site
    • Selected vegetables for warm conditions
    • Cucumber, melon, watermelon, zucchini, sweet potato, Taro, Yam,
    • Tropical herbs
    • Galangal
    • Ginger, Lemon grass
    • Coffee
    • Vietnamese mint
    • Tea
    • Tropical Fruit Trees
    • Avocado
    • Banana
    • Carambola
    • Custard Apple
    • Guava
    • Fig
    • Paw Paw
    • Pepino
    • Macadamia
    • Mango
    • Pineapple
    • Passionfruit
    • Peanut
    • Pecan
    • Rosella
    • Other fruits
  9. Growing Tropical Plants Outside of the Tropics
    • Comparing indoor and outdoor growing
    • Indoor plants that adapt to varied light and temperature
    • Review of important indoor plant families
    • Problems with indoor plants
    • Potting mixes for indoor plants
  10. Landscaping with Tropical Plants
    • Landscape principles - unity, balance, proportion, harmony, contrast, rhythm
    • Qualities of landscape components - line, form, mass, space, texture, colour, tone
    • Creating landscape effects
    • Garden styles - formal, informal, natural
    • Pre planning information
    • What do you want from a garden
    • Cooling effects
    • Design procedure
    • Producing drawings to scale

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.


  • Explain the nature and scope of tropical plants.
  • Discuss cultural characteristics that are often peculiar to tropical plants.
  • Describe the taxonomy and culture of a range of soft wooded tropical plants including annuals, perennials and bulbs.
  • Describe the taxonomy and culture of Heliconias and gingers.
  • Describe the taxonomy and culture of palms and palm-like tropical plants.
  • Describe the taxonomy and culture of climber, tree and shrub tropical plants.
  • Describe the taxonomy and culture of orchids, ferns and bromeliads.
  • Describe the taxonomy and culture of herbs, vegetables and fruits in tropical conditions.
  • Determine ways to grow tropical plants outside of the tropics.
  • Explain the use of tropical plants in landscaping.
Member of the International Herb Association since 1988

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 an official sponsor of the AIH. The principal, John Mason, is a fellow of AIH. ACS holds Training Provider status with the AIH and is listed as a Preferred Member Training Provider.

Member of Study Gold Coast

Institute of Training and Occupational Learning (UK)

Principal John Mason is a member of Parks and Leisure Australia since 1974 and a fellow since 1998

Principal John Mason has been a member of the International Society of Horticultural Science, since 2003

Recognised since 1999 by IARC

Course Contributors

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

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