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


  • 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 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)

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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