Foundation Certificate in Plant Growth for Horticulture Level 2

Course CodeVHT040
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)150 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment




A highly desirable certificate for both amateurs and professional gardeners and horticulturalists. The course is comprised of four units:

  • The Plant Kingdom (Unit 1)
  • Plant Nutrition, The Root Environment (Unit 2)
  • Pests, Diseases and Weeds (Unit 3)
  • Sexual and Asexual Propagation (Unit 4)


  • UK certificate
  • Learn to identify over 100 plants
  • Gain a fundamental understanding of how plants grow and develop; and the most critical techniques used by professional gardeners, to propagate and manage plants in gardens and plant nurseries 

  • Study Online; or using USB
  • 150 hours study where and when you want, from anywhere in the world, and complete the course as fast or slow as best suits you

Course Content and Duration

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Classification of Plants and the Plant Naming System
    • Botanical and Horticultural Nomenclature: common names, scientific names
    • The Binomial System
    • Botanical Classification levels
    • Horticultural Groups
    • Plant Families and their distinguishing characteristics
    • Species, Hybrids, Varieties, Cultivars
    • Review of significant Dicotyledon and Monocotyledon families
    • Plant Lifecycles
    • Stages in Plant Development
    • Plant Collection Reviews
  2. The Internal Structure of Higher Plants
    • Plant Cell Structure
    • Cell Components
    • Cell Division; mitosis and meiosis
    • Types of Plant Cells; Parenchyma, Collechyma,Sclerenchyma, Xylem, Phloem, Epidermal
    • Internal Structure of Dicotyledon Stems: Epidermis, endodermis, cortex, vascular bundles, etc
    • Structure of Monocotyledon Stems
    • External Differences between Monocotyledons and Dicotyledons
    • Anatomica features of leaves and stems in cross section
    • Plant Tissues
    • Primary and Secondary Growth
    • Terminology
    • Botanical Keys and their use
  3. The External Structure of Higher Plants, Roots, Leaves, Stems and Buds
    • Stems; the framework, functions of the stem
    • Stem modifications
    • Leaves
    • Functions of leaves
    • Respiration, transpiration and photosynthesis
    • Leaf shapes
    • Compound leaves
    • Leaf modifications
    • Buds: adventitious, apical, flower, vegetative
    • Root Structure
    • Types of Root Systems
    • Root Modifications
    • Morphological Changes due to Maturation
  4. Identification and Function of the Reproductive Parts of the Plant
    • Parts of a flower: Sepals, Petals Staemens, Carpel
    • The Inflorescence
    • Flower Structure
    • Types of Fruits
    • Fruit and Seed Terminology
    • Modification of Fruits -dry fruits, succulent fruits, composite fruits, false fruits
    • Key to Main Fruit Types
  5. Pollination and Fertilisation in Higher Plants
    • Pollination Processes
    • Self Pollination, Cross pollination
    • Pollination Mechanisms
    • Compatibility
    • Fertilisation, Embryo and Seed Formation
    • Post Fertilisation
    • F1 Hybrids
    • Genotype versus Phenotype
    • Male Sterility
    • Parthenocarpy
    • Hybrid Seed Production
    • Terminology
    • Seed and Fruit Development
    • Seed Structure
    • Seed Germination
    • Fruit Set, Growth and Development
  6. The Fundamental Physiological Processes in Plants, Plant Growth and Developmental Relationships
    • Importance of Photosynthesis
    • The Light Reactions
    • The Dark Reactions
    • Chloplasts in Photosynthesis
    • C3, C4 and CAM Plants
    • Rate of Photosynthesis
    • Chemistry of Respiration
    • Rate of Respiration
    • Stages of Respiration
    • Aerobic versus Anaerobic Respiration
    • Transpiration and Translocation of Water
    • Osmosis
    • Diffusion
    • Mechanisms of Nutrient Uptake
    • How Water, ions and metabolites move through a plant
    • Tropisms; Phototropism, Geotropism, Thigmotropism, etc
    • Chemical Growth Modification; Auxins, Gibberellins, AA, Ethylene, Cytokinin, etc
    • Effects of Chemical hormones
    • Light factors in plant growth
    • Artificial Light
  7. Soils and the Root Environment
    • Soil Profile
    • Importance of Soil
    • Soil Composition
    • Texture
    • Structure and soil types
    • Soil Horizons (A, B, C and R)
    • Naming the Soil
    • Improving Soil Structure
    • Soil Sampling
    • Improving Fertility
    • Organic Matter
    • Benefits of adding Organic Matter
    • Soil Water and it's Value to Plants
    • Water Loss from Soils
    • Improving Water Retention
    • Hygroscopic Water, Gravitational Water, Field Capacity and other terminology
    • Saturation
    • Rate of Watering
    • Plant Health and Drainage
    • Symptoms of Poor DrainageImproving surface and sub surface Drainage
    • Tensiometer
    • Soil pH
    • Nutrient Availability and pH
    • Calcifuges and Calcicoles
    • Adding Lime
    • Adding Acidic Materials to Lower pH
    • Conservation Issues: Peat
    • Terminology
  8. Plant Nutrition
    • Soil Life: Earthworms, Mycorrhyzae, Nitrogen Fixing
    • Nitrogen Cycle; Ammonification,Nitrification, Detritrification, Nitrogen Loss
    • Forms of Nitrogen
    • The Nitrogen Cycle
    • The Carbon Cycle
    • The Nutrient Elements
    • The Major Elements
    • The Minor Elements (Trace Elements)
    • Total Salts
    • Diagnosis of Nutrient Problems
    • Fertilisers
    • Types of Fertilisers
    • Applying Fertilisers
    • Natural Fertilisers
    • Manures, Rock Dusts, Seaweed
    • Composting Methods: sheet composting, Indore method, 14 day method, compost bins, trench composting, etc
    • Green Manures
    • Mulch and Mulching
    • Cultivation Techniues
    • Cultivation Tools and Equipment
    • Improving Water Infiltration into Soil
    • Non Dig Growing Method
    • Soil Problems
    • Soil Rehabilitation
    • Properties of Growing Media
    • Potting Media: Components and mixes
    • Choosing Growing Media
    • Air Filled Porosity
    • Hydroponics defined
  9. Plant Health Problems
    • Factors Affecting Plant Health and Growth
    • Types of Problems
    • Conducting an Inspection
    • Determining and Recommending Treatments
    • Responding to Difficult to Diagnose Problems
    • Plant Pests -major groups
    • Pest Treatments - Sanitation, Physical control methods, Resistant varieties, Biological controls, Chemical controls, Soil drenches
    • Insect Biology; structure, lifecycles, etc
    • Review of Major Pests and their Treatments
    • Review of Major Diseases and their Treatments
    • Review of Environmental Problems and their Control
    • Types of Weeds
    • Identifying Weeds
    • Weed Control Methods; suffocation, burning, cultivation, grazing, mowing, solarisation, chemicals, etc
  10. Plant Propagation Principles and Practice
    • Sexual Propagation
    • When to Sow Seed
    • Why Some Seeds Don't Germinate
    • Dormancy Factors in Seed -Hard Seed Coat, Chemical Inhibitors, Undeveloped Embryos etc
    • Difficult to Germinate Seeds
    • Treatments to Break Seed Dormancy
    • Seed Sources
    • Seed Saving; Seed Storage
    • Sowing Seed Indoors
    • Seed Sowing: Germination, Temperature Control Hygeine
    • Seed Propagating Media
    • Sowing Seed Outside
    • Handling and caring for Seedlings
    • Potting Up
    • Propagation after care
    • Propagation from Cuttings
    • Succeeding with Cuttings
    • Types of Cuttings
    • Softwood, Semi Hardwood and Hard wood Cuttings
    • Variations on Cuttings: nodal, heel, tip, etc
    • Leaf Cuttings, Leaf bud cuttings, Root Cuttings, Bulb Cuttings, etc
    • Stock Plants for Cuttings
    • Layering
    • Propagation from Specialised Stems and Roots; Offsets, Division, etc
    • Propagating Tools: Secateurs, How to Cut, Knives
    • Grafting
    • Propagating Plants in a Greenhouse
    • Cold Frames
    • Heated Propagators

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.


  • Describe the classification of higher plants
  • Describe the internal structure of higher plants
  • Describe the structure and functions of roots, leaves, stems and buds.
  • Describe the functions of the reproductive parts of the plant
  • Describe the process of pollination and fertilisation in higher plants.
  • Describe the processes photosynthesis, respiration, the movement of water in plants and plant growth and development.
  • Develop an understanding of the constituents, properties and management of soils and growing media.
  • Describe the nutrient elements and plant nutrition in relation to soil and growing media.
  • Describe the uses of organic matter and the importance of living organisms in the soil
  • Develop an understanding of pest, diseases and weeds that affect horticultural plants, and the cultural, biological, chemical and integrated systems used to control those problems.
  • Develop an understanding of the principles and main practices of plant propagation in horticulture.


 Every plant is propagated differently. Some can be propagated many different ways; but the cost, speed of propagation, dependability of success, and characteristics of the mature plant: can all vary depending upon what method of propagation you choose, the equipment you use and time of year you do the propagation.
Take Dianthus as an example:
Dianthus are also known as "pinks" or "carnations". They are relatively easy to propagate by a range of methods. Most will grow well from seed; but unless the production of the seed is controlled very well; the parentage of the seedlings will be uncertain; and it may be difficult to predict characteristic of the seedlings; such as flower colour, vigour and growth habits 
Seedlings grown from plants that have been bred in a controlled situation by major seed companies or plant breeders, are more predictable. You may for example, be able to buy seed of named Sweet William cultivars, for example. 
Vegetative propagation by cuttings, layering or division; is more reliable for producing cultivars that have exactly the same characteristics as the parent plant. All of these methods are very easy, and relatively fast with Dianthus and Carnations.
Many types of dianthus will grow naturally as a low cushion like clump, with roots emerging from ground level stems across the clump. Plants like this can be readily divided. Any piece containing some roots, stem and leaf, will be relatively easy to grow into a new plant. Home gardeners can easily multiply their plants this way; and the technique is also widely used in professional horticulture for many types of Dianthus.
Elongated stems of Dianthus ore Carnation will produce roots from a node that is slightly buried in soil. If you lay a stem on the ground in a hollow (even only a half centimetre deep, and cover it with soil; it is likely that roots will begin to grow within a matter of weeks if temperatures are between around 10- and 20 degrees Celsius.
Dianthus can be bred relatively easily by transferring pollen from one cultivar or species to the stigma of another. When the flowers begin to develop; remove the stigmas (female parts from one cultivar); leaving only the male parts to develop. At the same time; remove the male parts from another cultivar or species (allowing only the female parts to develop). When the time is right, the male pollen can be transferred from one plant to the female stigma of another. The seed that results will exhibit a mix of characteristics from the two plants that have been crossed.  This is in simple terms, how plants can by hybridized. To do this though, requires an ability to manipulate very small tools and materials; and to apply a good understanding of botanical science. Plant breeding like this takes time and practice as well as a reasonable level of scientific knowledge to perfect.




Extra Books or Reference Materials

  • The course provides you with everything that you need to complete it successfully.
  • Assignments may ask you to look for extra information (eg. by contacting nurseries, visiting gardens or searching the internet), but our school's resources and tutors are always available as a back up. If you hit a "roadblock", we can quickly send you additional information or provide expert advice over the phone or email; to keep you moving in your studies.
  • Some students choose to buy additional references, to take their learning beyond what is essential for the course. If a student wants to buy books, we operate an online bookshop offering ebooks written by staff at the school. Student discounts are available if you are studying with us. The range of e books available is being expanded rapidly, with at least one new ebook being written and published by our staff every month.
  • See  for ebooks (available in Pounds Stirling). We also sell books through our Australian bookshop (selling in Australian dollars) at







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