Qualification -Certificate Horticulture (Propagation)

Course CodeVHT002
Fee CodeCT
Duration (approx)700 hours

This Certificate involves the following areas of work:

  • CORE STUDIES - The first fifteen lessons involving at least 350 hours.
  • STREAM STUDIES - stream studies on plant propagation involves the remaining lessons, at least 350 hours of study.

The Lessons 

  1. Introduction to Plants   Nomenclature and taxonomy, the plant kingdom, genus, species, hybrids. 
  2. Parts of the Plant   How plants grow, plant structure, parts of the flower and leaf, stem & root modification. 
  3. Plant Culture - Planting   How to plant and protect newly planted specimens, terms like: annuals, biennials, perennials, deciduous, evergreen and herbaceous plants. 
  4. Plant Culture - Pruning  Purpose for pruning, rules for pruning, how to prune. 
  5. Plant Culture - Irrigation and Machinery   Different irrigation systems, components of an irrigation system, designing an irrigation system, selection, use and maintenance of machinery and tools. 
  6. Soils & Media Soil classifications, testing soil, potting mixes, the U.C. System, ingredients of potting mixes. 
  7. Soils & Nutrition   Fertilisers - deficiencies and toxicities, NPK ratios, salting, fertiliser programming, compost. 
  8. Propagation - Seeds & Cuttings    How to propagate plants by seed and cuttings, propagating mixes, cold frame construction, after care for young plants. 
  9. Propagation - Other Techniques    Other methods - budding, grafting, layering, division and tissue culture. 
  10. Identification and Use of Plants    How are plants used in the landscape, how to choose and purchase plants, selecting plants suitable for the climate and site. 
  11. Identification and Use of Plants    Problems with plants and choosing plants for problem sites. 
  12. Identification and Use of Plants   Indoor and tropical plants, flowers, herbs, bulbs, ferns. 
  13. Pests    Identifying and controlling pests, chemical and natural methods for control, chemical safety precautions. 
  14. Diseases   Identifying and controlling diseases, plant pathology, fungi, viruses, non-pathogenic problems, interactions with the host and the environment. 
  15. Weeds   Identifying and controlling weeds, chemical terminology.
  16. Methods Of Propagation
  17. Seed Propagation A
  18. Seed Physiology & Germination
  19. Seed Propagation B
  20. Propagation By Cuttings A
  21. Propagation By Cuttings B
  22. Efficiencies In Cutting Production
  23. Miscellaneous Propagating Techniques
  24. Budding & Grafting
  25. Tissue Culture
  26. Layering
  27. Propagating Structures & Equipment
  28. Propagating Materials
  29. Nursery Management A
  30. Nursery Management B



Note: Fees do not include exam fees (x 4)

What You Will Do

  • 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 200 different varieties of plants.
    • Propagate from cuttings and successfully grow on many 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 many 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.

Germination Treatments

Seed of many plant species will germinate readily if suitable conditions are supplied however the seed of some species have built in dormancy that prevent them germinating immediately. This is an adaptation that promotes survival. Such seeds will often germinate only after fire has passed through the area, or after an extended period of time. To get such seeds to germinate they need to be treated in some manner.

Typical treatments include:

  • Scarification is any process of breaking, scratching, mechanically altering or softening hard seed coverings to make them more permeable to water. These treatments are commonly used on species such as Acacia, Pseudoacacia and Gleditsia. Three types of treatments are commonly used to scarify seeds. These are mechanical, chemical and hot water.
  • Mechanical scarification involves such methods as rubbing them with sandpaper to thin the seed covering, filing through the seed coat, nicking the seed covering with a sharp knife, cracking the seed coat with a hammer or a vice. With each technique it is important to avoid damage to the internal parts of the seed (and to yourself!).  These techniques are used for larger seeds (easier to handle), and where the amount of seed to be treated is small.
  • Acid Scarification is where dry seeds are placed in containers and covered with concentrated sulphuric acid in the ratio of about one part seeds to two parts acid. Suitable acid resistant containers should be used and great care taken in handling the acid (eg. chemical safety gloves and face masks used). Time of treatment will vary from as little as ten minutes up to six hours depending on the species.

Soaking in Boiling Water
1. Place seed in a jar/cup/container.
2. Pour water which has been brought to the boil over the seed.
    Cover the seed generously.
3. Stir gently.
4. Leave soaking for 24 hours (Water is allowed to cool. Do not keep it boiling).
5. Remove and discard any floating seeds after the 24 hrs (the floating seed will not usually germinate).
6. Any seed that has not swelled (but has sunk to the bottom of the container) can be re-treated in this manner.
7. Sow the remaining (swollen) seed.
Species to be treated this way include those from the genera Acacia, Gleditsia, Fremontodendron.( A few wattles have softer seed coats and can be damaged by this treatment ie. Acacia harpophylla, A. stenophylla). These types can usually be determined by pushing the coat of the seed with your fingernail. Soft coated Acacias should be sown without any treatment.

Stratification (Moist chilling)
This is a method of handling seeds, which require a period of after chilling to mature the embryo. The following is one method of stratification that can be used:

  • Mix seed with slightly moistened peat moss, sphagnum or vermiculite (1 part seed to two parts medium).
  •  Place the mix in a polythene bag, label and tie. It is important that you use polythene as it is much more permeable to oxygen than some other plastics, but will retain moisture preventing the seeds from drying out. The seeds can be dusted with a fungicide powder to help protect them.
  • Place the bag in the bottom of a refrigerator (not the freezer). The temperature should be in the range of 1 – 5 degrees C.
  • Check periodically to ensure the mix remains moist.
  • At the end of the required period remove seed and sow.


Species that may respond to this type of treatment include Abies, Araucaria, Arbutus, Larix, Liquidamber, Picea,Sorbus etc.

Some seeds often germinate best after a fire has passed over them (eg. Banksia, and also some pine species). This effect can be recreated on a small scale by sowing the seeds in a fireproof container such as terracotta pot and covering the propagation media with a small heap of leaf litter. Ideally this litter should be derived from species associated with the area from which the particular seeds you have sown are native to. The flame should be maintained for 2-3 minutes then put out. The ash is allowed to cool, and the pot is watered and treated as for other seed trays.

Smoke has been shown in recent times to enhance the seed germination of many species, including plants from Africa, California and Australia. In particular many Australian natives from fire prone areas, such as species from the following genera: Calytrix, Conostylis, Dianella, Eriostemon, Geleznowia, Lechenaultia, Philotheca, Pimelea, Stylidium, Verticordia).

Leaching Seeds
Some seeds have a chemical inhibitor that prevents or delays germination, usually such chemicals are degraded by animals as the seeds pass through the gut.  This can also sometimes be removed by leaching the chemical out of the seed by placing such seeds in muslin bags or similar material in running water for 1-2 weeks. Fleshy enclosures should be removed from seeds to aid germination. 
To help germination of some seeds with chemical inhibitors collect them when the seed is ripe but not mature (still greenish) ie. Cratageus, Tillia, Sorbus.

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