Growing Tropical Plants

Work in a Nursery, Garden or Design Tropical Landscapes.

Improve your knowledge of tropical plants and how to grow them - in or outside of tropical regions. 

Some people would think a tropical is a plant that comes from the tropics. Others might consider tropical to also include plants from sub tropical places. 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”.

This course provides valuable instruction for both growing plants in warm places or in protected places such as greenhouses and inside homes or offices.

Study many of the significant tropical plants including: Heliconias, Alpinia, Hedychium, Zingiber, Musa, Costus, Cordylines, palms and cycads, climbers, shrubs, trees, orchids, ferns, Aroids and Bromeliads, herbs, vegetables and fruit bearing plants, etc.


This course also covers: This course also covers: plant names/classification (scientific and common), climatic conditions, plants suited to your locality; cultural practices: understanding soils, naming a soil, propagation, watering, feeding, pruning etc. Growing tropical plants outside the tropics and indoors - in different climates and conditions.

Discover: how to landscape with tropical plants and how to use colour and texture; how to select appropriate plants for; how to plan a courtyard and prepare sketch plans.

A great course for those working in or wanting to work in this field.


Become a Tropical Plant Expert

This knowledge may be a pathway to starting or improving a career working with these plants (indoor plant hire, garden centre, plant nursery production, plant breeding, garden staff, garden designer).

Tropical plants are widely used not only in the tropics (as outdoor garden plants), but right through to very cold climates, as greenhouse or indoor plants.

This course has value for people working in horticulture anywhere, and in any climate.

Course Structure

There are ten lessons in this module as follows:

  1. Introduction to Tropical Plants - Plant names/classification (scientific & common), climatic conditions, plants suited to the students locality.
  2. Plant Cultural Practices Understanding soils, naming a soil, propagation, watering, feeding, pruning etc.
  3. Tropical Annuals, Perennials, Bulbous Plants, Bamboos & Lawns
  4. Ornamental Gingers and Heliconias (and related plants including Alpinia, Hedychium, Zingiber, Musa & Costus
  5. Cordylines, Palms & Cycads
  6. Climbers, Shrubs and Trees
  7. Orchids, Ferns, Aroids and Bromeliads
  8. Tropical Herbs, Vegetables and Fruit Bearing Plants including Bush tucker, Selected Vegetables, Tea & Coffee, Tropical Fruit trees
  9. Growing Tropical Plants outside the Tropics Growing tropicals indoors, in different climates and conditions.
  10. Landscaping with Tropical Plants - Use of colour & texture, plant selection, planting a courtyard, preparing sketch plans.

Course Duration: 100 hours

Course Aims

•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 tropicals.
•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.


Tropical climates are found in South-East Asia, much of India, northern Australia, Central America, the Caribbean, Northern parts of South America, many of the Pacific islands and perhaps the central half of the African continent. Tropical areas in general have the highest average temperature levels, the longest frost-free growing seasons, and the greatest amount of light (intensity and duration), compared to other regions on the planet.

Tropical gardens can vary from dry and desert-like, to coastal, to dense, lush and leafy environs resembling the dynamic workings of a rainforest. Many different garden effects are possible using tropical plants. You can also, on a small scale, transform a garden into a microclimate using tropical plants that are not normally found in your locality.

The main climatic zones that exist on earth are Tropical, Temperate and Arid. There are of course variations between these such as subtropical, warm-temperate, dry-tropics, etc. It is important to understand that there are variations in climate within tropical and subtropical regions, and that not all tropical plants like the same conditions.

Tropical: yearly mean temperature not below 18oC. The air humidity is relatively high especially over summer and autumn. Subtropical climates have coolest months below 18oC during the day but above 0°C at night (usually frost free). Tropical areas are those parts of the world that fall between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, which are lines of latitude lying 23.5 degrees north and south, respectively, of the equator. The most highly populated parts of these areas are typically hot and humid most of the year, with a mainly dry period during the winter and a pronounced wet season during the summer period. Humidity becomes even higher during the rainy season. Many of these areas may also be subject to cyclones and severe storms. Some parts of the tropics however are drier, even deserts. These areas may also be subject to severe wind storms, but rainfall and humidity may be much lower.

Subtropical generally warm like the tropics, but conditions may be more seasonal; refers to the regions between about 23 degrees and 30 degrees south and north of the equator. These regions generally have lower average temperatures, shorter frost free growing seasons, and less light overall than tropical regions, but without the cold winters of the temperate zone. Subtropical climates are found in Australia (eg. South East Qld), Africa (eg. Northern South Africa), the USA (eg. parts of Florida, Louisiana, Southern California, Texas), etc. Temperature fluctuations may be greater than for tropical areas. Sub-tropical areas can suffer from frosts, particularly inland areas. They can also have very hot days. Subtropical climates can be generally described as areas outside the tropics which exhibit a few features similar to those found in the tropics. Areas outside the tropics can be described as zones south of the Tropic of Capricorn; and zones north of the Tropic of Cancer.

Temperate: winter months below 0oC and the warmest months above 10oC mean. Polar climates have warmest months with below 10oC or in continual frost mean.

Arid: mean rainfall 500 mm or less. Deserts have mean rainfall at 250 mm or less. Generally evaporation exceeds precipitation. Some areas that are tropical have large extremes when it comes to moisture availability. Arid zones are usually very dry, with poor soils such as claypans, sands or gravels, and are subject to occasional downpours that can result in flooding. Therefore, the plants that thrive in this type of environment are either very hardy or have very specialised survival strategies to meet such conditions. Arid environments can be much colder at night and hotter during the day than other parts of the tropics or subtropics. These areas can become very hot during the day; but also very cold at night. Many inland parts of Australia, Asia, America and Africa have low rainfall; and can be very hot - temperatures in the high 40's degrees Centigrade during the day, to near zero at night. Plants here must be hardy to extremes. Gardens in such areas should be designed to buffer extreme temperature fluctuations. Use of drought tolerant plants and efficient water management can help in creating an attractive garden in such areas.