Course CodeVHT108
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Cacti and Succulent Course


  • Learn to identify and grow hundreds of different cacti and succulents by self paced distance education.
  • Expand your horticultural knowledge, or just explore plants you have a passion for

Growing cacti and succulents can be rewarding, but the correct conditions must be created to produce the most satisfying growth. Succulents are frequently easy to grow, but it can be harder to grow superb specimens. The main requirements of cacti and succulents is strong light, adequate drainage, and to be sufficiently dry during any dormant period.


Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Review of the system of plant identification
    • Physiology
    • Information sources
    • Three Cacti tribes -Perskia, Opuntia, Cerus
    • Main succulent genera
    • Pronouncing Names
  2. Culture A.
    • Planting
    • Staking
    • Mulching
    • Soils
    • Feeding
    • Pruning etc.
  3. Propagation
    • Methods of propagating cacti & succulent plants
    • Propagation of selected varieties
    • Seed, Cuttings, Grafting
  4. Using Cacti & Succulents
    • Edible succulents
    • Garden Design
    • Garden Styles
    • Mexican gardens
    • Using Colour
    • Rock Gardens
    • Growing Cacti or Succulents in containers
  5. Culture B.
    • Pest & Disease
    • Irrigation
    • Greenhouse growing
  6. Cacti developing your plant knowledge.
    • General guidelines for growing cacti
    • Review of Cacti Genera
    • Zygocactus -featured plant
  7. Succulents developing your plant knowledge.
    • Review of Succulent Families
    • Bromeliads -featured plants
    • Kalanchoe
    • Sansavieria
  8. Special Project
    • PBL - Plan the establishment of a collection of different cultivars of either Cacti OR Succulents suited to growing in a specified locality.

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.


  • Develop knowledge of botanical naming conventions and their application in understanding the horticultural potential of cacti and succulents.
  • Evaluate needs then select or improve growing media for cacti and succulents
  • Propagate different types of cacti and succulents
  • Explain a range of uses for cacti and succulents
  • Manage growing conditions for cacti and succulents
  • Explain the cultivation of a range of cacti.
  • Explain the cultivation of a range of succulents.

 Where to Use Cacti and Succulents

Cacti and Succulents can be used in just about any garden, and in most temperate or tropical climates.

The way you use these plants will however depend upon:

  • The species you choose to use (You should try to pick those that are already proven in your locality; particularly if you are new to growing cacti and/or succulents)
  • The climate you live in (If it gets too wet or cold, you may be better growing plants in containers, which can be more easily managed)
  • The use you wish to put these plants to (eg. You may envisage them as simply something hardy and trouble free; or perhaps you are choosing them for their architectural or structural appearance. Some people grow these plants with an intention of using them to decorate a paved courtyard; or even to bring inside as indoor plants).


Many cacti and succulents grow well with little or no special care. Others, however, may require regulated climates or other particular conditions. Some may be susceptible to particular pest, disease or environmental problems. Maintaining the correct conditions, and the accurate and timely identification and control of plant problems all contribute to a healthy succulent collection.


Tips for Growing Cacti

The Cactaceae family is diverse, and there are species that can be grown in most places where humans live. For the majority of cacti though, the following requirements:

  • Four hours or more of direct sunlight every day (A notable exception are some “Jungle cacti” that need lots of medium light, but never direct bright light)
  • Most can be grown indoors and will tolerate low humidity. Flowering can be impaired indoors though if temperatures are relatively even all year; as a colder period over winter is needed for many in order to stimulate flowering in spring.
  • Water when growing, avoid watering when growth slows.
  • Avoid over watering at all times. Capillary watering in summer often results in death (eg. Standing a potted cacti in a saucer of water)
  • Do not water pots unless they are dry. Even large pots or tub planted specimens should not be watered unless the top 2 or 3 cm of the potting media has become quite dry. (Push your finger into the pot to see. For smaller pots, lift up the container and inspect the drainage holes to see if there is any moisture around the hole).
  • Frequency of watering must always relate to what is needed, and can never be calculated to be done at regular intervals. Recognise that different plants in the same collection can dry out at different rates, and those rates can vary from time to time throughout the year.
  • Generally cacti don’t require a lot of fertilizer (commonly half to one quarter as much as is applied to other plants)
  • Most prefer to be pot bound; so regular repotting is not necessary. Plants in the ground can also do well in confined spaces, such as pockets in a rockery.




  • Increase the number of Cacti and Succulent species and cultivars which you know.
  • Develop a foundation for understanding different groups of Succulents and Cacti. This will make it easier to learn, understand and retain information whenever you encounter new species or cultivars in the future.
  • Discover how extensive the study of Cacti and Succylents can be - the more you learn, the more you will realize there is to learn.
  • Improve your capacity to propagate and grow Cacti and Succulents in different places (containers and the ground), and in different ways.
  • Begin to establish a reputation as an expert with Cacti and Succulents.


Meet some of our academics

Bob James Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry. He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Masters Degree in Environmental Science. He has worked a Grounds Manager at a major university; and a manager in a municipal parks department. Over recent years he has been helping younger horticulturists as a writer, teacher and consultant; and in that capacity, brings a diverse and unique set of experiences to benefit our students.
Gavin Cole Gavin started his career studying building and construction in the early 80's. Those experiences have provided a very solid foundation for his later work in landscaping. In 1988 he completed a B.Sc. and a few years later a Certificate in Garden Design. In the mid 90's he worked as a manager and garden designer with the well respected UK company -The Chelsea Gardener. A few years later he formed his own garden design business, at first in the UK, and later operating in Queensland Australia. He has since moved to, and works from Adelaide. Apart from his work in landscaping, Gavin has been a prolific garden writer and a tutor with ACS Distance Education since 2001. He is currently part of the team of garden experts that produce Home Grown magazine.
John Mason Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and editor for 4 different gardening magazines. John has been recognised by his peers being made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture in the UK, as well as by the Australian Institute of Horticulture.
Yvonne SharpeRHS Cert.Hort, Dip.Hort, M.Hort, Cert.Ed., Dip.Mgt. Over 30 years experience in business, education, management and horticulture. Former department head at a UK government vocational college. Yvonne has traveled widely within and beyond Europe, and has worked in many areas of horticulture from garden centres to horticultural therapy. She has served on industry committees and been actively involved with amateur garden clubs for decades.

Check out our eBooks

Garden Design Part 1This stunning full colour Garden Design ebook is full of useful tips, information and inspiration. It contains around 300 colour illustrations! It is comprised of three parts: Design, How a Garden Functions and Aesthetics (making it look good).
Getting Work in HorticultureFind out what it is like to work in horticulture; how diverse the industry is, how to get a start, and how to build a sustainable, long term and diverse career that keeps your options broad, so you can move from sector to sector as demand and fashion changes across your working life.
Growing Palms and Palm Like PlantsPalms and palm-like plants are mostly grown as structural plants. They add stunning shapes into a garden that are different to other plants and for that reason alone, stand out and capture our attention, making a garden more interesting. Palms can be more than just architectural forms though; providing shade, colour and texture to a garden. If you choose an appropriate species, they are great indoor plants.
Trees and Shrubs for Warm PlacesA stunning book with around 300 colour photos! A comprehensive reference to thousands of tropical plant varieties (mostly different information to the Tropical Plants book) . An classic reference for nurserymen, landscapers, interior plantscapers, horticulturists and any tropical plant enthusiasts. 209 pages



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