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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

Study vertical gardening to improve the environment.

Learn to develop appropriate and functional roof and vertical gardens, for residential, commercial and public landscapes. 

Green walls and roofs are increasingly popular in landscaping and environmental management for various reasons, including:

  • Greening areas where there is lack of space for a more extensive garden.
  • Improving aesthetics of unsightly places.
  • Improving the environment (e.g. Reduce glare, modify temperature, reduce sound pollution, filter air pollutants, reduce water run-off, mitigate flood problems, etc.).
  • Urban farming – growing crops in an urban area.

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Make the world a greener place - improve the environment and aesthetics by creating roof and vertical gardens. 

  • Learn to develop appropriate and functional roof and vertical gardens, for residential, commercial and public landscapes.

Green walls and roofs are increasingly popular in landscaping and environmental management. They can be aesthetically attractive by providing greenery and colour, but they can also perform the function of improving the local environment. Environmental benefits include the filtering of air - especially in city or urban areas where the concentration of pollutants may be higher at street level - or by helping to control water run off from land. They can provide attractive boundaries to land, and can be particularly useful where there are limitations of space. 


 There are 9 lessons in this course:

Lesson 1. Scope and Nature of Roof and Vertical Gardens
  • Introduction to Vertical Gardens and Roof Gardens in Horticulture Today
  • Reasons for Green Walls and Roof Gardens
  • Accessibility and Safety
  • What Is A Roof Garden?
  • Terminology
  • What Is A Vertical Garden?
  • Pruning Prevents Problems
  • Decorative Plant Supports
  • Temporary Props
  • Types of Installations for Roof Gardens
  • Types of Vertical Gardens
  • Proprietary Products
  • Plant Selection
  • Retrofitting a Building
Lesson 2. Construction of Functional and Appropriate Vertical and Roof Gardens
  • Engineering considerations involved with the building of vertical and roof gardens
  • Selecting appropriate materials and planning the way in which the non-living components of the garden are created
  • Building a Green Roof
  • Building a Green Wall
  • Dealing with Weight
  • Construction Materials
  • Durability of Materials
  • Dealing with Water
  • Plants Which Cause Damage
  • Components of a Green Roof
  • Roof Membranes
  • Protection Material Components
Lesson 3. Climbing Plants and Structures for Climbing
  • Learn how to select appropriate climbing plants for creating vertical or roof gardens
  • Determine strategies to cultivate climbing plants in a variety of different situations
  • Climbing adaptations found in plants
  • Possible Climbers for Vertical Green Walls and Some Types of Green Roofs
  • What Structural Requirements Do Climbers Require?
  • Plants on Fences
  • Using Trellis in Roof Gardens and on Greenwalls
Lesson 4. Plants Suited to Roof and Vertical Gardens
  • Selecting appropriate plants which are tolerant of the adverse growing conditions and have natural adaptations to growing under conditions that are encountered in these gardens
  • Possible Plants Suitable for Roof Gardens and Some Types of Vertical Walls
  • Epiphytes
  • Succulents
  • Plants
  • Hardy Groundcovers
Lesson 5. Adaptations for Other Plants in Roof and Vertical Gardens
  • Select and plan the cultivation of plants that lack natural adaptations to growing on roofs or vertical gardens
  • Espaliers
  • Growing Standards
  • Dwarfing Rootstocks
  • NFT Systems
  • Trees and Shrubs
  • Low-Growing Australian Native Shrubs
  • Other Low-Growing Shrubs
  • Vegetables and Fruits
  • Herbs
  • Annuals
  • Bulbs
Lesson 6. Container Growing
  • Container Growing Techniques
  • Containers
  • Raised Beds for Flat Roofs
  • Window Boxes
  • Epiphyte Plaques
  • Baskets
  • The Growing Media
  • Choosing Plants
  • Longevity of Container Plants
Lesson 7. Maintenance – watering, pest control
  • Out of Site/Out of Mind
  • Humidity
  • Light And Shade
  • Mulch
  • Pot Surfaces
  • Water Savers
  • Irrigation Requirements
  • Maintaining Appropriate Water Levels
Lesson 8. Landscaping – Roof Gardens
  • The different types of roof gardens
  • Characteristics advantageous in roof garden plants
  • Tips for Functional Roof Gardens
  • How to Minimize Damage to Your Plants When You Move them
  • Thoughts on Balcony Gardens
  • Irrigation
Lesson 9. Landscaping – Vertical Gardens
  • Types of Green Walls
  • Types of Walls
  • Design Considerations
  • Aesthetics
  • Functionality

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.


  • Discuss the nature and scope of vertical gardens and roof gardens in horticulture today.
  • Explain engineering considerations involved with the building of vertical and roof gardens, both on small and large scale projects.
  • Select appropriate materials and plan the way in which the non-living components of the garden is created, in order to achieve an appropriate and sustainable installation.
  • Select appropriate climbing plants for creating vertical or roof gardens, and determine appropriate strategies to cultivate those plants, in a variety of different situations.
  • Select appropriate plants for use in vertical or roof gardens, which are tolerant of the adverse growing conditions, having natural adaptations to growing under conditions that are encountered in these gardens.
  • Select and plan the cultivation of plants that lack natural adaptations to growing on roofs or vertical gardens; but which are none the less required to grow in these adverse conditions.
  • Explain a range of container growing techniques, in a range of different roof and vertical gardens, that may be used with a selection of different types of plants.
  • Identify and evaluate problems with vertical and roof gardens, and compare options for solving those problems
  • Plan the development of roof gardens for both small and large scale applications.
  • Plan the development of vertical gardens for both small and large scale applications.


As more and more people live in cities, and high rise living in particular has become commonplace, the impetus to grow gardens in confined and difficult places has increased.

International studies and reports have however also shown that buildings offer the largest single opportunity for reducing greenhouse gases’ and the use of green walls and roofs can be a significant contributor to that end.
Solutions to this challenge of modern living have spawned a wide variety of ideas for roof and vertical gardens.

Covering the walls or roofs of building is a significant horticultural challenge, but also an opportunity that brings with it many benefits beyond what may at first seem obvious.
Using the vertical space effectively can give much more growing room for a wide range of plants, opportunities to grow food crops, opportunities to screen, hide an existing wall or a view behind. Creating this type of garden poses aesthetic, horticultural structural challenges.

What Plants Can You Use For A Roof Garden?

Plants that have natural adaptations to allow them to cope with the challenging conditions are better suited to Vertical or Roof Gardens.

The plants here may have to put up with long periods of dryness, heat and long periods of cold through the winter and be resilient enough to be able to survive this by going into a dormancy state, then quickly reviving and growing strongly again when growing conditions improve.

Every wall or roof is different and poses different growing conditions and microclimates to consider and so different plants are needed to meet the criteria.

Apart from climbers, mentioned in the previous lesson, other plant types that are often well suited are:

  • Epiphytes
  • Succulents
  • Hardy groundcovers
  • Xerophytes (i.e. drought-tolerant plants).
Which Plants are Epiphytes?
  • Bromeliads
  • Some cacti, including: Epiphyllium (Orchid Cactus), Schlumbergera (Zygocactus), Hatiora (syn. Rhipsalidopsis).
  • Mosses, liverworts, lichens.
  • Most epidendroid orchids.
  • Some figs (Ficus spp.), some ferns including Platycerium spp. (Stag or Elk ferns), Asplenium polyodon, Davallia pyxidata, Anthopteris.
  • Some tropical and subtropical rainforest plants - including some Impatiens, Pathos, Peperomia, Anthuriums, Syngonium, Philodendron, Monstera, Gesneriads including Columnea and Aeschynanthus.
  • Some carnivores including Nepanthes, etc.
What is a Succulent?

The group commonly known as succulents provide a wide range of plants popular in roof garden construction worldwide. There are many different genera in this group and hundreds of species. Many succulents used in roof gardens are in the Crassulaceae family; though plants from other succulent families can be equally as hardy to the extreme conditions often faced on a roof top.

What are Hardy Ground Covers?

Ground Covers are low-growing, often mat forming plants which are ideal for filling in spaces beneath taller growing plants e.g. beneath trees and shrubs in containers on roof gardens. Others may do well in containers on green walls where they may help to create a continuity of foliage cover.

What is a Xerophyte?

Xerophytes are plants which have adapted to survive in harsh, dry conditions such as deserts and coastal dunes. Xerophytes often have modified parts to help the plant to reduce water loss and/or conserve water for times when it is in sparse supply. For instance they may have fewer stomata, stomata which are sunken in the leaf surface, stomata which are inside rolled leaves (some grasses), a waxy leaf coating, leaf hairs, tiny leaves, and so forth. All cacti are xerophytes, as are succulents. Other xerophytes which are not cacti or succulents include but are not limited to bromeliads, yuccas, some grasses, eucalypts, acacias and olives.

Plan for the Future

Learn about the uses and benefits of growing plants and crops. Study with the guidance of our expert tutors, plan your studies around existing commitments with the choice of online or eLearning methods of study.

Why wait? You can enrol today. If you have any questions, please contact us now - get in touch with our specialist Horticulture tutors. They will be happy to answer your questions and explain more about the course and studying with ACS.

Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

Meet some of our academics

Timothy WalkerB.A.(Botany), RHS.M. Hort., Post.Grad.Dip.Ed. Former Director, Oxford Botanic Gardens.
Maggi BrownMaggi is regarded as an expert in organic growing throughout the UK, having worked for two decades as Education Officer at the world renowned Henry Doubleday Research Association. She has been active in education, environmental management and horticulture across the UK for more than three decades. Some of Maggi's qualifications include RHS Cert. Hort. Cert. Ed. Member RHS Life Member Garden Organic (HDRA) .
Diana Cole (Horticulturist)Horticulturist, Permaculturist, Landscaper, Environmentalist. Holds a Diploma in Horticulture, degree in geography, permaculture certificate and various other qualifications. Between 1985 and 94, Diana was a task leader with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. Since 2001 she has been chairperson of the Friends of Mellor Park (with Stockport MDC). From 2005 she has worked exclusively in horticulture as proprietor of her own garden design and consultancy business in and around Derbyshire; and at the same time as part time manager of a small garden centre. Diana has been an enthusiastic and very knowledgeable tutor with ACS since 2008.
Yvonne Sharpe (Horticulturist)Started gardening in 1966, studied a series of horticulture qualifications throughout the 1980's and 90's, culminating in an RHS Master of Horticulture. Between 89 and 1994, she worked teaching in horticultural therapy. Founded the West Herts Garden Association in 1990 and exhibited at Chelsea Flower Show in 1991. In 1994, Yvonne joined the staff at Oaklands College, and between 1996 and 2000 was coordinator for all Amenity Horticulture courses at that college. Since leaving Oakland she has been active as a horticultural consultant, retail garden centre proprietor and sessional lecturer (across many colleges in southern England). In 2000, she also completed a Diploma in Management.

Check out our eBooks

Vertical Gardening and FarmingA practical and inspiring source of reference needed by anyone considering growing plants vertically, whether for food or amenity. Vertical gardens are increasingly important in our modern world, particularly in any places where space is at a premium. Growing this way allows us to fit many more plants into every square metre of land. It allows food to be produced in cities and urban areas, and it increases the biomass able to be established within built up areas.
Starting a Garden or Landscape BusinessExpert advice on how to get started in your own garden or landscape business! Packed with valuable business advice, horticultural and landscaping knowledge, and practical ideas - this book is a must have for garden lovers. It is great for anyone thinking about (or already involved in), a horticultural, landscaping or garden business. This updated re-print is only available as an ebook.
Garden Design Part 1The Garden Design ebook part 1 is an essential handbook for students and landscape professionals. A foundation guide to garden design, this book provides stunning full illustrations to demonstrate tips and examples on garden design, functional uses and aesthetics. Some topics that are covered in this ebook include 1/ Introduction to Garden Design, 2/ Appropriateness of garden design, 3/ Creating an impact, 4/ Designing to a budget, 5/ Choosing plants, 6/ Using the garden, 7/ Where the garden meets the house, 8/ Making the winter garden more comfortable, 9/ Gardens for children, 10/The secure home and garden, 11/ Lighting a garden, 12/ Dealing with shade, 13/ Garden Art, 14/ Pots and planters, 15/ Colour in the garden, 16/ Applications for colour and 17/ Garden furniture.
Garden Design Part 2Part 2 of the Garden Design Series is an inspiring accompaniment to the first book, but works equally well in its own right. The Garden Design Part 2 ebook is ideal for students and landscaping professionals. Brimming with ideas and practical advice for designing a wide variety of different gardens. You will learn about different styles of gardens and how to create a style to suit a site or client. Topics covered in this ebook include 18/ (Continuing on from Garden Design 1) Surfacing ideas, 19/ Garden arches, pergolas & pavilions, 20/ Dealing with confined spaces, 21/ Water gardens, 22/ Using plants in the garden, 23/ Formal gardens, 24/ Natural gardens, 25/ Rainforest gardens, 26/ Coastal gardens, 27/ Cottage gardens, 28/ Late Victorian/Edwardian gardens, 29/ Oriental gardens, 30/ Mediterranean gardens, 31/ Mexican style, 32/ Minimalist landscape design and 33/ Eclectic gardens.