It is the best course I have ever taken and probably one of the best things I have done in my life so far, for a number of reasons, but mostly because the knowledge we gained in the class is invaluable and cannot be bought or acquired anywhere. I thank you also for bringing a lot of energy into the class and you made it fun to be there... I think everyone should learn about organic gardening and organic living. I want other people to learn the same things I did and then educate other people as well. I think with this "snowball" effect, we might eventually have a large percentage of the population engaging in organic gardening, which would be amazing.
Erik Mraz

Plant Knowledge 1 - Natives - Online

Starting Dates And Registration



This course provides an overview of plant and ecosystem relationships, through a brief review of ecosystem ecology, botany and plant physiology as it relates to choosing and planting a variety of native plants.

The plant identification component emphasizes native landscape plants including annuals, perennials, shrubs, deciduous and evergreen trees which are commonly used in the ornamental landscape for the temperate and colder northern hemisphere.

Here are some of the topics you will explore:

  • Interdependence within ecosystems
  • The meaning of "native"
  • Native ecosystems and plant communities
  • Formation of specialized ecosystems
  • Ecology, politics & economics of invasive plants
  • Creating wildlife habitat with native plants

This course partially satisfies the certificate requirements for the Gaia College and Royal Roads University Diploma in Organic Land Care.

Humber College students please note: This course is equivalent to the Humber College course "Plant Knowledge 1 Natives" for students completing the Humber College Sustainable Landscape Design Certificate Program or Humber College Gardening Expert Certificate Program.

Erythronium oreganum

Image Source


Fees include:

  • Unlimited access to our on-line plant database
  • Unlimited access to our on-line course resources, community center, including resource library, discussion forums and much more

Payment Options

By Mail On-line
Cheque drawn on a Canadian bank
Money order in Canadian funds




Please be sure you are familiar with our policies.


At this time, there are no prerequisites for this course.

There are no formal exams in this course, as the emphasis is on developing practical skills and the ability to synthesize information.

To receive a Certificate of Completion students must contribute to all on-line discussions and satisfactorily complete all assignments and quizzes.


Student Comment

"I was originally so disappointed that the course was only available online, but I must say that the content and how it is structured has taught me more than what I could have hoped for. The plant ID assignments have made me realize the importance of companion planting and on a more subtle level the importance of the right habitat and conditions for the plant to do well. So, thumbs up from me! This is the second course I have taken through Gaia College and love it! The course content focuses on what really matters i.e., sustainable practices, native environments, soil chemistry etc."
Meera Suresh, Toronto

Required Text

Douglas W. Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home - How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, Timber Press, Portland, 2009 – ISBN 13-978-0-88192-992-8


Student Comment

"After reading everybody's posts, the one thing that astonishes me the most is the environmental "usefulness" of each plant in its own native community. It certainly makes you rethink the landscaping value of native plants."
Julie Fredlund, Toronto

While a number of professional societies and institutions provide continuing education credits for the classroom version of this course (Plant Knowledge for Organic Gardeners), we have not yet secured their commitment to extend those credits to the on-line course. In the meantime we will work with you on a case by case basis to support your application for continuing education credits.

Studying on-line is very different from learning in a face-to-face classroom setting. It may be more convenient – or for some it may be the only way they can take our courses - but it is definitely not easier.

The University of Illinois has provided some excellent pre-assessment information for potential on-line students. Please complete the online Self Evaluation:

And please read the article entitled 'What Makes A Successful Online Student?'

If you have any doubts about your ability to dedicate 6-10 hours per week to this course then it is probably not for you. Those who are able to commit themselves to this experience rest assured that our instructors are not only experts in organic horticulture, but are also experienced on-line facilitators. We will do our absolute best to ensure you have an interesting and fulfilling learning experience.


Online classroom versus self-paced studies

The question may arise why we are offering this course over a specific time frame, rather than letting each student study at their own speed. Our experience is that without firm deadlines most students do not finish the longer online courses - and we really want you to succeed!

So, for optimum student success,  this course is being offered in an interactive online classroom format.  The “virtual classroom”  includes group interaction in structured activities such as discussions, experiments, and demonstrations, yet still maintains flexibility for the individual.

Our vast learning resources and networking facilities are always available to students, even after completion of the course. So if for some reason you are not able to complete the course on time you will still retain access to the information to review it at your own pace. However, to earn the Certificate of Completion all course work must be completed by the end of the course term.


How do we handle hands-on activities in an on-line course?

That is indeed a challenge, but frankly, allowing "enough" hands-on experience is always difficult even in a classroom course. So the hands-on portion of the course has been incorporated into the assignments, where students get to put their newly acquired knowledge to practice. This is even more fun if you can get a friend to take the course with you!

Depending on the course, some of these activities may require access to soil and composting materials. Students living in climates where the ground may be covered in 2 feet of snow for the duration of the course have the option to choose an alternative assignment, or take the course at another time of the year.