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Program Description

Purpose

The purpose of the INLA Certified Nursery Professional program is threefold:

  • to improve the skill and knowledge of green industry employees;
  • to have this improvement and professional qualification recognized in the eyes of the public, as well as within the landscape and nursery industry;
  • and to provide a means of self-improvement for the employee and increased worth to the company or business.

Areas of Specialization

The Iowa Certified Nursery Professional program includes a core certification training and two areas of specialization: 1) Garden Center and 2) Landscape. The core certification is completed by all individuals seeking certification and covers topics such as plant nomenclature, plant growth and development, soils and fertilizers, plant disease and insect identification and diagnosis, turfgrass management, and professionalism in the green industry. This part of the training provides the foundation for the specialization areas.

Garden Center

The retail nursery is the information center on which homeowners have come to rely for dependable horticultural expertise. In order to provide sound scientific horticultural advice to customers, the garden center employee must be knowledgeable in a wide variety of subjects, including plant identification, proper plant usage, plant health, soils, turfgrass management, proper planting and maintenance of landscape plants, garden center management and more.

Landscape

The public, architects, contractors, and landscape designers have come to rely on landscape contractors for dependable landscape construction techniques and horticultural expertise. In order to provide sound scientific horticultural advice and practice proper installation techniques, the landscape installer must be knowledgeable in a wide variety of areas, including plant identification, plant usage, plant health, soils, turfgrass management, use of pesticides, construction techniques, design, sales and more.

Although the Garden Center program is geared to the garden center employee, and the Landscape program to the landscape installer, the ICNP program welcomes the participation of employees from other segments of the industry.

How the Certification Program Works

The INLA Certified Nursery Professional examination is given in conjunction with the annual convention in the spring, and in the summer on campus at Iowa State University.

The certification exam has two parts: a plant identification portion covering a combination of 50 woody and herbaceous plants; and a written exam that covers basic horticulture information and an area of specialization (garden center or landscape). This portion of the exam consists of 50 true/false and 65 multiple choice questions.

The material covered on the exam is based on content in the online training modules, which you can link to from this site. All of the online training modules contain theoretical and applied information, and were written by university professors and specialists in the green industry.  The modules are meant to be a study guide for the exam and include some, but not all, of the information that may appear on the exams. When you take the exam it is expected that you will have a basic knowledge of horticulture and some experience in the field.

Individuals who successfully complete the certification examination are recognized as an INLA Certified Nursery Professional with a specialization in Garden Center or Landscape. This designation conveys status to the recipient within the green industry. Further, it tells the public that persons with the title of ICNP are qualified, experienced, and professional. 

When granted status as an INLA Certified Nursery Professional, the individual is presented with a certificate. Certification status is granted to individuals only. The INLA Certified Nursery Professional designation may not be used to imply that a business or firm is certified.

Eligibility Requirements

  1. You must show evidence of at least one year full time employment in the "nursery business" or have one year in a horticulture program at a secondary level of education (univeristy or community college).
  2. You must pay the test fee and receive a passing score (75% or higher)on both parts of the examination administered by the certification committee.

Further, those firms who are required by law to hold either a Nursery Inspection Certificate or Nursery Dealer's License must have the required license in order for their employees to take the test.

Procedure

If you are interested in taking the exam, contact the INLA office. Contact information is available on the INLA website (http://www.iowanla.org). The INLA office will send you the testing application and testing fee information, as well as the date, time and location of the exam. The completed application and testing fee must be received in the INLA office by the date and time stated on the application form. Each individual's employer (or past employer) must sign the completed test application, verifying that all employment requirements have been met.

Test Fees

Member Price Non-Member Price
Complete Test $75.00 $150.00
Retest Plant ID $40.00 $80.00
Retest T/F Multiple Choice $40.00 $80.00

Re-Examination

Any individual who does not successfully complete the INLA Certified Nursery Professional examination shall have the right to take a re-examination the next time the exam is offered. If an individual passes either the plant identification or written portion of the exam, that passing score is good for one year. This means that for re-examination, you only need to take the portion you did not pass.

Maintenance

Each year you will be required to pay an annual maintenance fee and attend one of the following events to maintain certification:

    • INLA Continuing Education Session (e.g. INLA Roadshow
    • Combined ISU Shade Tree Short Course/ INLA Convention and Trade Show 
    • ISU Herbaceous Perennial Saturday

Reciprocity

INLA has certification reciprocity with South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska.

Administration

The INLA Certified Nursery Professional program is not in any way connected with any agency of the government, but is solely and exclusively a voluntary program sponsored by the Iowa Nursery & Landscape Association, Inc.