Photo: Carol Davit

The Grow Native! Professional Certification Program

Questions about the Grow Native! Professional Certification Program?
Email or phone (573) 567-0259.

Principles of Grow Native! Professional Certification

The GNPC program was founded on the following principles:

•  GNPCP will certify credentials at base standard levels and does not require a college degree to be eligible, but does require all applicants to pass an exam. The exam will cover four categories related to native plant landscaping in the lower Midwest, with 30 multiple choice questions per category.

 Section 1 Native Plant Identification, Botanical Terminology, Growing Conditions, and Plant Communities
 Section 2 Ecological Considerations and Benefits
 Section 3 Planning and Design
 Section 4 Installation and Maintenance

Note: the GNPCP credential assumes a general knowledge of basic gardening practices. While the GNPCP does test on some of these basics, the emphasis of GNPCP is on native plant landscaping.

•  Grow Native! maintains an online study guide for the certification test, available here.

•  The Grow Native! program serves as registrar, and all exams—to be available in-person or potentially virtually—will be proctored.

•  Each section will be graded independently; the passing grade is 80% or above (24 out of 30 questions per section).

•  An individual who passes a section of the test will receive an achievement certificate for that section.

•  An individual achieves certification upon passing all four sections of the test.

•  Any section of the exam that is not passed may be retaken when a new version of the test is available (typically one version will be offered each quarter). There is no limit on how many times the exam can be taken, but all applicable test fees will be charged each time.

•  Certification is valid for three years. Program participants maintain their certification by earning 30 continuing education units (CEUs) over a total of three years and paying a $75 renewal fee every three years. MPF/Grow Native! master classes and webinars will be identified as providing CEUs for certification maintenance. Each program (regardless of length of time of the program) will count as one CEU except half-day or day-long workshops, which may offer more than one CEU. In the future, it may be possible to earn CEUs from outside sources that are approved by Grow Native! for the program. If you are certified, see more details about earning CEUs.

•  Individuals whose certification has lapsed may retake a new version of the test, at the same fee, and maintain reinstated certification as described above (“Certification is valid for three years.”).

•  Certified Grow Native! professionals will be noted as such in the online and/or printed annual Grow Native! Resource Guide.


Testing Details

Please email or phone (573) 567-0259 to receive information about how to register for testing opportunities. Different versions of the test will be used for each testing date, with supplemental content being developed by the Grow Native! program. The testing fee will be $50 per section or $200 for all four sections; in most cases, an additional proctoring fee may apply, generally $10 per section for group tests.

The next tests will be offered:

• June 28, 2024 at University of Missouri General Services Building, Columbia, MO

Section 1: 12:00pm-12:45 pm

Section 2: 1:00pm-1:45 pm

Section 3: 2:00pm-2:45 pm

Section 4: 3:00pm-3:45 pm

• August 9, 2024 at Anita Gorman Conservation Discovery Center, Kansas City, MO

Section 1: 12:00pm-12:45 pm

Section 2: 1:00pm-1:45 pm

Section 3: 2:00pm-2:45 pm

Section 4: 3:00pm-3:45 pm

• December 13, 2024 at Drury University, Springfield, MO

Section 1: 12:00pm-12:45 pm

Section 2: 1:00pm-1:45 pm

Section 3: 2:00pm-2:45 pm

Section 4: 3:00pm-3:45 pm

Space for testing is limited and payment for testing will be due 30 days before the date of the exam. Registering early helps assure your space for the exam. In some cases, as space allows, late registration will be accepted in which case payment will be due 14 days before the date of the exam. Note, you will need to arrive at the testing location 15 minutes before your first scheduled section.

Depending on demand, additional testing  opportunities may be offered in 2024 with dates/locations to be determined.


Value of certification

To you, the native plant professional: GNPC is a voluntary program that tests and certifies your achievement of a professional level of knowledge and skill working with native plants. Certification helps you cultivate and build a professional self-image. It also builds your confidence in your knowledge base. By studying for and passing the test elements, you demonstrate a dedication to your own professional development and the advancement of proper native plant practices. The process of becoming certified and maintaining the designation provides incentives to continue professional development and confirms that you excel in this discipline.

When you become GNPCP credentialed, you are recognized by your peers, potential clients, employers, and the public as a native plant professional who has attained a generally accepted level of knowledge in the native landscaping areas including botany, ecology, design, installation, and/or maintenance. Many agencies and organizations have indicated a need for certification to streamline their hiring processes, and recognize the added value of certification. Certification makes you more competitive in the job market and may improve your chances of being hired or getting a promotion.

To you, the employer: Hiring a certified native plant professional provides you with the opportunity to become better informed about your business’ selection of services based on the expertise represented by your employee’s credential. Encouraging the GNPCP credential is a tool to assist in training existing personnel. Having certified professionals on staff provides employers with a marketing edge, as well.

To you, the consumer: As interest in native landscaping grows, more individuals are entering the field, and their experience and knowledge varies. GNPCP certification helps the consumer select native plant services. Note: It is the responsibility of the consumer to check the references or licenses of, negotiate fees with, and make all arrangements with any native plant professional, certified or otherwise. The Missouri Prairie Foundation and its Grow Native! program accept no responsibility for products and services rendered by any native plant professional, certified or otherwise.


Grow Native! Strategic Plan and Grow Native! Professional Certification

The 2021-2025 Grow Native! Strategic Plan, developed by the Grow Native! Committee with input from advisors and staff, contains the goal of supporting and growing the native plant industry via a Grow Native! Professional Certification (GNPC) Program. Certification offered by Grow Native! is a voluntary program that provides recognition of an individual’s knowledge and skills related to working with native plants. It is not necessary to become certified to be a member of Grow Native! and membership is not required for certification, but membership does provide many benefits to native plant professionals. Become a Grow Native! professional member here (begin by submitting the New Grow Native! Member Application Form via the purple link). It is not necessary to attain certification to get a job in the native plant field; however, many agencies and organizations have indicated a need for certification to streamline their hiring processes, and recognize the added value of certification.


Objectives of Grow Native! Professional Certification

The objectives of GNPCP are to:

1.  Provide an educational program that improves technical competency of native plant professionals.

2.  Provide a standard that identifies practitioners who have demonstrated a baseline knowledge of the application of native plants in developed landscapes necessary to succeed in the profession.

3.  Provide individual consumers and employers in the public and private sectors with a means to identify professionals who have demonstrated, by passing a professionally developed exam, that they have thorough knowledge and skill in native plant landscaping practices.

4.  Create incentives for individuals to continue their professional development.

The GNPCP credential recognizes that individuals who are committed to working with native plants as their profession may come to that calling in a number of ways and with a number of different skill sets. The program also recognizes that there are different skill sets required for different jobs within the field. Therefore, the program encompasses four categories that recognize different skill sets. These categories were selected after careful consideration of the types of jobs held by those who follow a native plant career path.


Development of the GNPCP

Test questions and answers were developed by the Grow Native! Committee Chair Ronda Burnett, MPF/Grow Native! Executive Director Carol Davit, Grow Native! Committee members Sue Leahy, Mervin Wallace, Will Gibson, and Simon Barker, Grow Native! Consultant Erica Ballard, and current and former MPF staff members Felicia Brundick, Emily Gustafson, Hayley Howard, Jerod Huebner, and Erika Van Vranken. All of the individuals named above are ineligible to take the test, but have earned the honor of being Grow Native! Professional Certification Test Developers. In addition, in 2021, native plant veterans Dave Tylka, Scott Woodbury, James Faupel, Amanda Pedigo, Erin Graves, Susan Maag, Edward Spevak, Robert Weaver, Danielle Fox, and Jennifer Smock assisted with beta testing. Their useful feedback was incorporated to improve the test.


Grow Native! Certified Pros

See the list of individuals who have achieved Grow Native! certification.

About Grow Native!

The Missouri Prairie Foundation (MPF) is a private, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) prairie conservation organization and land trust that also runs Grow Native!, the native plant education and marketing program serving the lower Midwest. The Grow Native! program launched in the year 2000 with the goal of changing conventional horticulture and other landscaping applications to embrace the beauty and many values of landscaping with native plants. Since then, the program has nurtured dramatic growth in the native plant industry, providing benefits to land, water, biodiversity, and people.

The mission of Grow Native! is to increase the supply of and demand for native plants in altered landscapes and the built environment in the lower Midwest, to improve the quality of life for all. The vision of the program is a future where engaged consumers, educators, green industry professionals, agricultural producers, land use planners, students, and other groups in the lower Midwest choose native plants to create healthy, well managed, and flourishing landscapes. Providing a consistent credential in the use of native plants for landscaping in developed areas for the lower Midwest is a service MPF’s Grow Native! program began offering in December 2022.

Grow Native! service area in the lower midwest

Questions about the Grow Native! Professional Certification Program?
or phone (573) 567-0259.

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