Business Overview

A plant nursery grows plants from seeds or saplings to the size that most gardeners, landscapers, or larger retail distributors desire for installation into lawns, backyard gardens, floral borders, and other indoor or outdoor areas.

A successful nursery offers a wide variety of young plants to their customers who purchase the plants individually or in bulk quantities. The quality, selection, and size of the products produced by the nursery will be dictated by the demographics of their location. Often, a nursery’s selection is also influenced by business relationships the owner has established with major landscaping businesses. Some nurseries will specialize in trees, decorative growing art such as bonsai, or water features and associated plant life. Additional services often offered by some nurseries include garden design, hardscaping supplies, and mulch/soil delivery.

Who is this business right for?

This business is best suited for someone who enjoys learning about and practicing the cultivation of plants. Nursery owners should also like sharing this knowledge with others. The right person for the job will also have solid business skills, an appreciation for the agricultural life, and a real interest in providing information and support for their local gardeners.

What happens during a typical day at a plant nursery?

As the owner/operator of a plant nursery, you need to be prepared to:

  • Care for a wide variety of plants in various stages of growth
  • Work a farmer's schedule from dawn to dusk
  • Maintain large greenhouses or acres of irrigated growing flats
  • Apply herbicides/pesticides to control disease and pests
  • Determine which and how many plants of each variety should be grown to meet demand without waste
  • Maintain retail storefront for sales to local gardeners
  • Carry out basic accounting/money handling
  • Maintain sufficient staff to care for plants and customers
  • Establish relationships with wholesalers to both buy and sell product
  • Provide information and support for your local customers

What is the target market?

Depending on your locale, you may want to target landscapers who maintain elite properties indoors and outdoors for the wealthy homeowner. Municipalities will purchase large amounts of trees and plants on an annual basis. If you are situated in a suburban setting with high foot traffic, you may cater more to the homeowner who wants to develop their own vegetable plot or flowering landscaping.

How does a plant nursery make money?

While specialty plants such as orchids or rare trees and shrubs may be sold for a much higher price than a flat of tomato plants, a profitable nursery makes its money by selling large quantities of familiar, hardy, easy-to-grow plants. Perennials, common trees such as maple and pine, and landscaping hedges require little attention to grow. This means that they will not take many of your resources to care for, and they are more likely to be purchased by your customers. Having enough product and satisfactory customer service will encourage your clients to return.

What is the growth potential for a plant nursery?

Through aggressive networking and the building of a large customer base of wealthy commercial clients, a plant nursery can continue to expand its operation as long as there is additional acreage to cultivate or build additional greenhouses on. Popular nurseries often open multiple locations in a region when they've achieved positive name recognition among landscaping and construction companies.