How to Start a Small Nursery Business

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Even a small nursery can reap a substantial profit.
Even a small nursery can reap a substantial profit. (Image: cacti nursery image by Doug Stacey from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>)

A nursery business, even a small one, takes patience. Unlike growing vegetables for sale, a nursery usually provides customers with established plants or trees. Planting and waiting for your plants to grow, particularly perennials and trees, may take a year, perhaps more. This is time and money you will be investing in your business before you ever make a sale. Some nurseries begin by purchasing plants from other growers, a good option if you haven't yet planted anything and want to get started.

Things You'll Need

  • Land
  • Plants
  • Trees
  • Computer
  • Internet access
  • Telephone
  • Marketing materials

Become a plant expert. This is particularly important if you are looking to get funding from an outside source. Take classes or get a degree in horticulture. Look into your state's Master Gardener program through the extension service. Not only will this give you the designation of Master Gardener, but it will get you out into your local gardening community, and give you access to people who buy plants.

Write a business plan. It may seem simple: plant your plants and sell them. But it's not nearly that easy. Decide if you will specialize in certain plants. There are companies dedicated to only one kind of plant, but they are often known as the experts in that area. There are nurseries dedicated to only peonies, lilies or other plants, giving them the corner on that market. Your business plan will help you make and track your goals, develop a marketing plan, and get your plans for an eventual expansion of your business.

Look over the land where you intend to plant your inventory. Ask yourself if you have enough space to do what you want to do. If not, you might want to consider in specializing in certain plants to keep things small, at first. You will also need to consider how you will get water to your plants as well as how to keep them free of pests.

Acquire your inventory and supplies. You will need various gardening tools, containers to place plants in, shipping materials and plants and trees to get started. If you can't or don't have the room for some plants, you can purchase them from other growers and resell them yourself. Make sure, though, that your customers know which plants you did and didn't grow, in case there is a problem with a pest or disease in the future.

Call your local county or city clerk's office and find out what licenses or permits you need to sell plants or trees, particularly if you will be doing it from your home. In most rural areas, no license is needed. But you will need to register your business name with the state and get a permit for any greenhouses or farm stand buildings you construct.

Market your nursery business. Once your plants have grown to a saleable size, or you have acquired an inventory from other growers, you can develop marketing materials. Design a logo to go with your business name and place it on business cards, flyers, newspaper ads and other advertising. Hold a grand opening event, give classes in gardening or landscaping, and be available to the media to answer gardening questions. Send a press release out to the local media announcing the opening of your nursery as well as any other events you'll hold. You may also offer to write a column for the paper about gardening, to add to your credibility.

Sell your plants. You can sell your plants right off your land, buy inviting customers to dig them up (You can offer a discount for this.) or buy building a small stand where plants are ready for sale. Design a website and offer your plants for sale online. You will need to find out how to ship your plants and trees so that there is no damage to them in transit. If you are uncertain of how to do this, order a plant from another online nursery and see how they ship them.

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