How to Start a Tree & Plant Nursery

Starting a tree and plant nursery can be a rewarding experience.
Starting a tree and plant nursery can be a rewarding experience. (Image: potted yukka tree plant at night. image by rozeykex from <a href=''></a>)

Starting a tree and plant nursery can be a rewarding venture for those who want to combine a sense of entrepreneurship with a love of gardening. Because of the high volume and relatively low pricing of nursery products, starting a tree and plant nursery requires a certain amount of organization, but this also makes initial inventory costs more affordable.

Things You'll Need

  • Retail location
  • Business license
  • Tax identification number
  • Insurance
  • Tree and plant vendors
  • Contracts
  • Irrigation system
  • Cinder blocks
  • Moss
  • Gardening gravel

Choose a location. Tree and plant nurseries thrive in locations that offer both indoor and outdoor staging areas for displaying products. Outdoor areas are ideal for larger trees and plants, including plants that require plenty of sunshine. Indoor areas are ideal for houseplants and expensive gardening tools that may be damaged by excessive exposure to the elements.

Visit your local City Hall. Secure any necessary licenses or documents for operating a tree and plant nursery under local ordinances. It may be necessary to obtain a business license, tax identification number and insurance.

Contract with tree and plant vendors. Scout around online or in the phone book for larger nurseries, farms and other plant-related enterprises to choose vendors who will supply the nursery with products. Get contracts for delivery times, pricing and quality agreements in writing, and store these in a safe place.

Organize an irrigation system. Depending on budget and nursery size, plan a system for keeping the trees and plants moistened and drained. A simple system might include a long hose and shelves of slotted plastic to permit excess waiter drainage. More elaborate systems might involve timed sprinklers and covered PVC pipe drains.

Prepare the nursery for shopping. Depending on whether the tree and plant nursery is a retail or wholesale establishment, create appealing aisles, pathways and shelving to display products. Stacked cement cinder blocks make simple shelving units, and these can be augmented by planting moss or scattering gardening gravel beneath.

Tips & Warnings

  • While larger nurseries may be equipped with hundreds of varieties of trees and plants, including garden novelties such as water fountains or koi pond kits, it may be wiser to start with a more focused inventory and then add variety once the nursery business begins to, well, grow.
  • When hiring staff, look for individuals with previous retail or gardening experience. Staff members who can confidently field customer questions will appear more reliable.
  • When choosing tree and plant vendors, stay away from unknown vendors from distant locations. They may be difficult to contact or communicate with should problems arise, such as damaged or unhealthy plants. Stick with local growers until better industry knowledge is attained, and then begin to branch out.
  • Expect resistance to the opening of a new tree and plant nursery in towns with smaller economies. When possible, take time to personally meet other local nursery owners, warmly noting their popularity in town and identifying key differences in inventory or target demographic. A citrus specialist needn’t see himself as the competitor of a prize-winning rose cultivator, for example.

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