Got Green? Here's How to Start a Plant Nursery

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Published
Nov 7, 2018

Nov 7, 2018 • by Rebecca Smith

If you have the right combo of green thumbs and green in the bank, you might be ready for a new career.

Agriculture is a $2.4 trillion industry. Running your own plant nursery might put you in the shallow end of that pool (at first), but it's a way to turn a passion into a brand new business.

If you're looking to start your career in gardening, here's how to start a plant nursery.

Prepare for Work

Turning any hobby into a job will result in some serious work. A green thumb will only carry you so far.

Before you start, consider whether you're ready to turn a passion into a career. That means learning a whole new set of skills to support your passion and turn it into something that reaches out to customers. You may also need to learn more about growing than you ever have before.

Building a business from nothing takes an extraordinary amount of work. That shouldn't act as a barrier, but it's vital that you know and expect this going in so you can prepare yourself for it.

Decide Your Crops

You can't have a plant nursery without plants, so it's time to handle the star attraction.

Now that you're thinking with a business head, you should realize you'll need to put a lot of research time and thought into choosing your plants for cultivation. Demand will vary based on your location, your local growing conditions, even the time of year.

Research is vital here. You need to research supply and demand, the potential profit for any given plant, along with the plant's growing conditions and ease of cultivation. Before you make a purchase, be sure to read more about the plant you have your eyes on.

You'll also need to consider the competition. Doing what others are doing might seem the safe bet, but you'll also see fewer opportunities for profit in a saturated market.

Check Local Regulations

Depending on local laws, you might not be allowed to run a larger plant nursery from your backyard.

The legalities vary from place to place. A plant nursery can even fall into a different zoning category by jurisdiction. Before you start making plans, you need to identify what you're allowed to do and where.

There's also a good chance you'll need a business license, along with construction permits. Add insurance to that and it's already clear that you'll need to have some personal funds or outside investment to expand your side-project into a full-fledged business.

Start With What You Can Handle

The beauty of starting a plant nursery is that your business can make like your product and grow naturally. You're running a de facto plant nursery as soon as you grow and sell a couple of plants.

Running a successful plant nursery takes a huge amount of work. Starting small can help you get an angle on what you're facing. With a small-scale operation, you'll dampen the impact of any mistakes you make in the early going.

This is also a great chance to develop the sales drive you'll need to see your operation to success. Even selling your first few plants to friends and relatives can introduce you to the realities of self-promotion.

Concentrate on the Basics

When starting a plant business, it's easy to get lost in the excitement of picking out products. But the fundamentals can make or break a business.

One of your biggest considerations will be your soil. It's the literal foundation of your plant nursery, so you'll need to get it right to see success. Beyond that, there are the other practical considerations, such as containment, storage, protection from the elements, and so on.

There's a lot to consider before you splurge on seeds, so get the basics in order first. When you come to plant your first crops, you'll already have a head start thanks to the preparations you've made.

Choose Your Specialization

While you don't have to specialize to find success as a plant nursery, it's a powerful way to reach deeper into the market.

Diversity might protect you from failed crops or other problems, but it also makes it harder to negotiate bulk orders. You'll also have to compete for market share with other diverse growers and you won't be able to boast of your expertise to the same extent.

Specializing takes two major forms for a plant nursery. You can specialize in a few key crops you know will make good money or you can focus on phases of the growing process.

Whichever you choose, specializing will prove to your customers that you're serious about what you do. Learn everything about your specialization and make sure everyone knows that you're the person to come to when they want an expert opinion.

Learn Some Marketing

The average person undervalues marketing as a skill, so there's a good chance you're not in great marketing habits.

If you want your plant nursery to be more than a hobby, you need to face the reality of the self-employed: you need to add marketing skills to your saleable talent if you want to turn a profit.

Without marketing, no one will know about your plant nursery. That means no one to buy your product. For a plant nursery, that spells disaster, as your crop will soon pass its saleable growth stage and end up wasted.

Read some marketing advice online. Take some courses. Speak to other self-employed business owners for hints and tips. Accept that you don't know anything and make the effort to learn.

It may take time away from the center of your passion, but it could also make the difference between finding success and shutting your doors.

That's How To Start a Plant Nursery -- Now What?

We've covered how to start a plant nursery, but there will be lots more to learn as you begin your journey. The most important aspect of any new career is to keep learning. Accept that failures will happen. Each failure is a chance to learn something new.

Looking for more career advice? Make sure to check out our other articles.