Advice for Starting a Small Plant Nursery Business

If you want to start a small plant nursery business, you will need to decide whether you want to buy an existing nursery or start a new one. You will also need to determine whether you want to be a retailer or wholesaler and how big you want your operation to be. In addition, you will need to know a great deal about growing plants as well as how to run a successful business.

Existing Vs. New

If you decide to purchase a nursery that someone is selling, make sure to ask why they are selling the business and get as much information as you can about the current financial status of the business. If the reason the former owner is selling is because he just can't make a profit, you want to think long and hard about buying the business from him. On the other hand, if you decide to build a new business from the ground up, you will have to determine a good location based on things like soil fertility and water supply. You will also have to pay for building the establishment and make sure that it is up to code. In addition, when you start a new business, it will take you awhile to establish a client base; whereas when you buy an already-established business, there is already an existing clientele.

Retailer Vs. Wholesaler

Another decision you will have to make is what to grow based on what you think will sell the best. Do some research and ask other nursery business owners what their best-selling plants are. You'll also need to determine if you will be running a retail or a wholesale operation. As a retailer, you will handle a wide variety of plants and deal with many more customers than the wholesaler. Retailers need to be good at marketing and have a great deal of knowledge about different kinds of plants. If you are not a people person and really prefer the process of growing plants, then you should probably consider becoming a wholesaler.


One of the most important parts of any business is marketing your merchandise. You'll need to learn who your customers are and what types of plants they are likely to buy. You'll also want to find out about your competition and what makes your business unique. Then you will have to decide what you want to spend your advertising dollars on--things like a website, Yellow Pages ad, mailers or e-mail campaign. Getting information from marketing studies could help you determine which plants are the most likely to sell best.

Business Matters

Not only do you need to know a great deal about plants, but you will also have to know how to run a successful business in order for your small plant nursery business to turn a profit. To learn about the nursery business, consider working at a nursery or becoming an apprentice to a nursery owner. Learn as much as you can about the best plants to market by attending local trade shows and getting catalogues from distributors to find out what they are growing. Talk with growers to find out what types of plants they sell out of, and talk with buyers to see what plants they are interested in purchasing. Specialising in niche items that can't be found at grocery or chain stores in your area will help your business, since customers will have to come to you to get those types of plants.

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About the Author

Melanie White is a freelance writer and educator with over 15 years experience writing such diverse projects as corporate videos, marketing materials, magazine/newspaper articles, play and sitcom scripts, jokes, and monologues. White has a BA in English and a specialization in Creative Writing from Southern Methodist University.