Learn to manage wholesale nurseries,or production nurseries; small or large. A great course for those wanting the knowledge to work in or start a business in the nursery industry.

Course Code: BHT212
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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A wholesale or production nursery produces large numbers of plants, and sells those plants in quantity at a relatively low price (wholesale price). This provides the buyer with scope to sell the plants on to the end user, for a higher price (retail price), and to make a profit. Managing a production nursery involves more than just propagating and potting up these plants. Even the small nursery must be able to not only producer plants, but do it at a pre determined cost, then sustain those plants before and during marketing.. The nursery industry currently has a real need for people with skills and knowledge in managing production plant nurseries! This course provides a solid grounding for developing those skills.


Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Nursery Site Organisation
    • Nature and Scope of Wholesale Nurseries
    • Specialist Nurseries
    • Location and Site Selection Characteristics;market proximity, land cost, climate, isolation, air quality, water etc
    • What to Grow
    • Determining Marketable varieties
    • Site Surveying
  2. Management
    • Starting as a Nursery Producer
    • The Mission Statement
    • Controlling Quality
    • Revamping an Existing Nursery
    • Nursery Standards; Cost Efficiency, Quality standards, Size
    • Business Planning
    • Quantity
    • Case Study
    • Production Systems
    • Flow Chart for Growing a Nursery Crop
    • Production Methods
    • Cutting Production Efficiencies
    • Work Scheduling
    • Type and Number of Employees
    • Human Resource Management
  3. Nutrition and Pest Management
    • Overview of Nursery Pests and Diseases
    • Identifying Problems
    • Disease and pest management
    • Nursery Hygiene
    • Resistant Plants
    • Controlling Problems through Cultural Practices
    • Physical Control of Problems
    • Biological Control
    • Chemical Control
    • Minimising Chemical Use
    • Conducting Inspections within the Nursery
    • Nutrient Management
    • Fertiliser use and plant nutrition.
  4. Growing media
    • Growing Media for Container and Field Grown Plants
    • Understanding soils
    • Soil Testing
    • Improving Soils
    • Potting Mixes and soil-free mixes
    • Components of Potting Media
    • Selecting Potting Media
    • Problems with Potting Media
    • Propagation Media
    • Sanitation
    • Sterilisation techniques.
  5. Irrigation
    • Water Supply
    • Town Water
    • Water Courses and Groundwater
    • Rainwater
    • Water Quality
    • Water Treatment
    • Recycling Water
    • Irrigation Systems; overhead sprinkler, drip, etc
    • Pulse Watering, Demand Watering, Precision etc
    • Pumps
    • Scheduling Irrigation
    • Irrigation System Maintenance
    • Use of liquid fertilisers through irrigation.
  6. Modifying Plant Growth
    • Plant Uniformity
    • Holding Stock
    • Making Stems Sturdier
    • Making Plants Taller
    • Developing a Compact Root System
    • Creating a denser, bushier Plant
    • Improving Foliage Colour
    • Encouraging Flowering
    • Flower forcing out of Season
    • Using Light to Modify Plant Growth
    • Greenhouses and other protective plant structures.
  7. Marketing Strategies
    • Overview of Nursery Marketing
    • Nursery Products
    • Marketing Mix
    • Market Research
    • Marketing Budget
    • Marketing Plan.
  8. Selection of Nursery Crops
    • Considering Options
    • Choosing a Plant Variety to Market
    • Developing a stock list
    • Criteria for Selecting Plants
    • Quarantine Concerns
    • Clearing Surplus Stocks
    • Nursery Industry Trends
    • Surveying Customers
    • Terminology


  • Explain the significance of property, marketing and contracts to site selection.
  • Estimate the cost of producing different plant varieties as specified marketable products.
  • Develop a nutritional program for plants in a wholesale nursery.
  • Explain the implementation of integrated pest management in a specified nursery situation.
  • Explain different chemical methods of controlling plant appearance.




GreenPlant is a hypothetical business located about 100 km from the nearest capital city. The site has two hectares available with the option to expand. The nursery will be a relatively simple operation, with the production of tubestock limited to varieties easily grown from seed or cuttings, the principal markets for these plants being retail and wholesale growing-on nurseries. Other markets might include direct sales to the general public, farmers, parks departments, tourists (eg. wildflowers and other indigenous plants) and production for specialist retailers.

The aim is to produce at least 150,000 plants in the first year, increasing to 500,000 within three years. The nursery will initially require a work building, storage areas, a propagating structure (polyhouse), an additional two polyhouses for establishing newly transplanted seedlings and rooted cuttings, and a shade area for growing on and hardening off stock. The final desired plan for the 2-hectare site is a wholesale propagation nursery with a retail area and a display garden, which will also provide a source of propagation material.

It is envisaged that a nursery will initially provide enough work to fully occupy three to four full time workers, and several casual/part time staff. The staff employed will be experienced personnel, plus trainees which will become a larger percentage of staff as time progresses.


Develop a broad concept plan for developing the site. The design should include the garden and stock plant areas in addition to the nursery layout, and must allow for expansion and other future developments. It should be drawn up by a consultant skilled in both nursery operations and landscape design.

Develop basic nursery facilities - employ qualified tradespeople or experienced contractors.

Ensure there is sufficient propagating material available when required. Purchase or collect seed, and obtain stock plants while the construction of basic nursery facilities progresses. Propagation should commence as soon as construction of the main nursery facilities are complete; with some collection and preparation of propagating material having occurred prior to and during construction. The first month of operations (including at least two weeks of propagation activity) should be considered a training period. It is extremely important that a skilled, experienced and commercially successful nursery person manage this period of the operation. In addition, propagators must also be experienced to ensure high productivity and quality.

Plant selection
When deciding what plants to grow or stock, the following criteria must be considered:

Ease of propagation: varieties that are easy to propagate may bring a lower wholesale price, due to an oversupply in the market, and although the more difficult species are often more costly to produce due to high losses and/or long time in production, they can fetch a much higher price.

Time: some species can be ready to sell in less than a month, while others may take much longer. In the initial stages of the nursery, it is extremely important to produce plants quickly, in order to generate cash flow and establish a market profile.

Suitability to your facilities: the facilities briefly described in the introduction should provide the basic requirements for the propagation of a large range of seed and cutting grown plants.
Suitability of climate: it is always more efficient to work with the environment rather than trying to recreate different environments.

Demand for particular varieties: It is important to grow plants for which there is a market. The initial market research will provide some information on the types of plants to grow. Further plant varieties can be added based on information included in the marketing section of this plan. This can be amended or updated according to market demands, the availability of stock, and as skill levels and facilities are improved/upgraded.

Production schedule and estimated gross returns
No matter what kind of venture you are starting - even a non-profit one, if it is not funded properly, it will not be around very long. All economic aspects of your enterprise must be well thought out and organised, with as much formal planning as possible. Startup costs must be calculated, and the source or sources of funding confirmed. Ongoing monthly costs must also be estimated, and methods of payment established.

The following production schedule provides for the progressive development of the GreenPlant Wholesale Nursery to a production level of approximately 500,000 plants per annum after three years.

The following notes apply to the figures listed in the production schedule:

A relatively unskilled propagator produces about 750 cuttings per day, or 14,000/month.
The number of cuttings taken is based on initially one propagator working on cuttings 5 days/week and one propagator/tuber working on both seeds and cuttings, both working an 8 hour/day, 45 weeks per year. During spring and summer, further casual staff will be employed to take extra cuttings. By the end of the third year, three full time propagators will be employed to produce the half a million plants required, extra greenhouse space will be available, and hopefully, there will be many loyal customers ready to purchase.
The estimates for cutting strike rates (80%) and the survival of cuttings and seedlings after tubing (95%) are based on survival rates for similar nurseries.
Returns based on an average price of $4.40 per/plant (prices range from $3 to $6.40).


Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Yvonne Sharpe

RHS Cert.Hort, Dip.Hort, M.Hort, Cert.Ed., Dip.Mgt. Over 30 years experience in business, education, management and horticulture. Former department head at a UK government vocational college. Yvonne has traveled widely within and beyond Europe, and has

Diana Cole

Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Permaculture Design Certificate, B.A. (Hons)-Geography, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development
Diana has been an enthusiastic volunteer with community garden and land conservation projects sinc

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and edito

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