What you like/dislike and want in wholesale nursery


LawnSite Member
Lexington, KY
Hey guys, I am doing research on the development of a wholesale nursery. I want to try and address many needs that I feel are inadequate for my landscape needs from the nursery(ie. lack of material, hard to get into and out of, and poor customer service). Any type of reply is helpful. The design of this nursery will be from the ground up so as to allow to proportion it to various needs and wants. I just am curious to see what you guys feel are your greatest needs. Please take every aspect of your time at the nursery into consideration. Hours of operation, locale, help, quantity, availability, willingness to get new material in etc.

Starling Lawn

LawnSite Member
Availibility and location.I have a hard time finding the quantities I need from local nurseries,so I have to go down state(fla).This means I can only get a shipment on a certain day of the week.I now have to carefully plan a job so everything flows right,which is taxing on my feeble mind.


LawnSite Bronze Member
morristown, nj

a few requests.

1. the availibility to get what I need - I go to too many places and they seem to have the mind set of 'if its not here, you are out of luck'. Then, the next week, they get a entire shipment in and have plenty. It seems like most people have NO idea what they have, how they get it, or when they get it.

2. Plenty of help--------

hire lots of help. It seems it takes longer and longer to find someone to write me up, find someone to load, then find someone to get a machine to load larger stuff. The last thing a contractor wants to do is spend 2 hours at a nursery just to pick up 5 plants. Yet, it seems to happen every place I have been.


Eric E.

LawnSite Member
How about quality plant material. I'm sick of poor pruning practices that leave stubs, flush cuts, and worst of all co-dominant stems. I would also like to be able to find trunk flare at the top of the root ball instead of 2"-4" below the soil line. How about some decent sizes on root balls too. I can put up with alot of other inconviences if you have quality plant material.


LawnSite Senior Member
West Haven, CT
I have had a landscape contracting company for a long time. A few years ago, we developed a business plan to open a re-wholesale nursery, in order to sell to landscapers. I have a quite extensive business plan for our operation, and have been running it for a couple years out of a 10,000 square foot building that we built in 1998. I could go on and on about this topic, so, if you want, as some pertinent questions, and I will respond. Otherwise, as I think of stuff, I'll list it.

Pictures of the operation have been posted on Guido's Picture posting page.

To address what has been commented on thus far:

1. Physical Size and layout of your operation. After evaluating the competition, determine what needs you will have down the road. We are on a 10 acre site. The outdoor nursery is a couple of acres, and can be driven through with a truck and trailer. The aggregate area is large enough to accomodate a couple of tractor trailers dumping at one time, or a couple of customers being loaded at one time, without getting into a traffic jam. The building which has an 80x125 footprint is set up with offices in front (up and down). The shop and warehouse is pass through, with 14 x 16 foot doors on 4 bays, with 1 bay set up as a store. There is pallet rack throughout. The building can be expanded easily, or there is enough room on the site to build more structures. We worked with an architect customer of ours in order to layout the site and the building. This way, at zoning and building department meetings we were fully prepared.

2. Material - We try to get the best material possible at all times. I just hired a guy to work with the nursery in terms of quality and consistency. A lot of landscapers shop based on price, because they are unable to sell quality. Therefore, you need to find a happy medium between only selling expensive items, and having enough of the run of the mill products to appeal to a wide mass of customers. For instance, we have trouble selling locally grown stock at times, because items can be shipped in from the south (Carolinas or Tennessee, for instance) inexpensively. When you are going to tie up 100,000 worth of cash on plant material, you need to do your homework. The competition, more often than not, will undersell you just to move product. Sometimes we don't have stuff because it doesn't always pay to sit on inventory, however, I can usually put my hands on stock fairly quickly.

3. One Stop Shop - we are set up to be a one stop shop. You can come in to pick up aggregate materials, nursery stock, pesticides, fertilizer, grass seed, and more. We are also developing a rental fleet of landscaping and lawn maintenance equipment. We try to be helpful for any landscaping project, but some customers definitely do NOT appreciate the convenience. Guys who call themselves professionals will nickel and dime about small convenience items because Lowe's or Home Depot is a little bit cheaper. I say go let them wait in line. This will happen, and is sometimes discouraging, but you'll need to deal with that while you build customer loyalty.

4. Hours - We are open from April - September - 7am-6pm, Monday through Sat. Closed Sunday. October - March - we are open 7-6 M-f, 8-3 Sat. Closed Sundays. We are open 24 hours during snow storms to sell sand and salt and ice control.

5. Staff and equipment - We keep a lot of staff on hand, but its tough to have extra guys. All customers seem to be in a hurry, some justified, some not. We try to expedite all customers, and have invested in enough machines to load plenty of trucks at once. This requires a large investment (which is a topic for another thread), and then folks will ask you to give them free items, or a bigger yard, or load faster, etc., etc.

I will try to update this thread as I think of more items.


LawnSite Member
Mercer, Wi
# 1 Look at getting help from Manpower Temps etc..
A freind of mine ownes a Nursery and says it is cheaper to use Temp. workers. He pays a flat fee to the company per hour. The Temp. co. pays all insurance,withhilding,unemployment,etc... He also says that this gives him a way to try employees out. If he likes a Temp. employee he then will hire the person full time. It works in Wisconsin

#2 I am always looking for a nursery that sells large stock. Everybody sells 1-2' shrubs. My customers will pay for larger stock. A 2-3 million dollar house looks stupid with 2' shrubs around it.

Good Luck...... npswi


LawnSite Senior Member
South West PA
While I don't purchase all that much in the way pf plant material, I do make all my purchases from one wholesaler. I like their setup, wholesale only, no retail at all. You must have a sales tax license to even get in the place. This keeps the wrong folks out of there(as it should).

They do have a pretty extensive selection. They even have a supply of "odd ball" items that you just don't see every day.

It is well laid out, and the asiles can be manuvered eaisly with just about any size truck or trailer. This speeds up the loading process. Their stuff is pretty orginized, and the staff knows the layout very well.

You are required to have a salesperson accompny you through the yard at all times. Check in at the office, then a salesman will guide you through the yard and help you select your plant material. This is great if I know exactly what I want ahead of time, or send someone out there with a list of material to get, but there are times when a client will just say "get me something that will look good here". I usually like to browse a little and get a few options.

ANother thing that I greatly like about this place is their catalog. It lists just about everything that they sell, with a brief description and a price for each different size. I would like to see another catalog with photos and no prices, one that would be helpful as a sales tool to the end customer.

They have a no returns/all sales final policy. I can understand the "no guarantee" policy, but there have been a few times when a client asked for a choice to be brought to his/her home, and I can't do it without putshasing both items myself. I can't buy one, then return it later. I can see where they are coming from on this one as well.

I would like to see some longer operating hours. THey are currently 7:30-4:30 M-F and 7:30-12 on Sat. Ideally, I'd like to see them open till 6 or 7 on weekdays, and 4 on Sat. At least during the busy spring time.

They seem to have adequate staff, and I have never had to wait long periods to get waited on.

Their stock is pretty nice. It is priced below retail, but not as low as other wholesalers. A shrub that retails at a local garden center for $40 is about $30 out there. Another wholesaler has the same for $25. It's not that big of a deal, but I would still like to be able to put a nice markup on the plants, and not be charging too far off from retail.

They will allow you to bring your customers to the yard and browse. You haev to accompny them at all times. I have never done this.

They also sell a selecction of mulch, stone, soil... Their prices are just below retail on those products. They can be bought for less elsewhere.

They also have a supply of fertilizers, pesticides, and grass seed. Their prices are competitive with Lesco and the others in the area.

rob m

LawnSite Member
western nc
would like to relate a good wholesale experience i just had and give some pointers on what went right. i will be installing complete landscapes around 9 new cottage units in the retirement community i work at. the basic design (including species, sizes, general locations) was done by the landscape architech firm that designed the whole project, these units are the final phase. i already found a local source for the larger b&b trees i needed but needed a supplier for the container shrubs and groundcovers. i figured i would have to travel to a couple of dealers for the number and variety i needed. to make a long story short i went to a local wholesale place i heard about and found everything i needed. the owner walked me through the operation, we went over the list of plants i needed, we discussed the pros and cons of the plant choices (i have some flexibility in the plan design) and i ended up with 900 plants for $7000, held at the nursery at no charge until i want them delivered- and the whole process took under 2 hours. plus, since the place i work at is local and well-known, i got instant credit. couldn't ask for more.