Wholesale Nursery Management

Course CodeBHT212
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Become Skilled in Nursery Management

This course covers all aspects of running a plant nursery efficiently and profitably. Whether you are planning a nursery or aiming to run an established one - all aspects of organising the work from choosing a site to marketing the final products are covered. 

Managing a production nursery involves more than just propagating and potting up plants. Even the small nursery must be able to not only producer plants, but do it at a predetermined 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.

“This fascinating course works as a compendium of all you need to know about establishing a nursery and running it to its maximum profitability. Everything from site selection, plant specialisation, irrigation and feeding techniques, to marketing strategies, cost analyses, and employee productivity is covered. Nursery managers and owners alike will benefit tremendously from completing this course.” - Gavin Cole B.Sc., Psych.Cert., Cert.Garden Design, MACA, ACS Tutor.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Nursery Site Organisation
    • Buying an established nursery or establishing a new site, site planning, estimating space requirements.
  2. Management
    • Government and commercial nurseries, partnerships, companies, sole proprietorships, developing a management structure, labour relations and seasonal staff, work programs and production timing.
  3. Nutrition and Pest Management
    • Field crops, container plants, principles of fertiliser use and plant nutrition.
  4. Growing Media
    • Soils and soil-free mixes, rockwool, sterilisation, techniques.
  5. Irrigation
    • Methods and equipment, estimation of water requirements and use of liquid fertilisers through irrigation.
  6. Modifying Plant Growth
    • Modification techniques, flower forcing and quality control.
  7. Marketing Strategies
    • Exploiting existing markets, developing new markets, advertising, product presentation, pricing, plant recycling.
  8. Selection of Nursery Crops
    • Developing a stock list, operational flow charts, market surveys.


  • Describe how site characteristics influence the establishment and management of wholesale nurseries.
  • Explain management structures and work scheduling in wholesale nurseries.
  • Describe the management of pests and diseases and plant nutrition in production nurseries.
  • Explain the physical and chemical properties of growing media used in production nurseries.
  • Describe the techniques and equipment used to irrigate plants in nurseries.
  • Explain techniques used to modify and influence the growth of plants in production nurseries
  • Describe strategies used by production nurseries to increase sales.
  • Explain criteria for selecting plants and developing a nursery stock list


In the past, nurseries were involved in almost all aspects of the production and culture of plants. They grew a wide variety of plants, and they sold them both wholesale and retail, as well as supplying a wide range of allied products and services. Today all but the largest nurseries tend to specialise. 

Nurseries can be public (for example, run by government, community or conservation groups) or private enterprises. Private nurseries may be individually owned partnerships (perhaps owned by a husband and wife or two friends), or corporate, such as a company, where they have a legal identity of their own.

Some nurseries are focused on producing plants, and others retailing. Some do both, but most do not.

This course is relevant to any type of production nursery, whether public or private, whether propagation or growing on
Nurseries which try to do everything rarely succeed. New nurseries should consider the following options carefully and define the scope of their operation to fit their resources, skills and knowledge.

Production Nurseries

Production nurseries, also known as propagation or wholesale nurseries, propagate plants and either sell them direct to retail outlets, landscapers and council parks departments, or wholesale them to growing-on nurseries. Success of production nurseries is affected by:

  • Innovation – supplying new varieties to the market or developing new ways of growing and presenting existing varieties allows the grower to develop new markets.

  • Specialisation – growing fewer lines in larger quantities allows the grower to improve efficiencies in the nursery.

  • Forecasting trends and meeting market demands – knowing what plants customers want, or are likely to want, and growing them in sufficient quantities allows the grower to meet consumers’ requirements, and through doing this, maintaining customer loyalty. 

Growing-on Nurseries

Growing-on nurseries buy bulk quantities of seedlings or small plants from propagators. At the time of purchase, the plants are growing in plugs, trays or tubes; the plants are then potted into larger containers and grown on for a period of time, adding value to the nursery’s original purchase. 

In addition to increasing the plants’ size, specialised growing techniques, such as topiary, may be used to add value to the plant during the growing-on phase.

The most critical aspect of production in growing-on nurseries is developing a quality product for the retail market. At the time of resale, every plant must be at its peak, displaying healthy, vigorous and sturdy growth. The plant is commonly presented appropriately, in a clean, attractive pot, with fresh potting mix (no weeds or residues on the surface) and appropriate support (small stake or trellis) if necessary. Labels may also be supplied.


The amount of land required for successful operation can vary from 0.1 hectare (1/4 acre) up to hundreds of hectares. The amount of land you acquire may depend on the following:

Cost of land – You may have to compromise your ideals for what you can afford;

  • Availability of land – You may be unable to get the exact size you want. For example, if you need a 1 hectare (2.5 acre) lot, land might only be selling in 2 hectare (5 acre) lots in your preferred locality.
  • Spacing and size of plants – Consider the final pot size prior to sale and the space required between plants.
  • The proposed output of plants – You will need to estimate the maximum numbers of plants in the nursery at any one time.
  • Space required for buildings, storage areas, roads, paths, car parks, dams, waste management facilities.

There are viable commercial nurseries operating out of backyards with as little as 400 square metres of space devoted to plants. Some of these backyard businesses generate enough income to support a family, but good management is particularly critical for businesses where space is at a premium. Many of the largest nurseries started out as small backyard operations. 

Propagation nurseries and tissue culture operations generally require less space because the plants don't take up much room and they don't need to be kept and grown on for long before they are sold. There are a large number of plants produced with respect to space used in these nurseries, and a high income per unit area. Nurseries which deal with very valuable collectors plants (such as rare plants, bonsai, carnivorous plants and orchids) may also require less space than other nurseries because they are able to generate more money per plant.

Retail nurseries can vary in size from a small shop in a suburban shopping centre up to a large regional garden centre that may be five or more hectares in size. Retail nurseries with a fast turnover of plants need less space because they don't need room to hold or store plants for lengthy periods between sales. 

Advanced plant nurseries generally require considerable space as plants can be grown for years either in containers or in-ground before being sold. Nurseries that grow grafted plants or advanced trees in field rows will require at least one hectare of land as a minimum to be a viable operation.


Learn - develop your knowledge and your business

Learning about all areas of a nursery - from planning, to marketing and management, will provide a good foundation of knowledge whether you are looking to take on an existing nursery business or start your own.

Do you want to know more? If you have any questions or need help in choosing a study path for your goals, get in touch with our expert Horticulture tutors - they will be happy to help you.

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