That’s a fair question and I am going to attempt to address it as thoroughly as I know how. There are so many options, places and ways to sell plants both large and small it’s a big mind boggling, but let’s give it a whirl. This is the list that comes to mind right off the top of my head.
It is insanely easy to sell the plants that you grow to home owners and home gardeners. I consider those two different groups of people. Some people buy plants because they are landscaping their home, re-landscaping their home, or installing a planting bed somewhere in their yard.
Then there are home gardeners who are gardening enthusiasts, and there are a lot of them. Hundreds of thousands of them across the country and it is very easy to ship plants from your backyard to the backyard of a gardening enthusiast. Mail order nurseries do an insane amount of business. One that I know of around here mails 700,000 catalogs per year. That’s a lot of catalogs!
But . . . you don’t need a catalog. To get started selling plants online all you really need is one plant. That’s it. One plant. Offer it for sale and somebody will buy it. Trust me, this works incredibly well!
People love plants and often can’t get enough of them. See the image at the top of this page? That’s a Firewitch Dianthus. I had about 25 of them planted along my sales area. As soon as they bloomed every customer that came to the nursery wanted to buy them. I mean every last person! Over and over I had to tell them that “they were in the ground and we can’t dig them right now”. I hated telling them that. I hated telling them that I didn’t have any for sale.
So this fall I ordered several hundred of them so I’d have some for spring. I think I ordered 600 but I’m not even sure. More than likely I’ll sell them all in the spring. I’ll order more next spring so I have an endless supply of them.
The lesson here?
Speed to market matters a lot!
This is what you really need to get your head around. I’m just a small backyard grower, like many of us around the country. I could have taken cuttings from the plants that I have so I’d have some to sell. But that’s too slow for me and most of the growers think like I do.
They love growing, but what they really like buying so they have some plants to sell right now. Right now matters a lot!
When you grow plants from scratch the margin of profit is really high. But at the same time, big growers often find themselves in a situation where they just didn’t grow enough, the demand is way beyond their supply. Instead of letting their customers go buy from somebody else, they’d prefer to buy plants in and re-wholesale them to maintain the relationship with their customers.
Some people put money in the stock market. I put money into plants that I can buy and sell for two, three or four times what I paid for them. I buy so many plants that I never have enough room. Right now I have tens of thousands of cuttings that I’ve rooted, but I can’t pot them until we sell this spring. I am completely out of room
Plant buying is a bit of addiction. I hear it from Our Members all the time. They just keep buying and buying because they know that they can’t sell plants if they don’t have plants on hand.
I don’t want to promise anybody that you can create business simply by selling plants only to our other members, but I will tell you this. The number of ads in the Buy/Sell Area varies from month to month. Sometimes there a lot of ads, plants for sale, and at other times there are fewer ads. Rarely do I see a time when there are less than 10 ads in that area.
The ads are always fresh because we only leave the ads up for 7 days. Many times the sellers ask that their ad be removed sooner because they sold out quickly, but at any rate all ads are only up for 7 days. That keeps the Buy/Sell Area fresh so people go there daily looking for the latest offers. They know that if “you snooze your lose” because many things sell out quickly.
It’s really an amazing place. I am often dumb founded when members write and tell me how much they sold, or how quickly their offer sold out. Again, I’m not promising you anything. My advice is to Take the 30 Day Test Drive and study the ads in the Buy/Sell Area. Look to see when the ad was posted, what price the plants are being advertised at, and watch how quickly and how many orders come in.
Some orders are sent via Email to the seller and we don’t see those, have no idea how many plants or how many orders are placed via Email, but just looking at the orders that are posted as a response to the ad is very instructive. It’s fun to watch.
As far as I’m concerned there is always a shortage of certain plants in the Buy/Sell Area, things that sell like crazy as soon as they are posted. The Buy/Sell Area is all about plants. We do not allow the members to sell other items, no hard products, no non plant items. Just seeds and plants.
Just to give you an idea of how this works I am going to post some replies to ads that are running today, the end of October. Keep in mind, this is late October, not exactly the heat of the buying season.
These are replies to ads to ads in the Buy/Sell Area.
Tammy H. posted an ad at 9:21 p.m.
First order came in at 9:22 a.m. the next day.
Id like to order
10 pink whisper potentilla for $7
10 gold finger potentilla for $7.50
10 ” Nakuru nishiki” for $9.70
im new to the growers and like a kid in a candy store!
The second order came in 24 minutes after the first.
I would like to order 10 Pink Whisper Potentilla and 10 Salix gracilistylus ‘Melanostachys’ , please.
The third order came in 11 minutes later.
Forsythia x intermedia, “Feista” x10
Potentilla fruticosa, Pink Whisper x10
Billing and shipping info below
thanks in advance!
The fourth order came in 90 minutes later.
Hi I would like the following if you still have them
1 bundle of 12 Salix Matsudana Golden Curls 12 for $14..00
1 bundle of 10 Potentilla fruticosa, Pink Whisper, 10 for $7.50 Zones 3-7
1 bundle of 10 Callicarpa dichtoma, “Early Amethyst” Beautyberry 10 for $7.00
1 bundle of 10 Chrysanthemum rubellum ‘Clara Curtis”- 10 for $9.70
Thank you -Shirley
The 5th order came in 72 minutes later and this one is considerably larger.
I would like the following. Excited to find the Pink Whisper!
Forsythia x intermedia, “Feista” 10 for $13.00
Salix Integra “Hakuro Nishiki” 10 for $9.70
Salix gracilistylus ‘Melanostachys’ 10 for 12.70
Festuca cinerea Elijah’s Blue, 10 for $12.70
Potentilla fruticosa, Goldfinger, 10 for $7.50
Potentilla fruticosa, Primrose Beauty, 10 for $7.00
Potentilla fruticosa, Pink Whisper 20 @ 10 for $7.50 = $15
Callicarpa dichtoma, “Early Amethyst” Well rooted cuttings 20 @ 10 for $7.00 = $14.00
Sedum sarmentosumis, 10 for $6.00
Sedum spurium John Creech, 10 for 7.00
Sedum reflexum, Angelina- 10 for $7.00
Sedum reflexum ‘Blue Spruce’ 10 for $8.00
Hydrangea paniculata “Grandifora” 20 @ 10 for 7.00 = $14.00
Weigela florida, variegated 20 @ 10 for $7.50 = $15.00
Thanks so much. -Connie
This order came in about 90 minutes later.
Salix Integra “Hakuro Nishiki” @ 10 for $9.70
Bee Balm, Monarda Didyma @ 10 for $6.00
Potentilla fruticosa, Primrose Beauty @ 10 for $7.00
Achillea millefolium ‘Cerise Queen’ @ 10 for $9.70
Crispy Spearmint, Mentha Spicata ‘crispii @ 10 for $6.00
Berggarten Sage, Salvia officinalis ‘Berggarten @ 10 for $10.90
Leucanthemum X superbum :Crazy Daisy” @ 10 for $10.00
Hydrangea paniculata “Grandifora” @ 10 for 7.00
Weigela florida, variegated @ 10 for $7.50
For a total of $73.80 plus shipping. All of my info should be below. Thanks, Timothy!
84 minutes later this order came in.
Hi Tammy I would like to order the following:
Sedum sarmentosumis, 10 for $6.00
Sedum spurium John Creech, 10 for 7.00
Sedum reflexum, Angelina- 10 for $7.00
Sedum reflexum ‘Blue Spruce’ 10 for $8.00
Sedum X ‘Autumn Joy’ 10 for $8.00
This order came in about 4 hours later. And you can tell that I am just copying and pasting, Buddy typed in all caps.
I LIKE TO ORDER THE FOLLOWING:
25 POTENTILLIA GOLDFINGER
25 POTENTILLIA FRUITCOSA PRIMROSE BEAUTY
25 POTENTILLIA FRUITCOSA PINK WHISPER
10 CRAZY DAISY
This order came in 79 minutes later, just a little over 24 hours
from when Tammy originally posted her ad.
I would like to order 20 crispy mints
This order came in at 11:19 p.m. on the second day.
I would like to order ;
Potentilla fruticosa Pink Whisper 10 for $7.5
Love parade Yarrow 10 for $8.50
Achillea millefolium ‘Ceris Queen’ 10 for $9.7
This order came in at 4:58 a. m. on the second day.
Please send me one order of each-
Potentilla fruticosa Pink Whisper
Love Parade Yarrow
This order came in at 6:30 a.m. on the second day.
Tammy, I would like to have the following:
10 Crispy Spearmint, Mentha Spicata ‘crispii’
10 Candy Mint, Mentja piperita sp ‘candy’,
Info in Signature.
This order came in at 11:30 a.m. on the second day.
Could you please send me the following:
10 Achillea millefolium ‘Ceris Queen’
10 Bee Balm
10 Achillea sibirica ‘Love Parade’
Thank you, my info is in the footer below.
And that’s how the Buy/Sell Area in The Backyard Growers Business Center Works.
I showed you one of about 12 ads that are running today, October 27th.
Tammy’s ad will stay up for 7 days unless she sells out. I showed you want happened in the first day and a half. Keep in mind, I’m sure she received plenty of orders via Email at the same time these orders were coming in.
Can I guarantee that your ad will do as well? Of course not. But I can assure you, I’ve been running this group for a long time and I can’t even begin to guess how many $$$$ in plants have been sold inside the members area.
One member told me that . . .
That she advertised ferns and sold out in one day. $1,300 worth.
Another offered Pink Dogwoods, sold out in 20 minutes! $1,200 worth
We have many, many members that sell thousands and thousand of dollars worth of plants just in the Buy/Sell Section or Our Members Area. And all of those people sell plants retail and or wholesale in their home town as well.
I remember when Tammy started with me about 7 years ago. She knew almost nothing about growing. Today not only is she an excellent grower, but three, count them three! of her now adult children are growers. I’ve purchased plants from Rachel, I’ve met Patrick a couple of times and I almost got to meet Andrea this summer but she had to work the day that Tammy and Patrick delivered some plants to me.
When Tammy first started and Rachel was helping her make cuttings Rachel looked at her mom and said; “Are you sure this is legal?” It’s legal. Tammy sent me this about Rachel a few years ago.
Tammy just put up a huge greenhouse. This winter she will be grafting rare Japanese maples and I’m sure she’ll be offering them to our members as well.
Those are The Opportunities Inside of Our Members Area. Let’s move on to other ways to sell plants.
Independently Owned Garden Centers
What is the one thing that a garden center needs in order to do well each and every year. What do they need a lot of if they want to stay in business? Plants. They need a lot of plants. It’s how they make their living, buying and selling plants.
Most garden centers do very little, if any at all, growing themselves. They buy in everything from other growers. Some have a greenhouse where they grow annual flowers and such, but many don’t even do that. Some buy in every single plant they sell. They mark them up 100% or more and re-sell them.
Buying plants on the wholesale market can be a pain and extremely time consuming. Garden centers do about 80% of their buying in the spring. Wholesale nurseries do about 85% of their annual sales in the spring. They are busy, extremely busy! That makes buying from them challenging. Often times trucks that are picking up are delayed, waiting to be loaded because the crews are buy loading other trucks.
For a small garden center this is money out the window. Their truck is tied up, their employee is tied up. They need the truck to pick up other stuff and it’s sitting in a nursery waiting to be loaded. As small growers this gives us a huge advantage. Not only can we offer them really nice plants at fair prices, but we can put the plants in their hands with no hassle.
Free delivery? If you offer to deliver the plants for free to an independently owned garden center you are their hero. Think about that. All they have to do is pick up the phone, or send you a text and the plants magically appear that afternoon or the next day!
A text? Why not? It’s simple, it’s easy and it’s quick. They know what you have at what price because you’ve given them your availability list with published prices. Once they know and trust the quality of your plants they’d love to simply send you a text like this; “Mary, please drop off 25 ‘Caramel’ Heuchera, 25 of the Firewitch Dianthus, 100 of your one gallon Burning Bush and 100 one gallon Emerald Green Arborvitae.
Simple as that you just sold 250 plants! Via text.
Seriously, it can be that easy when selling wholesale. Wholesale buyers don’t dilly-dally. They are like “Action Jackson” when it comes to ordering plants. They know what they are buying, as long as they know the price in advance, they’ll order 1,000 plants in less time than it takes anybody else to order a Big Mac and Happy Meal at McDonalds.
Which brings to a million dollar point about pricing.
You have to know wholesale prices and in Our Members Area, we discuss wholesale pricing a lot so everybody knows where their prices need to be. Once you set your price, make sure it is in line with what wholesale customers are used to paying, don’t negotiate your price. Be comfortable with your price up front, offer a bit of a discount for orders over $500 and put that in your price list, then stick to your price. That way there really is no reason for discussion. If your prices are in line, they will simply place the order.
Selling to Chain Garden Centers.
Chain garden centers. Operations with more than one store will be more willing to buy from you, but they buy more and often want better prices. They have buyers who know the market and have time to chase around or call around looking for the best deals at the best prices. Selling to chain garden centers can be lucrative, but there is no point in doing so if you have to reduce the price of your product too much.
Again, set your price, make sure your price is fair for the wholesale market. If they like the plants and like the price they’ll buy a lot.
Selling Plants to Big Box Stores.
Big box stores buy a lot of plants, that’s for sure. But selling to them is best left to the big growers who know that game and grow exclusively to be in that game. I don’t know all the details nor do I really want to. But they have the buying power so they pretty much dictate the terms.
The plants have to be labeled with bar code labels and such but there are a lot of other terms and stipulations that I’m pretty sure you don’t want to deal with right now as a small grower. Maybe later, when you are bigger. But most of the growers that I know, and I know a lot of growers, they don’t pursue that market. Most want nothing to do with it. The few that do, sell to them almost exclusively.
Most growers sell most of what they grow with no problem so they don’t really need to enter into deals that make them uncomfortable. They’re independent business owners and don’t want a big corporation dictating the terms of the deal. They don’t need the deal. They’re doing just fine as is.
Selling to Landscapers.
Landscapers need plants almost as much as they need oxygen. Give this some thought. Every morning a landscaper loads up a bunch of trucks and sends them down the road to various job sites around town. Every single day! Some days the trucks are carrying sand, paving stones or miscellaneous supplies to build a water feature. But just about everyday, if not everyday, one or more of those trucks are loaded with plants.
It’s how they make their living! They need plants every single day in order to complete the projects that they are working on. Many of the plants that they buy are in a 3 gallon container or larger, but they also buy a ton of perennials in one gallon containers. Landscapers use a lot of one gallon perennial plants.
Do they have to be in one gallons? Are they willing to buy plants in The Pots that Mike Uses? Absolutely they are. They don’t care about the pot size, they care about the size of the plant, the quality of the plant and the price of the plant.
But what’s even more important than all of that to a landscaper?
Time. How easy is it to buy from you? How quickly can I get the plants once I place my order? Are you willing to deliver the plants to me, or better yet to a job site where we are working?
You don’t have to deliver plants to landscapers. Nobody else does. Everybody else makes them come and pick up the plants. They have to tie up a truck and a driver to go and pick up plants. It’s part of the business, but it’s an expensive part of the business.
If you are willing and able to deliver to them, that’s a huge thing. It’s a powerful selling point. Same for garden centers. It’s just something to think about.
Selling to Wholesale Growers.
Why would a wholesale grower buy plants from anybody? Because they need them. They often sell out of things, or somethings they just don’t propagate themselves. Wholesale growers buy a ton of plants! A friend of mine grows a lot of evergreens in one gallon containers. A local wholesale grower routinely buys one gallon evergreens from him. They buy them at that one gallon size, shift them into a 3 gallon container and only have to grow them on for a few months before they can re-sell them.
Why not just grow them themselves? They do, but the demand often out weighs their supply and they have to go looking for plants to fill their needs from other growers. This kind of behind the scenes buying happens a lot more than you think.
I was at my friends nursery one day and they were loading the truck with one gallons. The put 300 one gallon evergreens on each load. And yes, they delivered them to the customer, who happened to be only a few miles away.
“Mike! How in the world can you fit 300 one gallon plants on a pickup truck?”
One of our members asked me that this spring. This is how you do it . . .
No, this does not damage the plants, it’s the standard method of stacking plants in trucks for shipping. I’ve loaded thousands and thousands of plants into trucks like this and I’ve unloaded semi loads of one gallons stacked like this, seven high, in the back of a semi that traveled across country and the plants arrived in great shape.
If I remember correctly, it’s been about 40 years since I unloaded those trucks, stacked 7 high you can fit 7,000 one gallon containers in a 40′ semi traliler.
I bought these 300 french lilacs from another grower this spring and sold so many of them the first weekend I went back and got 200 more. By the end of the season I only had about 20 left.
Selling to Re-wholesalers.
Huh? What’s a re-wholesaler?
A re-wholesaler is kind of like a big garden center but it’s really a place that buys plants wholesale from where ever they can get them and they re-sell them to landscapers. Basically they are the middle man.
Why don’t landscapers just buy directly from the growers?
- They don’t always know where to find the growers. Some of the best bargains out there are small growers like us who tend to fly below the radar.
- They don’t have the buying power that the re-wholesaler has and they like to buy just what they need on a per job basis. Some of the big wholesalers don’t like that and they use tiered pricing to discourage it. In other words the price per plant is much higher if you buy less than five of any one item, it’s gets better if you buy 25 or more, and better yet if you buy 100 or more. The less than 5 price is really high and the less than 25 price is still too high.
- Most importantly they don’t have the time to chase all over to find the plants that they need. They’d rather pay the middle man, the re-wholesaler, a little more per plant and be on their way quickly.
- Landscapers base the price they charge their customers on the cost of the materials that are going into the job plus labor. So really when they pay a few dollars more per plant that really bumps their profit on the other end.
Of course they have to remain competitive but since most landscapers are buying the same way, everybody is competitive.
Selling Plants via Fund Raising Events and or Charities.
This is less popular that most other methods of selling plants, but charities, non profits, youth organizations etc. are always looking for unique and fun ways to raise money for their cause. There are a lot of ways to interject yourself into these events. Approach the charities with a proposal for fund raising ideas etc.
I won’t go into detail because I’ve never done it and can’t speak from experience. We have a Member in Alabama that Grows and Sells a Lot of Really Nice Japanese Maples. Her church has fund raising events, yard sale type of events and I know that she has sold a ton of her Japanese maples that way. It’s probably the primary way that the sells her Japanese maples.
Selling Plants Mail Order.
Selling Plants on the Internet.
I am going to treat these two as one topic because plants that are sold on the Internet are delivered via UPS or USPS. Many of our members ship the plants that they sell via priority mail. It’s easy because the post offices gives you free boxes if you ship things via priority mail. Of course I have to point out that that is the case now, October of 2015. I’ve been creating online content like this article since 1999, almost 17 years now, so I have to consider that things can and do change over time. But as of right now, Free Boxes from USPS.
Today people routinely buy plants online. We have members that sell plants on Ebay, Etsy, Amazon, Facebook, Craig’s list and I think some use Pintrest. And of course from individual websites. The opportunities online are pretty much endless and in Our Backyard Growers University I have an Ebook called; “The Inside Secrets of the Rooted Cutting Business” which is every bit as much about selling online as it is about growing and selling rooted cuttings.
And of course selling plants in our members area is very much about selling online.
Selling Plants in our Members Area.
In the example that I showed you above most of the orders that Tammy received were from people who want to buy ten of this and ten of that so they can plant them or pot them, then later take cuttings from them. But at other times of the year, mostly in the early spring to summer, people buy things they can pot up and resell immediately at their local plant sales. For that they are looking for liners and of course liners sell for more money and they usually buy larger quantities.
Another way that some of our Backyard Growers are selling these days is having other growers come to them to pick up plants. Lots and lots of one gallons are sold this way. The buyers love the idea because they get to visit Another Backyard Grower is doing exactly what they want to do. The love touring other peoples nurseries.
I’m in Perry, Ohio about as far north east in Ohio that you can get and last week somebody from Arkansas showed up at my nursery about bought $100.00 worth of plants. Each year we do A Backyard Growers Shindig at My Nursery for our members and they travel great distances to meet me and other members.
I’ve been doing these annual Shindigs for at least 15 years best I can recall.
The Shindig is always a big hit! It truly is like a family reunion. Lots of fun, food, laughing and learning. And making life long friendships. That’s why I do what I do.
I hope you’ve found something in this article that interests or inspires you.
Questions of comments? Post them below and I’ll answer them for you.