How to start a plant nursery in South Africa

Discover everything you need to know to start a plant nursery.

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How could you start your own plant nursery?

Perhaps you think starting a plant nursery business could be complicated and with many hassles. This may surprise you, but it doesn’t have to be. Yes, you need those ‘green fingers’, but some plant cuttings, seeds and soil. An amazing 20 000 plant species can be found only in South Africa. How’s that? That is 10% of all the earth’s plants. There are also almost 400 000 different plant varieties to choose from for your particular area of South Africa. 

After that, it’s up to you. So, where do you start? What do you do? Read on to discover more. 

We had a chat with Dougie, the owner of a plant nursery, about his experiences that he wanted to share with people wanting to start their own plant nurseries.

Read Dougie’s answers to questions about starting a nursery.

Why did you start your own small business?

“I worked for a plant nursery for a long time, and I gained the knowledge of making plants. I enjoyed so much working with customers and plants. So, the customers encouraged me to start my own business. I paid attention to them. Then, I resigned from my work, and I started my own plant nursery.”

What personal qualities do you need to start a business?

“You need to have confidence in yourself and make sure you are determined to face all challenges and difficulties you may encounter.” 

What challenges did you experience starting a business?

“To get a suitable and convenient place as a small business was my first challenge. I also had financial instability and this lead me to struggle to pay wages.” 

What challenges do you experience running a plant nursery? 

“The market is very competitive and I struggle to be competitive with the price of petrol going up. It really affects a small business in the sense that if you put the price up of your plants, customers will go to the well-known nurseries instead.” 

Why did you choose to start a plant nursery? 

“I started a plant nursery because I love nature. It is something that I really enjoy. I am good at it and passionate about it. I love little plants and growing them. I have the ability and capability to make them look beautiful.” 

What are the benefits of having your own business?

“I enjoy the benefits of being independent and being my own boss. I also enjoy what I can offer to those who are unemployed. I also get more money compared to a wage or salary.”

What advice do you have for people who also want to start a plant nursery?

“Make sure that you are determined to face challenges and difficulties. You must be very honest and trustworthy to work with the public. You should make sure that all the undesirable work is done by yourself.”

Are there disadvantages of having a business compared to a full-time job? 

“Yes. The disadvantage of not having all the tools and equipment of a big plant nursery. I need to attend to customer problems.” 

How did you get money to start your business?

“I got a package from my previous work. I used that package as capital to start my small business. This package was not enough. I luckily had customers from my previous job to support me with the money to buy the materials required.”

What makes South Africa great for starting a business?

“The people of South Africa are great for starting a small business in the sense that they support you financially, emotionally, and physically.”

Do you use a card machine or do you only accept cash only?

“In the meantime, I am using only cash, but I intend to use both soon.”

What do you think your plant nursery will be like in the future? 

“I am building a business that would benefit the community. My nursery will be very big, and it will have many more employees. I hope it will be able to supply plants to all parts of South Africa. It is going to be the first black-owned nursery that will be recognised more than any other nursery in South Africa in the future.” 

Talking to Dougie about his business was inspirational for us and we hope it inspired you too. Do you still have questions? Then, read on to find out more.

Learn more about starting plant nurseries

What exactly is a plant nursery? It’s a business that sells plants after growing them or reselling plants from a supplier. You can sell plants to anyone, such as the local home gardeners or groceries and landscape companies.

Grow plants

First, grow large or small plants into seedlings before selling them. This costs the nursery much time feeding and watering, with lots of TLC. So, customers buying seedlings pay for the time they can't afford.

What plants to grow

You can grow a general range of small and large plants that satisfy most customers or specialise in a small range of plants. You can make this your niche where competition is not so stiff.

How can you make a living by starting a nursery?

Loving plants and being able to grow them to perfection is one thing, but it’s a whole different ballgame when it comes to income.  You need to do sound planning and have some good business savvy.

Nursery incomes vary greatly depending on where you are and how large your nursery is. Some plants that take a long time to grow, such as conifers, may be quite expensive to buy. While other plants are quick to grow, more popular, and cheaper like a pot of daisies. So, you need to find the right mix of plants that you grow and sell to keep earning enough money throughout the whole year.

To start, focus on selling lots of those plants that are easy to grow. Then, start mixing in one or several unique plants that make up your new niche. 

Also, visit local plant nurseries for tips on what they grow and sell.

What about large nurseries?

These companies sell many plants such as thousands of trees or hectares of groundcover. But baby steps first, and then the nursery can grow in size, along with the plants.

Get the skills first

You don’t become a nursery entrepreneur overnight. First, you require some training. Start to work in a greenhouse or for a nursery. There you’ll begin to understand the operational part. 

Along with those pretty plants come many diseases and insect pests, which you need to fight with various sprays. Also, you’ll need to know all the plants' names if they like the sun, semi-shade or shade, and so on.

Always care for your plants

No matter how big your nursery will get, you, as the owner, must always make sure that your plants are cared for until they are sold.

Are you keen to learn more? Then, read more about starting a business in South Africa.

How will you to receive payments?

Here is where Yoco can help you with your new small business. First, you can receive payments using one of the Yoco card machines. The Yoco Go card machine is perfect for starting your business.

If you want to be fancy and not use a card machine, see Yoco Online Payments. Yoco Link is a payment link you create in the Yoco App, and you receive payment online without a website. If you do have a cool business website, Yoco Gateway is a safe and easy way to let people buy your plants through your website. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us for more information.   

So, are you ready to start your own plant nursery now? Follow your passion and success will follow.

Source: How to Start a Plant Nursery

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