How to Make Money by Growing and Selling Plants

As the snow falls outside my upstate NY home I thought it the perfect time to think about income streams for the Spring and beyond.

My friend Mike McGroarty has been selling plants from his backyard for the better part of two decades and he can show you how to do the same.  Read the article below to find out how.

Take it away Mike!


How to Make Money by Growing and Selling Plants

By Michael McGroarty

I've been in a number of different businesses, I've worked closely with others in all kinds of varied businesses and industries and I've yet to find one that even comes close to the uniqueness of growing and selling small plants.  Before I explain exactly what I mean by that, think about how most businesses work.

A hardware store is a good example. I spend a lot of time at our two, actually three local hardware stores. I like hardware stores because I’m always making something or fixing something. I am amazed at the inventory that they have on hand. Have you ever thought about that? All the stuff in a hardware store?

It’s amazing the amount of things they have on hand, and how doggone expensive most of the items are. I recently went to the hardware store to get a few nuts, bolts, clamps etc. Walked out with a small bag about the size of a bag of candy. Fifty three dollars and change!

Yes, I gave the hardware store $53 for a small bag of do dads, but the owner of the hardware store probably paid $32 for the stuff that I bought. On top of that he has an incredibly high electric bill, a crazy high heating and air conditioning bill, (we’re in Ohio!, cold in the winter, hot in the summer) and he probably has at least a dozen employees on the payroll. And I’m pretty sure he does not own the building. Can you imagine the rent on that much commercial space?

He seems to be doing okay, but he has to plow through a lot of customers and a lot of money each and every month before he sees his first dime of profit. Many retail and wholesale businesses are like that.

Now let’s take a quick look at the business of growing and selling small plants in your backyard.

Your startup costs are really, really minimal. All you really need is a homemade box for rooting cuttings. Let’s say that you start out growing two different kinds of flowering shrubs. Flowering shrubs are always really hot sellers!

As an example let’s say that you choose Java Red Weigela and Variegated Weigela.

Two of my personal favorites.

And . . . These are great plants to grow and sell

1. They grow quickly.

2. They are easy to propagate.

3. People go crazy over them when they see the flowers.

4. They will supply you with an endless supply of cuttings that you can turn into cash.

Read number four again, and as you do think about the guy that owns the local hardware store in your town. Let’s say that in a given calendar year he sells 150 claw hammers. In order for him to sell 150 claw hammers a year, how many does he have to buy before he can sell them?

The answer is obvious isn’t it?

He has to buy in at least 150 claw hammers in order to sell 150 this year. He doesn’t have to buy them all at once, but he does have to buy them before he can sell them. Next year, same thing. If he is to sell 150 claw hammers next year, he has to buy another 150 claw hammers and hang them on the tool rack before he can sell them.

If a claw hammer sells for $19.99 I think it’s safe to say that his cost per hammer is approximately $12.00. $8.00 profit per hammer, but he has to tie up his money in every single item in that store before he can sell anything.

Now let’s flip back to me and you and the plants in our backyard. Specifically the two plants that I’ve shown here as an example for you to grow. Two different kinds of weigela. Java Red Weigela and Variegated Weigela .

This is the beauty of the plant business.

You only have to buy your initial stock plants one time. That’s it! One time!

Once you have them growing in your yard you have them. Every spring when the leaves appear they start putting on new growth. You can take cuttings from that new growth and root each and every one of those cuttings and sell them for cash as rooted cuttings.

As soon as you take the cuttings the plant is stimulated to grow again, and suddenly you have more new growth that you can remove and use for cuttings. And this just keeps happening over and over and over for years!

You can start with a single plant to use as a stock plant, or you can start with several plants to use as stock plants. But this is the thing that you need to “You only have to buy your stock plant or plants one time!”

Compare that to the hardware store.

The hardware store owner is working on a 40% mark up. When you root your own cuttings and sell them as cuttings or as small plants your margin of profit is insanely higher. The actual cost to make a rooted cutting is so low that I’m not even sure how to calculate the actual cost. Nor do I want to because I don’t want to start making pie in the sky claims.

But I will tell you this, and these are facts. I bought 50 Java Red Weigela on the wholesale market for 65¢ each. $32.50 for all 50 of them. I planted them in a small bed in my nursery, probably an area 48” by 48”. Not a big area at all. From those 50 plants, last summer I took at least 500 cuttings. I actually took cuttings in June, then from the very same plants I took cuttings again in the fall. I’ll stick some diagrams in here to show you how that works.

This spring I’ll dig my 50 original plants and put them in small pots and sell them for $4.97 each. Let’s see, 50 times $4.97 equals $248.50. My initial investment was $32.50 for my original stock plants. That alone is a pretty good profit, but that’s just the beginning. I’ve still got the 500 rooted cuttings that I got from my original stock plants.

Now when I pot up my original stock plants there will be some expense in doing that. I’ll have to buy the pots, the soil and some fertilizer. When growing plants in containers you don’t use regular dirt from the yard, that just doesn’t work. You need a potting mix, but I’ll teach you how to make your own potting mix.

Let’s say that I have to spend 25¢ on a pot, which is really on the high end. I actually buy them for a lot less than that, but for this example we’ll say 25¢ for the pot.

On average it costs me right around, no less than $32.00 per cubic yard to mix up my own potting soil. I can easily fill 1,050 4” round pots with one cubic yard of potting soil. That works out to just a smidgen over 3¢ for the soil, but we’ll round that up to 5¢ for the soil just to keep the math simple.

Fertilizer. Small plants grown in containers need a very special blend of slow release fertilizer that is designed for container growing. The product that I use is called Osmocote 14-14-14 and it’s a 3 to 4 month release product. That means that it takes the fertilizer approximately 3 to 4 months to completely release all of the nutrients to the plant. Osmocote is a pretty handy product because it slowly feeds your container grown plants a little each day. Sorta like a plant nanny.

Warning! Warning! Warning!

There are two kinds of plant fertilizers on the market. Those that will help your plants a lot, like Osmocote. And those that will . . . Kill Your Plants Deader than a Doornail!

Seriously, regular everyday garden and plant fertilizers very easily could kill your plants. I’ve seen it happen to people over and over and over. Hardy plants like flowering shrubs and evergreens cannot use the amount of nitrogen that a regular everyday fertilizer release as soon as it is applied. You absolutely, positively, must use a product like Osmocte that releases very slowly over a period of at least 3 to 4 days.

Those last two paragraphs are really, really important.

Now, with all of that said, a good slow release fertilizer like Osmocote is not cheap when you compare it to plain, old, everyday garden fertilizer. You can pick up a bag of garden fertilzer at your local garden store or farm supply store less than $10.00. The same size bag of Osmocote will cost you approximately $75.00 at the time of this writing.

Why such a huge difference?

The simple answer is . . . one will Kill your plants and the other won’t.

Okay, I’ve pounded on that very important point long enough. Make sure you use Osmocote 14-14-14. It’s what your plants really, really need.

How many plants can you fertilize with one bag of fertilizer? I don’t honestly know but I’m sure it’s well over 1,000. Each plant only gets between a teaspoon and a tablespoon depending on the size of the plant and the size of the pot. So for simple math we’ll divide the $75.00 for the bag of Osmocote by 1,000 (the number of plants we can fertilize with one bag of fertilizer. That means that it will cost 7.5¢ to fertilize each plant at the time of potting. We’ll call that 8¢.

Let’s see now . . .

25¢ for the pot.

5¢ for the potting soil.

8¢ for the fertilizer.

The cutting was as close to free as you can get, we rooted that ourselves. So for each plant that we can sell for $4.97 our actual cost to make those plants is 38¢. Let that sink in. Then think about the guy or gal that owns the hardware store.

He can’t even double his money on the products that he has to buy and resell and we can easily multiply our investment by thirteen times.

I know it sounds amazing, but it really does work that way. Of course the catch is that you need customers who are willing to buy your plants. I’ll show you where and how to find the customers that will jump at the chance to buy your plants.

I’ve been doing this and teaching it to others for years. It really does work. I’m not claiming that this will make you rich. That would be a crazy thing for me to do. But what I am telling you is that in a very small area in your backyard you can convert small amounts of money and effort into cold hard cash. How much? That depends on you and how big you want your business to be. The demand for small plants is huge. All you have to do is tap into that demand.

I’m sure that by now you are already starting to connect the dots. As you go through this article I want you to think about the guy at the hardware store. The woman who owns the dress shop, the guy with the auto parts store and just about any other business that you can think of. Then think about how much simpler this business model is. Think about the advantage of only having to buy your stock plant or plants one time.

These four points are worth repeating.

1. They grow quickly.

2. They are easy to propagate.

3. People go crazy over them when they see the flowers.

4. They will supply you with an endless supply of cuttings that you can turn into cash.

So essentially, the more cuttings that you take from your stock plants, the more cuttings the plants will produce. And that’s what makes this business of growing and selling small plants so awesome. The more cuttings you take, the more cuttings the plant makes. It’s an endless supply of cuttings. Before long, in your yard, no matter how small it is, you have a self-replenishing inventory of plants that you can propagate.

No other business in the world has that advantage!

To learn more on how to start your own successful backyard nursery, go to:

One Comment

  • Resh says:

    What an incredible idea!
    My son (he’s 5) was looking for a business idea and this might be perfect for him 🙂 Thanks Leo!

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