Shop Products
Houzz Logo Print

Easy plants from seed to start a small business?

15 years ago

Hello all. I'm not a professional but please be patient with me. I have a spinal cord injury so it is not easy for me to find a full time job. But I do love gardening and saw in the local classifieds a new listing for plants. So I was thinking I could start small, maybe with one type of plant and put in a listing and see if I get any sales.

I am hoping to grow something that is easy and beautiful. Right now since I do have the seeds I am considering blanket flower, milkeed and dwarf poiciena.

Blanket flower is so easy to grow and has beautiful flowers and is a definite choice but I'm not sure of it's life span and would not want to sell a plant that dies after a year. Any information on this choice is appreciated.

I planted 4 dwarf poiciena seeds and they all sprouted very quickly and the blooms are beautiful so I think it could be a good choice.

I can also get many coral vine and lantana seeds if I wanted to try them.

Anyway, I appreciate any suggestions and help on my idea.

Also I want to say I really do love gardening and it's not about money, just that I need it for bills.

Thank you again!


Comments (12)

  • 15 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Two rules of thumb:
    1. If it is easy, it does not command a high price and is offered by a lot of people.
    2. Whatever you can grow and market on a small scale can be produced much more cost effectively by a larger scale operation which means that they can often sell it for less than it costs you to produce it making it very difficult for you to sell yours at a profit.

  • 15 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I do that too. right from my side yard.
    what you find easy is not always easy for everyone.
    grow what you like to start and people will ask if you have this or that and that;s how you know what to plant next.
    I sell my plants in solo(keg cups) for $2.00 each.
    annuals, veggies, herbs perennials.
    extras go in my own gardens.
    last years i divided some iris's and sold out at $5.00.
    in bigger pots of course.
    you do need a license.
    money wasn't great but not bad for a part time venture.
    good luck.

  • 15 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I'm doing this very thing to make a little money for a project I want to do at the library (a veggie garden to teach people to grow their own food), though I'll be having a one-day plant sale in their parking lot instead of placing classifieds. You may want to consider that, if your neighborhood allows that (you may want to approach any "powers that be" with the idea that it's like a garage sale, but plants instead of "junque"). Or maybe you can look into getting a booth at a local farmers' market? Go ask first to see if it's even worth selling plants there. If they tell you no one sells plants, that might mean an untapped market you can exploit, or it could be there's a good reason no one's doing it. Try to find out which beforehand.

    Milkweed (Asclepias) is a good one from your list ~ very popular and fairly easy from seed. Do you have experience with them yet? If so, maybe that should be your one plant to start with.

    I know you said you don't want to do annuals, but if you're good at starting petunias, pansies and violas from seed, you may want to try just a few of those anyway. Even though everyone and their dog sells those, people who come to buy your other plants may pick up some of those as well as it seems genetically programmed into people to grab a couple six packs of those three every time they see them. LOL! Just be sure that your plants are healthy and priced within reason or you won't sell a one.

    Basil ~ super easy from seed, but again, it seems like everyone is programmed to buy that when they see it. There are so many different types, and those do sell, but mostly it's the regular old type that sells. And if you don't sell them, you can pot them up into larger pots and have another chance at selling them later in the year, just like the milkweed.

    Chives ~ another one easy from seed (but only fresh seed ~ germination rates go WAY down if they're old). And another one that's popular. And they're perennial. You probably already know this, but just be sure to have a BUNCH of plants in the same pot ~ little pots with just two or three chive plants don't sell as people won't get their money's worth.

    Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and tomatillos, are also easy from seed, exceedingly popular (well, the tomatoes and peppers are ~ not so much on the other two), and good candidates for potting up larger if you don't sell them at seedling stage. Tomatoes and peppers are another example of "see them = have to buy them" plants, especially the good old types people are familiar with like Patio, Beefsteak, Big Boy, Sweet Million, California Wonder pepper, Banana pepper, jalapeno, etc. And the ornamentals go well if they're already large enough to be flowering/fruiting ~ the ones with brightly colored fruit, purple foliage or variegated in any way. Eggplants and tomatillos not so much, so I wouldn't start very many of those (but if you don't, atleast down here, you'll be sure to get asked if you have any ;). If you give out printed recipes with those two, you're more apt to sell them (you can print multiples to a page and cut out to make it cheaper), but again, not nearly as many of those sell as do tomatoes, so only start a handful.

    I'm also starting a few artichokes for my plant sale. Easy-peasey from seed. I'll be printing out detailed care info to give with them and will make sure people know they're a biennial, so won't likely get any harvest 'til next year (don't want anyone surprised later, thus mad at me ;). But I think they'll be a nice novelty that people may try one or two of. They do sell quite a few of them at the nursery where I work ~ I was surprised to see that, so thought I'd try them as well. Worst case scenario ~ I take them home, pot them into larger pots and grow them through the winter, selling them next year for more money since buyers will be getting fruit from them that year.

    Have you looked into rooting cuttings from plants you have already? Some easy things are rosemary, honeysuckle, any type of willow, any type of fig (fruiting or ornamental) and most types of the hibiscus family (hardy ones). It wouldn't cost much to try out other things you have ~ just put the soil in a butter tub or something and stick a bunch of cuttings in together. If they don't make it, not much time or effort is lost. If they do make it, they're easily separated, even if WELL rooted, by dunking the rootball in water (you can strain out the rooting medium and reuse it even). One more tip ~ if you don't have any of these plants, ask around in your neighborhood ~ someone may give you cuttings in return for helping them do a little pruning or deadheading in their garden. Or maybe they'll trade you cuttings for some tomato plants later.

    (You may have already thought of this, and if so, I apologize.) Have you added up all your costs to make sure you won't actually lose money? I haven't since I know I'll personally lose money (all proceeds are going to the library project), but am doing it more to find local gardeners and get them interested in my project, which I think an advertised plant sale will do, than for a return on my investment (though I do think I'll make a little money, if I don't count my time). If I were looking to make money for myself though, I'd definitely and carefully add everything up beforehand, not forgetting to add in the water bill. Not only will this help you avoid getting deeper into a hole monetarily, but it will help you find places you can cut back to save more. Like using recycled pots ~ I'm using ones I get from my job and a local golf course to cut costs ~ that may be a good thing for you to do as well.

    Whatever you do, start out small. I can't stress that enough because if you start small, you'll learn from your mistakes instead of being drowned by them. Good luck! :)

  • 15 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    A couple more thoughts -

    One advantage you have that the big box stores don't necessarily have - you *know* that the plants you are selling are easy to grow in your neighborhood. Nurseries and garden centers will sell plants that need to be babied, to those who are into various forms of plant mothering. You can give more honest/realistic answers to the questions you get.

    And have you considered advertising your services as a seed starter? if you have people already asking you about plants, why not do it to order?

    Please take seriously the advice to start small and slow. Pay attention to what your customers tell you, and react accordingly. You're in business to please them, not yourself.

  • 15 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thank you all so much for your kindness and great advice and ideas. I think if I do this I will for sure start small. I do have a few different hibiscus, and allamanda plants that I could try cuttings from. And Bougainvillea. That is if they all recover from the freeze, 20 degreese south florida, crazy. I also do have cranberry hibiscus that produce seed, are easy to grow, and are edible. Another good choice maybe. I really like the pepper plant idea too, but do they have a long life span?

    Please tell me more about being a seed starter? Would I basically sell seedlings?

    Also I forgot to mention that I have several swamp hibiscus seeds (hibiscus cocineus - scarlet)and started about ten last year. They have such a beautiful flower that I think would sell very easily but they take two years I think to mature.

    Thank you again,

  • 15 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    You're welcome for the help. :) You're starting on a fun adventure, if you can just not lose faith. Try to look at the "non-successes" as just that, and not failures. Look at them as learning experiences and just keep going, trying again, not giving up. If you start small and don't count your chickens before they hatch (as tempting as that may be...), it'll be LOADS easier to do that.

    I'd try starting a few cuttings of everything you have, even if you don't have any rooting hormone, soilless mix or a greenhouse, and use it as a learning experience. Rooting things is really easier than one may think. All you really need is a cutting with atleast two nodes (one below the soil level for roots to sprout from and one above for leaves), some type of light soil/media to stick it in and water. Once rooted, it'll need more sun and some food of course, but just to get them rooted you don't need much. Things like rooting hormone, a heated greenhouse, bottom heat, extra-light soilless media to start them in (like peat, vermiculite or perlite), etc., do help speed things up a good bit and increase the percentage of cuttings that actually root (some people get as much as 95% or better using all the above), but you can start some things without all that. You just have to be more patient since it takes longer, and also be okay with maybe having only half of the cuttings actually root. Some plants are harder to root than others, so some you won't get any to root while others you may get 80% rooted. But if you have more time than money, that might be what you have to do to get started.

    If you don't have a greenhouse, set up a makeshift coldframe on the ground up against your house so you can start now (or as soon as it gets warmer than twenty degrees ~ BRRRRRR!) ~ something as simple as some stakes in the ground to hold some clear plastic up off the cuttings a bit would work (clear or "opaque" builder's or painter's plastic from Home Depot ~ just be sure to check it often for brittleness and replace it once it starts getting that way or it'll fall apart and you'll have thousands of little pieces all over your yard). You'd be getting ambient heat from the ground and your house. Just keep an eye on the temps inside it so you don't cook them (it can get over 100 degrees in there quicker than you think). Once sprouted, you could even put your seedlings in there. If it's hard for you to bend over that far, maybe you could put some old boards across some cinder blocks to raise them a bit. In your zone, it'd probably still stay warm enough inside without having to run a heater. Just remember that the taller it is, the cooler it will be since the heat from the ground and the house will have to heat a larger area.

    "I also do have cranberry hibiscus that produce seed, are easy to grow, and are edible. Another good choice maybe. I really like the pepper plant idea too, but do they have a long life span?" Hibiscus are always popular, so I'd say yes, they'd be good. Pretty and/or edible is usually always good. Peppers are tender perennials (will live as long as they aren't subjected to a killing freeze). Most people grow them as annuals in the veggie garden, letting them die when frost hits, but some ornamental peppers are kept in pots for years like houseplants.

    "Please tell me more about being a seed starter? Would I basically sell seedlings?" If you want to. It's up to you. You can sell them as three inch tall plants in 2" pots or six-packs, or you could grow them to fully mature plants. It all just depends on how long you want to keep them. I'd start out selling as soon as I had plants that I could honestly and sincerely say, "I'd pay two bucks for that." Or whatever price you plan to put on it. Be critical. Go check out what the competition's selling and make sure yours look as good or better (preferably better) for the price.

    For the cuttings, I'd atleast grow them until they have rooted well enough to have put on a lot of new foliage. I wouldn't ever try to sell a cutting that doesn't have but a few new leaves ~ that's too soon to be relatively sure it won't die soon after transplant. Your buyers are only buying from you because either they don't know how to propagate the plant themselves or, most likely, they don't want to have to baby the plants themselves. They want to be able to take it home, plop it into the ground or a pot outside and have it grow. So make sure yours are big enough to handle that.

    The ones that don't sell, I'd pot up in larger pots as they grow and put a higher price on them. At the end of this year, you'll likely have a few plants like that. That'd be nice since you can offer a wider selection to your customers. Over time you'll find out what plants sell better in larger sizes, and can plan accordingly for the next year ~ start them earlier to have them that size at the beginning of the year.

    Start collecting larger pots now so you'll be ready for that. You can ask at nurseries (keep in mind some, like WalMart, have to give them back to the grower, or atleast hold on to them until they can be counted/verified by the grower), landscapers and landscaped places like golf courses. Maybe even your local freecycle. Ask gardening clubs, too. To avoid bringing home pests and diseases, keep the pots separate from your growing area and dunk them in some clorox water before you use them (I use a big trashcan and put the entire stack of pots in it, letting them sit and soak for a while to make sure the clorox gets in between each pot).

    Other things you can collect now are any type of irrigation supplies. Hoses, hoses, hoses. Sprinklers are good as well. It's nice to have those professional misting/watering systems, but if you don't have the money, a regular yard sprinkler set up on a couple of cinder blocks set in the middle of your grow area will do the job okay for now. If you notice the plants getting beat up too much or getting funguses, you may have to resort to hand watering, but even that's not too bad ~ I use the time to plan out what I'll do the next day.

    Hit construction sites and ask them for any castoff lumber to build propagation beds with. Nail them into bottomless "boxes" on the ground (like raised beds), fill with compost and/or potting soil, and stick some cuttings in those for rooting (once rooted, just transplant them out into bigger pots) ~ in winter, just put some stakes at the corners or pipe hoops across them, cover with plastic, and keep going. If you get lucky and find lots of lumber and some old windows, you can even get fancy and build some cold frames like this one, or use plastic or plastic corrugated roofing sheets to make them like this one, or these.

    Start collecting mother plants as well ~ any plant you find easy to propagate. Build a nice flowerbed and fill it with plants to grow to take cuttings from later ~ two of each in case you lose one. If you start from cuttings now, you'll have a nice cutting source in a few years. If you can't put them in the ground, keep them in pots ~ plastic food grade barrels cut in half and holes drilled in the bottom work well, last forever and are cheap ($10 or $15 apiece ~ keep watching the classifieds in your local paper, and Craigslist).

    Like I keep saying, just start small and be patient. Don't give up, and five years down the road you may be sitting in your backyard looking at half a dozen propagation beds, a dozen cold frames, a couple thousand pots lined up in rows and a little greenhouse ~ all filled with growing plants. Nice thought, isn't it? :)

  • 15 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thank you so much for the information and encouragment, I truly do appreciate fit and hope to get some small things going soon.


  • 15 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    As far as pots, keep a look out for garden centers that are going out of business. My hubby and I picked up 3 pickup loads of pots just before a garden center went out of business. They were used, but I left outside for a winter or two, and have had no problems. But below zero weather for a month or so, will take care of most bugs unless they can burrow into the ground.

  • 15 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hello all, I am trying to start a business myself selling annuals and some perennials. Right now I'm starting small since i'm using the space I have in my spare room and 6x8 Greenhouse I built. I have alot of your basic annuals like Impatience, Marigolds, Zinnia, Calendula, Petunias Etc. I also have about 3 flats of Lavender growing. I'm just hoping to make back the money I spent on the supplies and building materials like the 32 fluorescent light fixtures and 4 shelf units I put up to start everything under lights this past winter. As far as numbers I have maybe 500-800 potential plants to sell. I am selling stuff in flats that are 10 plants per flat in 4.5 inch pots. Also have 6 inch and 10 inch pots which ill put multiple flowers in and sell for a bit more. Pricing seems to be the hard part. Home Depot sells things cheap but the plants look no where near as nice as mine. So i was wonder for a flat of 10 plants (Marigolds, Zinnia's, Impatience ) If 2 bucks a plant is too much or say 20 dollars a flat? then the 6 inch for maybe 4 dollars and the 10 inch for 8? I'll try it out. The plants do look great.

  • 15 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    What I do is, If I am selling a single plant pot for $2, I would sell the flat for $18. Yes I would be losing $2, but I would have 10 of the plants sold to 1 person, thus saving time talking up the plants to 10 different people. Plus the customer thinks they are getting a good deal and will buy multiples. It's worked for me. The flats around this area are 1204 or 1203, 48 or 36 plants for about $18.

  • 15 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    No way you can compete and make money off of plants in your situation.

  • 15 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    No, I can't compete with the Walmarts of the world with price. What I can do is, out-sell them with customer service and knowledge. This has happened for the past 9 yrs. If you don't have good customer service skills and knowledge of what you have to offer, you will find it hard to succeed.