houseplants at Farmer's Market

plant.babies(Zone 7-8)July 18, 2006

I grow houseplant starts and sell them at local Farmer's Market. My business is called "Plant Babies"

I am looking for others who do this type of business.



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I sell some house plants at our market.....not many, they're not a big seller for me...but my main focus is veggie & bedding plants in the spring, and baked goods.

BTW, what sells good for you?

    Bookmark   July 19, 2006 at 9:32AM
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I sell at a large flea market that has some 'farmer's market' style vendors. I sell mostly perennials and annuals with a few herbs and veggies thrown in. I have sold houseplants but they are not big sellers for me. I have a large collection of them to take cuttings from so they do help me keep by display full. I only sell in the spring so my season is over.

My biggest sellers as far as houseplants go would have to be ferns. I only offer a few types: Erect Sword Fern, Rabbit's Foot Fern, Tiger Fern (these are easy for me to grow). I can usually sell a couple of houseplant classics like airplane plant or wandering jew. People know what they are and always need one as a gift.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2006 at 11:48AM
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Hi: I too sell house plants. I have found that Jades and unusal plants or catus sell well. They are not my main sellers, but they help fill in after the bedding plants slow down. I sell mostly what I call babies. They are about 3 to four inches tall. The spider plants are sold singles.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2006 at 10:06PM
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catsoup(zone 6)

I don't sell at a Farmer's Market, but I sell houseplants to a local florist. She is just getting started and I am helping her out. I grow mostly angel wing begonias, cane begonias, swedish ivy & jews of different varieties.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 6:00AM
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I grow and sell about 25 different houseplants, desert plants (aloe, jade), what I call 'patio plants' (lavender, mints, thyme, etc).

I am putting in a greenhouse soon.

What I want to find out is "what general income can be generated from selling consistently at FM's".

I DO plan to have herb and veggie starts in the Spring, along w/ my usual assortment -- mainly because people ask me about them every week.

This is my first year. I began the business suddenly in late May. I had no prior prep before my first sale day except potting up 50 cuttings I had sitting around in water.

So I'm slowly getting going since then.

I qualify for Grants, so I'm putting together a Business Plan to submit. That's why I'd like to have contact w/ a few others who do this same kind of selling -- a Business Plan almost always provides a few 'same kind of business' comparisons.

If someone wants to email me w/ some details about their business, I'd appreciate it. Since we aren't near we probably aren't competition.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 3:43PM
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I asked these same questions a year or so ago when I was exploring ways to add plants to my mix (I sell crafts). I think a lot of people don't have the answers so they don't respond, it has little to do with competition. Many small scale vendors at Flea Markets or Farmer's Markets don't keep accurate books or records so they cannot tell you hard numbers or data. Sometimes this is because they find that at their market there are no patterns to tailor your merchandise by - the shoppers are looking for something different every weekend and there is no way to predict what they will buy.

In this area (Raleigh NC) there are many huge commercial plant growers, they all have overstock. It is very easy for them to load up a truck or two and pay some teenagers to sit all day selling plants at any street corner or empty parking lot. They also fill the Farmer's Market during the spring. Here there is a spring rush on bedding plants, once the weather gets hot, plant buying plummets. It can be very hard to make big bucks selling bedding plants because you cannot compete on price with these big operations. Around here springtime bedding plants are sold at every grocery store, convenience store etc. not to mention all the church groups that have plant sales. At the large State run Farmer's Market there are close to 30 plant vendors during the spring (they outnumber produce vendors during April May & June). Only one of them specializes in cactus/succulents. Most of them downsize or shut down completely once the spring rush is over. None of them opperate during the winter though the market is still open. I have heard that on a good day some of them make $3,000 - $6,000. On a bad day they may make $100. Meanwhile some of the produce vendors have been profiled in the paper and they complain of $15 days!!! Keep in mind that in the course of the year only a few weekends are at the high end of sales - this is why the big operations get out of it once the buyers quit coming.

This area has plenty of organic/small farm produce available in any grocery store. The farmer's market is not the only place to buy it - so the customer base tends to be people that enjoy open air markets. Many people make it a weekend ritual to shop the farmers market.

I would say that the people I know that sell live plants at the market are barely making a decent living. Most of them do not own the business, instead they work for one of the big operations and the Farmer's Market is their weekend part time job. They do it because it is enjoyable and easy for them. They know plants. They know how to sell plants. They would rather do this as a weekend job than work someplace else.

I sell at the Flea Market which is also open air but much different. My customers are mostly foreign born and non-English speaking. They are looking for herbs and veggies from their homeland. They also LOVE to spend the entire day walking around the market. I believe they buy everything they can from the market rather than shop in a normal store. People enjoy seeing plants for sale but they don't routinely buy them. Luckily the way the market is set up, they can drive right up to my booth and load up anything heavy they purchse. During the spring there are a few church groups selling bedding plants and herbs and about 5 permanent vendors that sell hanging baskets and gallon perennials. My guess would be that most of them are making between $100 and $500 per day (crowds are the same on Saturday or Sunday). Occassionaly a large greenhouse operation will set up for the entire weekend and sell trees or shrubs and they make a few thousand. It costs them a lot for all the space and to hire staff to load and unload the plants so they often complain about slow sales.

I decided that rather than nose dive into it and buy large amounts of plugs I would just sell whatever I can grow myself, from a booth I can set up and break down by myself using a truck that I can load and unload by myself. It keeps everything on the low end but in the long run it has removed the panic of slow days. If the weather turns foul and sales drop off I can simply pack up and leave. I am well respected at the market by the regular customers and the other plant vendors. They see me as "that gardening guy, doing his own thing" and not as a big competitor trying to take over the market with cheap plants. I pay $18 for my spot. I bring my own food and drink (I allow myself $5 for extra food if I get bored or hungry). I can haul around 300 plants in my truck. I set up on my own tables (the market charges for table rental). I can normally sell one third of what I bring. My plants range from $1 to $5, my crafts sell from $5 to $25. My average daily sales are $135. Most customers buy between $10 and $20 worth of stuff. Craft customer don't seem to buy plants and plant customers don't seem to buy crafts. I have a few customers that spend less (around $5) but they buy something every weekend. I usually only put in 5-6 hours and I rarely work both days (its a weekend market). The flea market is held on the fairgrounds parking lot and it gets way too hot for the plants buy the end of June so I quit for the year. I know it doesn't sound like much money for so much work - but I have worked for local greenhouse nursery businesses and for part time weekend work they always paid less. So for the luxury of doing my own thing at my own pace it works for now.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2006 at 11:07AM
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wow --- great information ...thanks!

I only plan to sell small houseplants and a *few* other popular plants like Hostas at Farmer's Markets in the area. There are 4 venues I could hit in a single week. There are, so far, no other houseplant booths at any of these markets.

Right now I am just doing one Farmer's Market in my town, close to my house. It's slow, and small with only 6 booths so far -- my best day was $40 for 4 hours.

The reason I got into this was that I met a lady who has a booth at a larger Saturday Market in a town 19 miles away. She said she cleared $12,000.00 last year. She sells veggie and herb starts, which I will do a bit of at the front of the season mainly because people asked me weekly "do you have cukes .... zucchini ... tomato?"

I don't need to support myself - just need to have some kind of work to do that's not too heavy or too long hours.

I can get a disability Grant, so have been working on a Business Plan w/ local SBA to submit soon.

Sometimes I feel great about it, really gung-ho, and on occasion I feel "why bother, I'm not going to ever have better income". I KNOW those thoughts are really bad to have, self-destructive and defeating, so I try to give myself a talking-to when I do have them.

I think most people see me at the market the way they see you. A 'small gardening gal'. There is a guy who has a hosta/peony/daylily booth -- they sell for $10-30 bucks, and last week he made more than $400.00! (same week I made $40)

So ... hopefully I can get into growing and selling a few larger hostas and daylilies as time goes by.

I don't plan on growing huge -- just want to have fun and make a little supplemental cash for the family.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2006 at 3:40PM
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Our situations are very similar. Though the flea market I sell is HUGE, with up to 10,000 shoppers per day and close to 300 vendors - most of the customers are not there looking for plants (or crafts!). It would be very hard to make enough money to quit my day job and only do this. I am not going to convert my yard into a production range. I am not going to go without food or sleep to stick cuttings. I am not going to heat a large greenhouse. I am not going to hire a crew to help me get to market or set up. I have no desire to take over the world - I just want a small temporary shop where I can sell what I want to sell, when I want to sell AND I want my products to mostly be what I can produce with my own two hands.

The bad news: I does seem that customers want to see you at the market every single day. This doesn't mean that they are going to buy something every time they see you. But they want to know that you are a regular vendor, that they can rely on you.

Being a vendor at an open air market leads people to think that your product should be cheaper than at a big box retailer. People want things for less than wholesale nowadays.

People will ask for something and then never buy it once you grow it.

There is no rhyme or reason to the marketplace. There is no way to predict what will be a big seller. Just because somebody else can move a lot of something doesn't mean that you will also move the same amount. And just because something was a big seller last year doesn't mean that it will be a big seller this year.

I have friends that sell produce at a Farmers market and I get to talk to a lot of produce vendors - there are plenty of them that grow tired of dealing with customers. I won't say that they hate people, but by the end of the weekend they would prefer to be alone for a while. I on the other hand love dealing with the public. I can sit there all day and talk about gardening and the few regular customers that I have know it and enjoy it. Going to market is a big social exercise for me - I miss it when I'm not there. I constantly see plants that I just know would be big sellers the next time I set up my booth (this always fails! its the overlooked ones that seem to move better).

I still say that it is a great part time job for me - and I'm the boss! which is priceless.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 10:59AM
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i totally agree w/ you on what I want. I have people on other forums telling me stuff like 'you don't know what you are getting into - you won't make it unless you work 24/7, etc'.

Well, so what.

If I 'don't make it' to $10,000.00 a year, at least I'll be doing something!

It's not like this is a win-lose situation, you know? You sit w/ your plants, and if they don't sell, you take them home where they will get bigger and can sell for more money next time.

I'm also thinking to try selling on Ebay for a while -- just to see how that will go.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 3:25PM
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Wow - I'm really glad I found this forum. I've really enjoyed reading your posts, GW and Triangle! My husband and I have sold plants at a local Farmer's Market for 9 years. I can relate to so much of what you say. It's so true that there is no rhyme or reason to what people will buy. The plant that is our biggest seller one year may not be in demand at all the next. Also, if I try to sell what I see another vendor doing well with, it may not work for me. I keep good records from year to year and the only consistency I've found is that nothing is consistent. We do pretty well in the spring with lilacs, IF they look great and IF it isn't raining the week that they are in their prime and IF there aren't 5 other vendors selling lilacs the same week. One year we'll do great with ornamental grasses, the next year we can't give them away. We make almost all of our money in May. Our markets don't start until the first of May. Here in Oregon it might be sunny and warm in April, or rainy and cold. If it's warm, and the garden centers are all stocked early, that hurts our sales in May. If it's cold in April but warms up nicely in May, and doesn't rain on the weekends, we do great, if our crops look good. We do mostly shrubs and perennials. I tried annuals one year because it seemed like all the other vendors were doing so well with them, but for me that was more work than it was worth. I think it was too much competition.

So we know we will never get rich growing plants and selling at markets. But it's a lot of fun. We have repeat customers who tell us how great the hydrangea they got from us last year is doing, and that just warms my heart. One guy who has bought from us for years even brought a photo of his honeysuckle that we sold him (no, it's not a noxious weed here in Oregon! Blackberries, that's another story....) We pay $35 a week for our space, set our plants either on the ground or on shelves (fenceboards sitting on upside down nursery pots). We only bring what we can fit in the back of our pickup. On a really good day in May we might make $500. On a typical day in June it's more like $100 and in July we're lucky to make space rent some days. But we keep going (except last Saturday, when the temp was 105!) because we like the atmosphere, and because there is always a possibility that even on a hot summer day, someone may come along and buy $75 worth of plants. You just never know.

We did finally, last year, put up a 12' x 15' greenhouse and put in a mist system. (It was a tax write off! - Plus I've always wanted one) Now we do alot of our own propagation, although I still buy some liners/plugs from a wholesale nursery. I also buy unusual perennials or grasses at a local garden center or from other market vendors and divide them. For next year I'm growing a really colorful assortment of small ornamental grasses. (Hakonechloa, Black Mondo, Blue Oat Grass, Carex 'Cappuccino', Japanese Blood Grass...) I don't know if they will sell or not but I like them.

On thing I have learned is that most sales at Farmer's Markets are impulse sales. Although there are a few customers who come to the market to find something specific, most will buy the plant that looks so amazingly great that they can't go home without it. It's hard for us to sell anything that doesn't have a flower on it. That makes it hard to sell summer blooming plants, because plants don't sell well in summer, and they aren't in bloom when people want to buy plants. So we have focused on growing mostly plants that will be in their prime in May. Probably about 50 - 70% of our plants are ones that look best in spring and early summer. We grow a smaller percentage of plants that bloom late just so that we will have something to fill the truck with in summer.

I have also thought of selling on ebay. I know there are alot of restrictions on interstate shipping of plants, but I think the local Dept of Ag website would have all the necessary information. I've also considered selling seeds. I have some interesting plants which can be seed grown, and I think collecting and shipping seeds would be easy.

Bottom line, our Farmer's Market business supports my gardening habit! Good luck with yours.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 8:03PM
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Hi Willa,

I see you are in Oregon! I am in The Dalles.

IF I COULD bring plants out prior to May and again in late June, I will make sales of veggie/herb starts because the stores around here are very specific on their buying times -- they don't start carrying until a certain time, and run out quickly. They don't re-order if the season starts flat. One year literally everyone had their gardens in, and we had a hard freeze. We all had to go out of town to replace.

People whose veg. plants die don't have anywhere except Farmer's Mkts to buy a replacement after stores run out.

I have never tried growing veg/herbs from seed except in the ground - so next Spring will be a trial for me!

I sold a cuke last week.

I guess what I will do is buy seeds at local end-of-season sales for 50 cents a package and plant them in the greenhouse in flats. Nothing to lose if I fail at that I suppose.

I don't yet have a wholesale source for plugs -- can you point me in a direction?


    Bookmark   July 26, 2006 at 5:44PM
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Hi Plant Babies!
I am in western Oregon - Yamhill to be exact. We sell at the Farmer's Market in Hillsboro, west of Portland. I have bought plugs in the past from a local wholesale perennial grower (Blooming Nursery, Cornelius. They have a web site They grow all kinds of perennials, grasses and herbs, and sell in trays of 94, 50 or 36. I think they have a 6 flat minimum, and flats run anywhere from about $30 - $60, depending on size. There is also an annual grower in Cornelius (New Leaf Greenhouse) that I think will sell plug trays of annuals. I've never bought from them. Buying plugs is easy but kind of expensive because of the minimum order requirements of the wholesalers. If you don't know if you will be able to sell them it might be risky.

It sounds like you have a good opportunity if the stores don't sell plants all season. Especially if you have a late freeze! Have you thought of trying to sell TO the stores if/when they run out? They might have the same problem with the wholesalers needing a minimum order.

Good luck - I look forward to chatting with you here!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2006 at 10:17PM
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thanks Willa,

it's nice to find someone in the same state.

I have Barb Pashek in The Dalles -- she used to be the largest nursery owner in the area, but sold the biz, when subsequently closed down. She buys plugs, so I think I will ask her to 'add' a flat or two to her orders for me -- I think she will do it, she's pretty supportive.

let's keep in touch.

my email addy:


    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 3:13PM
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Hi again!
I'd love to keep in touch. I was just "surfing the net" last week when I found garden web and this forum. It's great to be able to see what other people all around the country are doing.

My business is called Willamette Meadows. My name is Robin, and my email is

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 9:35PM
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Hello plant babies,
i too am growing and propagating my own plants. mostly houseplants and succulents, but have recently been propagating bushes for next year. also want to try veggies and herbs. my husband is in the process of building a greenhouse. i want to try craig's list as well as farmer's markets. good luck on your venture and stay positive!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2013 at 1:56PM
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Be sure that if you are doing any 'woody' stemmed plant check to see if your state requires a nurseryman license. Indiana does, from what I understand. No need to get into trouble just because you don't have a certain piece of paper.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2013 at 2:54PM
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Thanks for the info, myfamily'sfarm,

may i ask, (& hopefully don't sound too ignorant!), why 'woody' stemmed plants would cause me to possibly need a nurseryman license? i'll have to check into it. appreciate your help!

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 6:49AM
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