Being able to purchase plants wholesale

natalie4b(7b GA)May 18, 2009


beside having a retail nursery - what other options does one have to be able to purchase plant material wholesale on line and from retail stores. Would being a Master Gardener help? (I am not, though was thinking about becoming one). I buy a lot of plants for my personal garden, and was wondering if I can save money.

Thank you!

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I predict a huge groundswell by nursery men and women everywhere to give you the information you need to help you buy a lot of plants for your personal garden at wholesale costs.
I'd help you myself, but today, I'm just plumb tuckered out from having to serve real, paying customers all week. My last day off was in March - my next day off will be about July 5th - as usual. But maybe I can find a little spare time to help you pay less for the product I grow and sell and try to make a living at.
You're welcome.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 8:41AM
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Wholesale purchasing is generally reserved for those in the business - landscapers, designers, retail garden centers, etc. It typically requires a business license and often a retail nursery endorsement as well. It is not intended for "discounted" sales to the general public or to hobby gardeners and one will often generate some heated feelings from those involved in wholesale growing if proposing this type of inquiry :-)

By "a lot of plants" do you mean purchases in the 1000's of dollars on a monthly or weekly basis? That's the typical customer wholesalers service. You may be able to qualify as a master gardener for a small discount at some retail nurseries as a courtesy, but it is nowhere near wholesale pricing. In my area, retail nurseries don't even offer wholesale pricing to professionals - there is a professional discount offered but again it is nowhere near wholesale. Wholesale pricing is reserved for wholesale customers with substantial buying power.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 9:27AM
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veggierosalie(CAN 3)

I just had a customer ask me this question in my garden centre. She wanted to know if she could get 1/2 price if she purchased "a lot" of plants, When I asked her what "a lot" is to her, she replied "oh, 12 or 15 six packs"!

Sorry, but I agree with ninamarie. This is how we make our living. Would you provide your time and wages at 1/2 price? Would you agree to having your salary cut in 1/2 by your employer? If so, please let me know what business you are in and I will come over to get that deal.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 9:35AM
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natalie4b(7b GA)

I want to apologize for stating a question like that. What I actually meant is purchasing plants with discount. I don't see it as a fair practice for retailers not to make money on their sales or loose money in order for people like myself to buy wholesale.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 10:17AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Natalie, it's totally natural and normal for you to want to find the best bargain you can. Humans have been trying to find ways to skirt retail prices for hundreds of years, lol! We do it when buying groceries, furniture, clothes, and just about everything else. I, for one, won't scold you at all.

The reason that your question ruffled some feathers is that, generally speaking, the mark-up in THIS particular business is pretty thin and the over head can be high. It is also labor intensive, and those who are actively involved in the production of these 'wares' value their hard work, rightfully so.

Today, the public's best chance at bargain basement prices exists in the big box stores. Quality, selection, professional assistance, and other factors might be missing, however.

You might want to seriously consider growing a few things from seed, too. I find it pretty easy to grow hundreds of annuals and perennials for my own use (and sharing with friends) with little mess and not a whole lot of space. In your climate, you could do quite a bit outside.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 10:08AM
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natalie4b(7b GA)

thank you for being so kind and understanding.
I totally agree with your point, and appreciate all the hard labor that professional gardeners and landscapers put into their work and effort.
Again, everyone, please accept my apologies. I stand corrected.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 2:55PM
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gonativegal(zone 5a)


Check over in the wintersowing forum - there's many folks that do mailing of plant/seeds and then those who participate in onsite plant swaps. As a personal gardener this may the way to go to save money and get some unusual plants that work in your area.

Even if you decide to go into the pro end of it buyiing wholesale means you would also have to mail the state on a monthly basis all the sales tax it is owed on items bought.

Hey, I'm going to the swap mentioned in Skokie and I work in the trade. But this is actually for fun for my own garden though - lol.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 7:16PM
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I'm a wholesaler, but am set up to service retail customers if they come in and do. My wholesale pricing isn't even posted and I don't give wholesale pricing to retail customers mainly because if I did, I'd be directly competing with my bread and butter, the legitimate wholesale customers who buy from me. If they went to such and such g'house I sold to, or a strictly retail store with a plant section, found out the plants came from me and then approached me to get it cheaper than the people I sell to, I'd lose my customers and my credibility.

I do have some customers to whom I sale plants at wholesale prices, but they order massive amounts. This would be corporations who landscape perhaps or golf courses, but I still have to tax them since they are the end user. I demand certificates of exemption too for true wholesale and if it's perennial stock, I also need to see their nursery stock certificate.

I occasionally get a small landscaper whom I suspect is buying for friends and family. I can't argue with them if they say no when I ask them if it's for private use, but I do ask so that I can tax appropriately if it is. I have to keep immaculate records of non taxable sales for audit purposes. Some wholesale g'houses will not even mess with taxable sales.

I will sometimes give discounts on retail prices to certain groups like garden clubs doing public projects, or community gardens, or educational groups. Heck, often I donate those.

Your question didn't offend me, but if you could see some of the manipulating we sometimes get from people who are not as honest and straightforward as you, you'd understand why triggers get tripped.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2009 at 10:25PM
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I have been in the wholesale plant business all my life. In front of my nursery there is a huge sign that says "WHOLESALE ONLY". I find it humorous (sometimes aggravating) when home owners come in and ask "I know the sign says wholesale only, but I don't want to pay retail pricing. Could you sell to me?" It baffles me that they are serious. Although your question seems legitimate in your mind (and I know you didn't attempt to offend anyone when you asked it), it strikes a nerve with most wholesalers. The reason being is that the wholesale growers put a lot of pride in what they do, and they try to keep good moral and ethical values. Selling to retail customers would not only undercut their customers, it would also undercut their ethics. The loss of business caused by compromising those values might be enough to put some of the smaller wholesale chains out of business. It seems that your average retail customer does not appreciate all of the hard work, time, knowledge, and patience that it takes to grow a quality plant. Plants seem to be the most under-appreciated commoddity that most people take for granted. Could you immagine the world without the wholesale grower. Un-landscaped houses and businesses. City blocks of nothing but concrete and buildings. No flowers for your children to enjoy. Think about it... wouldn't it be a rather boring and unhappy world? Some people want the cheapest plants they can find, but in my opinion plants are priceless!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2009 at 10:56AM
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There is another practical reason why some retail nurseries do not offer volume discounts. It is simply that they can only get certain stock at certain times of the year. That time is generally in the spring and it usually fills every inch of space that they have available at that time. In other words - many have a one shot deal at stocking the nursery. Once it is gone, they can't replace it. This means that if they are likely to sell out, it hurts them to discount to anyone.

The thought that the buyer has is that (s)he is buying more plants IN ADDITION TO what the retailer would. The seller knows that selling to the "volume" buyer at a discount price DISPLACES the sale at full price because they can't restock it. .... especially if you would otherwise still buy from them.

If you will sell out at fullprice what you can't replace, you would be throwing away money by selling it for less.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2009 at 5:31PM
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I think your best bet is to grow from seeds.
There are a lot of places online where you can swap seeds. Take seeds from flowers you already have and swap them with others.
Also, the Arbor Day Foundation has specials they offer their members at cost. Not to mention goodies such as 10 free trees if you become a member.
I understand the need for nurseries to make money, after all, that is how they make their living. However, if offering wholesale to retail customers is taboo, why offer wholesale at all?
I knew an awesome wholesale nursery that shut down due to lack of sales/low profit margin.
They refused to offer their merchandise to the general public and ended up just going out of business. Frankly, this is poor business practice.
If you have the patience, grow them yourself. You'll be glad you did.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 7:32PM
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"However, if offering wholesale to retail customers is taboo, why offer wholesale at all?"

That's a good and legitimate question. I'll tell you how it works. When I get a wholesale order, it's usually sight unseen. Vendor X wants five hundred potted doo-dads, to be delivered all at once two months from now. Great, that removes speculation from the picture. I have a buyer for half of all the doo-dads I grew. The transaction took me five minutes.

Customer Y wanders into my business because they've seen the g'houses back there and always wondered what they were. They don't ask if I am busy irrigating.....they just assume I can stop and tend to their needs. They ask me which one of the thousand doo dads looks best to me. I explain that half of them are sold already. I pick out a nice doo-dad and say 'this one is perfect'. They pick it up, decide that the sold doo-dad is nicer and want to get into the pre-sold benches. I tell them no and they get offended, convinced I am saving the best doo-dads for somebody else. After half an hour of picking doo-dads up and putting them back, they decide to take one and I ring them up for three dollars. Then they want to know where to plant the doo-dad, what other things would look pretty with it, and can I tell them what is wrong with the plants they bought at *Mart because nobody there knew.

To a grower, time is money. I shot an hour for a three dollar sale, of which only fifty cents was profit. I find out after the fact they've taken one from the sold batch and switched it anyway because I find the empty spot on the bench.

Romancing the stone with retail customers is part of the game. You expect to give them personal service and explain culture and make them feel wanted. But, retail pricing is what pays for that attention.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 8:48PM
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I understand the need for nurseries to make money, after all, that is how they make their living. However, if offering wholesale to retail customers is taboo, why offer wholesale at all?

Just to follow up with calliope's comments -- most wholesale nurseries do not cater to retail customers. They sell to those operations that DO sell to retail customers, like retail garden centers and other public plant vendors. A great many retail nurseries do not have the facilities or staff to grow all their own plants or even a small portion. They purchase from wholesale growers who specialize in this activity and generally the volumes are large enough to justify restricting the marketing to resellers (retail nurseries/garden centers, sometimes landscapers) only. Plus all the other time and labor constraints calliope outlines.

Why this should be considered a "poor business practice" is a bit of a mystery to me -- it works this way with any product that is sold by retailers, not just plants. Someone has to manufacture (or grow) the product and generally that someone who does is not the retailer that offers it for sale to the general public. Wholesale growers or nurseries are simply plant suppliers/vendors to the retailers that offer it to the end consumer rather than shortcutting that step and selling to the end consumer directly. The volume of the sales (typically hundreds of plants at a time) is what justifies the favorable pricing, not the onesy-twosy's of the typical consumer. It is an entirely reasonable and accepted business practice and is pretty much universal :-)

Look up the definitions of retailer and wholesaler.....maybe that will make things clearer.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 9:55PM
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stompede(z7 VA)

Good discussions here. I'm looking at it from the retail perspective where I've been involved in it for about 2 decades. Most customers have little appreciation for the time and steps taken to bring this $20 shrub to them. A lot will complain that your prices are too high, while complaining if their questions don't get answered. I sometimes wonder how much people really know about running a business.

A question to the wholesalers, how much of your business now is retail compared to just a few years ago? I know a few of our local wholesalers were faced with the dilemma of whether or not to cater to retail customers. They've always dealt with retail, but didn't embrace it. In the past year to two, one of them went all out with an area dedicated to retail customers, however I'm not sure exactly how successful they are since reliable customer service was/is a problem. Another wholesaler did a few things to spruce his place up, but dealing with retail is something he never expected to do a lot of and it caught him offguard. He's willing to offer the customer service, but retail customers love access to all parts of the sales floor, and some of his material requires boots over ankle high.

I guess it'd be great to do both wholesale and retail, but one will probably be favored over the other, unless you had the space to cater to retail only and a seperate space for wholesale only.

Oh, what's your take, or do any of you, on wholesale businesses that offer landscaping services?

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 11:18AM
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I've worked both the retail and wholesale end of the business and this is how it 'typically' works in my area. This part of the country has a lot of wholesale nurseries - there are very probably more wholesale nurseries in the PNW than in the rest of the country put together. No wholesalers sell retail here - business is restricted to selling in large orders to retailers and in some cases, to landscapers. But most of the wholesale operations that cater to landscapers are much smaller in scale compared to the very large growing operations and sell to the landscaping trade almost exclusively.

The wholesaler I worked for did both, but the bulk of his sales were to retail nurseries and other plant selling businesses. Landscapers were allowed on the property to select and gather plants but it was entirely self-service and they got different, less favorable pricing as well. And there were areas that were off-limits, plants designated for the retail resale trade only.

Despite a big sign hanging at the entrance that said "wholesale only", we would get all manner of walk-ins expecting to buy plants, as we were on a fairly busy road. They were very graciously turned away, usually with directions to the closest retailer that sold our plants (within a couple of miles). In addition to the place being a hive of activity with racks of orders being pulled, delivery trucks being loaded, landscapers coming and going, etc., there were some very real liability issues involved -- heavy equipment moving about the property, closed greenhouses due to spraying or simply because the plants were not ready for sale, automated potting machines, irrigation booms. It could be a very dangerous place for the general public. And it was huge - walking 30 acres is out of the question, particularly with an armload of plants, and driving was hazardous, especially with everything else going on. We even had some not-so-bright landscapers drive through the growing fields rather than logically figure that the gravel roads between the fields was where they were supposed to be. And trucks that slipped into drainage ditches or backed into the rocks or posts that indicated and were intended to protect the irrigation workings.

And there was no one available who could provide any sort of customer service to a retail customer were they allowed in the first place. Everyone was extremely busy either planting new plants, tending existing ones, pulling or processing orders or manning the front office. And 95% of the employees didn't even speak English! Only the owner, head grower and the admin and sales staff. It would have been a nightmare to allow any retail sales and an extra cost to the operation to hire the staff to accommodate them. It is simply not worth the trouble and effort for the few dollars it would generate.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 12:35PM
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Retail does definitely raise liability issues. My insurance prices are based on the percentage of wholesale vs. retail trade I do. I am not open for retail but in a small sales window because I use it as an outlet for overage from the wholesale bread and butter.

Therefore no retail sales before Mother's Day on bedding plants. I do a lot of pre-sold and custom grows, and I always have to grow a little more than I intend to sell for CYA purposes. By Mother's Day the bulk of my wholesale orders (for resale) are out the door, and the rest they anticipate to order are in a holding house with no admittance. The growing house is also no admittance. The perennial house is no admittance. The foliage house is no admittance. The only greenhouse where retail customers may venture is the largest one, we refer to as the selling house and that's where the cash register is located. I only run for about a month to clean up overage and then shut 'er down to the public until holidays and then it's by appointment.

I could do without retail at all, but they eat the shrink. They do not get wholesale pricing because I won't compete with the wholesale customers for their business. I have several price points, one to the trade as well because traditionally I have helped supply smaller g'houses, especially in specialty lines like potted ornamentals.

It's been years since I did any advertising for retail trade, so most of my retail customers are those I've serviced for years. I like them, they know the routine and they don't even have to when I'm open. They know to wait until later in the season.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 4:24PM
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Sherwood Botsford(3a)

I'm a startup tree nursery, and do both wholesale and retail. My niche is the acreage owner who suddenly realizes he's got 3 acres of grass.

My deal is this: I have a retail price list. These are quantity one. At $500 take off 10% at $1000 take off 15% at $2000 take off 20% at $4000 take off 25%

If you did $5000 worth of business last eyar with me, take off 10% if you did 10,000 worth of business with me last year take of 20%.

The two discounts both apply.

To reply to the original question, most wholesalers here have a minimum order. E.g. Jeffries is $750. Most trees are sold in minimum quantity and in whole bundles. E.g. Last spring I bought 500 3 foot swedish aspen. But they come in bundles of 20. They were $3 each.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 11:54PM
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Try going to Adams county Nursery web site. Click on price info. It is simply if you want wholesale price , buy wholesale quantities.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2011 at 1:27PM
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I believe Hazzard's Wholesale Plants will sell to anyone. I buy my seeds from them, but they also sell plants.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hazzard's wholesale plants

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 9:59PM
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toeflower(zone 5)

I live in a remote rural area and the far flung nurseries arent very interested in serving me when I am looking for the plants that they dont readily stock. When I go online searching for a desired plant and find it available but wholesale only, its quite frustrating. Sometimes wanting to have access to wholesale plants isnt about saving money...

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 9:44AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Old thread but I'll bite.

I posted about this a couple of times on the Trees forum.
ItâÂÂs not about the money, per se. ItâÂÂs the selection. For those of us who have land (or, in my case, aspire to), we may need quite a few plants from a retail perspective, but it might be a very small order from a wholesalerâÂÂs viewpoint.
If IâÂÂm looking for seedgrown stuff, no big deal-thatâÂÂs easy enough to find, plus I grow plenty from seed. Tree and shrub cultivars are the tough one. The big mail-orders out there can often supply a lot of it, but you have the risk of potbound stock, poor quality, etc. Local nurseries may have it, but I end up going to 39 different places in a 3 hours radiusâ¦but a wholesaler might have EVERYTHING I want, in a nice-sized bare-root liner. THAT is why IâÂÂm interested, not to be cheap.
What IâÂÂve found is, some wholesalers (at least for woodies) will sell to a retail customer, but do so quietly and only large ($1000+ orders). Understandable, and not something they âÂÂhaveâ to do. Others will advertise they do sell retail. Another way to get the âÂÂstraight from the growerâ liners is that many of the retail nurseries (the actual growers, not garden centers) will upcharge and resell the liners they receive, if you ask, but you have to get there right when they get in. Some may also sell off the ones they didnâÂÂt plant, but those may be the runts.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 12:30PM
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Sherwood Botsford(3a)

Here it's much simpler. Most of the wholesalers I deal with have a minimum order size.

For PRT it's 3 boxes. That's 3 x 315 seedlings.

For Jeffries it's $950. (My order to them this year is $16000. I'm a small customer. That will be about 1/3 of a semi.

Do I give discounts? Sure. Buy 25 of a $15 item and I'll drop a couple bucks off of it. Come here and fill up your pickup, I'll take 20% off.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2014 at 10:56AM
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natalie4b(7b GA)

Thank you sherwood_botsford.
Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2014 at 1:04PM
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Did you have any plants in mind to sell? If you're new to the buying/reselling of wholesale plants, you should sell things that you know people anywhere would want to buy so you ensure a ROI. How big is your lot? If you have the space you should consider buying wholesale Christmas trees and reselling them in your lot.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2015 at 2:05PM
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