How to start a plant nursery in NZ
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How to start a plant nursery in NZ

Nov 30, 2022 - Category : Automation

Enormous demand exists for native plants across the nation. Yet in comparison to world standards, New Zealand has a very small plant nursery industry. Are you keen to set up a profitable plant nursery business?

The “One Billion Trees” and “Clean Streams” programmes, climate change concerns, and increased pressure for farmers to plant their waterways are all compelling reasons to get involved. Along with the satisfaction of working outdoors and building a sustainable business. While there are some major players, there are many smaller nurseries with up to five staff, and those selling plants locally or at farmers markets. So absolutely, there is room for more growers!

Many of the top performing nurseries have turned to mechanisation to reduce production costs and increase productivity. But where does one start?

Currently, there are no national standards or ‘best practice’ models to follow. So our advice is to apply that Kiwi No. 8 wire mentality and talk to people within the industry.

Here’s a few things to consider:

  1. Gain basic industry knowledge – skill up on nursery management and plant cultivation by completing a relevant course. Check out PrimaryITO
  2. Business structure & planning – investigate the criteria to set up as a charitable trust – business objectives of ‘environmental restoration’ or ‘providing employment’ might qualify you for funding and other assistance. Establish a business plan and secure any relevant permits, licenses or certificates to operate your business.
  3. Facilities & labour – It might sound obvious, but acquiring staff can be challenging, so start small and look to grow. At a basic level you’ll need plant standing areas, plant frames & shade cloth to protect seedlings, an area for potting mix, a potting shed and reliable water supply.
  4. Stock up on horticulture products – You’ll need adequate stock of quality materials throughout the season (see the chart below). Set up a customer account with us. Why? As NZ’s leading distributer of horticulture and landscape products, we have the complete solution for growing quality crops at a competitive price. You’ll receive expert advice, special customer pricing and easy online (or phone) ordering. Use the enquiry form to get started.

Here is a snapshot of essential items for crop success – happy shopping!


Thermoformed Pots Lightweight yet strong, suitable for automation, full range of sizes available. Fantastic drainage to support growth.
Biodegradable Pots Eco-friendly solutions for successful propagation of seedlings. We have a range of bio pots to consider and our Fertilpots are popular because they fully decompose in the ground in just 4-5 months.
Fabric Planter Bags Healthier root environment, superior insulation, encourages plant to produce a dense lateral root structure.
Plastic Planter Bags Won’t rip when handling. Good drainage pattern for superior growth.
Seedling & Forestry Trays Full range of cell trays available, ideal for native seedlings and automation-friendly for increased productivity. Easy handling and excellent drainage for superior growth.
Stakes including: Bamboo, HardwoodFibreglassTreated Pine Plants are very susceptible to wind, with often dire outcomes. Our range of stakes will help secure the plant and nurture roots to support more reliable growth.
Tree Ties Gently support and protect plants while growing.
Fertiliser Tablets Full plant food supply, with controlled release for up to two years. Easy to use and reduced cost as just one application required.
Protective Clothing & Gloves Staying dry, protected and comfortable while you work will increase productivity and boost staff morale.
Shadecloth & Accessories Can be customised to suit your nursery.
Irrigation Systems From dripline, sprinklers and drippers to fully automated watering. Regular water supply is crucial. Our range is economical, reliable and robust for nurseries of every size.
Pest Control & Weed Control From rodents to weeds, pests can be destructive to plants. Our proven range of pest control and herbicides will stop them in their tracks.
Weedmat & Pins Weed suppression and water penetration.


Please contact us for tailored advice as every nursery will have unique requirements and we would be delighted to assist.

You might also like to watch this video of PrimeHort customer and farmer, Adam Thompson, who added ‘nurseryman’ to his skill base about 10 years ago. Starting with 25,000 plants to 250,000 plants and now over 1 million anticipated for 2023, Adam’s story is inspiring.

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