Upon completion of this chapter, you should be able to

• describe the nursery industry in the United States.

• describe the different types of nurseries.

• explain the relationship of the nursery industry to the landscape industry.




America’s plant nurseries and greenhouses are among the fastest grow­ing segments of U. S. agriculture according to the Economic Research Service of the U. S. Department of Agriculture. The annual sale of horti­culture products in the United States has held steady at approximately forty-five billion dollars since the beginning of the current decade, with floral and nursery crops accounting for over one-third of the sales, or fifteen billion. According to the American Nursery and Landscape Association, nursery and greenhouse crops are among the top ten agri­culture crop commodities in 42 states, and are in the top five commodi­ties in 27 of the states. The top five states for production of greenhouse and nursery crops as measured by cash receipts and reported by the USDA Economic Research Service are:

• California

• Texas

• Florida

• North Carolina

• Oregon

An initial consideration of the nursery industry might predict that it is a fairly homogenous one, varying little from one operation to the next or even from one state to the next. However, that is not the case. The nurseries of America range in size from mini-businesses to multi­state corporations. The number of people employed is seasonal, with an estimated 105,000 working during the height of the season. Even the length of the season varies, with some operations doing most of their work during a six month period, and others enjoying a full twelve months of productivity. When the landscape industry is added to the employment figures, the total number of workers employed nationally is over 600,000.

There are believed to be about 25,000 nursery and greenhouse operations nationally. Most of them are small businesses. In fact, sixty – five percent of the total industry revenues are produced by only 2,000 nursery and greenhouse firms. By lumping the statistics for nurseries with those of greenhouse growers, there is some blurring of the data if someone is interested only in knowing about production nurseries. However, many nurseries include greenhouses among their facilities, so the combination of the two is logical. Trying to draw sharp distinctions between floral crop production and nursery crop production is easy if comparing cut flowers and potted holiday plants with woody trees and shrubs. It is less clear when considering crops such as bedding plants or tropical foliage plants that may be grown indoors or out depending on the production location, the scale of production, and other crops being grown at the facility. Greenhouses are common to many different types of plant producing operations, often including nurseries. Both types of operation deal with high-value, intensively cultivated crops.

In general, nurseries deal largely with woody plants (trees, shrubs, vines, and groundcovers). However, as just noted, they may also pro­duce or at least handle large numbers of herbaceous plants as well. A nursery production facility is likely to require more land than an opera­tion that uses only greenhouses for production.

figure 16-2. Trees, perennial flowers, and shrubs are all products of the nursery craft used to fill this planter. (Delmar/Cengage Learning. Photo by Jack Ingels.)