Learn how to manage a garden centre, to care for plants, manage other products; improve marketing, and more. Improve your plant knowledge and identification skills.

Course Code: BHT255
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn to manage a retail plant nursery or garden centre!

  • Identify plants and build knowledge of garden products
  • Learn to manage and sell stock in a retail situation

Retail nurseries buy plants from production/propagation nurseries and resell them at a profit. 'Greenlife' (the term used by the industry distinguish plants from other nursery products) sold by the retail sector include seedlings, bulbs, containerised and bare-rooted plants and trees. In addition garden centres sell associated products such as dry goods (pots, packaged potting mixes, fertilisers, sprays) and bulk landscaping materials.
There is an increasing emphasis on the supply of 'lifestyle products and services' in retail outlets, such as outdoor furniture, gift lines, display gardens, cafes and landscaping services.

This course has been very successful in training both staff and managers of retail nurseries and garden centres. Originally designed in 1986, in conjunction with the State Garden Department Manager of a major retail chain store; revised many times since then to keep up with current standards. It is useful for establishing standards in your garden centre and giving direction for the staff and managers.

Lesson Structure

There are 12 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Classifying and identifying Plants
    • Plant culture
    • Soils
    • Plant nutrition
    • Watering/irrigation
    • Understanding drainage
    • Temperature
    • Light
    • Humidity
  2. Plant Health Management
    • How to diagnose a problem
    • Pests
    • Diseases
    • Nutrient imbalances
    • Frost
    • Sunburn
    • Chemical damage
    • Insufficient light
    • Overwatering
  3. Stock Maintenance
    • Quality standards
    • Buying in new stock
    • Inspecting stock
    • Extending stock shelf life
    • Disposing of below-standard stock
    • Watering techniques
    • Fertilising plants
    • Pest and disease control
  4. Display and Display Techniques
    • Display units
    • Product location
    • Sales area layout.
  5. Garden Product Knowledge
    • Plant containers
    • Labels
    • Soil and potting mixes
    • Garden equipment
    • Garden tools
  6. Garden Product Knowledge II
    • Chemicals
    • Fertilisers
    • Containers and baskets
    • Terrariums
    • Cut flowers.
  7. Plant Product Knowledge - Indoor Plants
    • Major groups
    • Common problems
    • Plants for specific situations
    • Customer attitudes
  8. Plant Product Knowledge -General Container Stock
    • Trees
    • Shrubs
  9. Plant Product Knowledge - Edibles and Flowers
    • Seedlings
    • Bulbs
    • Herbs
    • Perennials.
  10. Plant Product Knowledge - Other
    • Deciduous Trees
    • Fruit
    • Nuts
    • Berries
    • Seed
  11. Retail Nursery Marketing
    • Pricing strategies
    • Advertising
    • Promotional strategies
  12. Management Methods
    • Staff control
    • Managing for staff productivity
    • Work scheduling


  • Classify and identify a range of different plants, according to their botanical characteristics.
  • Describe a range of plant health problems and their treatments.
  • Understand the importance of maintaining healthy stock and its relationship to maintaining a profitable business.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of a range of garden products sold through garden centres.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of a range of plants, including indoor plants, container-grown plants, deciduous plants, bulbs, herbs and perennials.
  • Describe effective marketing techniques.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of management procedures.


Merchandise is what you are selling (plants or anything else); and making choices about what will be sold and how you present it to the customer is what merchandising is all about.

An attractive product display with a message is often an effective way of increasing sales, but unless it is seen, it can be ineffective. Promotions are needed too.

Basic Rules of Promotions

  • Your reason for promoting is to sell more products to your customers as quickly as possible. Specials should be regularly changed. To do this, the offer should appeal to their immediate or secondary needs.
  • The choice of promotion depends on what you want to achieve ie. if you want more people in your garden centre, special locally advertised offers or personality backed promotions could be very useful.
  • Your promotion should be unique to attract maximum attention.
  • The promotion should be simple to understand and operate.
  • The promotion must represent value for money and be credible and honest.
  • The promotion should be consistent with your own image.
  • Create contrast to make products stand out - a splash of colour for instance will draw the eye of any customer.

Decisions Needed for a Promotion

Consider the following:

  • Who are the main users of the product or brand?
  • How, when and why do they use the product?
  • How frequently is it purchased?
  • What are its main competitors?
  • How does the customer see the brand versus the competition?

Use the facts to decide how to run the promotion:

  • Determine, in order of priority, the key problem.
  • Identify the money available.
  • List and cost all the possible alternative options that are open (e.g. more advertising, customer promotions, pricing strategy).
  • Having estimated the cost, ask yourself what will the benefit be to you.

Where are Plants Sold?

The scope of plant retailing has changed over recent decades, and will no doubt continue to change. In the 20th century, plants were more commonly sold by small independent retail nurseries. Plant retailers are today often larger enterprises; sometimes corporate chains, and sometimes a part of a more diverse enterprise (e.g. a "destination" that encompasses the wider needs of outdoor living, selling garden furniture, swimming pool supplies, BBQs, landscaping requirements, pet supplies and more).


How are Plants Displayed to Optimise Sales

 Whether you are selling on a large scale or small, the way you present products for sale is going to have a big impact on how much you sell.


  • Products at point of sale locations
  • Products placed at eye level tend to sell better than those below or above eye level.
  • Products displayed in mass.
  • Products with large signs which highlight their selling points. For example: If you think the discounted price will sell the product, then you need a large sign with the product saying "discount".
  • Colourful displays attract. Plants with flowers on them are always going to sell better; so move them to a more prominent position when flowering.
  • Bright, well lit areas attract, but shaded, dull areas repel the customer.
  • Spacing - customers shy away from cluttered, confined spaces. If products are displayed with plenty of space both between the products and in the surrounding area, for the customers to move freely, then that part of the shop is more likely to be visited.
    Aisles should be wide enough for people to pass in. Aisles should not be too long - people should be able to get out of one aisle to go to the next without having to walk very long distances.

Quantity Displayed

People can become suspicious if there are only a few items on display. The nursery looks healthier  to the customer if there is a quantity of what they are buying on display. They have more confidence in both the product and the nursery if it appears you are dealing with quantities of a particular product.

It is most important not to over clutter items and to leave space between different items so customers can find different lines easily and access them without a mass landslide to the floor!

NB: Take notice where people stop and look at things most in your nursery, and try to determine why this is so.

Also notice dead areas, and try to determine what can be done to attract people into those parts of the garden centre.


  • Expand your product knowledge; and explore new possibilities for products and services that might be offered through a garden centre
  • Become more aware of marketing possibilities.
  • Better understand how to sell plants
  •  Explore ways of improving the profitability of a garden centre or any other business enterprise that is retailing plants.
  • Improve your opportunities to work in plant retailing - employed by someone else, or operating your own business.
  • Understand more about management tasks involved in running a retail plant business.


Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Bob James (Horticulturist)

Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry.
He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Maste

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and edito

Rosemary Davies (Horticulturist)

Rosemary trained in Horticulture at Melbourne Universities Burnley campus; studying all aspects of horticulture -vegetable and fruit production, landscaping, amenity, turf, aboriculture and the horticultural sciences.
Initially she worked with the Depart

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