How to Sell Plants Online

Oct 4, 2020

Selling plants online is a fun way to make some extra green or to turn your passion into profit. However, there is a little legwork to do before you start selling plants online. 

Get Legit

When starting a business selling products in the United States, it’s a good idea to register an EIN/Tax ID number. If you don’t want to form an LLC for your online plant selling business, you can always file for an EIN under your own name as a Sole Proprietor. The process is free and easy to do.

Once you’ve secured an EIN, you can open a business bank account! Opening a business bank account can help you keep income and expenses in one place. This will make things easier come tax time.

Having an EIN may also come in handy when you go to obtain a nursery license. A nursery license is often required for selling most plants, however, in some states, you won’t need a nursery license if you’re selling certain types of plants like annual plants or tropical plants. In many cases, if you want to become a legitimate plant seller, you should look into getting a nursery license. 

Requirements vary from state to state, so look up nursery license laws in your state. There may also be local regulations based on your county.

Research Is Your Friend 

Research shouldn’t stop at licensing! Sellers in the United States need to follow guidelines and restrictions on both a state and federal level. 

Some states (like California, Florida, Arizona, and Texas) have strict guidelines and regulations that impact online plant sellers. You should pay attention to the laws and regulations in any state you are shipping plants from and any state you are shipping plants to. 

Here’s a resource that lists restricted plants by state. This website gives summaries of each state’s laws and regulations.

Federally, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has guidelines and restrictions for selling plants in the United States. For example, the USDA regulates the sale of citrus plants, cotton plants, sandalwood, and noxious weeds. There are also regulations regarding diseases and pests. Another helpful resource from the USDA in regards to plants with specific restrictions can be found here.

Selling internationally will also come with regulation. Shipping plants abroad will usually require a phytosanitary certificate. The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) has standards for international shippers. Unless you plan to export large quantities of plants, it often makes the most sense for plant sellers in the United States to keep their sales domestic. If your heart is set on exporting plants, here’s a link to some forms you’ll need.


Sourcing Plants 

Once you’ve decided to sell plants online, you’ll need plants to sell.

Many people propagate their own plants, but you can also buy them from local nurseries. Often nurseries will offer wholesale discounts for retailers with a nursery or broker license. Let the nursery know you’re a retailer and don’t be afraid to ask for a deal!  

Some plant sellers import plants, but importing can be costly and risky. You’ll need phyto certification and permits for imports. It’s also possible to have plants that get held up in customs, even if you do all the paperwork correctly. Additionally, once the plants arrive they’ll likely need time to re-acclimate to their new environment before being shipped again. 

To find more information on importing visit this FDA resource

Only Sell Healthy Plants

Shipping can cause a lot of stress on the plant. It’s important to only send healthy plants through the mail. If a plant is showing signs of sickness or if you’re battling pests, do not send that plant! Plants that are infested with insects or sick with disease may be subject to quarantine or be destroyed before they get to the buyer.

Not deterred by the research and regulation associated with selling plants online? Read on to learn about how to pack and ship plants! 


How to Sell Plants

Creating a good listing is an important aspect of selling plants online. 

A great photo can make or break a sale. When taking photos of plants, lighting is important. Direct light can create harsh shadows and taking photos of plants indoors can be difficult if the lighting is too low. Photographing near a window or on a covered balcony can be a good option. You can also use a white foam board to reflect light onto your plant and brighten up the shot.  

While it may not be necessary to take a photo of each and every individual plant you sell, it is important to have a photo that reflects what the buyer should expect to receive. You don’t want a buyer to be disappointed in the size, shape, or quality of the plant that arrives.    

It’s also a good idea to include details about the plant in your listing. What is the hardiness of the plant? What are the recommendations for water and light? Should the plant be repotted after it arrives or as it grows? Include any important details for plant maintenance and care in the listing description.