Starting a backyard bamboo nursery is a great way to turn your love of plants and gardening into cash. Bamboo is one of the best landscaping plants to grow, as the demand is strong and the prices of container grown plants is high.
You’ll find bamboo nurseries ranging in size from tiny backyard nurseries to large operations covering several acres. That’s the beauty of growing bamboo plants for profit – there is room for everyone from “mom & pop” part-timers to corporate growers who supply seedlings for bamboo “agro-forestry.”
The secret to making good money with a small bamboo nursery is to specialize in bamboo varieties that are in demand and can be container grown to save space, water and fertilizer. Container growing allows a grower to grow ready-to-sell plants without the digging, weeding and high water consumption of field growing. This saves time, water and transplanting, and allows growers to have plants ready to load into a customer’s vehicle at a moment’s notice.
Bamboo growers who live in towns or rural areas can also make a good income focusing on wholesale bamboo plant sales to retail nurseries and landscapers in their area. Because costs are low in rural area, growers there can still be price competitive.
Before you start growing bamboo, you need to think about the climate in your area. Bamboo has adapted to such a wide range of climates, from tropical jungles to frozen mountains, so there are dozens of varieties to choose from in most climates in North America.
As long as your wintertime temperatures stay above zero F, you’ll have no problem finding hardy bamboo varieties. If your winter temperatures often fall below zero, bamboo is probably not a good choice for you.
Bamboo prefers a well-drained soil with a neutral pH. If you are growing landscaping bamboo in containers, you can easily blend a potting soil that the bamboo plants will thrive in. Most growers use a timed-release fertilizer to supply essential nutrients to their plants over a period of several months.
Most bamboo plants are grown in one gallon, two, five and fifteen gallon pots. The smaller pots are used for the dwarf or ground cover bamboos like sasa, and the larger pots are used for midsize and timber bamboo. It’s amazing how many container plants can be grown in a very small area. For example, just 1000 square feet will accommodate 1500 two gallon pots or 750 five gallon pots, allowing room for paths.
What to grow
Because most bamboo nursery stock is sold for landscaping use, that’s the best area for new growers to focus on, as there is a steady demand and good prices. Try to have at least 10 varieties available to customers in three sizes: dwarf bamboo – under 8 feet tall, mid-size bamboo – eight to twenty feet tall, and timber bamboo – over twenty feet tall. You don’t have to do all this at once when you’re first starting out, but keep adding varieties in each size until you have plenty of choices for customers.
Selling your plants
Many small growers prefer to sell their bamboo plants direct to retail customers, as this allows them to help those customers choose the best variety for their planned use, whether it’s a privacy hedge, a specimen planting, or a low-maintenance ground cover. Selling retail also means you keep the full retail price of your plants. In addition, half or more of your customers will become regulars, visiting over and over to make new purchases. If you live in town, check to make sure your local ordinances allow “backyard plant sales.”
If you have the space to grow more, consider selling to landscapers and wholesaling to retail garden centers. You’ll have higher volume and better profits by expanding your growing area.
Creative growers have found crafting value-added bamboo products, like fencing, privacy screens, water fountains and garden art can double or triple profits. It’s also a way to stay productive and make money during the slow winter season.
The demand for ornamental bamboo is growing every year, as more and more people discover these amazing plants. Growing bamboo is a perfect way to cash in on this strong demand. Plus, unlike many labor-intensive cash crops, container bamboo is easy to grow and maintain, so part-time growers can manage a good-size bamboo nursery in just a few hours a week. With container-grown plants and a simple drip irrigation system, you can almost put a bamboo business on “auto-pilot.”
To discover more about this amazing cash crop, read Growing Bamboo For Profit.