Profitable Plant Secrets

Cut Canes at a Bamboo Nursery

Cut Canes at a Bamboo Nursery

If you can spare some space in your backyard, and would like to make an extra income, consider growing profitable plants. In an area as small as 20 feet by 20 feet, you can make a nice profit growing specialty crops, such as ground covers, flowers or bamboo. Of course, the more space you have, the more money you can make.


The secret to maximizing your profit per square foot is to specialize in high value, high demand plants. Some of the best choices would be bamboo, cut flowers, garlic, ground covers and lavender. Let’s take a closer look at each of these specialty crops.

Bamboo. In North America, bamboo is growing in popularity as a landscaping plant, and growers are reporting the demand is increasing every year. Bamboo is not just a tropical plant, as dozens of varieties are hardy in sub-freezing weather. Landscapers are using bamboo more as well, because it can be used as a hedge, a screen, a shade plant or a stand-alone specimen plant. Plus, bamboo matures quickly, unlike trees that can take years. Many bamboo nurseries are reporting brisk sales of potted bamboo at prices up to $200 each.

Cut Flowers. Flowers are a perfect backyard cash crop, as they produce quickly, are easy to grow, and provide an income all summer long. Startup costs can be low – just seeds and labor – so $50 can put you in business. Some growers use a “cut your own” sales approach, so customers can create their own flower bouquets, while others who grow for market prefer retail outlets, like the Saturday market, where prices are higher. Virginia grower Lisa Ziegler gets up to $5 per stem for her sunflowers, and grows the proven money makers, like snapdragons, larkspur, peonies, sunflowers and zinnias.

Garlic. According to the crop specialists at Cornell University, “There’s a booming market out there for fresh local garlic. Those farming garlic can sell all they can produce. Elephant garlic, for example, retails for up to $6 per pound and produces up to 15,000 pounds per acre.” Garlic is an ideal cash crop, as it’s easy to grow and tolerates a wide variety of soils and weather. For that very reason, garlic has been nicknamed “the mortgage lifter” by growers.

Ground Covers. Because of their low maintenance and drought tolerance, ground covers are becoming more widely used every year, and are an ideal plant nursery crop. Because they are usually grown in smaller 3 inch and 4 inch pots, you can grow as many as 6,000 plants in just 400 square feet. Many retail growers are reporting profits of up to $20 per square foot with ground covers.

Lavender has been called the “Swiss army knife” of herbs because it has so many uses. Everyone loves the fragrant flowers, but not everyone knows that the leaves, stems and flowers are all medicinally useful, as well as being widely used for foot soaks, bath oils and as a sleep aid. Grown in 6 inch pots, lavender plants can bring up to $10 at the Saturday market.

It’s important to match the plants you grow to the space you have available. For example, folks with a limited growing space should choose smaller plants, such as ground covers and flowers, while those with more acreage could grow a wider range of crops, including the larger landscaping shrubs and trees.

Another important decision is whether you want to sell retail or wholesale. Retailing your plants, either direct from the garden or at a farmer’s market, will bring higher prices, but take more of your time. Many new growers choose to start a wholesale nursery because of a remote location or limited time. Selling wholesale does take less time, but brings less money per plant.

Even growers with no yard can find a specialty crop to grow. Oyster mushrooms, for example, can be produced in a basement, garage or shed, as they don’t require soil. Many African violet growers propagate and grow hundreds of plants in their basement or a spare room. So to make some extra income with profitable plants, pick a crop that interests you and start growing.