Washington grows a myriad of beautiful, productive plants in nurseries

March is the month many beautiful plants, grown in Washington nurseries, arrive in local stores.  The Washington ornamental nursery industry has an economic impact of $3.2 billion on the State‚Äôs economy.  But ornamentals aren't the only plants grown in nurseries. Throughout the year, everything from new orchards to new forests are being carefully grown under tightly managed conditions.  Learn where these plants come from below.

It All Starts Here

Forest Nurseries

Forest nurseries provide young trees that are grown from seed sources which match the forests they will be replacing. They are commonly planted after fires or logging.

Native Plant Nurseries

Native plant nurseries provide plants adapted to the natural ecology of Washington. They are important for habitat restoration, erosion control and restoring wetlands.

Fruit Tree Nurseries

Fruit tree nurseries supply millions of trees to retail and wholesale markets, providing high quality tree saplings to growers around the world. (Photo courtesy Van Wells Nursery, Quincy, WA)

Landscape and Ornamental Nurseries

Landscape and ornamental nurseries sell most of their products right here in Washington. Knowledgeable and qualified staff at local nurseries as well as the Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association provide resources and tools for successful landscaping

Edible Plant Nurseries

Some Washington nurseries specialize in edible plants such as berries and vegetables. Sales from these and all other horticulture specialty crops increased by 31%  between 2009 and 2014 in our state.

What does it take to get a new plant to market?

Every year, new items come to your local gardening shop or farmers market. These plants may be unique or may offer improvements on old favorites. Perhaps they are now drought tolerant or disease resistant.

Photo courtesy Skagit Gardens

Different types of plants grow at different speeds. Some take as little as three months; others take a year or two. Planning to bring a new plant to market begins years before it is planted.  It can take up to five years or more to get a new plant through the entire evaluation and production process before it's presented in markets to customers. 

Photo courtesy Skagit Gardens

The least expensive way for nurseries to grow new plants is to plant seeds by machine and then transplant them to larger containers as they grow.

                                                                 Propagation photos courtesy Briggs Nursery

Nurseries often propagate plants from cuttings and tissue cultures that arrive in packages from all over the world. These methods produce desired characteristics more reliably, but the cost is much higher. These differing methods explain why similar plants can sometimes be sold for very different prices.

     Hellebore tissue cultures come from Germany.

Conserving water is very important for nurseries. They often collect and re-use water after it is applied to plants. They seek to use the most efficient sprinklers and other methods to make sure no water is wasted.

Nurseries closely monitor their stock for pest populations. They manage pests with traps, biological controls (natural enemies of pests) and pesticides.

Protecting Washington Landscapes

All nurseries and retail outlets are required to be licensed by the Washington State Department of Agriculture. Fees collected from licenses help fund plant inspections to prevent the introduction of new pests and diseases. Inspectors also enforce agricultural laws and impose plant quarantines to prevent the spread of diseases like sudden oak death. Some plants, like oriental clematis and Scotch broom, are beautiful ornamentals that multiply rapidly and become invasive pests. It is prohibited to sell or propagate some invasive plants in Washington.

                                                                                              Photo courtesy Briggs Nursery

Nursery and landscape professionals care


The last two summers have seen devastating wild fires in eastern Washington. The Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association, along with other partners, have raised funds to supply homeowners who lost trees to fires, with thousands of new trees to plant. They know trees will benefit communities for generations.