What Do Nurseries Do With Unsold Plants?

Nurseries are always beautiful sights to see – the lush green plants can make anyone’s day better, and the promise of taking these vibrant plants home is always so exciting! But one thing you may have been wondering is what nurseries do with plants that don’t end up getting sold.

If a dying plant can be saved, nurseries often try to sell them for a discount. Some nurseries are willing to give them away for free, but this is subject to their company policies. Otherwise, unsold plants are often utilized as fertilizers, afforestation, or sent back to the supplier in exchange for purchase credits.

Nurseries have ways to make their plants grow fast and healthy to attract buyers for profit. However, some plants will inevitably wither due to changing seasons and pests. What, then, do nurseries do with these unwanted plants?

Nurseries Given Away Unsold Plants

One of the most common outcomes of unsold plants is that they are given away. Either you will find them at a significantly discounted price, or in some cases, they can even be given away absolutely free to customers. However, if that doesn’t work, some nurseries will even give them away to people looking to reforest or increase vegetation on their land.

Not all nurseries will give away dying plants.

Donating unsold plants to the public depends on the nursery’s policies. Some nurseries must throw away dying plants to prevent people from taking advantage of free stock. Other nurseries must send the plant back to the suppliers in exchange for credit points for future orders.

The clearance section of Flower Power (Australia, Milperra) nursery.

Wholesale Nurseries May Use Dying Plants As Fertilizer

Some nurseries use a recycling approach towards plants that cannot sell.

Instead of discarding them, the plants are broken down naturally. This is done with the help of decomposers such as fungi, detritivores, and bacteria. This is a natural process that can take years to complete, depending on the size of the plant or tree.

Once the plants are broken down, they can be reused around the nursery! The process of breaking down a plant helps to release nutrients into the soil. This is hugely beneficial for nurseries trying to maintain the soil quality as they grow plants each year. With the help of natural fertilizers, the costs go down, and the value of the soil goes up.

Nurseries Can Throw Away Unsold Plants

In some cases, it may be prudent to throw away unsold plants instead of trying to give them away or reusing them around the nursery.

It is easy for nursery plants to contract pests and diseases, so experts recommend throwing away leftover plants. This approach helps prevent the disease from spreading into the new crop, causing further loss. Therefore, many plants are discarded at the end of the season to avoid the spread of pests and diseases.

Why Are Some Plants Not Sold By Nurseries?

There can be many different reasons that can impact a plant’s ability to sell. For example, one common reason for this to happen is a result of bad nursery forecasting.

Forecasting predicts what will affect the market in the coming year. Consider how the COVID-19 lockdown impacted people’s buying behavior at nurseries.

For the last two years, especially in 2020, people were encouraged to purchase plants as they were stuck at home and wanted to upgrade their interior. As a result, nurseries saw a massive surge in interest, particularly for those that could deliver plants or offer COVID-19-friendly buying and selling processes.

However, nurseries that were not equipped to handle this interest, or had plants that were less suited to people’s preferences, were left behind with many unsold items. At the same time, that is not the only factor that can impact the sellability of a plant. For example, nurseries can be a hotspot for plant illnesses and diseases because of various practices.

Things like disinfection mechanisms, the placement of plant pots, and even how different plants are arranged next to each other can prevent the spread of disease. Therefore, many nurseries are working on creating proper disinfection methods and training employees. These practices will help limit the spread of illness and ensure that more plants can eventually be sold.

In some cases, the issue really comes down to supply and demand. Some farmers may inaccurately predict how much a plant will sell in one year, and when the time comes, they may not end up selling what they imagined. This is because it is often difficult to predict what plants will sell one year compared to the other as trends change quickly.

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons why plants end up being unsold, but what happens after is when things get truly interesting. Different nurseries take different approaches depending on the cost, available resources, and manpower. However, all approaches aim to create a healthy and safe crop in the years ahead!


Plantician Guy (Mike)

Hi I'm Mike, a self-proclaimed plantician (an invented profession to describe a plant enthusiast). Based in Sydney Australia, I enjoy the great outdoors and the greenery things around the garden, in particular, indoor climbing plants.

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