The most lucrative things to grow in your garden are specialty plants. You don’t need to make a full-time commitment to cultivating them, either.
If you have a few hours of free time to spare each week, you can make a few extra bucks. But if you have more time on your hands, there’s tremendous potential for making astronomical amounts of money.
Some growers even make $90,000 or more per acre!
Table of Contents
Grow Exotic Mushrooms
There are two ways you can make money with mushrooms. You can forage them, or you can grow them at home.
If you grow exotic varieties of mushrooms like shiitake and oyster in your house, you can make a lot of money from a small amount of space.
For example, if you have a 10′ X 10′ area in your basement where you can grow them, you potentially can make $15,000 a year. Exotic mushrooms aren’t good at withstanding long travel times in commercial haulers, so you have a decided advantage over the insanely huge corporate outfits.
Become a Bamboo Harvester
If you become a bamboo farmer, you can make lots of cash.
Although growing bamboo isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme, you can still make a lot of money. For example, container-grown bamboo sells for $30 each. In a quarter acre, you can fit 2,400 plants.
This will net you $72,000!
Buyers are willing to spend as much as $150 for each plant, and suppliers are finding it incredibly difficult to keep up with the overwhelming demand.
Bamboo can be used in your yard as a hedge, screen, or stand-alone plant. It’s not just a tropical plant, as many cold-hardy varieties can withstand subzero temperatures.
If winter temperatures frequently dip below zero, you won’t be able to grow bamboo. So if your dream was to become a bamboo farmer but you live in Northern Maine, you’ll probably be crushed to hear that you can’t.
As far as soil conditions, most plants thrive with a neutral pH of around 7. If you start your bamboo in a pot, it’ll be easier to maintain this level.
Startup Costs and Who to Sell To
Your startup costs are the price of growing supplies and bamboo plants. For example, at Lewis Bamboo, you can buy an incense bamboo plant (a “cold hardy” variety) for $54.00 each.
If your town allows it, sell bamboo directly to the public. This way, you’ll get to know your customers, and they’ll get to know you.
This builds tremendous brand loyalty. Plus, unlike wholesale, you’ll get your money right away.
You can make a lot of profit selling directly to landscapers. Landscapers and commercial gardeners love doing business with the same seller.
Find out what they’re looking for, and if you can consistently provide them with what they want at a reasonable price, you’ll do extraordinarily well. Put together a flyer listing what you have available and start passing it around.
Visit garden shops in your area to see what varieties of bamboo plants they’re stocking and selling. Talk to them and find out what they need.
Bamboo proliferates rapidly and has been known to grow four feet in one day.
Try buying 20 different popular varieties to start. To find out what species people are in the market for, ask around.
Grow your bamboo in containers because you won’t have to dig one up when a customer buys one. It’ll just be “load and go.” Nice and easy, just the way you want it to be.
What’s great about container-grown plants is that they can be sold at any time of the year. Use containers that can breathe, because this will allow for sufficient water drainage. And invest in a drip irrigation system, because this saves on water and add slow-release fertilizer as necessary.
Next, put your bamboo in the ground and wait for the magic to happen.
It’ll be probably during the spring of the second year that you’ll have so many offshoots, that you’ll be able to at least triple what you originally had. If you notice that new clumps of shoot are emerging from the ground, separate them and replant.
Remember to keep the rhizomes (a rootlike subterranean stem that produces roots below and sends up shoots above) moist during and after planting so they don’t dry out.
Your Very Own U-Cut Bamboo Farm (Like You Always Dreamed Of)
You can have a U-Cut bamboo farm, inspired by and based on ever-popular You-Cut Christmas tree farms. At these nurseries, customers get the extraordinary privilege of choosing whatever bamboo plants strike their particular fancy.
It’s rumored that you can make profits of more than $40,000 a year working just one day a week!
If you’re entranced by this idea, grow more than one variety. This makes it more fun for the customer because he gets to choose which bamboo what he wants.
Specialized Bamboo Farms
If you’d like, you can specialize in growing bamboo for fencing. You can either make the fencing to sell to the customer or just sell the bamboo poles so the customer can make his own fence.
Most growers try to grow a mix of dwarf bamboo, which are under 8′ tall, midsize bamboo, which are 8′ to 20′ tall, and timber bamboo, over 20′ tall. Smaller bamboo plants are usually for indoor use, and larger plants are used for landscaping.
You have to be patient with ginseng because it takes six long years for the plants to reach maturity. In the interim, you can sell seeds and rootlets.
Ginseng is called “green gold,” and is such a valuable crop that it helped fund the American Revolution. Millions of people in Asia value ginseng for its miraculous healing properties.
It can only be grown in places that have cold winters. That’s because only subzero temperatures break ginseng’s dormancy, causing it to wake up from its long slumber and sprout in the spring.
Like grass, ground covers beautify your yard. But unlike grass, there’s no mowing or weeding involved. They reduce the need for watering because they lock in moisture.
This is great because, in many municipalities, you’re prohibited from watering your lawn because water is in short supply.
They’re the high-in-demand, easy-to-grow, sensible alternative to high-maintenance grass lawns. Growers adore ground covers because they’re easy to propagate, grow, and sell.
For small backyard nurseries, they’re one of the biggest income generators.
Ground covers are one of the most profitable crops per square foot because you can make profits of up to $20 a square foot with them. They don’t require much space. You can easily fit thousands of plants in a 50′ x 50′ patch of ground.
Use your original stock to propagate new plants. That’ll keep your costs low.
The Big Four
There are hundreds of plants that can be used, but the “Big Four” are the most used varieties. These are English Ivy, Pachysandra, Vinca and Winter Creeper.
In the United States, lavender is a booming business. That’s because its calm and soothing odor is added to everything from body lotions to perfumes to insect repellants.
It’s so incredibly popular, many small nursery owners are starting to exclusively specialize in this unique herb. But not everybody can grow lavender because you need the right climate for it to thrive.
If Your Climate’s Like France’s, You’re in Luck
Most lavender used for commercial purposes comes all the way fro the Provence region of France, known for its beautiful sunny weather and wondrously colorful countryside. This is the area of the world where it flourishes the best.
The more closely your climate matches this area, the more successful your lavender growing will be. This means warm summers with a plentiful amount of sun, but not too much heat.
And winters that are somewhat chilly, but not bone-chillingly so. Living near large bodies of water seems to help.
Some growers living near the Great Lakes have done spectacularly well cultivating hardier varieties. If you hang your hat in a place that has frigid winters, try growing Lavendula augustifolia (also called English lavender).
If you’re not sure whether lavender will grow in your area, check with your local garden center.
Lavender grown where the humidity is high often suffer from fungal diseases. This can sometimes be prevented by increasing the distance between lavender plants to improve air circulation.
Although there are an astoundingly large number of species, just three are widely cultivated by commercial farmers. They are Lavendula augustifolia, Lavendula x intermedia (a hybrid cross between Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender) and Lavandula stoechas (Spanish lavender or topped lavender)
Lavendula augustifolia, a cold-hardy species, does well in climate zones 5-9. It thrives in mild summer heat and long hours of daylight.
Lavendula x. intermedia is a lavandin, which is a lavender hybrid. This plant produces more long floral spikes than true lavenders. Lavendula is often grown just for its essential oils, because you can get five times the amount as you can from English lavender.
Lavendula stoechas has a flower top that’s shaped like a cylinder, and flowers coming out of the top that look like rabbit ears. They’re the earliest lavender to bloom and produce flowers throughout the season.
However, they’re less hardy than other varieties and only suitable for zones 7-10.
How Much Can You Make?
You can grow several hundred bunches on a small patch of land about 20′ x 20′ or so. This should net you just under $2,000 in a twelve-month period.
Larger farms that also sell value-added products can bring in hundreds of thousands dollars of year. For example, Purple Haze Farm in Sequim, Washington grosses over a million dollars a year with about eight acres of lavender.
They sell three varieties of dried lavender—Royal Velvet, Hidcote Giant, and Grosso. Don’t fret if you don’t sell all your lavender bunches.
Value-added products such as shampoo and body butter have huge markups of 500% from the cost of the raw material.
How to Grow Lavender
To ensure that their lavender plants are consistent in color, quality, and oil production, most growers propagate their plants through cuttings rather than seed. The cutting is an exact clone of the parent.
Lavender does best in sandy loam soil with excellent drainage. If the soil doesn’t drain well, the result will be a root disease that’ll kill your plants.
Many growers used raised beds to improve drainage.
The pH of the You can test your soil with a simple pH tester you can buy at any garden center. If your soil tests alkaline, add sulfur to lower the pH, and it’s too acidic, add lime to raise the pH.
Never harvest your crop after it rains or when there is still dew on it because it needs to be dry before you collect it. However, don’t gather it in scorchingly hot weather, because the heat causes the oil to evaporate and you’ll be left with a worthless product.
Late morning after the dew has evaporated best. If you’re selling fresh or dried bouquets, harvest when the first flower blooms open up on the stems.
To dry your bunches, put a rubber band around the stems and hang the bunches upside down. Dry them as soon as possible to prevent the color from fading.
The drying area should be dark with excellent ventilation.
After you dry them, you can sell them to be used in beautiful dried flower arrangements. The buds can be separated from the rest of the plant and sold to make sachets.
Distillation of the Essential Oil
If you want to distill your own lavender essential oil, several companies make tabletop distillers.
When lavender oil is extracted from a plant through distillation, the process produces both the essential oil and a lavender hydrosol. The lavender hydrosol has a tiny bit of the oil as well as the water-soluble parts of the plant.
It’s often used to make spritzers and room fresheners.
Raising Trees and Shrubs
You can make LOTS of money, growing trees, and shrubs for customers. Raising varieties such as cottonwoods, junipers, and azaleas can be very lucrative!
Landscapers are always in need of trees and shrubs to beautify their clients’ land. If you’re growing these plants and doing a fantastic job at it, they’ll want you to be their supplier.
You can make $100 or more for every one you sell. Some of the more desirable varieties, such as the Japanese Maple with its astonishingly beautiful colors, can sell for up to $150 per plant.
If you specialize in unique and hard-to-find varieties, you can charge even higher prices.
The secret to making lots of money selling this kind of plant is to find one you enjoy growing. If these also happen to be varieties you can’t find at your local nursery, you’ll really rake in cash!
Why Grow in Pots?
Potted plants can bring in tremendous profits, and you don’t need much space. Best of all, any unsold trees can be saved for next year, when they’re bigger and will fetch a higher price.
This is a way to grow trees used by many commercial nurseries. It’s faster, easier, and more profitable than growing them in the ground.
And it produces higher quality plants. Here are the advantages of planting in containers versus planting in the ground:
- SAVES MONEY: Trees don’t have to be dug up, so you save on labor costs.
- GROW MORE TREES: Container growing uses less space, so a farmer can cultivate three times as many trees in the same amount of space.
- USES LESS WATER: Gardening in pots uses less water because each container can have its own drip line.
- REDUCED WEEDING: Weeding is reduced, which is another thing that saves on labor costs.
- SELL ALL YEAR LONG: Plants in pots can be sold throughout the year.
- CUSTOM SOIL: Potting soil can be custom mixed to create the best growing medium for each species, meaning your trees will grow faster.
- NO MORE TRANSPLANT SHOCK: Transplant shock is minimized, resulting in a higher survival rate for your trees and shrubs.
To start making money in your very first year, start your trees or shrubs in the spring of one year and sell them the following spring. They should be big enough to sell at this time.
Some fast-growing trees like willows can even be planted in the spring and sold in the fall. Some growers specialize in one particular tree, like the Japanese Maple. Others grow a few different varieties.
To maximize your profits, set aside a portion of your trees to transplant into bigger pots. That’s because a tree in a five or ten-gallon pot can be worth 20 times more than the same tree in a one-gallon container.
Flowering cherry is prized by homeowners everywhere for its brilliant white and pink blooms cheerfully announcing spring’s arrival.
There are lots of maple tree varieties. While some are the spitting image of the emblem on the Canadian flag, others look nothing like it. And while most of them produce spectacular oranges and reds in the fall, others keep their deep burgundy color all year long.
There are a dizzying array of willow species to choose from.
The Weeping Willow has slender leaves with wispy branches that almost kiss the ground. It’s a graceful addition to any backyard. Its bounteous shade provides a welcome respite from summer’s heat and can thrive in virtually any soil condition.
However, don’t make the mistake of planting them too close to underground pipes, because they love moisture. And, their larger-than-average root networks can play havoc with sewer or water lines.
The corkscrew willow is closely related to the weeping willow. Like its botanical cousin, this tree has long slender leaves. It also curly, contorted branches which become particularly noticeable come winter.
Tabletop Christmas Trees
Many people who live in condos or small apartments don’t have room for a full-size Christmas tree. So increasingly, they’re turning to tabletop trees to fill the void.
Pine tree seedlings adapt exceedingly well to container life. However, when they get too big for their container, they’ll need to be replanted outdoors.
Italian stone pine and Elwood cedar are two particularly popular varieties.
Leyland Cypress trees are typically used as full-sized Christmas trees. However, cuttings can be used as tabletop ones. This tree is a hybrid of two West Coast relatives of the redwood family.
Rosemary is a culinary herb, but it can also be pruned into the shape of a Christmas tree. Use the cuttings from your pruning in recipes or throw it in the fireplace to release its savory aroma.
Its sturdy stems easily support the weight of even heavy decorations. The key to keeping it healthy is to keep it dry, but not so dry that it dies of thirst.
Put it in a new pot if its roots outgrow its old home.
The Italian Stone Pine has blue-green needles, making it look a bit like the Blue Spruce. They’re native to the dry, cool climates of Spain and Portugal.
Shear them for a desirable cone shape. You’ll need a cool, dry climate to grow this species.
The Ancient Art of Bonsai
Bonsai is the Japanese practice of stunting a tree or shrub’s growth without affecting its natural appearance.
There are three types: specimen plants (an unusual or impressive plant grown as a focus of interest in a garden), starter plants, or trained plants.
There are evergreen bonsai trees, including Norway Spruce, Atlas Cedar, and Japanese White Pine. And, there are trees of the deciduous variety including Sargent Crabapple, Paper Birch, and Trident Maple.
To make a cheap plant look like an expensive one, make some hypertufa containers. Check out video lessons on YouTube to learn how to do it.
Ornamental grasses are both drought-resistant and low-maintenance. This makes them incredibly popular with landscapers and homeowners.
Because there are hundreds of shapes and sizes, they can be used for everything from ground covers to privacy screens. It’s easy to get started with them.
Just buy the mother plants and divide the root clumps into new plants as the mother plant grows.
Where to Sell Your Plants
You can sell your produce at roadside stands and farmers’ markets. You can also sell it to grocery stores, event venues, restaurants, and catering places. Or, try selling them at garage sales or on Craigslist.
Have an occasional “wholesale day,” where you sell your plants for a deep discount.
Competitive Intelligence for the Specialty Plant Grower
To get really good at selling specialty plants, do a little competitive intelligence.
Visit your local garden center with a notebook and pen in hand and write down what kind of plants they’re selling. Carefully note what sort of pots they use to go with their plants and the other ways they sell and market their product.
You should also subscribe to magazines in the industry and frequent trade shows.
I hope I inspired you to give specialty crop growing a try. Instead of cultivating run-of-the-mill vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, and green beans, try something a little more exotic.
Specialty plants have SO much more money-making potential that the same old boring vegetables, trees, and shrubs that everyone else is growing.
So, get out there and plant something really unusual, and watch the money come rolling in!