Horticulture :: Nursery techniques


1. Establishment of nursery
2. Management of nursery
3. Cost of development of ornamental nursery
4. Pro tray Technique

There has been an increasing demand for horticultural crops more particularly fruit and ornamental ones in both urban and rural areas of India. With this, the demand for good quality planting materials has gone up and hence the nursery business has developed rapidly in the recent years in our country. Nursery product is no longer restricted to orchards or large parks and gardens. It has entered into high rise buildings, offices, factories, business houses, hospitals, hotels, backyards, roadsides in cities, roof tops, etc. for decoration purpose. Heavy demand is observed during festive seasons and seasons of fairs and melas. Ornamental nursery business has, therefore, come up in a large scale in areas near city and towns.

1.Establishment of nursery
Nursery is developed gradually. The mother plants planted for vegetative and seed propagation and seed propagated plants such as seasonal flower seedlings are raised for sale simultaneously. Important factors considered for establishing a nursery are agro-climatic conditions, soil types, soil pH, location, area, irrigation facilities, communication, market demand, availability of germplasm or mother plants, skilled persons, etc.

Selection of site: The site selected for raising a nursery should preferably be located near marketing centres for the convenience of transportation of the products with minimum or no damage. The site should be convenient enough for transportation of input materials also. It is important to have or develop a perennial source of water inside the nursery. If need arises, wind breaks of tall plants like eucalyptus, aonla, seedling mango, etc. may be planted to provide necessary shade and protection.

Product choice: The product choice will primarily depend on the market demand in nearby areas. For wider market coverage, the choice may be dependent on market studies in the desired areas. Varieties of various ornamental plants like shade loving foliage plants, flowering plants, creepers, plants suitable for parks, gardens and roadside plantations, offices, business houses, hospitals, residential buildings, etc. may be propagated in the nursery. Planting materials such as seedlings of flowers, bulbs, corms, etc. may also be produced.

Methods of propagation: Plants may be raised from seeds or by vegetative propagation. Some important aspects of propagation are summarized below along with examples of fruit crops:

  1. Raising from seeds: Germination from seeds may not be 100% even if the seeds are sown in perfect conditions. The factors that control the germination are age, stage of maturity and viability of seeds, water, free supply of oxygen and the heat or temperature. Some seeds do not germinate easily for variety of reasons such as the dormancy, rest period and presence of hard seed coat. Seeds with hard coats (e.g. palm, cannes, etc.) require some kind of external treatment for germination. Cracking of the coats by mechanical means, abrasion, soaking in water or acid and stratification are some methods commonly applied. Before sowing on a large scale, it is worthwhile to test the viability of the seeds. Eg.: Acid lime, amla, mandarin orange, annona, durian, litchi, mangosteen, West Indian cherry, passion fruit, bilimbi, carambola, karonda, loquat, phalsa etc.
  2. Vegetative Propagation: Safe methods of vegetative propagation such as cutting, layering, division, separation, budding and grafting are adopted for multiplication of ornamental plants.
    • Cutting: Plant parts that are normally used for this purpose are stems, roots, leaves and modified stems such as tubers, corms and rhizomes, runners and bulbs. This method is very popular, particularly because it is the cheapest and most convenient one. However, in case of annuals, biennials and some perennials, methods such as seedage, layering and grafting are easier and more economical. Eg.: Grapes, pomegranate, pear, West Indian cherry, passion fruit, loquat, phalsa, fig, kiwi, bread fruit etc.
    • Layering: The method of inducing roots in a stem which is still attached to the plant and then detaching it after the root is formed for transplanting is called a layering or layerage. Mostly creepers and trees are raised by this method. Some herbaceous plants such as carnation, chrysanthemun, etc. can be raised by layering. Eg.: Guava, pomegranate, lemon, West Indian cherry, litchi, karonda, phalsa, rambuton, bread fruit etc.
    • Division and Separation: The plants which produce masses of stems at ground level, each having its own root system are lifted from ground and divided into individuals. This is called division. In separation, the rooted or unrooted parts usually detach themselves on maturity and start or develop as a new individual in next season. Plants like chrysanthemum, tube rose, Russelia juncea and most of the herbaceous perennials are easily propagated by division. Bulb hyacinth and crocus are examples of plants that can be propagated by separation.
      Suckers, rhizomes, tubers, runners, stolons, bulbs, corms, bulbils, etc., are some other plant parts which are used for vegetative propagation. Eg.: Banana (suckers), pineapple (suckers and slips), straw berry (runners, slips) etc.
    • Grafting: Grafting, except budding (which is also a form of grafting) is not widely used in ornamental horticulture except in a few cases. The types of grafting which are used in ornamental plants are limited to inarching, side grafting, splice grafting, saddle grafting, flat grafting and cleft grafting. Inarching is followed in the propagation of roses in some parts of the country. The method of side grafting is followed in case of roses, camellias, etc. Eg.: Amla, mango, sapota, jack, durian, apple, pear, avocado, West Indian cherry, annona, rambuton, persimmon, apricot, loquat etc.
    • Budding: In ornamental horticulture, mostly 'T'-budding or 'Shield' budding is employed for propagation. Eg.: Amla, ber, mandarin orange, sweet orange, peach, plum, avocado, litchi, loquat, apricot etc.
  3. Tissue culture: The propagation of orchid through meristem culture was the first commercially successful venture in tissue culture. The principles of tissue culture can be successfully employed in respect of ornamental plants with soft tissues. Quite a large number of ornamental plants are reported to respond to propagation by tissue culture method. Few such plants are gladiolus, carnation, lily, rose, gerbera, anthurium, magnolia, fern, cacti, etc. Propagation of ornamental plants by this method is gaining popularity. Eg.: Banana.

Physical programme: For this model, the following physical programme is considered 

Sl. No. Items Year I Year II III Year Onwards
1 Development of mother plants (250 Nos. of plants of different varieties) 560 sqm - -
2 Raising pot plants (Nos.) 500 800 1,000
3 Seedbed nursery
     Poly bag seedlings (Nos.)
     Ball seedlings (Nos.)




Structures required: A number of structures may be necessary for raising a nursery. To begin with, the following structures need to be constructed:

  1. Workshed: The workshed of 6 m x 4.5 m with thatch roofs and locally available materials like bamboo, wood, etc. may be constructed. Total amount of Rs.6750/- @ Rs.250 per sq.m. has been considered for this purpose.
  2. Polyhouse: The polyhouse of 9 m x 4 m dimension with 90 cm, brick wall, 3.6 m tall rhombus netting with expanded metal and polythene roof supported by local materials like bamboo, wood and planks, may be constructed. The cost estimated for such a house is approximately Rs.300.00 per sq.m. An additional lumpsum amount of Rs.2000.00 may be considered for construction of wooden racks inside the poly house.
  3. Store-cum-office: A store-cum-office of 6.0 m x 4.5 m constructed with locally available materials may serve the purpose. For this, a rate of Rs. 350/- per sq.m. has been considered adequate.
  4. Fencing: A goat proof fencing only will be effective for a nursery. For this model of 0.5 acre area, an amount of Rs.16250.00 has been considered as the total cost for erecting a goat-proof fencing around the boundary.

Land preparation: The land development for nursery is very important. In nursery, the land may be divided into minimum four parts:

  • area for mother plant,
  • area for seed production,
  • area for raising flower seedlings and
  • area for storing of seedlings or vegetatively propagated perennial plants.

The land of a nursery is prepared by ploughing and cross ploughing. All kinds of waste materials are to be removed and the land must be levelled properly.


2. Management of Nursery

Seedbed and nursery beds: For raising flower seedlings, some permanent or temporary structures for seed bed may be prepared. These beds will be minimum 0.5 to 0.75 m high from ground level. The beds may be 0.75m to 1.00m in breadth and length may be as per the availability of land. The nursery beds will be prepared for storing of perennial plants or the plants that should be kept for sale.

Collection and planting of mother plants: The plantation of mother plants is an important work for developing a nursery. The mother plants must be true to the type and true to the variety. The plants should be properly labelled. Collection of exotic type of mother plants is a continuous process or job. The mother plants may be maintained properly for their vigorous growth; otherwise number of propagated plants will get reduced.

Storage of dried, cleaned soil and compost manure: For raising flower seedlings during rainy or early winter season, the soil and compost would be stored during hot or summer months. In rainy season, collection of dried soil and manure is very difficult. Without these, the seedlings cannot be raised during rainy season.

Production of flower seeds: Production of flower seeds is highly specialized job. The seeds should be produced carefully. If the quality of seed is good, the percentage of seed germination, seedlings vigour, vegetative and reproductive growth of the crops will be good. After harvesting of quality seeds, germination percentage of seeds and seedling vigour should be checked before marketing of seeds.

Storage of propagated plants in nursery beds: The propagated plants are planted in nursery beds for better growth or hardening the plants. In general, this type of nursery bed is prepared under partial shade.

Manuring: Manuring is to be done very carefully. Vigorous growth of plant is always attractive to the buyer. Again, heavy manuring is not beneficial for storage of plants.

Watering: Like manuring, watering is also important. Watering will be done according to need of the plant. The nursery should have a water source of its own. For this model, digging a well (12 m deep x 3 m dia) and installation of a 2.0 HP kerosene pumpset with accessories are considered. Sprinkler system of irrigation is not advisable at the beginning.

Drainage: For sufficient vegetative and reproductive growth of plants, good drainage system must be developed in between the beds and around the nursery. Adequately gentle slope in the pot bed surface is also desirable. It is extremely important to ensure that water logging does not occur in and around the pots and beds.

Plant protection: Keen observation on attack of different pests and diseases is required. If the mother plants are infected, the propagated plants will be infected also. Necessary control measures should be taken immediately on observation.

The seeds, bulbs, etc. need to be harvested in the proper stage. Only completely ripe seeds are ready for harvesting. Seed capsules should be covered with muslin cloth or by the paper bag before ripening in cases of light seeds (like calendula, balsam, etc.) which may blow off due to wind or those species the fruits of which may burst while ripening. This will prevent loss of seeds.

Corms and bulbs are generally harvested when the leaves start yellowing or when they dry up. These are dug out carefully without imparting any injury.

Before harvest, nursery stock should be mature. The tissues are hardened against water loss and shrinkage. It is a common practice to defoliate shrubs and trees some days before they are to be dug out. This can be done by chemical defoliants, by withholding water or by hand. Live plants intended for transport are sent with a ball of earth around their roots.

Packing and handling
Seeds are cleaned and stored in close bottles or tins. Before packing, they are dried first in shade for 2-3 days and finally in the sun for a couple of days. In husked seeds, the husks are removed before packing.

It is important to see while packing the plants that the container is neither over-packed nor loose enough allowing the contents to move about. All space should be filled up by some packing materials like straw, dried grass, etc.
For long distance destinations, the ball of earth should be soaked in water and covered with a thick layer of wet moss. Only plants having a well-developed root system should be selected for such destinations.

Bulbs, tubers and corms withstand rigours of handling. They are packed in bamboo-matted boxes in between layers of straw. Rhizomes of water-lily and lotus are wrapped in moist sphagnum moss and polythene to keep them moist during transit and then packed in baskets or cardboard cartons.

Seeds are stored in a cool, dry place or kept in desiccator. Living plants should be kept in shade. Bulbs, corms and tubers are stored in single layer over dry sand, flat wooden trays or racks in a well-aerated store room with low temperature and low humidity. Before storing, they may be treated with fungicides and insecticides such as 0.1% benlate or 0.1-0.2%, captan 5% , DDT , BHC, etc.

Marketing of plants and planting materials is the most crucial and important part of the nursery business. The production of high quality true to the type and attractive planting materials is absolutely necessary. They must be free from pests and diseases, vigorously growing and bright and colourful.

Export potentiality of nursery products is also very high. Seeds, bulbs, tubers, cactus, flowering plants, foliage plant, unrooted cuttings and cut flowers are exported from India to many countries such as Australia, Netherlands, UAE, Japan, UK, Singapore, Germany, New Zealand, etc.

Allocation of space
For this model, a nursery covering a total area of 0.5 acre is considered. The space allocation for different purposes is as under :

Space allotment Sq. m.
Mother Plants  560
Pot Nursery 200
Polybag Nursery  350
Ball Nursery including beds 550
Workshed  27
Polyhouse   36
Store cum office  27
Total    1750
15% additional for passage, drainage, etc.        260
Grand Total          2010
Approximately 0.5 acre


FOLIAGE: Thuja, Crotons, Alocasia, Anthuriums, Coleus, Colocasia, Monstera, Philoderndron, Dracaena, Ficus pumila, Pleomele reflexe variegata, Ficus radicans variegata, Ficus pumila, Asparagus plumosus, A. springeri, Scindapsus aureus, Begonia 'Rex', Caladium in different colours, Aglaonema commutatum, Aralia elegantissima, Dieffenbachia exotica, Dieffenbachia picta, Philodendron bipinnatifidum, Polyalthia longifolia, etc.

FLOWERING: Roses (Hybrid teas, floribundas, Polyanthus, Miniature roses, etc.) Aster, jasmine, chrysanthemum, tuberose, gerbera, marigold, carnation, crossandra, Baleria, Begonia glaucophylla, Passiflora caerulea, African violet, Begonia manicata, Calceolaria, geranium, Azalea indica, etc.

BULBS: Cooperanthes, Alpinia, Gladiolus, Dahlia, Caladium, Crocus, Hyacinths, Daffodils, Tulips, Amaryllis, Canna, Bird of Paradise, Datura, Vinca rosea, Lilium sp, etc.

FERNS: Adiantums, Asplenium nidus, Nephrolepsis exaltata, Platyceriums, Pteris cretica, Bird's nest, etc.

PALMS AND CYCADS: Chamaerops humilis, Howea belmoreana, Phoenix roebelenii, Rhapis excelsa, Cycus revoluta (not palm but similar looking), Areca Palm, etc.

CLIMBERS: Bougainvillea, Hiptage benghalensis, Adenocalymma alliaceum, Aristolochia sp., Jasminum sp., etc

CACTI AND SUCCULENTS: Aloe variegatta, Aeonium haworthii, Agave americana marginata, Colyledon undulata, Euphorbia splendens, Sedum sp., Epiphyllum sp., Rhipsalis, Zygocactus, Opuntia microdasys, O. tunicata, etc.

TREES: Bottle brush, Bauhnia sp., Erythrina indica, Ixora parviflora, Jacaranda, Michelia champaca, Poinciana regia, Cassia sp., Arancaria cookii, Brassaia actinophylla, Ampherstia nobilis, etc.

GRASSES: Agrostis elegans, A. nebulosa, A. pulchella, Apluda aristata, etc.

ANNUALS: Antirrhinum, China aster, Ageratum, Arctotis, Carnation, Calendula, Pansy, Petunia, Phlox, Sweet pea, Cosmos, Zinnia, Coreopsis, Gaillardia,Dianthus, Chrysanthemum, Calendula, etc.


3. Cost of Development of Ornamental Nursery (0.5 acre)

I. Establishment and maintenance of mother plants (Figs. in Rs.)
No. of plants : 250
Area : 560 sq.m.

Sl. No. Items Year I Year II Year III
1 Field preparation, pit digging & filling 1200 - -
2 Manures and fertilizers [including micronutients] & application 1800 1200 1200
3 Planting materials @ Rs70/- each + 10% excess for infilling. 19250 - -
4 Planting 600 - -
5 Watering 2700 3000 3600
6 Interculture 2700 3000 3000
7 Pruning, cleaning the plants - 360 480
8 Plant protection 300 450 600
  Total  28550 8010 8880

II. Establishment of Pot Nursery (Figs. in Rs.) 
No. of pots     : Yr. 1 - 500
                            2 - 800
                            3 - 1000
Area               : 200 sq.m.

Sl. No. Items Year I Year II Year III
1 Earthen pots @ Rs.10/- each [including transportation & 5% damage] 5250 8400 10500
2 Soil @ Rs.300/- per truck load 600 900 1200
3 Manures and fertilizers (including micronutrients, etc.) & application 1800 2800 3840
4 Mixing fertilizers and manures with soil, filling pots 840 1320 1680
5 Planting materials @ 25/- each
[from outside]
6 Planting in pots @ 50 plants/manday 600 960 1200
7 Watering 2160 2400 3900
8 Interculture including arrangement 4500 6000 7200
9 Plant protection 300 450 600
  Total  28550 33230 32620

III. Establishment of Seedbed nursery
Area :  Polybag nursery             - 350 sq.m.
            Ball seedling nursery     - 550 sq.m.

Sl. No. Items Year I Year II Year III
1 Polybag seedlings (Nos.) 15000 18000 21000
2 Ball seedlings (Nos.) 15000 18000 21000

(Figs. in Rs.)     

Sl. No. Items Year I Year II Year III
1 Land & Beds preparation. 1200 1800 2400
2 Manures and fertilizers & application 720 900 1020
3 Seeds & sowing 480 600 720
4 Polybag [15cm x 10cm x 150G] 1450 1750 2000
5 Sieving soil, mixing with manures & fertilizers, filling sleeves and transplanting 50% of seedlings from beds. 1800 2160 2520
6 Watering 720 960 1200
7 Interculture 900 1080 1260
8 Plant Protection 150 250 350
  Total 7420 9500 11470

IV. Equipments, Implements & Furniture (Figs. in Rs.)     

Sl. No. Items Year I Year II Year II
1 Sprayers (2 nos.) 4000 - 2000
2 Spades, forks, knives, Khurpis, secateurs etc. 3000 - 1000
3 Water pipes, water canes, buckets, etc. 3000 - 1000
4 Furniture 2000 --  
  Total 12000 - 4000

V. Salary for Supervisor-cum-Salesman

Salary Year I Year II Year III
Rs/month 3,000 3,200 3,400

VI. Wages for skilled labourer for budding, grafting, etc. @ Rs.100/- per manday

Wages Year I Year II Year III
Rs/month - 2000 2500

VII. Goat proof fencing: Rs.16250.00
Summary of the cost estimate: (Figs. in Rs.)                                             

Sl. No. Items Year I Year II Year III Onwards
1 Work shed 6750 350 450
2 Polyhouse 12800 - 1300
3 Store-cum-office 9450 - 950
4 Mother plants 28550 8010 8880
5 Pot nursery 28550 33230 32620
6 Seedbed nursery 7420 9500 11470
7 Equipments, Furniture, etc. 12000 - 4000
8 Pumpset & dugwell 27000 1000 1000
9 Supervisor-cum-Salesman 36000 38400 40800
10 Skilled labour (Hired) - 2000 2500
11 Goat proof fencing 16250 - -
  Total 184770 92490 103970
  Approximately 184770 92500 104000

Yield Estimates

Sl. No. Items Year I Year II Year III Year IV onwards
1 Pot plants (Nos.) (Net sale 80%) Nil 400 640 800
2 Bouquets (Nos.) Nil 100 120 150
3 Seedlings (Nos.) (Net sale 80%)        
  a) Polybag seedlings
b) Ball seedlings
4 Seeds (kg) - 10 10 10

Sale prices estimated [Average]
Pot Plants - Rs.70.00 each.
Bouquets - Rs.50.00 each. 
Seedlings - a] Polybag - Rs.6.00 each
       b] Ball- Rs. 2.00 each
Seeds - Rs.5.00/10 g packet
Maintenance cost (average): Rs.1,04,000/- p.a. from year IV onwards.

Year-wise Income: (Figs. in Rs.)            

Sl. No. Items Year I Year II Year III Year IV onwards
1 Pot Plants - 28000 44800 56000
2 Bouquets - 5000 6000 7500
3 Seedlings        
     a) Polybag
   b) Ball
4 Seeds - 5000 5000 5000
  Total 96000 153200 190200 202900



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