Starting a Landscape Business – What do You Need?

Q: I want to start a landscape business installing flowers in small beds. Do I need additional licenses such as an architect, nursery growers, or contractor’s licenses?

A: It may be more complicated than you think.

Todd Hurt, Training Coordinator for the UGA Center for Urban Agriculture says:

Getting started as a landscaper can be a bit of a challenge depending on the services offered. I’ll try to keep the answer simple.

At a minimum the landscaper needs a business license issued by their local municipality. Most landscape companies have a business license in the city/county in which their office is located however each municipality in which a landscape job is performed could require you to have a business license for their jurisdiction. There are several things needed to get the business license depending on the business structure and location but a good starting place is to get a federal tax id number and register the name of their business with the Secretary of State’s office.

A Level 1A Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Certificate is required. (Homeowners are exempt for up to 1 acre of soil disturbance but not landscape contractors).

A Live Plant Dealers License is required because the landscaper is involved in the transport and distribution of plant material. If you grow any of your own plant material then a Live Plant Grower’s License.

If any pesticide is used a commercial pesticide applicator’s license is required. Most landscapers need the  Category 24 Turf & Ornamental license.

Pesticide applications you do to a landscape must be posted according to state rules.

To install an irrigation system a Low Voltage Contractor’s license is needed.

If installing hardscapes, a building permit or contractor’s license may be needed (ask your local business license office).

Landscape designs may not be sold unless they receive the seal of a Landscape Architect. Landscape contractors or landscape designers who may not be landscape architects often recover the cost of their design work by charging for the installation.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive but rather serve as a starting point. Depending on the number of employees a business has numerous federal requirements may also apply. I always encourage new landscape contractors to become a member of the professional associations (Urban Ag Council, Georgia Green Industry Association, etc.) to remain aware of changes at the state and local level.

A voluntary certification program, the Georgia Certified Landscape Professional program for landscape contractors, is available through the University of Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture.

I hope this helps. I am always happy to answer any commercial landscape certification questions and may be reached at thurt@uga.edu.