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Plant Merchant Certification

Under Pennsylvania's Plant Pest Act nursery stock is defined as: All trees, shrubs, brambles, woody vines, woody florist stock, herbaceous perennials, vegetable plants, bedding and other annual herbaceous plants, their roots, cuttings, grafts, scions, buds, fruit pits, seeds and their parts for propagation, except bulbs, field crop seeds, vegetable seeds, flower seeds, regardless of where the material may have been grown or is growing.

Persons engaged primarily as growers of nursery stock are considered nurseries. This definition includes many Pennsylvania greenhouse operations, in addition to traditional nurseries.

Persons that are engaged in buying and selling nursery stock, but are not primarily growers, are considered nursery dealers.  It is within this diverse group of nursery dealers that most of the confusion over certification requirements has arisen. Nursery dealers include landscape contractors, chain stores, garden centers, plant distributors, mail order firms, collectors, conservation districts conducting plant sales and any other individual who receives plants for the purposes of reselling or reshipping. By applying for certification, a nursery dealer verifies that he will buy and sell only plants that have been inspected and certified. A certificate of inspection must always accompany all wholesale lots or out-of-state shipments.

There are two ways to apply for certification as a new nursery, dealer, or greenhouse:

    • Complete a paper application form available from a Plant Inspector or download a copy: Nursery Greenhouse and Dealer Registration. Submit the application along with the $40.00 registration fee via mail. All checks should be made payable to the "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania".
    • "Apply for a New License" online here. To complete the online registration, you will need a credit card at the time of the application.

Nursery stock offered for sale is subject to inspection for injurious plant pests.  If an inspection reveals harmful insects or plant diseases, stop-sale orders may be issued. Samples are frequently submitted to one of the Bureau of Plant Industry laboratories in Harrisburg for diagnosis. If practical controls exist, a recommendation is made. Controls range from biological agents, chemical agents, and cultural practices to the destruction of plants in some cases.

Every state in the United States has a nursery inspection and certification program. However, not all states are involved in the inspection of greenhouse crops. More than 40 states have a fee for certification that varies from a few dollars to over $1,000. Pennsylvania's annual $40 fee is the result of a bill passed by the legislature as Act 67 of 1990 which established fees for some 440 licenses and permits statewide. Funds collected under this bill have been used to create a special restricted account called the Plant Pest Management Account to be used to improve and enhance plant inspection and certification programs in Pennsylvania. This is a direct benefit to the state's horticulture industry.

To locate nursery stock and dealers access PaPlants.

For more information please contact your regional plant inspector or the program contact.