Nursery Grower/​Worker

Kaiwhakatipu/​Kaimahi Otaota

Nursery growers/workers grow young plants, flowers, trees and shrubs for sale or for use in parks and gardens.

Pay

Nursery growers/workers usually earn

$18-$26 per hour

Source: New Zealand Plant Producers Incorporated, 'Wage Survey', 2016.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a nursery grower/worker are average for those without a qualification but good for those with one.

Pay

Pay for nursery growers/workers varies depending on skills and experience.

  • New nursery growers/workers can expect to earn minimum wage or a little more.
  • After two to three years' experience, they usually earn up to $20 an hour.
  • Experienced nursery growers/workers or those who are team leaders can earn $26 an hour.  

Source: New Zealand Plant Producers Incorporated, 'Wage Survey', 2016. 

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Nursery growers/workers may do some or all of the following:

  • prepare soil mixes and composts
  • grow plants from seeds and various types of cuttings
  • water, feed, prune, pot and label plants
  • operate and maintain irrigation systems
  • control weeds, and spray plants to control pests and diseases
  • co-ordinate stock control and organise the dispatch of plants
  • sell plants in a garden centre
  • drive bobcats, fork-lifts and delivery trucks.

Skills and knowledge

Nursery growers/workers need to have knowledge of:

  • how to grow and care for plants
  • pest, weed and disease control
  • plant and soil types and characteristics.

Nursery growers/workers who are in charge of staff also need management skills.

Working conditions

Nursery growers/workers:

  • usually work regular business hours, and sometimes weekends
  • usually work in glasshouses, plant shops and garden centres, and outdoors in fields
  • work in all conditions, which may be hot and humid in glasshouses and cold and wet during winter.

What's the job really like?

Matthew Chappell - Nursery Worker

Matthew Chappell

Nursery Worker

Matthew Chappell was taking a break from the stress of working as a chef when he first discovered horticulture. "Work and Income suggested that I do a horticulture course. I really loved it. I learnt about propagation (breeding plants), making plant beds, and general plant maintenance."

Upskilling on the job

Mathew has been in the job for over three years and has been working towards qualifications in horticulture over that time. "I've done weed spraying through work, which I've got a certificate for. I'm also working my way through level standards in horticulture for nursery production. Eventually I'd like to work my way up to management."

Testing but enjoyable work

"It can be pretty difficult sometimes, especially if I haven't had much sleep. I have to concentrate quite a lot if I'm filling out orders. If I stuff it up, the nurseries we distribute to will just send all the plants back. I have quite a lot on the line at work, so I have to do it well.

"But I love coming to work. One of the best parts of this job is the people. They are pretty calm, positive, helpful, and they give off a good vibe. So if you don't want stress and you like working outside, go for nursery work."

Entry requirements

There are no specific requirements to become a nursery grower/worker. However, a National Certificate in Horticulture (Nursery Production) Level 4 may be useful. 

People wanting to use chemical sprays need to have the correct certificates.

A driver's licence and a forklift licence are also useful.

Secondary education

A minimum of three years of secondary education is recommended. Useful subjects include biology, agriculture and horticulture.

Personal requirements

Nursery growers/workers need to be:

  • reliable
  • interested in trees and plants
  • hard-working
  • happy working outdoors.

Useful experience

Useful experience for nursery growers/workers includes work in/on:

  • garden shops
  • gardens
  • orchards
  • farms.

Physical requirements

Nursery growers/workers need to be reasonably fit, healthy and strong.

Find out more about training

New Zealand Plant Producers Incorporated
(04) 918 3511 - info@nzppi.co.nz - www.nzppi.co.nz
Primary Industry Training Organisation
0800 208020 - info@primaryito.ac.nz - www.primaryito.ac.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

The number of nursery grower/worker vacancies has steadily increased since 2010, largely due to demand created by planting needed for new roading projects happening around the country, particularly in Auckland, Waikato and Canterbury. 

Opportunities best for those with qualifications, but employers willing to train 

Although opportunities are best for those with nursery/garden qualifications, opportunities still arise for people without a qualification but an interest in plants, a willingness to learn and train, and a positive attitude.

Part-time work a good way to get foot in the door

A good way to get into the job is by doing temporary nursery work during busy times, as this gives an employer a chance to see if you are a reliable worker. Peak work times vary depending on the type of nursery:

  • Retail garden centres are busiest in spring and autumn, when customer sales are highest.
  • Supply nurseries are busiest during August to November, when plants are ready for sale and distribution to garden centres.
  • Commercial fruit nurseries are busiest in winter, when trees are grafted, lifted and graded.
  • Council nurseries are busiest during September to December, when trees are ready to be taken out and planted.

Types of employers varied

Nursery growers/workers may be employed by:

  • retail nurseries that sell to the public
  • commercial nurseries that sell seedlings, shrubs and trees to retailers
  • commercial nurseries that grow shrubs and trees for landscapers and development projects
  • city council nurseries that grow plants for city gardens, roundabouts and roadsides
  • commercial growers that supply orchards with large quantities of fruit trees and bushes
  • forestry nurseries that grow seedlings for plantation forests.

Sources

  • Palmer, F, administration and programme manager, New Zealand Plant Producers Incorporated, Careers Directorate – Tertiary Education Commission interview, August 2017.  
  • Statistics New Zealand, 'Census of Population and Dwellings', 2014, (www.stats.govt.nz).

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Nursery growers/workers may progress to become team leaders, move into managerial positions or start their own businesses.

They may also specialise in growing plants for garden centres, or growing seedlings for commercial purposes such as forestry.

Kerryn Reynish bending down and weeding pot plants

Kerryn Reynish weeding, repotting and labelling plants

Last updated 1 April 2019