Quick Nursery Equipment Guide on Propagating, Handling & Growing Plants

Posted by Aaron Chen on


Plant propagation is the way we reproduce new plants from the plant stock you already have. It is a well used and known technique to increase the numbers of plants in your nursery.

Handling potted plants is crucial because the incorrect method is likely to damage your stock. How a nursery handles plants can largely affect the work efficiency, overall productivity and profitability.

Maximising plant growth needs to be achievable and using appropriate shelter, tools and equipment all adds up to the successful plant strike rates nurseries require. Therefore, to assist you in knowing what nursery equipment and tools, are out there we have put together a beginner nursery equipment guide on propagating, handling and growing of nursery plants.

Plant Propagation Process

Preparing the propagation media

The role of a propagation medium is to sustain plants and help them grow. Propagation medium can be soil, sand, sphagnum moss, vermiculite, leaf mould, saw dust, pumice, perlite, peat etc. To make your potting medium effective the following characteristics need consideration:

  1. The propagation medium should be carefully moistened.
  1. High humidity should be maintained to reduce the amount of moisture lost under high temperature.
  1. Appropriate temperature of the medium should be maintained for the plants to grow correctly. For best results, it should be at 21°C

Recommended Nursery Equipment

Generally, you can purchase pre mixed commercial propagation mixes as your propagation medium. But to get a fresh custom made potting mix to your formula in low volumes a soil mixer is suggested.

Soil mixers can be utilised to make your own specialised propagation mix. Controlled amounts of water can be added to achieve the required level of moisture. Soil mixers can mix large capacities of potting medium accurately. Ribbon mixers tend to be more gentle on soil mix than paddle mixers. Paddle mixers can also ball up the soil if left mixing for to long a period. The alternative is mixing potting media with a front end loader on a concrete slab.

Caring for the propagated plants

For certain plants to propagate, normal soil temperature is not enough because those plants require a lot of heat. Sometimes, cold nights can interrupt the process of germinating seeds and can lead to various problems and plant diseases. 

Recommended Nursery Tool

Heat mats can provide the ideal condition that the plants need. For seeds to germinate successfully, heat mats and other heat propagation systems are suggested to maintain the soil temperature in their preferred range. heat mats are used on benching.

Propagation by cutting

Cuttings are another way of propagating a plant. In this technique, a section of the plant' stem is cut off. After that, the end of the stem is dipped in a rooting hormone.

Rooting hormones are used to promote root formation on plants. It also provides the supplemental auxin, a natural plant hormone responsible for root development. Rooting hormones may vary according to the type of plants being propagated.

Recommended Nursery Tools

To promote reliable root formation, nursery tools such as secateurs and cutting knives could be used to cut the stem. These tools are required to stay clean, so the spread of disease can be prevented amongst propagated plants.

Potted Plants Handling and Growing Process

Plants potting up

To keep plants staying healthy, make sure that every plant being potted is in a suitable sized container or pot. Pots should be chosen that have the right size drainage holes to allow excess water to pass through. Potting up is a labour intensive activity in nurseries, which may lead to low production rates and cause different sorts of injuries to workers.

Recommended Nursery Equipment

When filling pots or potting up plants, a simple potting bench and hopper can be used rather than working off the ground.  Special nursery propagation benches can be ustilied during the propagation process. These have no joins or cracks for trapping soil and causing disease transfer to your new plants. Having correct height benching allows operators to sit or stand producing higher productivity and improvements to the Workplace Health And Safety (W&HS) of the business.

In addition, production benches (to get containers off the ground) are used to maximise nursery space and provide better air circulation to make plants grow faster after the potting up process.

To further improve the nursery potting process, various types of potting machines are available. For a small nursery, manual potting equipment is recommended. Transition to a semi automatic machine like a "Comet" potting machine is the next stage than fully automatic potting machinery is a better option for mid-size to large nurseries.

Many nurseries have manual, semi-automatic, and automatic equipment to give versatility and options in their need for potting.

Growing plants

When growing plants in pots or in trays, the right amount of shade or light for a specific type of plant can really improve plants' growth. It also helps minimise plant diseases because of the regulated environment. 

Recommended Horticultural Equipment

Greenhouses are used to control light, temperature and humidity for plants. A greenhouse environment is often a necessity when you are propagating plants or growing potted plants because it regulates conditions to prevent fluctuations in external environments and also optimum conditions for growth and photosynthesis

Transport Plants

When potted plants have grown to a required size, they are ready to be transported to another area for hardening out, potting up or for preparation for delivery.  Moving plants one by one is not time efficient and the cost could be very high.

Recommended Nursery Equipment for Transport

Barrows and hand trolleys are recommended for the smaller tightly spaced nurseries and are easily maneuvered to any location. For the nurseries with road ways the self tracking nursery trailers are recommended for use when it comes to transporting potted plants and trays to and from igloos and the growing areas. The beauty of using these specialised trailers is that they don't cut corners and crash into things. There are many efficiencies to be gained using trailers. Having double decks means you can halve your transport times.


Plant propagation is a widely used method to reproduce different required plants species. For your propagated plants to grow healthy and not be damaged, proper handling and procedures should be in place. By utilising some of the above nursery tools and equipment, you are well on the way to improving your work efficiency, and the consistent quality of plants.

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Topics: Plant Propagation

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