How to price tree and shrub installations.

A lawn care business owner, on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, was looking to expand into offering landscape services and was interested in knowing how to charge for planting trees and shrubs. He wrote “I need help pricing tree and shrub installation and sod installation. I don’t want to charge by the hour so I figure for the sod I would charge by the sq.ft, and charge a rate for each shrub and one tree. Is this the best way to go about it? If not, how should I charge for such a job?”

Another lawn care business owner suggested “I normally charge double for install of plants. So if I have to pay $20 for a shrub then I charge the customer $40 total and guarantee this plant for one year. This isn’t an absolutely ideal method because by doing it this way, you will make more money on some installs and not as much on others, but one the good thing about it is you won’t get burned this way and the customer has a warranty. You can do the sod this way as well, just be sure that you add a pick-up charge for some things to cover gas etc. because sod is very heavy!

A good sales technique for this method is to let your customers know they can save this way because you can buy plants for less and or how the plants you purchase are of better quality than those available to the general public.

You can always make more money to your bid by charging extra for edging beds. Sometimes I will up charge the price paid for mulch. For example, if I feel the customer can pay the price I’ll charge the customer bag price for mulch but buy it bulk. This way you can install for no extra install charge over the plant charge. It depends on how many plants are put in. Also you need to take care of the soil around each planting to insure that these plants last and won’t need to be replaced. Charge your cost for soil additives.

As far as buying plants, I always deal with 2 or 3 nurseries in my area. I will get a price sheet at the beginning of the season from each and find out which plants that they are going to be pushing throughout the season due to any over purchasing on their part and try to work these plants into my jobs. I never pay more than 75% of retail if they ask for more tell, them what you’ll pay and let them say yes or no.

The nurseries should know in advance what the local growers are going to have available and which plants may be more scarce or more abundant. The nurseries that I deal with normally will let me know if they have an over-stock on a particular item and if they have something that can be substituted for an unavailable plant on my list.

All of this helps the seller because he just wants to move stock, preferably what he has on hand. Another way I save money is while I’m there picking out stock I always ask if they have any damaged or sub par plants that they may want to get rid of. If I feel that I can save the plant and sell it later I’ll give as little as 10% of there original price and include these plants in my bids next year.

A third lawn care business owner suggested “most of my plants run $2 for 1 gal, $5 for 3 gal, and $15 for 7 gallon pot. I at least double that price on my bid. On 1 gallons I charge $5 each minimum, with 1 year warranty. I charge $.75 a sq.ft. on sod plus amend or dump fees. If I know a client is tight then I will give them the option of buying small trees from a box store. Then I charge for just digging the hole and let them deal with their own warranty. I also include a few more of every plant in my bids just in case as well. I hate to be 3 shrubs short and then have to give a bill higher than the quote. I at least double my mulch and soil cost.

On many jobs I will look at my profit, if I feel I’ve made a killing, then I can offer a better deal on extra work.

For example:

Say the total job was bid at $3,000 for the plants and mulch. Out of that $3,000 I made $2,000 on a two day job. Being that I made some killer money, I moved a few sago palms and used my bucket to smooth 3 yards of soil. I didn’t charge the customer extra for those services. Even though they were not in the bid, I was happy with what I made and the customer was happy with the freebies.

How did I make so much??? Well, I keep price lists from at least 15 local nurseries. I also go to the box stores a lot. I know for instance a certain plant will go for $25 each at the box store. But with my price lists, I can find them for $6 bucks each. So I bid the job at $30 each because I’m using my highest price I can find. Same with other plants as well.

Now on a smaller job or one with plants that can’t be marked up so much like hawthorn, you have to charge for more to make the same money. So on this type of job I may have charged another $100 for the 3 yards to be spread. $100 each to move the sago’s, then a delivery charge, sod removal charge, dump charge, and maybe just a general labor charge.”

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Lawn Care Business Books And Software.
How To Get Lawn Care Customers Vol. 2
The landscaping and lawn care business plan startup guide
A rebellious teenagers guide to starting a landscaping & lawn care business
The GopherHaul Lawn Care Business Show Episode Guide.
Stop Lowballing! A Lawn Care Business Owner\'s Guide To Success