Many garden centers, greenhouses and nurseries deemed 'essential' businesses'
Kate Spirgen

Many garden centers, greenhouses and nurseries deemed 'essential' businesses'

Most state governments are allowing green industry businesses to remain open amidst closure of 'non-essential' operations to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Due to an uptick of new coronavirus cases sweeping the nation, many states have issued stay-at-home orders, along with temporary shutdowns for non-essential businesses. Green industry businesses, however, have been deemed as "essential" and remain open in every state, if they follow state and federal guidelines on sanitation and social distancing. 
Nurseries, greenhouses, landscape architects, garden centers and even public farmers' markets are open for business as long as they follow federal guidelines, such as limiting gatherings of people, maintaining social distancing and following other safety protocols to the fullest extent possible. For more information, see our state-by-state breakdown below (most of the guidelines, until further notice, are in effect for two weeks). The list will be updated as new information is announced. 

Alabama. As of March 20, all non-work-related gatherings of 25 persons or more, or non-work-related gatherings of any size that cannot maintain a consistent 6-foot distance between persons, are prohibited. Employers must take all reasonable steps to meet these standards for employees and customers. All green industry businesses are allowed to operate as long as they follow the guidelines.
Governor Kay Ivey says, "We will only be able to mitigate the risk of the virus through the efforts of our hardworking manufacturers that will produce life-sustaining supplies, our truckers who move these goods down the road, and our valued retailers that will make them available to our citizens. Let me be abundantly clear – I have no intention of slowing down our workforce through unnecessary, burdensome regulations..” 

Alaska. As of March 24; Gov. Mike Dunleavy has not implemented any state-wide mandated closures. Some cities and municipalities, such as Anchorage, have "hunker down" orders in effect. Businesses not on the critical list that wish to remain open can request a designation from the mayor's office.

Arizona. As of March 23, Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order clarifying businesses and operations deemed “essential” by the states. The order is a proactive and administrative measure to ensure consistent guidance across the state and allows agriculture, including farming, cultivation, marketing, production and distribution of goods for consumption.  Retail garden centers are open, as are landscaping businesses.  

Arkansas. Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared a public-health emergency in Arkansas, but has not declared any specific instructions for businesses as of March 26; there are no state-wide mandated closures.  

California. As of March 21, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all residents to stay home during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. Among the essential businesses allowed to operate as normal under the order are the state's agricultural industries, including growers of nursery plants and garden centers, green grocers, farming operations, urban gardens and landscaping business that observe local social distancing and other CDC guidelines for their employees and customers. Garden centers fall under the same distinction as hardware stores, which are also allowed to remain open.

Colorado. As March 23, regulations have been implemented on a city and county basis, and counties have issued a stay at home order for non-critical functions. Green industries that grow, sell and transport food are exempt from regulations and continue to operate, as do landscape architects. 

Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association Executive Director Glenda Mostek said in a statement “We see garden centers, nurseries, and greenhouses as ESSENTIAL businesses and we know you do as well. This is a message we must deliver with tenacity. Therefore, please use your social media to let your customers know your status, and to encourage them to obtain what they need for spring planting as a diversion from thinking about COVID 19 all the time.” 

Connecticut. As of March 23, Gov. Ned Lamont issued a stay-at-home order for Connecticut residents. Garden centers, nurseries and agriculture supply stores are deemed as essential and can stay open for business. Landscape services are also deemed as essential to maintain safety, sanitation and essential operations. 

Delaware. On March 22, Gov. John Carney ordered non-essential businesses to close at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, March 24. Greenhouse, nursery and floriculture production are considered essential and can remain open. Lawn and garden equipment and supply stores can also remain open. 

Florida. As of March 23 and through April 15, grocery stores, farm and produce stands, shipping companies and any businesses that provide food are permitted to operate; tradesmen such as landscapers are also allowed to conduct business. 

Georgia. As of March 23, the population is not under stay-at-home order although theaters, schools and public events are paused. Greenhouses, grocers, landscapers, growers and florists are all open. The state has yet to close businesses, but some cities, notably Atlanta, have closed restaurants, bars and other businesses where people gather (as of March 19). According to Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black, "Food and agriculture are a vital part of ensuring our economy continues to operate at the highest level. We commend the many workers within this industry for keeping us all fed and healthy during this unprecedented time. Georgia is blessed to have an incredibly diverse agricultural sector that includes everything from food producers and processors to landscape and green industries." 

Hawaii. As of March 23, Gov. David Ige said to residents "If you need to go to work, you should go to work. And when you’re done with work, you should come back home.” Most retail florists are open, with shorter hours. Agri-businesses grocers, greenhouses, landscape architects open, as are large home supply and large department stores with gardening sections, some with reduced hours. 

Idaho. As of March 23, there is no state ban on any type of business; individual cities have closed restaurants (Boise), but agri-businesses such as florists, greenhouses, large chains with garden sections are open. 

Illinois. The Illinois Green Industry Association received guidance March 29 from the Illinois Dept. of Commerce & Economic Opportunity about essential businesses.

Nurseries and greenhouses: "We are not currently aware of any jurisdiction limiting the ability of growers to continue operations. Agricultural production is considered a critical/essential component of the national infrastructure and we expect it will continue to be treated as such. The resource being used to make this determination is from the Department of Homeland Security based on a memo you can view here. Page six specifically addresses agriculture production. In Governor Pritzker's Executive Order, the Department of Homeland Security memo is specifically referenced as the source for Essential Business guidance. Ag production is clearly called out, so there is no question that nurseries and greenhouses should continue maintaining their operation according to recommended CDC guidelines." 

Garden centers: "Although the essential business guidance does not specifically list garden centers, most of you sell edible plants, offer ways for customers to produce fruits and vegetables at home, sell firewood, pet supplies, and other household essentials. As such, your business would be covered under section 12 a, b of the Executive Order. You must continue to adapt policies and procedures to protect employees and customers, in alignment with CDC guidelines. Many of you are modifying operations to offer call-ahead ordering with curbside pick-up, delivery options, website orders, and other creative options to keep materials moving and customers planting. As the weather warms and lawns green up, but customers remain at home per the executive order, they will need supplies to maintain their home lawn/garden."

Indiana. As of March 23, residents are under a stay-at-home order (schools, businesses, public gatherings etc.) but agri-businesses such as landscapers, greenhouses, large chains with garden sections, etc. are open for business; retail stand-alone florists are closed. 

Iowa. As of March 17, all restaurants, bars and schools are closed; other businesses have reduced their hours but are open. There is no stay-at-home order issued and all agri-businesses are open to the public. 

Kansas. As of 3/24, there is a statewide stay-at-home order in six counties (Johnson, Wyandotte, Leavenworth, Miami, Doniphan, Douglas); otherwise, the state is open for business with no closures for agri-businesses. 

Kentucky. As of March 22, Gov. Andy Beshear declared an executive order stating, “Retail businesses that are not-life sustaining may provide local delivery and curbside service of online or telephone orders.” Additionally, all businesses that fall under the “Building Material and Garden Equipment and Supplies Dealers” may operate if they follow appropriate social distancing.   

Louisiana. As March 24, greenhouses, independent garden centers and nurseries are all considered essential businesses and may continue to operate as of March 24.  

Maine. As of March 24, non-essential businesses must shut down. However, nurseries, garden centers and greenhouses are considered essential under the Food and Agriculture section. The order notes, “Farm workers and support service workers to include those who field crops; commodity inspection; fuel ethanol facilities; storage facilities; and other agricultural inputs” as being essential. It also noted that employees engaged in the manufacturing and maintenance of equipment and other infrastructures were necessary for agricultural production and distribution. 

Maryland. Nurseries, greenhouses and independent garden centers are considered essential and may remain open. Retail businesses that remain open are strongly encouraged to modify their operations to conduct as much business as possible remotely, and to limit in-store interactions where practicable (e.g., by making products available for delivery or curbside pick-up to limit in-store browsing). 

Massachusetts. As of March 24, Gov. Charlie Baker’s emergency order deemed that “Farm workers and support service workers to include those who field crops; commodity inspection; fuel ethanol facilities; storage facilities; and other agricultural inputs” were classified as essential. Businesses that produce or manufacture agricultural and infrastructure equipment may continue to operate as well. 

Michigan. As of March 24, all agricultural industry businesses are safe and considered essential under section 8a of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive COVID-19 order. In section 5c, the order noted that businesses and operations maintaining in-person activities must adopt social distancing practices and other mitigation measures to protect workers and patrons. 
March 27, 10:13 a.m. EST: English Gardens, a Top 100-ranked IGC, announced it had been ordered to shut down until April 14. However, a small crew of workers is allowed to maintain plant shipments that have already been ordered for the spring season. Read more here.

Minnesota. As of March 18, only non-essential businesses, such as bars and gymnasiums, have shut down; there is no shelter-in-place order. If one is issued, agricultural and green-industry businesses would most likely be considered essential. 

Mississippi. As of March 23, all businesses remain open in the state of Mississippi; it is one of the few states that has yet to issue any restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

Missouri. The state government has not declared any specific instructions for businesses as of March 24; there are no state-wide mandated closures.  

Montana. Businesses such as greenhouses and garden centers remain open.

Nebraska. The state government has not ordered any businesses to close as of March 24. It is, however, following CDC guidelines to limit gatherings to 10 people. 

Nevada. On March 20, Nevada Gov. Steve Disolak's executive order closed most businesses, but declared infrastructure operations such as agriculture, farming, and farm and produce stands as exempt, as are hardware stores. Those exemptions include greenhouses, garden centers and nurseries.  

New Hampshire. The state’s current guidelines do not include any specific guidelines for mandated business closures.  

New Jersey. In general, businesses are closed, but hardware stores, farmer’s markets and food producers are on the state’s exempted list. That includes greenhouses, garden centers and nurseries.  

New Mexico. On March 23, New Mexico ordered non-essential businesses to close. Farms and hardware stores – and by extension greenhouses, garden centers and nurseries – remain open.  

New York. Update April 1: At this time, horticulture is designated as a non-essential business ((with the exception of nurseries/greenhouses selling food producing plants.) Guidance issued on March 24 is no longer applicable.

Check here for any updates.

North Carolina. The Department of Homeland Security (DOHS) released the federal guidance on critical infrastructure workers, which includes agriculture. The nursery and landscape industries are not explicitly outlined in the document, and it is believed that the decision ultimately lies with the state.

Ohio. As of March 25, there is a stay at home order in place for the state. Production agriculture is specifically listed as critical/essential, and nursery and greenhouse production is federally classified as agriculture, indicating growers should be able to remain operational at this time. The Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association says landscape, lawn care, and landscape irrigation companies require “careful discretion.” Construction and public works projects may be considered isolated from the pubic and relatively safe. Critical trade and other service providers who are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences are mentioned in the orders. Some landscape projects and services may fit under this category. Although the order's essential business guidance does not clearly call out garden centers, many garden centers offer fruits and vegetables to customers for home gardening, and sell firewood, pet supplies, and other household essentials.

April 2, 3:01 p.m. EST: Gov. Mike DeWine announced the stay-at-home order will extend until May 1, and some new rules were announced. Stores must set and post maximum amounts of numbers of customers who can be in their businesses, and garden centers received special recognition in that they are allowed to be open.

Oregon. On Monday, March 23, Gov. Kate Brown issued Executive Order 2020–12, which mandates social distancing. However, wholesale and retail nurseries are permitted to remain open for business. The Oregon Association of Nurseries reports that it confirmed this with Gov. Brown's chief of staff, as well as Alexis Taylor, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Retail businesses must designate an employee or officer to establish, implement, and enforce social distancing policies, consistent with guidance from the Oregon Health Authority. Retail businesses that fail to comply with the Executive Order will be closed until they demonstrate compliance.

Pennsylvania. As of March 25, Gov. Tom Wolf issued a stay at home order and the list of counties includes: Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Erie, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton and Philadelphia counties. Greenhouse, nursery and floriculture production operations, as well as landscape service companies, have been deemed essential/life sustaining and may continue to operate, according to the Pennsylvania Nursery and Landscape Association (PNLA). PLNA has submitted an exemption for retail garden centers.

Rhode Island. As of March 25, there were no restrictions against production greenhouse and nursery operations or retail garden centers.

South Dakota. As of March 23, Gov. Kristi Noem issued an executive order asking businesses to restrict gatherings and hospitals to postpone elective procedures. This order leaves enforcement up to South Dakota counties and cities. 

Tennessee. As of March 23, Gov.  Bill Lee called for state businesses to utilize “alternative business models.” The order outlines ways businesses and citizens can work to protect susceptible populations and encourages all businesses to take steps to protect vulnerable people, like establishing exclusive shopping hours for those at a higher risk. 

Texas. As of March 19, Gov. Gregg Abbott’s executive order to mitigate COVID-19 includes avoiding social gatherings of 10 or more people, practicing social distancing of six feet, and employing frequent, thorough hand washing and surface disinfecting. There is no shelter-in-place order for the entire state, but individual counties are enacting shelter-in-place orders, which require the closure of non-essential businesses. Because nursery, greenhouse and garden center businesses fall under the agriculture umbrella, they are considered essential. However, employers should only require essential employees to report to work and allow and employees to work from home if feasible. 

Utah. As of March 20, an order prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people. Businesses can have more than 10 employees present but should implement social distancing with six feet between workers and communal areas. Managers should screen employees every day for COVID-19 symptoms and those with symptoms should not be permitted to work. Employees of any business who handle cash must take cleaning measures after each transaction. 

Vermont. As of March 23, Gov. Phil Scott ordered "to close all in-person operations" meaning gyms, fitness centers, hair salons and barbers, nail salons, spas and tattoo parlors. On March 23, he directed all remaining businesses to put into place telecommuting or work-from-home procedures. Businesses that are not required to close or are unable to implement work-from-home procedures, must maintain the CDC protocols. 

Virginia. As of March 23, lawn and garden equipment retailers meet the criteria that deems them as essential and may remain open during normal business hours. 

Washington. As of March 23, in accordance with an issued stay-at-home order, Gov. Jay Inslee has designated hardware and home improvement, garden stores and nurseries that support food cultivation and production, as essential workers.

West Virginia. As of March 24, Gov. Jim Justice issued a stay-at-home order that directs all West Virginians to stay home and limit movements outside of their homes beyond essential needs. Farmers markets, businesses that manage produce, hardware and supply stores and agricultural operations are considered essential.

Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Nursery and Landscape Association has been working non-stop on behalf of the membership and the industry. As of March 24, according to the "Safer at Home" order issued by Gov. Tony Evers, “All individuals present within the State of Wisconsin are ordered to stay at home or at their place of residence,” with some exceptions. Businesses and organizations that are exempt within the industry include essential infrastructure like food and beverage production, as well as agricultural operations.

Wyoming. As of March 19, Gov. Mark Gordon ordered a closing of all public places for a two-week period to help slow the spread of COVID-19 except for those serving essential personnel.