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Greenhouse and Nursery

Importance to Oregon

The state of Oregon is one of the top producing states in nursery crops in the entire nation! Nursery crops have steadily ranked as one of Oregon’s top two agricultural commodities for many years. In 2018, the Greenhouse and Nursery industry ranked as number one on the top commodities list with sales totaling $800 million dollars in a year! Nursery and greenhouse production brings money to the state of Oregon from all over the nation and has provided over 22,000 jobs.

History of Greenhouse and Nursery Products

Greenhouse and nursery products in Oregon can be traced back to the westward migration during the 1800’s. Plants and shrubs were grown in the state of Oregon 12 years before the state was granted statehood in 1847.

Henderson Luelling, the man who migrated to Oregon with fruit trees and shrubs in 1847, and his neighbor William Meek combined their plant materials to create the very first nursery of grafted products on the Pacific Coast. Grafting plants is when two parts of a plant are attached to another to develop a new and stronger kind of plant. Their new business quickly grew to 60 different varieties of plants.


Oregon produces the nation's largest amount of coniferous evergreens, deciduous shade trees and deciduous flowering trees. Below you can find examples of each of these extremely important commodities!

Coniferous Evergreens

Coniferous evergreen can be found at sea level and in the mountain trees in Oregon. The Willamette Valley and the high desert of central Oregon are the only two places where this variety of tree can not be found. Coniferous evergreens have needle shaped leaves that make them a distinct tree. This variety of tree produces seeds and pollen in the shape of cones.


Deciduous Shade Trees

Big leaf maple is an example of a deciduous shade tree that most people are familiar with. This variety of tree can grow to be around 100 feet tall and have a 4 foot diameter. The leaves on this tree are very large, but are not too complex. In this context, not too complex means that the veining in the leaves is very simple. The leaves have five “lobes” that all come together at same location which is known as the “waist.” Lobes are the roundish projection or division in a leaf. The waist is where all of the lobes meet together at one spot. These trees can be found on the west side of the Cascades, in British Columbia and in most parts of California. These trees grow best in moist environments with well draining soils.

Deciduous Flowering Trees

Magnolia trees are of the most beautiful deciduous flowering trees grown in Oregon. This kind of tree has about 125 different species between evergreen and deciduous varieties. The flowers on this tree are very large and have a very distinct smell. The flowers come in colors like pink, purple, white and yellow. Magnolia trees vary in size depending on the variety, but are often between the sizes of 6 feet and 35 feet tall.

Balled and Burlap System

Balled and burlap is a field practice that is implemented on plants such as trees and shrubs. The name balled and burlap is a perfect explanation as to how they sell the plants they harvest. When a plant it pulled out of the ground to be sold, all of the roots and the soil attached to the plant are left intact and a large piece of burlap is wrapped around the root ball.

Bare Root System

The bare root system differs because the soil around the root ball is cleaned off and left in the field where the plant was growing. This process is done by a machine and it takes place in the fall and winter months when the plants have gone dormant for the year. Once the plants are harvested, they are checked for quality and put into cold storage where they stay until they are sold to customers.

Container Grown System

Container grown plants can range in size from small bedding plants to large trees. The containers that are used for this method are also a variety of sizes depending on what plant is being grown. Container grown plants are grown above ground and they can either be transplanted later on or left in the container.

Life Cycle

Greenhouses and nurseries are used to grow a variety of different plants until they are ready to be planted in the ground. The plants that are grown in nurseries and greenhouses all have different growing lengths and needs. The differences range in light, temperature, amount of water, nutrients and size. Examples of plants grown in greenhouses and nurseries are lettuce, carrots and herbs. Lettuce starts should be transplanted 10-18 inches apart. Carrots should be planted 16-24 inches apart and once they start to grow they should be 1 inch apart from each other and kept well watered. Herbs are usually started in small individual containers and then sold as starts to the plants.

Pests and Diseases

Greenhouses and nurseries both contain living plants at all times of the year, they are both extremely susceptible to any plant fungus or disease. However, the benefit of these systems allow the plants to be kept in a much more controlled environment. This gives nursery and greenhouse staff are the ability to easily observe plants at all stages of growth. This close observation allows preventive measures to be taken if there ever is an issue of a fungus or pest damaging the plants.

Crown and Root Rot

This disease can occur in plants at any stage of their development but it most commonly affects the plants after the flowers begin to flower. Symptoms of this disease is off-color plants and the growth process taking longer than process. Plants with crown and root rot will be healthy one day and completely wilted the next. Overhead watering is the way this disease is spread between plants.

Bacterial Blight

Bacterial blight is strong enough to wipe out an entire crop of plants. The symptoms of this bacteria is water soaked leaf spots and brown leaf margins. Once the symptoms show up it is not very long before leaves collapse, plants wilt and the plants die.

Black Root Rot

This disease causes extreme loss in greenhouse plants. Black root rot attacks the root’s system of plants which essentially leads to the plant not being able to absorb the necessary nutrients to grow. This causes the plants to yellow at a young age and the roots are no longer white and are instead gray and black.


Nurseries are primarily used for managing the start of a plant’s life until they reach the desired age of a consumer. There are different levels and sizes of nurseries available to all of us. The general public usually buys their plant starts or seeds at a retail nursery. Wholesale nurseries sell to other nurseries or commercial gardeners.  Private nurseries supply institutions or private estates with the plants they need. Greenhouses provide an enclosed space for growing plants in a steady temperature during all months and seasons of the year. This allows all types of plants to be grown year-round without being affected by the change in weather. Greenhouses are useful during the winter time because they protect the plants from the cold weather and freezing temperatures. You are better able to manage irrigation practices and plant size in a controlled environment like a greenhouse.

Fun Facts

  1. In 2019, the greenhouse and nursery industry had the highest monetary value and a huge dollar amount of $955,166,000!
  2. Oregon is the third highest nursery producing state in the entire United States.
  3. 75% or more of the sales from Oregon nurseries come from outside the state.
  4. The greenhouse/nursery industry in Oregon started in the 1800s during the great westward migration.

Vocabulary Terms

A bud or shoot of a plant inserted in a groove or slit in a stem or stock of another plant in which it continues to grow.

Any variety of evergreen trees or shrubs of the Coniferinae like the pine, spruce, fir or another trees or shrubs that produce cones.

Trees or shrubs that shed the leaves annually in a certain season.

The location where all of the lobes come together.

A roundish projection or division in a leaf.

AITC Resources

Propagation & Regeneration in Plants

Apples to Oregon