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Keeping an Inventory of Greenhouse Plants

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Keywords: inventory database
Subject(s): Business, Earth Science
Grades 9 through 12
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Daphne High School, Daphne, AL
Planned By: betsy anderton
Original Author: betsy anderton, Daphne
Read the following:

Managing Plant Material Inventory
Charles R. Hall
Extension Economist-Horticultural Marketing
Texas A&M University
"Sorry Joe, we overbooked sales for that plant. We won’t be able to ship those to you Monday as promised…” “What do you mean we’re out of tissue culture plantlets! Didn’t we just get a new shipment in?”

“Should I discount these plants to open up bench space or hold on a little longer?”

"What is needed to keep this plant healthy"
"Does this plant have any special qualities that we can use to market to customers so they will buy it"

Managing inventory can be one of the most arduous tasks that face greenhouse managers. But it doesn’t have to be. Applying some basic inventory management principles may eliminate some of the headaches.

In order to maintain control of plant materials, equipment, tools, and supplies, an inventory control system is needed. Business management experts often classify inventor systems according to the usage of the item in inventory. Following this line of thought, a greenhouse inventory can be categorized into three groups including plant material inventory, equipment inventory, and supplies. Last month, we discussed an inventory system for equipment and supplies. This month, we will discuss the basics of maintaining a plant material inventory control system.

A plant material inventory system is designed to provide management with information for making managerial decisions regarding production, sales, and demand trends. By maintaining a current, up-to-date plant material inventory, problems arising from overselling or leaving plants unsold can be minimized. A knowledge of plant inventory can provide the basis for planning work schedules, labor needs, space requirements, and supplies needed. Inventory data are also needed when planning production programs, calculating costs of production, and developing pricing strategies. Cultural practices and their impact on inventory turns may also be evaluated.

To talk about the benefits of plant material inventory control systems is one thing, but actually developing a system that indicates (at all times) how many plants of each variety or cultivar are available, in what size, and where are they located within the greenhouse operation, is another. The actual system of plant inventory control will tend to vary with the size and type of each individual greenhouse operation and the level of sophistication desired by the greenhouse manager. For relatively small “Mom and Pop” operations, the plant material inventory system may be quite simple, needing infrequent updating. But for larger, more commercial greenhouses, a rather complex system that must be updated daily may be required. Numerous computer software companies have developed computerized plant material inventory systems that will fit the need for most any sized operation.Taking the physical plant material inventory is facilitated by developing an integrated layout of thegreenhouse operation using plant blocks and labeling benches or rows. The count is made by trained individuals using plant inventory schedule sheets or electronic recorders. Electronic recorders are expensive, but offer the advantage of transferring data directly into computer memory storage. In some of the larger, commercial greenhouse operations, physical plant inventory is combined with data regarding new potted/seeded plant material and sales data. By continuously tracking these data, it is possible to determine fairly accurately the status of all plant material within the greenhouse by type and location. From a production management standpoint, if accurate data are collected and maintained over time, it is possible to determine plant losses, estimate growth rates, pinpoint problem areas, and check on cultural practices.

Maintaining an accurate sales inventory may be the most import ant attribute of an inventory control system. However, this data must be accumulated in a timely manner to be most effective. This means updating sales data on a daily, or at least weekly basis. The sales inventory can also be posted with current price information as an aid in quoting prices to customers. Each greenhouse manager must adjust the plant inventory system to the situation and develop it to provide the control and information necessary to make sound managerial decisions. Computers can be used to provide an immediate update of sales inventory and can be programmed to provide an analysis of sales by variety, customer, geographic region, or by salesperson. In addition, the computer may be used to update sales records, prepare price schedules, and with the input of inventory data, can be programmed to estimate potential sales inventory. Several commercial vendors currently provide inventory control software for the greenhouse and nursery industry.

After reading the article above, help students apply this to our the school greenhouse.
Even in the small business of greenhouse we have, it is important to have all of the information needed to keep plants healthy. This means knowing what their nutritional needs are as well as their preferred environment. You will also want to know how they reproduce in the event you want to propagate your own plants instead of buying them from another vendor. You will want to know some of the common questions your customers will ask and some of the benefits and downsides of each plant.

Activity: You will be assigned a plant to research and must answer the questions below.

Research your plant using the information below as a guide. Each one of these must be answered.
Create a New Entry in the Greenhouse Inventory Database within the course.
Add your information to the database.
Make sure you select the correct categories.
Prepare to share your plant with the class.

Plant Name
At the simplest level of scientific classification, each plant has a name made up of two parts, a generic (or genus) name and a specific name or epithet. Together, these two names are referred to as a binomial.

A generic name is a ‘collective name’ for a group of plants. It indicates a grouping of organisms that all share a suite of similar characters. Ideally these should all have evolved from one common ancestor. The specific name, allows us to distinguish between different organisms within a genus.

Binomial names are always written with the generic name first, starting with a capital letter, e.g.: Grevillea

The specific epithet always follows the generic name, starting with a lower-case letter, e.g.: victoriae

The full species name or binomial being Grevillea victoriae.

Generic Name

Specific Epithet

Basic Information

Is this plant and herb, fruit, tree, shrub etc.

Plant Zone of the plant? We are in zone Zone 8b : 15 to 20 (F).

Would this plant grow in our zone?

Plant Reproduction
Is this a flowering plant?

If so, does it need a pollinator?

How does this plant reproduce?

Can the plant be easily cloned? Describe.

Plant care instructions

What are the watering requirements for this plant?

Is this plant drought tolerant (yes no)

Is this plant an annual, biennial, or perennial?

Does this plant like shade, sun or partial? (add to sheet)

What are the nutrient/fertilizer requirements for this plant?

What PH does this plant prefer in its soil?

Special Qualities
Does this plant attract pollinators?

Does this plant have health benefits?

Is this plant edible?

What are the specific wildlife associations with his plant (birds, bugs, deer, etc)

Is this plant resistant to anything such as a certain bug or deer?


Plant Origin
Is this plant an invasive species? See this page

Is this plant native to our area?

If no, where is this plant from originally?

Plants We Have
1. Basil

2. Begonia

3. Cilantro

4. Coleus

5. Dusty miller

6. Geraniums

7. Gerbera Daisy

8. Impatiens

9. Lantana

10. Lavender

11. Lemon balm

12. Lemongrass

13. Lettuce

14. Lobularia

15. Marigold

16. Mexican Heather

17. Mint

18. Oregano

19. Pansy

20. Parsley

21. Pentas

22. Peppers

23. Portulaca

24. Rosemary

25. Rudbeckia

26. Russian sage

27. Salvia

28. Snapdragons

29. Thyme

30. Tomatoes

31. Vinca

32. Zinnia

33. Aquilegia


35. Coreopsis

36. Dianthus

37. Dichondra Silver Falls

38. Cuphea

39. Buddleia

40. Perovskia

41. Basil- Sweet Genovese

42. Strawberries

43. Petunias

44. Spider Plant

45. Wandering Jew

46. Palmetto

47. Wild Azalea

48. Crepe Myrtle

49. Samara

50. Butterweed

51. Fig

52. Purple Gerard

53. Iris Cristata

54. Cast Iron

55. Fakahatchee Grass

56. Hydrangea

57. Pickerel Weed

58. Soft Needle Rush

59. Tradescantia

60. Plectranthus


62. Milkweed

63. Climbing Aster vine

64. Sky Vine

65. Bignonia capreolata vine

66. Black Eyed Susan Vine

6. Passion Vine

68. Century Plant

69. Sago Palm

70. Orchid

71. Chenille Vine

72. Dwarf Hamelia

73. White Petunia

74. Yellow Louisiana Iris

75. Passion Vine

76. Vetiver Grass

77. Ginger

78. Dollar Weed

79. Wild Dichondria

80. Morning Glory

Materials: Whiteboards, Wildlife, Microscopes, Flash/USB Drives, Office Suite, Word Processor, Art Tools, Spreadsheet, Database, Integrating Technology