Contact the Nursery Program

As a result of the COVID-19 response, the preferred method of submission for payment and applications is electronic. Electronic payments and applications can be processed much more quickly than paper which, in the current environment, are likely to experience a very significant delay.
Payment Options: Electronic check or cardReview the electronic payment information provided for reference only so that you will know what information to provide when you speak with the Colorado Department of Agriculture to make payment. Please do not send this information via email.
Nursery Program Registration

Who needs to register?

Anyone who sells or advertises with the intent to sell nursery stock in the state of Colorado must be registered.

There are several categories of registration:

"Collector": Any person who collects nursery stock from native growing habitat and sells it.

“Landscape contractor”: A person who provides nursery stock for compensation or value as part of a site development or landscaping service.

“Nursery”: Any grounds or premises on or in which nursery stock is propagated, held, or grown for sale purposes. Includes growing nurseries, nursery dealers and retail nurseries.

“Sod Grower”: Any person who grows and sells turfgrass sod.

Application for Nursery Registration (Application can be completed as a fillable PDF. Open with Adobe Acrobat Reader DC.)

Once you have completed and signed your application, please send it via email with the Subject: Electronic Application and be sure to include your contact number and preferred method of payment (see below).
  • If you need help, email us with the Subject: Help - Electronic Application along with your contact information and we will call you.
  • Not sure how to electronically sign a PDF? We've created instructions.
Preferred method of payment is electronic: electronic check or card.
  • Electronic payments and applications can be processed much more quickly than paper which, in the current environment, are likely to experience a very significant delay.
  • Payment Options: Electronic check or card. Review the electronic payment information provided for reference only so that you will know what information to provide when you speak with the Colorado Department of Agriculture to make payment. Please do not send this information via email.


Search for Colorado Registered Nurseries


Citizenship Status Verification Form (Required if you are a Sole Proprietor)

Nursery Registration Program Brochure

CDA Nursery Program - Registered Nurseries List

Nursery Program Resources

Online License Renewals - AgLicense

Nursery Inspections

Nursery Registration

USDA Plant Protection & Quarantine

CSU Cooperative Extension Publications

Japanese Beetle - Best Management Practices

Plant Something Colorado

Why is there a Nursery Law?

C.R.S. Title 35 Article 26 is “The Colorado Nursery Act”. The purpose of the Nursery Act is to regulate the sale and distribution of plants, defined as ‘nursery stock’, to provide consumer, environment and industry protection. Nursery law dictates that plants sold must meet minimum standards addressing pest, disease, weed freedom and plant quality standards that will enhance survivability in the landscape.

The majority of plants that we utilize in our ornamental landscapes are traded nationally and internationally. The risk of introduction of foreign plant pathogens and insects on these plants is high.

The Colorado State Legislature declares (35-26-101.5):

  1. The general assembly hereby finds and determines that nursery stock can harbor plant pests and diseases and operate as a disease vector. Unregulated production and shipping or nursery stock present an unacceptable risk to the state’s agricultural, forestry and horticultural interests and to the state’s general environmental quality.
  2. Therefore, the general assembly hereby declares that it is necessary to ensure that nurseries produce healthy plants and that nursery stock shipped to other nurseries, brokers, or out-of-state customers meets the national nursery stock cleanliness standard.

What is Nursery Stock?

Nursery stock is defined in Colorado Statute (35-26-102 (14)) as:

  • A) Any hardy plant or herbaceous or woody plant that
    • I) Survives Colorado winters; and
    • II) Is grown, collected or kept for sale or distribution, including the following:

      • A deciduous or evergreen tree
      • A shrub
      • A woody vine
      • Turfgrass sod and Ornamental Grasses
  • B) Any nonhardy plant or plant part to be distributed in another state that requires plant inspection and certification before being transferred into the state.

Who must register with the Colorado Department of Agriculture to sell or distribute nursery stock?

To regulate plant quality, those that sell or distribute nursery stock for commercial purposes must register as a “Nursery” with the CDA. All growing nurseries (includes sod farms), retailers that sell nursery stock, landscape contractors, brokers, and collectors must register if selling or distributing nursery stock for commercial purposes. Each of these registration categories is defined in the statute.

How is Nursery Stock Sold?

Nursery Stock Example Added Descriptive text

Nursery stock is sold in three main ways:

  1. Bare Root - Sold with roots free of soil; plants in a bare root condition are normally dormant and should not have what is called etiolated (or stretched, light green, weak) growth.
  2. Balled and Burlapped-Nursery Stock removed from growing site with roots contained in a ball of soil
  3. Container grown-Nursery stock planted and grown in a container with the root system in soil or other potting mixture capable of sustaining normal plant growth –roots must fill the container to meet the law.


All Nursery Stock Must be Labeled with the correct botanical or common name and the size or grade.

Labeled tree

Special labeling is required for a stock that is harder than average to establish.

Special Labeling

Benched packed stock and native collected stock requires additional labeling to communicate with the purchaser.


Any bare root nursery stock with
the roots packed in a growing
to form a ball, encased
in burlap or other similar material
to hold the growing medium in place.



Any nursery stock removed from
its original native habitat;
must be collected under permit
or with landowner permission.
Native areas are under severe
drought stress; Trees will be
more susceptible to insect attack
and require special care.

Why use Native Plants?

Colorado’s climate is diverse, with many different existing ecosystems from mountains to plains. Plants that grow well and are suited to one ecosystem may not thrive as well in another due to the amount of natural precipitation, temperature and elevation adaptations. Our climate is semi-arid and drought is inevitable, it is a natural part of each and every native ecosystem that exists in our beautiful state. As the population of our state continues to grow, water demand will also increase, especially during periods of drought. A high percentage of the plants we use in our urban landscapes rely on supplemental irrigation to grow because those plants are not adapted to a semi-arid environment.  Plants that require less water have the potential to lessen the burden on our water systems.  Native plants fit that bill.  Native plants also provide more benefit to insects and birds.

Ecologists have this simple request to homeowners - Plant Native

Native plants are adapted to our climate, our soils, and our environment. According to Low Water Use Native Plants for Colorado Landscapes published by the Colorado Native Plant Society in 2017, “This means that by choosing native plants gardeners can work with nature, rather than trying to grow plants that are not suited to our local conditions and may prove to be difficult to work with. When correctly sited, natives make ideal plants for a sustainable landscape. Native species require less external inputs such as water and fertilizer, and are more resistant to pests and disease when the planting site mimics the plant’s native habitat.”


The Value of Urban Landscapes and Trees – yes, this is Agriculture

The latest research overwhelmingly supports the fact that landscapes improve our lives in many ways from increasing the real estate value of one’s property, cooling the built environment, and cleaning the air to lessening crime in our communities and the improving mental health of our residents. As our state’s population continues to grow and our urban areas expand, it is important that we recognize the value of maintaining urban landscapes and trees and the value of this important segment of agriculture during drought planning.

Buying Native Plants – Nursery Grown vs Collected Native

Always try to purchase nursery-grown natives rather than plants collected directly from a native habitat.

More and more Colorado nurseries offer and specialize in plants native to our region. Purchase your natives from these nurseries rather than purchasing those that have been collected from native places. And by all means, NEVER collect or dig up a plant on your own from the wild unless you have a permit or permission from the landowner.

Collection of plants from the wild threatens the existence of native species. When you remove a native plant from its natural location the wild plant species is threatened by the decrease in population size and a potential loss of genetic diversity. Native collected species are also highly stressed plants, they are unlikely to transplant well into the new environment and they are less likely to survive. Native collected woody plant species are especially risky to the purchaser.

Professional nurseries offer nursery-propagated native species that were propagated from local plant populations in a careful, sustainable way. By law, all collections are legally undertaken with the issuance of a permit.

Nursery Law and Woody Native Plants

Consumers need to pay attention to how a plant is labeled. Native collected tree species must be labeled, informing the purchaser that the tree was collected from its native habitat. Why? This is to communicate with the purchaser that the tree native collected tree will need extra special care in the landscape to survive, and even then, the tree is less likely to survive than a nursery grown native species.

Native pinyon, ponderosa, and blue spruce evergreen trees and aspen are commonly sold on street corners by tree collectors and by some Nurseries. Buyer beware! Native collected nursery stock must have the following label attached to it by Colorado Law (8 CCR 1203-5 part 4.4). If you are told the tree is native, look for the collected label. If the collected nursery stock label is missing, be sure to ask questions regarding the source of the plants: Is it Nursery grown or Native collected?

Drawbacks to the use of native collected nursery stock.

Native collected nursery stock is likely harvested from an area of the state under severe drought stress. Most pinyon and ponderosa pine are collected from State Forest Land in the Southwestern part of Colorado. This area is under severe to exceptional drought conditions. Another drawback to native collected nursery stock is that root balls are often undersized compared to that of a nursery grown tree. When a tree is dug from the wild it is difficult to gather the recommended amount of roots that will sustain a tree through the transplant process.

severe drought stress


For updated drought maps visit the State of Colorado's drought website.

Purchasing a native collected tree

If you want to purchase a native collected tree, protect yourself by following these rules:

1. Make sure the needles or leaves are supple and are not brittle or browning. Avoid purchasing dehydrated trees or shrubs, they may not recover.

2. Inspect the trees for symptoms of disease or insect attack. These look like small areas on branches and trunks oozing liquid or sap with possible sawdust-like material present in wounded areas. Avoid purchasing trees with insect or disease present. It is a violation of State Nursery Law for Nurseries to sell insect or disease-infested plants or plants in dead or dying condition.

3. Native collected pines are very susceptible to Ips beetle attack. At planting time the application of a labeled insecticide is recommended to prevent Ips beetles from attacking.

4. Watch that root balls are not damaged or broken during the transplant process.

5. Follow proper tree and shrub planting guidelines.

Use of native plants in Colorado landscapes is making a resurgence for good reason.

Visit your local nursery today for advice and information. To search for a registered nursery in your area visit the AgLicense website.

Nursery Stock Plant and Root Quality

Nursery law requires that container grown plants should have fibrous roots sufficiently developed so that the root mass will retain its shape and hold together when removed from the container.

No Girdling

Roots or other objects cannot be "girdling" any part of the plant when sold.

No Girdling


8 CCR 1203-5 - Rules and Regulations pertaining to the administration and enforcement of the Colorado Nursery Act

Part 1.10 “Girdling” means a physical injury caused by a foreign object, such as, but not limited to, a rope or guy wire that compresses the outer surface of a plant stem or trunk deeply enough to constrict  the cambium around the plant’s entire circumference in a manner that significantly impairs the viability of the plant by restricting the flow of fluids through the xylem or phloem.

Part 1.11 “Girdling root” means a root that encircles the root ball and contacts the stem above the root system.

No Girdling

Part 3.2 Container-Grown Nursery Stock - Container-grown nursery stock shall be established shall not be sold or offered for sale in a root bound condition as evidenced by roots that have grown around the circumference of the container's interior in a horizontal circular manner that adversely affects the viability of the plant.

No Girdling

Plants cannot be sold with insect or mite infestation, disease, in a dead or dying condition, if listed as a noxious weed, or with noxious weeds contaminating nursery stock.

plants cannot be sold arrow circle
plants cannot be sold

All nursery stock must be kept and displayed under conditions of temperature, light, and moisture sufficient to maintain the continuing viability and vigor of the stock.

nursery in fall

Consumers! Protect yourselves! Make sure tree trunks are free of wounds and the foliage of the nursery stock is supple and of good green color. Avoid buying plants on the discounted rack. They may not be able to be brought back to "life".