Nurseries often grow plants in a greenhouse, a building of glass or in plastic tunnels, designed to protect young plants from harsh weather (especially frost), while allowing access to light and ventilation. Modern greenhouses allow automated control of temperature, ventilation and light and semi-automated watering and feeding. Some also have fold-back roofs to allow "hardening-off" of plants without the need for manual transfer to outdoor beds.
Most nurseries remain highly labour-intensive. Although some processes have been mechanised and automated, others have not. It remains highly unlikely that all plants treated in the same way at the same time will arrive at the same condition together, so plant care requires observation, judgement and manual dexterity; selection for sale requires comparison and judgement. A UK nurseryman has estimated (in 2003) that manpower accounts for 70% of his production costs. The largest UK nurseries have moved to minimise labour costs by the use of computer controlled warehousing methods: plants are palletised, allocated to a location and grown on there with little human intervention. Picking merely requires selection of a batch and manual quality control before dispatch. In other cases, a high loss rate during maturation is accepted for the reduction in detailed plant maintenance costs.
Business is highly seasonal, concentrated in spring and autumn. There is no guarantee that there will be demand for the product - this will be affected by temperature, drought, cheaper foreign competition, fashion, among other things.
Annuals are sold in trays (undivided containers with multiple plants), flats (trays with built-in cells), peat pots, or plastic pots. Perennials and woody plants are sold either in pots, bare-root or balled and burlaped and in a variety of sizes, from liners to mature trees. Balled and Burlap (B & B) trees are dug either by hand or by a loader that has a tree spade attachment on the front of the machine. Although container grown woody plants are becoming more and more popular due to the versatility, B & B is still widely used throughout the industry.
Plants may be propagated by seeds, but often desirable cultivars are propagated asexually by budding, grafting, layering, or other nursery techniques.
See also: Flower Malaysia, Malaysia Flower, Florist KL, Florist Penang