Gov. Wolf denies blanket exemption for independent family-owned garden centers in Pennsylvania

Gov. Wolf denies blanket exemption for independent family-owned garden centers in Pennsylvania

PLNA has created a petition to ask Gov. Wolf to reopen garden centers. However, greenhouses and nurseries still remain open.


On April 10, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf denied a blanket exemption that would have allowed independent family owned garden centers across Pennsylvania to open this spring. The denial means that garden centers, having geared up for spring, will be stuck with millions of plants they will be unable to sell.

In an email sent to the Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association (PLNA) on Friday April 10, 2020 the Governor’s Office denied the request for an exemption to the governor’s March 19, 2020 COVID-19 Executive Order. PLNA represents independent family-owned garden centers in Pennsylvania as well as greenhouses, nurseries and landscape contractors.

Specifically, all lawn and garden centers are not authorized to maintain in-person operations. 
  • This prohibition applies to independent lawn and garden centers and those attached to large retail chains. DCED sent letters to large retail chains providing this clarification.
  • This prohibition does not apply to establishments primarily engaged in retailing farm supplies, such as animal feed. 
  • Online orders and delivery of those orders are not prohibited, including for lawn and garden centers that did not apply for or were denied a waiver. 
  • Curbside pickup is prohibited for businesses without a waiver, as they do not qualify for in-person operations under the Governor’s Order.

Sign PLNA's petition to ask Gov. Wolf to reopen garden centers HERE.

“While we agree with the Governor’s goals, the Independent family-owned garden centers across Pennsylvania are crushed,” said Ted Ventre, chairman of the PLNA board of directors and owner of Hively Landscapes in Dover, York County.

“States surrounding Pennsylvania — Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland — are keeping their garden centers open. They see the benefits that gardening brings to their residents in the midst of this pandemic.

Ventre said that scientific studies show that gardening provides health benefits such as reducing stress and blood pressure, improving mental health and depression and speeding recovery from illness. He noted that gardening is the largest outdoor activity pursued by adults. Seventy-seven percent of U.S. households reported that they garden in a recent national survey.

Moreover, the survey found that a third of all households now grow their own food, which can be expected to increase with the Pennsylvania stay-at-home order. Garden centers supply the plants, seeds, fertilizer and other products needed for a successful home vegetable garden.

This was echoed by Steve Mostardi, owner of Mostardi Nursery a garden center in Newtown Square, Delaware County.

“We are in full support of the goals of the Governor’s COVID-19 order,” said Mostardi. “But garden centers are better suited to provide social distancing than food stores. Most of our plants are outdoors and our customers are breathing fresh air, not stale recirculated indoor air. We just don’t understand the governor’s denial of our exemption request.”

“We also provide vegetable plants, seeds and other products needed by the home gardener for growing their own food, so important when people must stay at home,” he said. “With garden centers closed, where will people be able to buy plants and seeds for their vegetable gardens?”

April 16, 3:00 p.m. EST: To further clarify, Greenhouse, Nursery and Floriculture Production were deemed Essential/Life-Sustaining as of March 24. Based on the governor’s list which appears to fall in line with NAICS codes, Greenhouses and Nursery Stock Growers fall into this category (page 1 of the Governor’s List)

  • 1) Natural Resources and Mining
  • a) Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting
  • i) Crop Production - Greenhouses, Nursery and Floriculture Production

This category is deemed ESSENTIAL and here is that definition:

1114 Greenhouse, Nursery and Floriculture Production

This industry group comprises establishments primarily engaged in growing crops of any kind under cover and/or growing nursery stock and flowers. "Under cover"" is generally defined as greenhouses

111421 Nursery and Tree Production

This U.S. industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in (1) growing nursery products, nursery stock, shrubbery, bulbs, fruit stock, sod, and so forth, under cover or in open fields and/or (2) growing short rotation woody trees with a growth and harvest cycle of 10 years or less for pulp or tree stock.

Includes: Azalea farming, Christmas tree growing, corms farming, field nurseries (flowers and shrubbery), flower bulb growing, fruit stock (plants, seedlings, trees), herbaceous perennials, nursery stock, nursery with tree production, preseeded mat farming, propagation material farming, rose bush, short rotation woody tree growing (grow and harvest cycle tens years or less), shrubbery, sod, tissue culture, tree crop, turf.


As a grower of nursery products and nursery stock, you are permitted to continue your operations as normal.