What Licenses are Needed to Start a Landscaping Business

Photo of author

By Jacob Maslow

Starting a landscaping business can be exciting and rewarding for entrepreneurs with a green thumb. However, like any other industry, obtaining the proper licenses and permits is essential before getting your hands dirty. Acquiring these necessary documents will allow your business to operate legally and also helps establish credibility and trust with potential clients.

The licenses and permits required for a landscaping business can vary depending on the jurisdiction in which the business is being established. Generally, a business owner must obtain a general business license, which allows them to operate within a city or county. They may also need special permits for pesticide and fertilizer usage, handling hazardous materials, and waste disposal.

In some cases, a landscaping business may also require certain professional licenses, such as those for landscape design or architecture. These licenses typically involve meeting education and experience requirements and passing a state-administered exam. Aspiring landscaping business owners can lay the foundation for a successful and thriving enterprise by familiarizing themselves with all requirements and obtaining the relevant licenses.

Also Read

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Landscaping Business?

Learn What It Takes to Launch a Successful Landscaping Company

How to Buy the Right Equipment for a Landscaping Company

How to Create a Profitable Lawn Care Service Business With Little Investment

Creating a Winning Lawncare Slogan: Tips & Examples

Fundamental Licenses and Permits

Business License

Obtaining a business license is one of the first steps to start a landscaping business. This license will allow the business to operate legally within the local jurisdiction. The process to obtain a business license varies by city, county, or state and may require paying a fee and completing an application. It is crucial to verify the specific requirements with the local government.

State License

In some states, landscaping businesses may require a state license to operate. The state’s Department of Agriculture or a similar agency usually offers these licenses. The requirements for obtaining a state license may include passing an exam, providing proof of liability insurance, and paying a fee. State licensing requirements for landscapers may differ from state to state, so it’s essential to research the specific requirements for the state where the business will operate.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a federal tax identification number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to businesses. It serves as the business’s unique identifier for tax purposes. A landscaping business must obtain an EIN to hire employees or operate as a corporation or partnership. Registering for an EIN is a straightforward process and can be done online on the IRS website – it’s fast and free.

Pesticide Applicator License

A Pesticide Applicator License is necessary for landscaping businesses that use pesticides to maintain lawns, gardens, or other green spaces. This license, typically issued by the state’s Department of Agriculture, ensures that individuals applying pesticides have the proper training and expertise to do so safely and effectively. To obtain a Pesticide Applicator License, applicants must pass an exam and maintain the license through continuing education or periodic retesting.

Building and Construction Permits

When a landscaping business involves outdoor construction projects, such as building retaining walls or installing irrigation systems, it may need to acquire building and construction permits. Each local government has its permitting process and requirements, including submitting plans, undergoing inspections, and paying fees. It is important to determine the necessary permits for each project and obtain them before starting the construction process.

License Types by State


In California, landscape contractors require a C-27 Landscape Contractor license from the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). To obtain this license, applicants must pass an examination and show proof of experience. A Qualified Applicator License (QAL) is also required for those who intend to apply pesticides.


In Florida, landscape businesses need a Limited Commercial Landscape Maintenance (LCLM) license or a Commercial Landscape Maintenance (CLM) license, depending on the services offered. A Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) pesticide applicator license is required for pesticide applications.


Oregon requires Landscape Construction Professionals (LCP) and Landscape Business Licenses (LBL) for those offering landscape services. The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) also requires a pesticide applicator license for businesses applying pesticides.

North Carolina

In North Carolina, landscape businesses must obtain a Landscape Contractor License from the North Carolina Landscape Contractors’ Licensing Board (NCLCLB). A Pesticide Applicator license from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture (NCDA) is also required for pesticide applications.


Connecticut mandates a Home Improvement Contractor (HIC) license for landscape design and installation services. Also, a Commercial Pesticide Applicator’s license from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is necessary for pesticide applications.


Alabama requires a landscape business to obtain an Alabama Landscape Contractors License, provided by the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. Pesticide applicator licenses are also required for businesses applying pesticides.


In Alaska, landscape businesses need an Alaska Contractors License from the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development (DCCED). The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) also requires a Pesticide Applicator Certificate for those who will apply pesticides.

Insurance and Bonds Requirements

General Liability Insurance

Every landscaping business should have general liability insurance to protect against risks like property damage, injury, and lawsuits. This coverage generally includes:

  • Bodily injury liability: covering injuries to clients or other third parties
  • Property damage liability: covering damages to a client’s property
  • Personal and advertising injury liability: covering claims related to advertising or personal harm

The cost of general liability insurance varies depending on the business size, location, and the level of coverage required. Shop around for policies that offer adequate protection at a reasonable price.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Workers’ compensation insurance is a must for landscaping businesses with employees. It provides coverage for:

  • Medical expenses related to work injuries
  • Lost wages due to injury or illness
  • Disability benefits
  • Death benefits

Each state has specific requirements for workers’ compensation insurance. Check your local government’s website or consult an insurance agent to ensure you’re in compliance.

Commercial Auto Insurance

Commercial auto insurance is required for landscaping businesses that own, lease, or rent vehicles for business purposes. This coverage usually includes:

  • Liability coverage: in case of accidents involving third parties
  • Collision coverage: for vehicle repair or replacement
  • Comprehensive coverage: covering non-accident-related damages, like theft or vandalism
  • Medical payments coverage: for medical expenses incurred due to an accident

To determine the appropriate level of commercial auto insurance, consider the type and value of the vehicles you use and any state-specific requirements.

Surety Bond

Many states and municipalities require a surety bond for landscaping businesses. A surety bond promises to pay a certain amount to a client if the landscaper fails to fulfill their contract.

Typical bond amounts vary depending on the size and scope of the job, as well as local regulations. Consult with a bonding agent or research local requirements to ensure you have the necessary coverage.

In conclusion, obtaining the appropriate insurance coverage and surety bonds is crucial for any landscaping business. Ensure you meet all local and state requirements, and choose policies that protect your specific operation.

Setting up a Legal Business Structure

When starting a landscaping business, it is essential to establish a strong legal business structure. This includes creating an appropriate legal entity and obtaining the necessary licenses. This section will discuss three common business structures: Sole Proprietorship, Limited Liability Company (LLC), and Corporation.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest type of business structure, requiring minimal paperwork and no formal registration. In this structure, the individual owner assumes all responsibility and liability for the business. To operate under a name different from the owner’s, one must file a Doing Business As (DBA) form with the relevant government agency.

Steps to setting up a Sole Proprietorship:

  1. Obtain necessary licenses and permits: Depending on the location, landscapers may need various licenses, such as a business license, tax registration, and a contractor’s license.
  2. File a DBA (if necessary): This is required if operating under a different name from the owner’s.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC is a more formal, flexible, and popular choice for small businesses. It combines the liability protection of a corporation with the tax benefits of a partnership. This structure safeguards the owner’s assets from business debts and lawsuits.

Steps to setting up an LLC:

  1. Choose a unique name for the LLC
  2. File Articles of Organization with the relevant state agency
  3. Create an Operating Agreement to outline the management and ownership of the business
  4. Obtain an EIN (Employer Identification Number) from the IRS
  5. Acquire necessary licenses and permits, as mentioned in the Sole Proprietorship section.


A corporation is an independent legal entity owned by shareholders, offering the most legal protection but also requiring more paperwork and formalities. Landscaping businesses anticipating significant growth or requiring substantial liability protection may opt for this structure.

Steps to setting up a Corporation:

  1. Choose a unique name for the corporation
  2. File Articles of Incorporation with the relevant state agency
  3. Create Corporate Bylaws detailing the internal operations and management structure
  4. Issue stock certificates to shareholders
  5. Obtain an EIN (Employer Identification Number) from the IRS
  6. Acquire necessary licenses and permits, as mentioned in the Sole Proprietorship section.

It is advisable to consult a lawyer to ensure compliance with all relevant laws and regulations for any business structure. To manage the complexities of starting a landscaping business, choosing an appropriate legal structure and obtaining the required licenses should be a priority.

Essential Landscaping Equipment

Starting a landscaping business requires an investment in essential equipment. This article will discuss the critical equipment for a successful landscaping business, including mowers, trimmers, blowers, shovels, and shears.


A reliable mower is crucial for maintaining lawns effectively. There are various types of mowers available, such as walk-behind, riding, and zero-turn mowers. When selecting a mower, consider lawn size, terrain, and budget. Some landscaping professionals choose to purchase their mowers, while others opt for renting equipment to help manage costs.


Trimmers are necessary for creating clean lines and edges around lawns, sidewalks, and driveways. This tool is powered by gas or electricity, and each type has advantages. Gas trimmers are generally more powerful and suitable for heavy-duty tasks, while electric trimmers are lighter and more environmentally friendly.


An essential tool for keeping landscapes looking tidy is a blower. These devices clear away leaves, grass clippings, and other debris, making yard maintenance efficient and easy. Like trimmers, blowers can be powered by gas or electricity. Electric blowers are generally quieter and produce fewer emissions, while gas-powered options provide more power.


Shovels are indispensable for various landscaping tasks, such as creating beds, edging, and transplanting. They come in different shapes and sizes, each designed for specific tasks. Some examples include:

  • Round-point shovels: ideal for digging holes and breaking up hard soil
  • Square-point shovels: useful for scooping, leveling, and spreading materials like mulch
  • Edging shovels: designed for creating clean edges along paths and borders


Lastly are shears, which help maintain a professional appearance for clients’ landscapes. They include:

  • Pruning shears: perfect for trimming small branches, shrubs, and trees
  • Hedge shears: used to create neat, even lines in hedges
  • Grass shears: handy for trimming grass in tight spaces

Investing in high-quality landscaping equipment is crucial for delivering top-notch results, retaining clients, and building a successful business. Landscaping professionals can ensure exceptional performance and client satisfaction by acquiring tools like mowers, trimmers, blowers, shovels, and shears.

Additional Aspects of Running a Landscaping Business

Certification and Training Programs

It is important for individuals starting a landscaping business to undergo certification and training programs. These programs will help them learn about landscape maintenance, lawn maintenance, and other crucial aspects of the trade. Several industry-recognized certifications, such as the Landscape Industry Certified Technician designation, can be obtained by passing relevant exams.

Residential and Commercial Services

While running a landscaping business, offering both residential and commercial services is essential. This will allow the business to cater to a wide range of clients and increase its overall revenue. Residential services typically include landscape design and maintenance for homeowners and small property management companies. On the other hand, commercial services cater to larger properties such as office parks, shopping centers, and apartment complexes.

Marketing and Branding

A strong marketing and branding strategy must be established to establish a landscaping business successfully. This includes having a professional website, a consistent logo, and promotional materials. Implementing digital marketing techniques such as search engine optimization (SEO) and social media advertising will help attract more clients to the business. In addition, word-of-mouth referrals and forging partnerships with local businesses can be highly effective in generating leads.

Budget and Rates

One essential aspect of starting a landscaping business is setting an appropriate budget and determining competitive service rates. When creating a budget, factor in labor, equipment, materials, transportation, and insurance costs. Regarding rates, consider the local market, the level of service provided, and any additional services offered, such as lawn maintenance, hardscaping, or irrigation.

Service Estimated Cost Description
Landscape Design $100 – $200 Creating a custom landscape design tailored to the client’s needs and preferences.
Lawn Maintenance $40 – $100 Regular lawn care services such as mowing, trimming, and edging.
Hardscaping $900 – $3,000 Installation of pavers, retaining walls, and other hard features in the landscape.
Irrigation Installation $1,500 – $4,000 Designing and installing an irrigation system for efficient watering of plants and lawns.

Remember, maintaining a careful balance between offering competitive prices and ensuring profitability is critical for the long-term success of the landscaping business.


What general licenses are needed for a landscaping business?

To operate a landscaping business, one typically needs:

  • A business license is typically obtained from the city or county where the business is located.
  • A contractor’s license if the business performs construction, installation, or repairing landscape features.
  • A sales tax license to collect sales tax on any products or services sold.

Do I need any specialized licenses?

Specialized licenses may be required for services like:

  • Pesticide application: Many regions require a pesticide applicator license for businesses that use chemical treatments on lawns, trees, or shrubs.
  • Irrigation installation and repair: Some areas may require a dedicated irrigation contractor’s license or additional certification.

Are permits required for certain landscaping projects?

In many cases, permits may be required for projects like constructing structures (e.g., retaining walls, decks, or gazebos) or altering natural drainage patterns. Before beginning such projects, checking with the local building or planning authorities is important.

How do I obtain the necessary licenses and permits?

The process of obtaining licenses and permits can vary depending on the region and type of license required. It is best to consult with local government agencies, such as the Department of Business and Professional Regulation or the Licensing Board of Contractor Examiners, to determine the application process, fees, and exams required.

How do I stay compliant with licensing and permit requirements?

Make sure to comply with all regulations, including renewing licenses and permits as necessary, reporting changes in the business to the proper authorities, and attending any required training courses or continuing education classes. Stay connected with relevant trade organizations and government agencies on any regulation changes.

Images Courtesy of DepositPhotos