What You Need To Know About Landscaping Business Licenses

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PublishedJanuary 27, 2024

What You Need To Know About Landscaping Business Licenses


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What You Need To Know About Landscaping Business Licenses

Some parts of starting a landscaping business come naturally to entrepreneurs: developing services, choosing equipment, and defining service areas. However, things get more complicated when it comes to the red tape of the green industry—such as permits and business licenses.

When your time is already stretched thin with the demands of running a growing company, it can be frustrating to find out what licenses are needed to start a landscaping business

Beyond landscaping contractor licenses, there can be specific requirements for individual services, such as:

  • Applying herbicides

  • Trimming trees

  • Installing irrigation systems

There are also permits and licenses required for daily operations, such as general liability insurance and surety bonds.

This guide to licensure requirements for all areas of landscaping work is designed to help you grow with confidence.

Essential business licenses 

The confusion surrounding landscaper licensing requirements can stop many potential landscaping business owners from launching a small business or expanding service offerings.

→ Licensure is something you want to get right the first time.

Business license

The first thing you need to start a landscaping company is a business license. This certification is required by most states and allows businesses to operate within a certain city, county, or state as defined by local regulations.

Typically, there’s a licensing fee and several steps:

  • Form a business entity. If you’re not operating as a  sole proprietorship, you must form your limited liability company (aka LLC) or other business entity first. That way, you can apply for your license using this entity’s name and not have to pay a fee to update your business license later.

  • Understand the necessary licenses. Different areas have different requirements, and although your state might not require a license, your particular municipality might. Consider consulting a lawyer about the necessary licenses to keep the application process moving.

  • Submit an application. Whether you apply online or submit a paper application, you will likely have to wait before receiving your business license. Be sure to factor in the extra time and startup cost.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

If you plan to have employees for your lawn care service business, you will need an EIN. You may need one before applying for a business license or other permits. 

The nine-digit EIN helps you and your employees submit tax information. There are three steps to getting one:

  • Determine your eligibility. Businesses in the U.S. and its territories can apply online if the applicant has a valid Taxpayer Identification Number. 

  • Follow application guidelines. You can’t save progress and complete the application later, so ensure you have time to finish it in one sitting.

  • Submit the EIN application. Your EIN will be provided immediately once the necessary validations are completed. After that, download, print, and file the confirmation notice in a safe place.

State-specific landscaping contractor license

While many states require business licenses, some have specific regulations around landscaping companies. These typically cover a particular type of service, especially if chemical application is necessary to do the job. 

Normally, you will need to pass an exam to show you know the industry tools and safety precautions. Sometimes, you will need a certain number of years of experience. Here are states with these requirements:


License or Certificate



Horticulture Professional Services



Landscape Contractor License



C-27 Landscaping Contractor 

Depending on services, a Maintenance Gardener Pest Control certification as well.



C-27 Landscaping Contractor


optional C-27b Tree Trimming and Removal Contractor 



Landscape Horticulturist License 

For tree care, an additional Arborist License, and continuing education credits



MHIC-issued Home Improvement, for both landscaping and sod installation 



MnDOT Landscape Specialist



Landscape Horticulturist



C-10 Landscape Contracting



For individuals: Landscape Construction Professional License (LCP) 

For larger businesses: Landscape Contracting Business License (LCB) 

Exams for both


Landscaping (BC-29), for lawn care, sod installation, seeding, and general-use pesticide application.



S-330 Landscaping and Recreation Contractor license 

No exam required

Regardless of where you live, you’ll want to check the specific requirements of your state license board before starting up the lawn mower.

Additional service licenses

Before your new business can begin providing landscaping services, there are a few more items to cross off your licensure list, such as environmental certifications, so you can be a good steward of the land you’re maintaining.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certification

Every state requires a commercial pesticide applicator license. This regulation of restricted-use pesticides encompasses the states listed above and nearly all others from Arizona to Washington. 

Under federal law, the EPA sets the minimum competency standards for restricted-use pesticides (RUPs). It also removes risks to people and the environment through ongoing pesticide registration review programs. 

→ If you plan to apply or supervise using RUPs, you must be certified up to EPA standards.

In this process, states have some discretion about granting certification to lawn care providers. To get certified, you typically must pass an exam in every state where you will be operating.

The local certifying agency may offer a Pesticide Safety Education Program with training information and study materials in your state or territory. Landscaping services working on tribal land can find more information via the Federal Certification to Apply Restricted Use Pesticides in Indian Country.

Fertilizer application certification

You may require additional certifications if you plan to use fertilizers, as they can create major hazards. 

The nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients in fertilizer may wash into storm drains or directly into bodies of water during storms. There, they feed algae blooms that consume oxygen from the water and block sunlight, killing the native plants and wildlife.

Obtaining a fertilizer application certification is similar to getting a commercial pesticide applicator certification. 

Business owners typically take a course, pass a test, and pay a fee to use or supervise the use of fertilizers, then renew the certification regularly.

Landscaping service businesses in the following states must possess a certification:

Other states have resources and rules surrounding fertilizer usage, too. So it’s essential to learn your area’s requirements and follow guidelines.

Understanding local landscaper licensing requirements

Gaining the necessary certifications will ensure you’re ready to tackle the job for your customers with no surprises. There are many places to get info, but finding the proper state agency that oversees landscaping services can be confusing.

→ Depending on the state, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Transportation, or a state contractors board could be the governing body. 

In some, there’s more than one. The oversight body may change depending on your services, from standard mowing and mulching to hardscaping and irrigation system installation.

The National Association of Landscape Professionals is a great place to start looking for answers. 

Consequences of operating without proper licenses

Operating a landscaping business without the necessary licenses poses a significant risk. Business owners who do so may face legal repercussions and financial penalties — on top of losing credibility. 

→ Trying to work under the radar seriously jeopardizes your company, from the financial troubles due to fines, the loss of customers’ trust, or both.

Every state levies fines for unlicensed landscaping services, even if obtaining licensure to start a new business is unnecessary. 

  • In Florida, for example, there are lax licensing requirements for landscaping contractors, but companies that apply restricted-use pesticides without the correct certification can be fined $5,000 per violation

  • In New York City, performing services like tree work without proper licensure can result in fines or up to 90 days of jail time

Unlicensed landscapers in other parts of the country have received cease and desist notices from state contractor boards. 

→ Factor licensure into your startup costs rather than pay a hefty price later.

In these instances, operating a landscaping business is much like landscape maintenance itself — it’s not a one-and-done. You have to cultivate your company. That requires several considerations beyond licensure.

What more do you need to start a landscaping business?

Whether you specialize in landscape design or basic lawn care, licensing probably isn’t the first necessity that comes to mind when launching a business in the green industry. But licensing isn’t the only administrative work you need to do. 


For starters, business owners must factor in business insurance. Plans can encompass:

  • General liability

  • Commercial property

  • Business income to protect your company from taking a financial hit when accidents occur

You can’t apply for certain licenses or certifications without showing proof of insurance at a certain level.

Workers’ compensation insurance is also critical. Landscaping has an above-average rate of fatal and nonfatal injuries. Employees must know they are covered if anything happens on the job. Most of the time, it’s legally required to run a business.


A growing landscaping company also needs essential tools to transform outdoor spaces. 

To get started, business owners need basic handheld equipment for maintenance and planting, such as:

  • Pruners

  • Shovels and rakes

  • Wheelbarrows

  • Shovels and spades 

For more expansive areas, a company needs larger machinery and equipment, such as:

  • Lawn mowers

  • Trimmers and edgers

  • Leaf blowers

Specialized tools like irrigation systems and soil testing kits enhance the company's capability to provide tailored solutions for optimal plant health and landscape design. 


To acquire customers, word of mouth is tried and tested. But it may not be enough. As such, the company should focus on:

  • Local SEO

  • Social media engagement

  • In-person networking for initial marketing efforts

  • A professional website

  • Targeted direct mail

  • Customer referral programs to enhance visibility

Attracting clients and fostering business growth requires online advertising, community involvement, and seasonal promotions.

Scalable software

With so many new business to-dos, it’s important to find ways to take things off your list. Building an efficient, scalable tech stack is an effective approach. And universal business management platforms like Aspire, in particular, can help a budding lawn care business bloom. Aspire delivers real-time data to empower timely, informed decisions to boost your landscaping service’s sales, productivity, accountability, and profits.

Set up your business for success

In the competitive field of landscaping, knowledge is a powerful tool for growth. By obtaining the essential landscaping industry licenses, you can cultivate a flourishing business.

Aspire is a powerful tool for landscaping companies to conduct end-to-end business management. Landscapers can provide accurate, immediate customer invoicing and harness real-time data via custom reports and dashboards.

Want to see how Aspire can drive new business growth in your enterprise? Schedule a free demo.


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