How This Family Farm Transformed Ecommerce Plant Business

Photography by Matthew Coughlin.

Two siblings took their decades-old, family business and pulled off a digital transformation.

Alex Kantor had a secret.

After another disappointing conversation with his father, Kantor decided to quietly take his family’s 40-year-old plant nursery online. He wasn’t sure if it would work. But when several customers bought plants from his new website, he knew he couldn’t keep it quiet anymore. He had to tell his dad, who always rolled his eyes at technology.

That was in 2015. Today, Perfect Plants Nursery is a fast-growing ecommerce company, recently nabbing the No. 39 spot in the Inc. Regionals Southeast 2023 ranking. Based in Monticello, Florida, the company sells more than 300 kinds of shrubs, rose bushes, houseplants, and fruit and other trees to consumers across the U.S. It pulled in annual revenues of $12 million in 2021, the latest figure available.

The story of Perfect Plants Nursery shows how even a decades-old, family-owned business in a historically wholesale niche can pull off a digital transformation and scale quickly. Alex Kantor and his sister, Natalie Kantor, became co-owners when their father retired in 2020. Their route to e-commerce success meant reinventing not just the in-person experience for online shoppers but also reimagining packaging and shipping. Along the way, it required a $5 million investment and growing the team to 65 employees from 12 employees in 2015, according to Alex Kantor. As for many businesses in the tight labor market, hiring has been hard. “Growing plants and farming are not shiny jobs,” says Kantor, the company’s 36-year-old president, who grew up on the farm. Their strategies have included executive recruiters, canvassing the neighborhood, and even offering a scholarship.

Perfect Plants Nurserys co-owners Alex Kantor and his sister Natalie Kantor.


Before the growth spurt could start, Alex and Natalie had to persuade their father, Peter Kantor, to go along with the experiment. When he looked at the numbers, he had reservations. As a wholesaler who started the business in 1980, he’d long wondered how to transport plants without killing them. Buy then he saw the new packaging method, and he became more receptive. “I realized that they had taken the family business to a next level,” he says.

Perfect Plants Nursery has since transitioned fully into e-commerce and now sells only online. The business, located on a 70-acre farm, joined an explosive growth trend. According to a nursery-and-garden market research report from research company Kentley Insights, plant nursery e-commerce jumped 20.9 percent in 2022 to about $2.4 billion in sales from nearly $2 billion in 2021. That figure is projected to reach $4.7 billion by 2027, according to the report.

“There has been a shift to purchasing plants online,” says Benjamin Campbell, associate professor of agricultural and applied economics at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. More Millennials have come into the market as they threw themselves into the role of “plant parents” during pandemic lockdowns. “Many stayed in the market as the pandemic subsided,” Campbell says. Like Peter Kantor, plant businesses, he says, have been stumped when it comes to finding affordable ways to ship quality plants in a timely manner.

Alex Kantor was determined to figure out how. He worked to perfect the company’s packaging before launching, sending out hundreds of test packages upside down to see if his packing method could work regardless of the box’s orientation. “I tell my team that every plant may go to someone’s mother, so treat this process as if it was going to your mother,” says Kantor.

The approach, he says, allows plants to arrive healthy, colorfully alive, and ready to flourish even if their boxes are tossed about. The company offers free shipping for purchases over $129 and promises delivery within four business days. The company uses ground service instead of air to save money and ensure plant quality.

Live Chats and a Full-Time Photographer

To expand into e-commerce, the siblings invested more than $2 million in infrastructure, farm expansions, and equipment, and an additional $3 million in marketing, product development, and inventory. They drew on savings and a $300,000 bank loan. The two didn’t take a paycheck until 2021.

“My dad is a firm believer in paying your own way running a farm,” says Kantor. “We reinvested every single dollar the company made to grow the company.” He plans to add 300 plant types and expand in the next two years.

When he first set out, Kantor knew he’d need to find ways to encourage plant buyers to shop online. “Customers are used to going to garden centers to shop for plants in person,” he says.

From the start, they hired a full-time photographer to take high-resolution photos of the individual plants on the farm for the website. Looking out of his office window, Kantor proudly points to the 70-acre nursery behind him. “It only takes a second to go out on the farm to snap a photo and send it back to our consumers,” Kantor says.

The website added interactive features that mimic the in-person shopping experience. For example, shoppers can use a live-chat function to request photos or videos of plants they’re interested in. “Customers are more knowledgeable these days, and they’ve done their research,” Kantor says. When they can’t find what they need locally, they look online, he explains. The website helps customers choose plants suited to their geographical location and offers planting tips and care instructions, as well as information on bloom cycles, and even health benefits for edible flowers and plants.

“My goal is that people can come to our website for information, so they don’t need to pull out a plants encyclopedia anymore, like what I did when I was in middle school,” says Kantor.

Millennial Plant Parents

Kantor saw an influx of orders in March 2020 and has been courting the attention of Millennial plant parents on social media. For example, Perfect Plants Nursery posts lighthearted videos showing new plant parents how not to kill a plant, what to do in the kitchen with fruit and flowers from the garden, and little-known but creepy plants. The company has about 30,000 followers on TikTok and 5,800 on Pinterest.

Natalie Kantor oversees the company’s human resources and accounting. The range of job openings go “from hourly-paid field workers, all the way up to shipping and marketing executives,” she says. For example, it is hiring for a head of digital advertising, nursery production manager, customer service manager, shipping supervisor, and human resources manager.

Horticulture and farming careers aren’t as enticing to many younger people as they were to the Kantors when they were growing up. To inspire young people to pursue horticulture operations, in 2017 they began offering a $1,500 scholarship. Each year, they get more than 100 applications. Alex Kantor says that he has found great employees by walking up and introducing himself to people in his neighborhood. For niche talent, they rely on headhunters.

“Younger kids today tend to go toward more shiny jobs, like computer science, and migrate to big cities,” says Kantor. “But I hope more young people are willing to work in the dirt.”