Do I Need a License to Landscape in Florida?

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Whether you need a landscaping license in Florida depends on several factors, including your business structure and the scope of your work. Find out what's required for your landscaping business before you start marketing to prospective customers.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

You need a license for your landscaping business in Florida if you plan to apply chemical pesticides.

Business Structure

As a sole proprietor who provides services such as lawn mowing, hedge trimming and yard cleanup, you don't need a business license. For tax purposes, you're considered self-employed, and you file a 1040 Form SE to report your income.

However, it makes sense to form a limited liability company (LLC) to separate your personal assets from your business. That way, if someone files a claim against you, the claim can only be paid with money from your business; your personal bank accounts cannot be touched.

Licensing and Registration

If you're a sole proprietor, your Social Security number serves as a tax identification number. As an LLC or other business structure with employees, you need an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Obtain your unique number free through the website of the IRS.

In Florida, you file Articles of Organization for an LLC with the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations. Visit the division's website to complete an application online, or print the forms and submit via postal mail. The required fee is $125, which you can pay with a credit card online or by check if using the mail.

You may also need to register your business at the local level. Visit your town or county clerk's office for more information. You can also visit a local office of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for help in completing the required paperwork.

Fertilizer and Pesticide Application Certifications

Florida requires a landscaping certification for fertilizer and pesticide applications. If you're a landscaper for hire, you must have the Limited Urban Fertilizer Applicator Certification. Each person applying fertilizer must have an individual certification. No one can work under the umbrella of an employer's certification.

For pesticide application, there are two options, depending on the application site. Residential or commercial building turf pesticide applicators need a Commercial Lawn and Ornamental Pest Control License. A current employee of the cardholder may also apply the pesticide. If you are applying pesticides to residential or commercial ornamental beds, you need either the Commercial Lawn and Ornamental license or a Limited Commercial Landscaper Maintenance Certification.

Formal Education Requirements

Landscape designers and landscape contractors in Florida do not need a formal education to work. However, to call yourself a landscape architect, you must hold a bachelor's or master's degree in landscape architecture from an accredited college or university. You must pass the licensing exam in Florida and hold a current license to practice.

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF IFAS) operates extension offices throughout the state that offer various educational opportunities for landscapers. Activities, classes and online learning are offered throughout the year. Visit the website of the UF IFAS Extension for a schedule.

Membership in Professional Organizations

Landscape contractors in Florida are not required to have state certification other than for pesticide and fertilizer applications. However, your landscaping business could benefit from membership in professional organizations. You increase your knowledge, expand your professional network, and demonstrate your expertise to clients with added credentials.

Professional organizations for landscapers include the following:

  • Florida Pest Management Association (FPMA)
  • Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA)
  • Tree Care Industry Association (TCA)
  • International Society of Arboriculture (ISA)
  • Florida Turfgrass Association (FTGA)
  • National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP)
  • Perennial Plant Association

Visit the websites of any of these organizations to learn about membership and benefits.