California is home to over 100,000 landscaping professionals, making it one of the largest markets for landscaping services in the United States. With its sunny climate, sprawling suburbs, and affluent communities, demand for professional landscaping services in the state continues to grow each year.

If you want to start and operate a landscaping business in California, you must obtain a state-issued license. The California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) oversees licensing for landscaping contractors.

This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about getting licensed as a landscaping contractor in California.

Landscaping Contractor License Requirements

To legally operate as a landscaping contractor in California and bid on jobs worth $500 or more in combined materials and labor, you must obtain a C-27 Landscaping Contractor license from the CSLB.

Here are the basic eligibility requirements:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Have a valid Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
  • Not be currently on parole or probation
  • Show proof of 4 years of journey-level experience in landscaping over the past 10 years

You can substitute up to 3 years of experience with education:

  • 1 year of experience = 2 years of education
  • 2 years of experience = 3 years of education
  • 3 years of experience = 4-year degree in landscape architecture, ornamental horticulture, or a related field


To get your C-27 license, you must pass two exams:

  • Law and Business Exam – Covers contractor law, project management, and other business practices. It has 115 multiple choice questions.
  • Landscaping Trade Exam – Tests your technical knowledge on topics like irrigation, plant materials, safety, and more. It has 115 multiple choice questions.

Each exam is 3.5 hours long. You must pass both exams to get licensed.


Here are the CSLB fees to obtain a new C-27 Landscaping Contractor license:

  • Application Fee: $450
  • Initial License Fee: $200
  • Fingerprint Fee: $50-100

You will also need to obtain a $25,000 license bond to get your license. Bond fees are typically 1-3% of the bond amount.

Total Estimated Cost

The total cost to get a new C-27 Landscaping Contractor license is approximately $750-800, which includes exam fees, licensing fees, fingerprinting, and the license bond premium.

Getting Your Initial C-27 License

Follow these steps to obtain your initial C-27 Landscaping Contractor license in California:

1. Establish Eligibility

  • Make sure you meet the experience and/or education requirements outlined above.
  • Gather documentation that verifies your qualifying landscaping experience, such as past contracts, invoices, tax records, and references.
  • Obtain a Social Security number or ITIN if you don’t already have one.

2. Complete the License Application

  • Submit a new license application to the CSLB.
  • Pay the $450 application fee.
  • Send your supporting experience documentation.
  • Live scan fingerprinting will be required as part of your application.

It takes 6-12 weeks for the CSLB to process new applications. Make sure yours is complete to avoid delays.

3. Study and Pass the Exams

Once approved, you’ll be assigned exam dates for the Law & Business and Trade exams. Study the CSLB’s exam study guides and other prep materials. Schedule your tests and pay exam fees. You must pass both exams to move forward.

4. File Your Bond

Start arranging your $25,000 license bond during the application process so it’s ready when you pass the exams. The bond can be obtained via a surety bond company or with a cash deposit.

5. Get Fingerprinted

Visit an authorized Live Scan service location to get fingerprinted. This allows the CSLB to conduct a criminal background check.

6. Pay License Fees

Once you’ve passed the exams and met all requirements, you’ll pay the $200 initial license fee to activate your license.

7. Get Your License Number

It takes 1-2 weeks after paying your licensing fee to receive your new C-27 license number. You can now legally work as a landscaping contractor in California!

Renewing Your C-27 Landscaping License

C-27 Landscaping Contractor licenses must be renewed every 2 years prior to the expiration date. Here are the steps for license renewal:

1. Pay the Renewal Fee

The current renewal fee is $450. You’ll get a renewal notice from the CSLB around 90 days before your expiration date. Renew promptly to avoid late fees.

2. Complete Continuing Education

Active C-27 license holders need to complete 12 hours of CSLB-approved continuing education prior to each renewal. Courses cover subjects like pest management, safety, business practices, and more.

3. Update Your License Bond

Renew your $25,000 license bond if you obtained it via a surety company. The CSLB will notify you if your current bond is expiring.

4. Resolve Any Pending Disciplinary Actions

If you have any outstanding citations or disciplinary actions against your license, these must be resolved before you can renew.

Once these steps are complete, your license will be renewed for another 2 year period.

Reciprocity for Out-of-State Landscaping Contractors

Landscaping contractors who are already licensed in Arizona or Nevada may be eligible for license reciprocity in California. This allows you to obtain a California landscaping license without taking the exams, provided you meet certain requirements.

Here is the process for getting a California C-27 license through reciprocity:

1. Check You Qualify

Verify you hold an active landscaping contractor license in AZ or NV that is in good standing. It must be the equivalent classification to the C-27 license.

2. Submit a Reciprocity Application

File a reciprocity application with the CSLB. Pay the $450 application fee and provide documentation proving your eligibility, including your out-of-state landscaping license.

3. Get Fingerprinted

Complete Live Scan fingerprinting after you submit your application. This allows the CSLB to run a background check.

4. Pay Licensing Fees

Once approved, you’ll need to pay the $200 initial licensing fee and obtain a $25,000 license bond to complete the reciprocity process.

This allows you to get a C-27 license without taking the California exams as long as you meet all other license requirements.

Bond Requirements for CA Landscaping Contractors

All active landscaping contractor licenses in California must have a $25,000 license bond on file with the CSLB.

Bonds can be obtained via a surety bond company or by providing a cash deposit of $25,000 directly to the CSLB.

The license bond provides financial protection to consumers in case of poor workmanship or other license violations. It also covers unpaid wages owed to your employees.

Your bond must stay current and be renewed along with your license. If there are claims paid out against your bond, you’ll need to replenish it to maintain the $25,000 minimum.

You may also need to provide a qualifying individual bond if your license has an RME or RMO qualifier.

Insurance Requirements for CA Landscaping Contractors

Landscaping contractors in California must carry insurance for license compliance and risk protection:

  • Workers’ Compensation – Required if you have employees. Provides wage and medical benefits if they are injured on the job.
  • General Liability – Strongly recommended. Protects against third party bodily injury and property damage claims.
  • Commercial Auto – Required if company vehicles are used for work. Provides liability and physical damage coverage for work vehicles.
  • Surety Bonds – License bonds are required. Performance and payment bonds protect against contract default.
  • Inland Marine – Optional. Insures landscaping tools, equipment, and machinery against theft and damage.

Workers’ compensation is mandatory for CA employers. General liability, commercial auto, equipment coverage, and any specialty insurance should be discussed with your agent to ensure adequate protection.


Becoming a licensed landscaping contractor is essential for starting a landscaping business in California. Follow the application steps, gain your required experience, pass the licensing exams, and make sure to maintain the necessary bonds and insurance.

While the California licensing process involves fees, exams, and paperwork, being properly licensed allows landscaping contractors to legally bid, run ads, and provide their services in the state. It also lends credibility with customers and shows you operate a legitimate business.

Use this guide as a roadmap when pursuing or renewing your C-27 Landscaping Contractor license. Contact the Contractors State License Board with any additional questions you may have about California licensing requirements.