In Minnesota, landscaping contractors are required by law to hold a state-issued specialty contractor license. This license allows contractors to perform services like installing and planting trees, shrubs, plants, sod, hydroseeding, hardscapes, and other landscaping services.

To qualify for the specialty landscaping contractor license, individuals must pass a business and law exam, pass a trade exam, document relevant experience, and submit proper applications and fees. Licenses must also be renewed every two years in Minnesota, requiring additional continuing education.

Properly licensing your landscaping company is crucial for establishing your business’ legitimacy and ability to legally operate. It also helps ensure you can meet bond and insurance requirements, which are also covered in this guide.

Read on for a detailed overview of the licensing process, insurance rules, renewals, reciprocity, and all other requirements landscapers must meet in Minnesota.

Requirements for a Minnesota Landscaping Contractor License

To obtain a landscaping contractor license in Minnesota, individuals must:

  • Pass the Business and Law exam
  • Pass the Specialty Contractor Trade exam
  • Document at least two years of relevant experience
  • Submit all application materials and licensing fee

Business and Law Exam

The business and law exam covers critical topics landscaping contractors must understand to legally and successfully operate, such as:

  • Business organizations
  • Accounting and cash flow
  • Tax laws
  • Employment laws
  • Contracts
  • Insurance

This exam ensures landscaping contractor applicants understand the business and legal sides of operating their companies.

The business and law exam consists of 100 multiple choice questions. Applicants are given 4 hours to complete the test. A score of 70% or higher is required to pass.

The exam fee is $55 and it is administered by PSI Exams Online. Exams can be scheduled and paid for by creating an account on the PSI Exams website.

Specialty Contractor Trade Exam

In addition to the business and law exam, landscaping contractor license applicants must pass a specialty contractor trade exam that covers landscaping topics such as:

  • Landscape construction materials and techniques
  • Hardscapes like pathways, patios, and walls
  • Irrigation and drainage systems
  • Planting and transplanting trees, shrubs, and plants
  • Turf installation and maintenance
  • Safety protocols

This 2.5 hour exam ensures applicants have the requisite trade knowledge and expertise required to properly provide landscaping services in Minnesota. It consists of 100 multiple choice questions and scores are based on the number of correct answers.

Like the business exam, the trade exam fee is $55 and exams are scheduled through PSI Exams Online.

Relevant Experience

Passing the two exams is not sufficient on its own to be approved for a Minnesota landscaping contractor license. Applicants must also document at least two years of relevant hands-on experience.

This experience must have been gained while employed by a properly licensed landscaping contractor to ensure applicants learned industry best practices.

Relevant experience is essential to demonstrate that even if an individual passes the tests, they have the appropriate real-world expertise to competently operate as a landscaping contractor.

In limited cases, applicants can substitute some education for experience:

  • Associate degree in landscaping or related field: 6 months of experience credit
  • Bachelor’s degree in landscaping or related field: 1 year of experience credit
  • Completed landscaping diploma program: Up to 1 year of experience credit

However, at minimum 1 year of documented hands-on experience is required regardless of education level.

License Application

Once all exam and experience requirements have been met, applicants can submit their new landscaping contractor license application to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.

The application must include:

  • Completed license application form
  • Documentation of passing exam scores
  • Detailed experience documentation
  • Certificate of Insurance
  • Workers’ Compensation Certificate of Compliance
  • License fee of $260

Both the certificate of insurance and workers’ compensation certificate are crucial to prove applicants have met insurance requirements, which are covered later in this guide.

Meeting all requirements and submitting a complete license application with documentation allows applicants to legally provide landscaping services as a licensed specialty contractor in Minnesota.

Steps to Obtain a New Landscaping Contractor License in Minnesota

Follow this step-by-step process to obtain your new Minnesota state landscaping contractor license:

1. Gain Relevant Hands-On Experience

Before even attempting the licensing exams, you must gain at least two years of hands-on experience in landscaping services. This experience must be obtained while working under the supervision of a properly licensed landscaping contractor in Minnesota or another state.

Gaining real-world expertise is essential to prepare for the trade exam and become well-equipped to competently operate as a landscaping contractor. Attempting to take the exams without experience is likely to lead to failure and denial of your license application.

This experience requirement can be reduced to as little as 1 year if you have a relevant associate or bachelor’s degree in landscaping or horticulture-related fields.

2. Study for and Pass the Business and Law Exam

Once you have documented sufficient experience, the next step is passing the business and law exam. Thoroughly study the key topics covered, then schedule and pay for the exam through PSI Exams Online.

Give yourself adequate time, around 2-3 months, to properly prepare for the exam. Since a score of at least 70% is required, comprehensive studying is a must.

3. Study for and Pass the Trade Exam

Similar to the business exam, set aside 2-3 months to appropriately study and prepare for the specialty contractor trade exam for landscapers. You can use available study guides and resources to ensure you understand the key landscaping topics covered.

Schedule and pay for the trade exam through PSI Exams Online. A passing score is required to move forward with license approval.

4. Gather Documentation of Experience and Exam Scores

With your experience and two exams passed, you must now gather documentation that proves you have met these requirements.

For experience, provide detailed employment records proving at least two years of hands-on landscaping work experience, letters of reference from employers, school transcripts if substituting education, etc.

For the exams, provide the official exam result report you receive after passing each test. This will detail your score and pass status.

5. Obtain Insurance Certificates

Submitting proof of liability insurance and workers’ compensation coverage is required for approval of your landscaping contractor license application.

Start researching quotes and work with an agent to obtain general liability insurance. Also have your insurance broker provide a Certificate of Liability Insurance listing the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry as a certificate holder.

For workers’ compensation, either provide a certificate of coverage proving you carry a policy, or a certificate of exemption if you have no employees.

6. Complete and Submit License Application

With all documentation ready, complete the landscaping contractor license application and submit to the Department of Labor and Industry along with:

  • Application fee of $260
  • Exam documentation
  • Experience documentation
  • Insurance certificates

Submitting a complete application that meets all requirements is essential to being approved for your license. Follow up to confirm your application was received and address any questions or issues.

7. Receive Your License

If your license application is approved, the final step is receiving your official Minnesota specialty landscaping contractor license.

This license allows you to legally provide landscaping services in the state of Minnesota for the 2-year term before renewal is required.

How to Renew a Landscaping Contractor License in Minnesota

Landscaping contractor licenses in Minnesota must be renewed every two years to remain valid. This involves:

  • Completing 14 hours of continuing education
  • Submitting the renewal application and fee

At minimum, 1 hour of continuing education must cover energy codes. Another hour must focus on business strategies and practices. The remaining 12 hours can cover any landscaping topics approved for continuing education.

You can search for approved continuing education courses using the DLI’s online search tool. Courses are offered via self-study, online classes, or in-person seminars.

When ready to renew, download the landscaping contractor renewal forms from the Department of Labor and Industry website.

Submit the completed renewal application along with:

  • Documentation of 14 hours of continuing education completion
  • Renewal fee of $120
  • Updated certificates of liability insurance and workers’ compensation

Your license will be renewed for another 2-year term once the renewal application is approved.

Make sure to track your renewal date and submit your application approximately 30-60 days before expiration to ensure no lapse occurs in your license. Operating with an expired license can lead to penalties.

Reciprocity for Out-of-State Landscaping Contractors

Landscapers already licensed in another state may be eligible for license reciprocity in Minnesota. This allows them to get a Minnesota landscaping contractor license without needing to take Minnesota’s exams or meet the state’s experience requirements.

Minnesota does offer full landscaping license reciprocity to landscaping contractors already licensed in North Dakota or South Dakota. No other states currently have reciprocity agreements.

To apply for reciprocity, submit a completed Minnesota reciprocity application along with:

  • A copy of your current ND or SD landscaping contractor license
  • Reciprocity license fee of $260
  • Certificate of Liability Insurance
  • Workers’ Compensation Certificate of Compliance

With an approved application, you can be issued a Minnesota landscaping license through reciprocity rather than needing to go through the full standard licensing process. This saves time and duplication of efforts.

License Bonds for Landscaping Contractors

While Minnesota does not require landscaping contractors to obtain license bonds to work in the state, project owners frequently require bonds as a condition of being awarded a job.

Having license bonds readily available can give your landscaping company a competitive advantage when bidding for public sector jobs or large commercial projects.

Common license bonds landscaping contractors may need include:

Bid Bond: Also known as a bid security. It guarantees you will follow through on executing the contract if your company is awarded the landscaping project based on your bid amount. Bid bonds help ensure only serious, qualified bidders participate.

Performance Bond: Protects the project owner if your company fails to fully complete the landscaping project according to the contracted terms. It covers the costs to hire another contractor to finish the remaining work.

Payment Bond: Covers any unpaid subcontractors, suppliers, laborers, and material costs if your landscaping company fails to make required payments related to the project. Protects sub-contractors you hired.

Though not required solely for licensing purposes, having bid, performance, and payment bonds readily available ensures you can be competitive and qualified for public sector and large-scale landscaping projects where bonds are mandated by the owner.

Insurance Requirements for Minnesota Landscaping Contractors

Landscaping contractors must submit proof of general liability insurance and workers’ compensation coverage (or exemption) to get licensed in Minnesota.

Liability Insurance Requirements

Carrying adequate general liability insurance is crucial to protect your company in case of property damage, injury and lawsuits that may arise in your landscaping business.

At minimum, landscaping contractors in Minnesota must carry:

  • $100,000 in coverage per occurrence
  • $300,000 general aggregate coverage
  • $25,000 for damage to rented premises

Make sure to specifically request that the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry is listed as a certificate holder on your policy. This is required to prove coverage when applying for your license.

Workers’ Compensation Requirements

Workers’ compensation provides essential protection for employees injured while on the job. Carrying proper workers’ comp coverage is mandatory for landscaping contractors in Minnesota.

As a licensed landscaping contractor, you must either:

  • Carry a workers’ compensation insurance policy covering all W-2 employees, or
  • Be approved for a certificate of exemption if you have no employees

Sole proprietors with no employees can be exempt. But if you hire any helpers, assistants, subcontractors or temporary workers, you must carry a workers’ compensation policy.

Make sure to submit the proper certificate proving either active workers’ comp coverage or an approved exemption when applying for your Minnesota landscaping contractor license.


Becoming a licensed specialty landscaping contractor in Minnesota involves passing two exams, documenting relevant experience, obtaining proper insurance, and submitting the complete license application with all requirements met.

Key steps when getting started include:

  • Gaining at least 2 years of hands-on landscaping experience while employed by a licensed landscaper
  • Studying for and passing the Business and Law exam
  • Studying for and passing the Specialty Contractor Trade exam
  • Submitting license application with all documentation
  • Carrying required liability insurance and workers’ compensation

Once approved, licenses must be renewed every 2 years by completing continuing education and paying renewal fees. Reciprocity is offered to landscapers already licensed in North Dakota or South Dakota.

Following the licensing, bonding, insurance and other requirements outlined in this comprehensive guide is essential for legally operating as a landscaping contractor in the state of Minnesota.