Dean Nelson of Nelson Plant Food & Color Star

Hey Ags …I got a story for ya!

If you went to Texas A&M University, you’ll appreciate that line. (Did I hear some whoops off in the distance?) For everyone else, I hope you’ll appreciate the following.

As a Texas A&M graduate, when I first took over the reins of GardenLine, I wondered about an Aggie who former hosts Bill Zak and John Burrow kept talking about. He was Dean Nelson, and he had developed an amazing plant food called Color Star, which was all the rage in the mid-1990s landscaping community.

Up to that point, anyone interested in feeding landscapes - especially annuals and perennials - needed a blooming plant food … usually some kind of super-bloom, blue crystal-like, water-soluble food that had to be applied every two weeks. Dean Nelson, however, had developed this slow- or controlled-release Color Star blooming plant food that landscapers and homeowners only needed to apply every two or three months. To say the least, it was a game-changer.

So, let’s dive a little deeper into the history of Nelson Plant Food and learn a little bit about the culture that sets this company apart from many others.

Nelson Plant Food was born in 1983, about five years after Dean graduated from A&M. He had been fired from an agribusiness job, and had come close to becoming a rice farmer in Katy. His father, Wesley, already had a fertilizer manufacturing business in Katy, which Dean and his brother Larry had helped build in the 1970s. They took over an old plant in Waller and started custom-blending fertilizer for the horticultural industry. It was considered the first suspension liquid-fertilizer plant west of the Mississippi. But the product wasn’t sold to homeowners. So when Dean and his wife, Julie, saw the need for making smaller quantities for home use, that brought about the birth of what we know today as Color Star.

Dean and Julie ended up building their own Bellville fertilizer plant in 1995. And two years ago, they opened an enhanced state-of-the-art facility there.

Since the early ‘90s, and thanks to Bill Zak and John Burrow, I believe GardenLine has played an important role in getting Color Star into the hands of gardeners all over Southeast Texas. And credit goes to Dean, his family and his staff for spreading the word everywhere else - Color Star is now sold in 11 states!

Nelson Plant Food also makes custom-branded fertilizers for landscape companies, nurseries and feed stores throughout the state. Two miles from my house in Tomball, for example, D&D Feed & Supply sells their own brand of slow-release 18-5-9 lawn fertilizer, perfect for my lawn care schedule.

Nelson Plant Food is also more than Color Star and private blends. As of today, they manufacture 13 different retail fertilizers. When you see Nutri Star plant foods for specific plants, know that those, too, are made right here in Texas. They cover the gamut from hibiscus to bougainvillea and vegetable to rose foods.

So, for Aggies still reading, you can give a big thumbs up, Gig ’em-style, to Dean and Julie Nelson and their entire family for a business they truly built from the ground up. At another time, I may share with you more background that will make you wonder how they made the business happen and keep it alive. They’ve endured plenty of weather and financial turmoil since 1983, so let’s just say it was always by the grace of God. When you’re out buying your 2- or 4-pound jugs of Nelson products at nurseries, garden centers, feed stores and hardware stores throughout the region, know that you are supporting a bona fide family-owned and operated business. One that we will always support and endorse on GardenLine.