Rallying efforts to restore degraded ecosystems and achieve multiple Sustainable Development Goals, such as climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation, have led nations to commit to ambitious tree planting targets by 2030. Indeed, tree planting has become the most visible benchmark to highlight these efforts. Yet, restoration is a complex process involving manifold actors that need to work in an articulated way. One neglected step in the chain of actions that lead to successful restoration projects is that of the nursery sector, a key part of this process as they are responsible to propagate the suitable species to achieve different restoration goals. Here we evaluate what are the main challenges and opportunities that nursery gardeners are facing in a megabiodiverse country such as Colombia, and how to build on this information to propose new metrics that integrate both ecological (ability to propagate plants) and socio-economic aspects (nurseries as a sustainable activity) for evaluating the potential of restoration success. We ensembled a database with 190 nurseries located across the country. Most of these nurseries are small, private initiatives and likely serve as the basis of livelihood for thousands of families across the country. Preliminary results show that nurseries face important barriers regarding infrastructure, legal issues, and technical problems related with seed conservation and germination. Together, they are propagating over 1900 native tree species. Although this is an astounding number, the supply is dominated by only five species. Thus, it is key to promote diversity of native species in terms of quantity and quality. To evaluate the biological and socio-economic factors that may be limiting the supply, we need to promote capacity building, facilitate the sharing of experiences, and to develop different metrics related with nurseries’ capacity to propagate native species. Overall, benchmarks no only focused on quantifying the ecological dimension of restoration initiatives (e.g., tree survival and growth, species diversity) but on other steps of the chain of actions in this complex process may help to transform restoration in a sustainable activity for local people.