Bringing plants to the UK from abroad
Imported plants and plant products are the main pathway of entry for invasive pests and diseases. Plants for planting such as, ornamental trees, pot plants and cuttings are the highest risk.
The UK is free of many pests and diseases that are present in other parts of Europe and beyond. It is crucial that we protect our gardens, crops and environment from harmful pests and diseases. If you intend to bring material into the UK, it is important that you comply with the relevant plant health regulations.
Even plant material that appears healthy may be harbouring pests and diseases. For example, some hosts of Xylella fastidiosa, a bacterial pathogen causing devastating outbreaks in Europe, may not show symptoms for months or even years following infection.
What you can bring in from the EU
Although it is possible to bring in plants and plant material for personal use, the new import system for plants is tailored towards professional operators. The new plant health regulations now prevents the public from bringing in most plants and plant products in their personal baggage.
Prior to Brexit, private individuals could bring some plant material into the UK from other EU member countries providing that the material was accompanied with an EU plant passport and providing it met some specific requirements. As the UK has now left the EU, the EU plant passport is no longer valid in GB. Post Brexit you must have a phytosanitary certificate (PC) to import plant material from the EU. This includes almost all plants for planting, most seeds, cut flowers and tuber vegetables such as potatoes from the EU.
How to import material from the EU
Individuals wanting to import plants for planting from the EU for personal use can do so by registering, free of charge, as an importer via the government's PEACH system.
As part of the import process, the individual importer would need to obtain a phytosanitary certificate for the material they are importing. In addition, from 1 January through to 31 December 2021, all plants and plant products eligible for import from the EU (termed High Priority Plants) are also required to undergo import pre-notification to the government via PEACH, and will need to have document checks and a physical health check completed at an inland place of destination (PoD). The individual importer can register a private home address as a PoD, alternatively, it may be possible to make an arrangement with a local garden centre or nursery, that may be willing to act as a PoD. Here is further information about registering as a PoD.
There are costs associated with the importation process related to applying for phytosanitary certificates, checks and inspections that an individual importer is expected to meet.
To find out more about importing plant material from the EU, please use the following link.
Obtaining a phytosanitary certificate (PC)
A PC is issued from the plant health authority of the country where the plant material originates from to guarantee that the material has been officially inspected, is free from pests and diseases and meets the legal requirements for the material to enter GB.
To apply for a PC you must register with the government’s eDomero system for plants or plant products or with the Forestry Commission for wood or wood products. In order to register for an eDomero account you need to provide a ‘Client ID’ which must be given to you by your local APHA plant health and seeds inspector (PHSI).
What you can bring from third countries outside the EU
Most plants and plant material originating from outside of the EU (i.e. third countries) must also have a phytosanitary certificate for importation. Regulated plant material from third countries also requires pre-notification (as with EU goods).
You can find more information on the rules around bringing plant material from third countries on the Defra website.
If you’re not sure whether the item you want to bring to GB is regulated and requires pre-notification, check the list of plant species by import category or contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).
Plants that will not need a phytosanitary certificate (PC) for import
There are some plant products that are considered low risk and that can be imported into GB from the EU and third countries without a PC, these include processed and packaged products (e.g. salads, sandwiches, frozen material), composite products (e.g. nut or seed butters that contain processed fruit or vegetables), and the following fruits/leaves;
- Kiwi fruit
- Bitter orange
- Cotton (bolls)
- Curry leaves
- Banana and plantain
Prohibited plant material
Imports of some plant material from third countries is prohibited. A licence is required from APHA to import, move or hold prohibited material. Licences are not available to the public and are only issued for the following purposes:
- official testing
- scientific research
- educational purposes
- testing new varieties of plants (varietal selection)
The full list of plants and plant products from third countries that are prohibited can be found in Schedule 6 of the government’s EU Exit 2020 plant health regulations. Check this link for more details and Schedule 6.
UK plant passport scheme
The UK now has a new plant passport scheme. Plants previously moved around GB on an EU plant passport, will now need a UK plant passport for movement. The issuing of plant passports is generally only applicable to professional operators (e.g. nurseries and garden centres) that are moving and selling plants to other professional operators.
A nursery or garden centre will not need to pass on a UK plant passport to a customer if they are buying plants for personal use at a retail premise. The one exception to this rule is if a customer is purchasing a plant via an online sale. In this instance, the retailer must supply the purchaser with the plant passport for traceability purposes.
Buying plants via the internet
Plants ordered from overseas via the internet are subject to the same phytosanitary requirements as plants imported via other trading routes.
We encourage gardeners to help protect the UK from unwanted pests and diseases by always buying plants from reputable UK nurseries and garden centres and to avoid ordering plants from websites where the origin of the plant material is unknown. This helps to ensure that any plant material purchased is not harbouring any potentially damaging pests and diseases.
The governments’ Plant Health and Seed Inspectorate are encouraging members of the public to report any suspicious or unsolicited plant products by email to PlantHealth.Info@apha.gov.uk