RHS Shows to temporarily exclude some Xylella high risk plants

Olive trees are among five garden plants that will be temporarily excluded from RHS shows as the charity responds to the current high risk of them importing the disease Xylella fastidiosa to the UK.

Beginning with the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May 2022, to provide exhibitors with the opportunity to update their plans, Coffea spp. (coffee), Nerium oleander (oleander), Olea europea (olive), Polygala myrtifolia (polygala) and Spartium junceum (Spanish broom) will no longer be exhibited. The trade of these plants in Great Britain relies upon importation of ‘ready for sale’ specimens which raise additional challenges in the detection and surveillance of Xylella.

The exclusion will be in place until the risk to gardens is deemed low by RHS plant health experts, for example, as a result of new resistant varieties or an increase in UK produced stock.
Xylella is a bacterium that infects more than 500 species of plant causing leaf scorch, wilt, die-back and plant death. Not yet thought to be present in the UK, there have been outbreaks in Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. If a Xylella outbreak was found in the UK, all host plants within a 100m range would be destroyed and there would be a ban on the movement of plants within a 5km range, including private gardens.
In 2017, the RHS identified nine high-risk host plants, which it required to be grown in the UK for a minimum period of 12 months before being exhibited at its shows. Hebe, lavender, almond and rosemary must continue to meet these requirements and exhibitors will need to show relevant plant passport information. RHS Shows exhibitors have been informed of the changes which will affect a small number of stands.
The RHS does not sell the five plants temporarily excluded from Shows in its retail centres and gardeners wanting to grow them are advised to be aware of the risk posed by Xylella, carefully source plants from reputable sellers and look out for symptoms. For more information about Xylella fastidiosa and the reporting of symptoms to the relevant plant health authority visit:
Alistair Griffiths, Director of Science, said: “RHS shows are intended as a celebration of our gardens but we also have a responsibility to promote good stewardship of them through detecting, identifying and managing plant pest and diseases. When it comes to showcasing these five high risk Xylella host plants the risk far outweighs the benefits and we have taken the difficult decision to put a hold on their display until we are comfortable that the risks of them carrying the bacterium is low.”
The RHS has committed to being net positive for nature and biosecurity neutral by 2025 in its recently launched Sustainability Strategy and accompanying Planet Friendly Gardening campaign, which is intended to inspire greener gardening practices among the UK’s 30million gardeners: As part of the strategy, the RHS has revisited its plant health policies for RHS Shows.

Notes to editors

For more information please contact Laura Scruby in the RHS press office: [email protected] / 07734 962395
About the RHS: The Royal Horticultural Society, the world’s leading gardening charity, was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood. Our vision is to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place. This aspiration underpins all that we do, from inspirational gardens and shows, through our scientific research, to our education and community programmes such as Campaign for School Gardening and Britain in Bloom. We produce key publications, hold a world-class collection of horticultural books and botanical art, and sell the very best plants and gardening gifts.
The RHS is fundraising £40m to transform our gardens, outreach and education facilities, which includes redeveloping our flagship RHS Garden Wisley and opening a new garden, RHS Garden Bridgewater, in 2021. We are solely funded by our members, visitors and supporters. For more information visit
RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.