Conserving garden plants

herbarium specimenThe first step to conserving rich biodiversity is to research and document the different cultivars that exist. Plant populations can then be monitored and supported where necessary.

To do this it is vital to ensure we have the correct names. This is why there is a worldwide system of naming plants in Latin, which helps reduce confusion and ensures that gardeners and scientists across the world are talking about the same plant. For example, Stachys byzantina is called ‘lambs’ ears’ in England but ‘rabbits’ ears’ in the Republic of Ireland.

RHS Plant Finder and the RHS Horticultural Database

Our botanic work is world leading and we have the most comprehensive collection of preserved cultivated plants in the world. The annually updated RHS Plant Finder lists 70,000 different plants and is a wealth of information for plantspeople. The RHS horticultural database provides an online version of the book.

Search the RHS Horticultural Database

Conserving garden plants: projects and publications

In addition to their day-to-day work in identifying plant material and answering botanical queries, our staff are engaged in long-term projects. These usually relate to horticultural taxonomy, which is the identification, classification and naming of cultivated plants.

Learn more about conserving garden plants projects 

The methods used in these projects range from traditional morphological studies to newer techniques of molecular fingerprinting and barcoding. The results are published in journals such as The Plantsman and Hanburyana, and are reflected in the RHS Plant Finder.

Find out about publications by our botanists

The RHS Herbarium

The RHS Herbarium at RHS Garden Wisley is an internationally important collection of dried and pressed plant specimens of cultivated ornamental plants. It is the largest herbarium dedicated to ornamental plants in the UK. 

The RHS Herbarium is comprised of many separate collections. The primary focus of the collections is to maintain and continue to acquire reference material of plants in cultivation.

More on the RHS Herbarium

Cultivated plant conservation

In 2006 the RHS and Plant Heritage (formerly the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens (NCCPG)) held a conference to build on the developments in cultivated plant conservation, and to agree the priorities for cultivated plant conservation. The conference was attended by representatives of many organisations with an interest in plant conservation and it led to the Growing Heritage Action Plan, published in 2007.

More about the Growing Heritage Action Plan

National Plant Collections

Between them, the RHS Gardens at Wisley, Rosemoor, Hyde Hall and Harlow Carr hold 12 National Plant Collections, under the auspices of Plant Heritage.

More on the National Plant Collections


With your support, we can undertake valuable research into gardening pests and diseases.

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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.