RHS statement on pesticides in horticulture

How gardeners can help our declining bees and other pollinators by avoiding the use of neonicotinoids and other pesticides

“One of the biggest problems for bees and other pollinators is a lack of flowering plants. Britain’s gardens, and gardeners, are critical to support pollinators and there are often more of these insects thriving in gardens than surrounding agricultural land.

“It is better for pollinators that gardens are crammed full of Perfect for Pollinator plants, providing them with vital nectar and pollen, than no plants, or plants without flowers.

“People concerned by the decline in pollinator numbers can purchase plants grown without synthetic pesticides from organic nurseries. The RHS will continue to work with government on the National Pollinator Strategy, which sets out actions and goals to support pollinators and try and answer questions surrounding the causes of pollinator decline.

“We advise our hundreds and thousands of members and millions of other gardeners to avoid using pesticides. Where there is no reasonable alternative we urge anyone using pesticides to proceed with caution and never spray open flowers.”


Supporting pollinators and finding answers

In November 2014 the UK Government launched the National Pollinator Strategy (England). We are a key stakeholder of the Strategy, which sets out actions and goals to support pollinators and try and answer some of the questions surrounding causes of pollinator declines. Part of the Strategy encourages gardeners to choose plants that provide resources for pollinators and endorses the RHS Plants for Pollinators list and logo.
As the country’s leading garden charity we know the crucial role bees and other pollinators play and we are committed to working with all parties to ensure that our members have access to the latest advice on how to protect and encourage pollinators.
We work closely with Defra, the Chemicals Regulation Directorate and other organisations and are careful with the gardening advice we provide too. We advise our hundreds and thousands of members and millions of other gardeners, to avoid using pesticides wherever possible. We urge anyone using pesticides to proceed with caution and never spray open flowers.

Plants for Pollinators replaces Perfect for Pollinators

One of the biggest problems for pollinators is a lack of flowering plants, especially those packed with pollen and nectar, so in 2011 we launched the Perfect for Pollinators logo to encourage gardeners to grow more of them. We care passionately about our bees, hoverflies, butterflies and other pollinators and believe gardens play an important role in reversing their decline. The brand has never resulted in any profit for the RHS.

We have been reviewing the logo after research found that some labelled plants contained traces of pesticides. While the RHS encourages responsible growing practices, it cannot, as a charity, police how hundreds of thousands of plants are grown each year within the horticultural trade. Rather than get rid of the brand altogether – which would undermine efforts to boost pollinator numbers - we are changing the name to Plants for Pollinators. This new name better reflects the significance of the logo; showing gardeners those flowering plants that are attractive to pollinators without commenting on the way in which they have been grown.

We anticipate that the process of rebranding may take some years as we work with the industry to ensure a smooth transition. In the interim we urge gardeners to continue to look to the logo as a guide to what plants will support pollinators in their gardens as we must continue to help these vital insects.

One of the RHS’s key objectives is to help gardeners to garden responsibly and grow more plants; for instance, we promote non-chemical means of control for gardeners and provide extensive advice on alternatives to pesticides. For those that prefer to have more confidence that the plants they purchase do not contain pesticide residues we have created a list of organic nurseries. We are also eager to continue to work with the horticultural trade and Government to establish how assurance schemes and supply chains can be improved to help buyers and gardeners make informed decisions, such as including information at the point of sale about how plants have been grown.

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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.