Exporting Plants: UK, EU, & Beyond. What Traders Need To Know

February 21, 2024
Exporting Plants: UK, EU, & Beyond. What Traders Need To Know

In the landscape of international trade, the import and export of plants stands as a thriving sector; representing a vehicle for the global exchange of flora and greenery.

As the demand for diverse plant life in all its forms transcends borders, UK exporters find themselves at the forefront of this green wave – ready to send sought-after plant products to destinations far and wide for pharmaceutical, nutritional, or for a range other purposes.

The benefits of doing so are substantial: entering new markets and driving profit from a diverse range of products, sharing botanical diversity, and contributing to the global horticultural tapestry.

However, UK plant exports are not without risk. Regulatory prerequisites, compliance with health standards, and reputational integrity are crucial elements that all demand careful consideration.

In this Exporting Plants UK primer, the clearBorder team delves into the essentials. We explore the landscape, legislative intricacies, application processes, and key considerations. So whether you’re sending blooms, foods, shrubbery, timber, seeds, or any other plant product – find the information you need below.

Plants & International Trade

The global plant trade has witnessed remarkable growth in recent years, driven by factors such as: increased consumer interest in exotic flora, a rising demand for landscaping materials, exploration of alternative food sources (along with growing demand), and a booming market for ornamental plants.

The United Kingdom – with a rich botanical heritage, quality agricultural pedigree, and well-developed horticultural infrastructure – is a nation positioned at the centre of this trade. Savvy exporters are equipped to connect with diverse enthusiasts and markets around the world.

Global (Agricultural) Plant Trade: Quick Facts

The World’s Most Profitable Crops


  1. Floral hemp (used for CBD)
  2. Strawberries
  3. Chestnuts
  4. Spinach
  5. Raspberries
Top Agricultural Producers


  1. The USA
  2. China
  3. India
  4. Russia

What Plants Does the UK Export?

The United Kingdom contributes a rich assortment of flora to the international stage.

From the verdant landscapes of the countryside to the bustling nurseries in urban hubs, the UK’s plant exports span a diverse spectrum of species and serve a myriad of purposes. Below, you’ll find a selection of commonly-exported species.

  1. Flowers:
    • Roses: UK-grown roses are prized around the world for their quality and diversity.
    • Lilies: UK-exported lilies often appear in homes and events globally.
    • Orchids: Exotic and prized for their beauty, British orchids are cherished by collectors and enthusiasts.
  2. Nursery Species:
    • Saplings and Young Trees: The UK exports a variety of tree species, contributing to global reforestation efforts.
    • Shrubs: Ornamental shrubs from British nurseries are used for landscaping purposes.
    • Seedlings: From floral varieties to vegetable crops, UK nurseries cultivate and export an array of seedlings.
  3. Food Products & Crops:
    • Potatoes: British potato varieties, renowned for their flavour, are sought after in international markets.
    • Berries: The UK’s temperate climate produces an abundance of berries, making them a staple in global fruit markets.
  4. Wood and Timber:
    • Oak and Beech: Renowned for their durability, UK timber is exported for furniture and construction.
    • Specialty Woods: Unique varieties, such as yew or cherry, find their way into bespoke carpentry and artisanal projects.
  5. Medicinal and Aromatic Plants:
    • Lavender: The fragrant British lavender contributes to global demand for essential oils.
    • Chamomile: Known for its calming properties, British chamomile is used in herbal products worldwide.
  6. Niche and Unusual Varieties:
    • Carnivorous Plants: Unique species like pitcher plants or sundews cater to specialised collectors.
    • Rare and Endemic Species: Preserving biodiversity, the UK exports seeds and plants of rare and endangered species.

How To Export Plants

The success of your plant exports hinges on meticulous adherence to regulatory requirements. By collaborating with plant health authorities, conducting necessary tests and inspections, and ensuring proper documentation, you can cultivate a seamless export process for your products.

Regulatory Scrutiny

  • Phytosanitary Certificate: Begin by determining if your plants require a phytosanitary certificate. This document verifies that your plants meet the necessary health standards and are free from pests and diseases.
  • Destination Country Requirements: Research and understand the specific phytosanitary requirements of the destination country. Contact the plant health authority in that country or check the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) website for detailed information.

Testing and Inspections

  • Laboratory Testing: Certain plants may require laboratory testing to ensure they are free from pests and diseases. Contact your local plant health inspector to inquire about the necessity of laboratory testing.
  • Growing Season Inspections: Some destinations may require inspections during the growing season. Your local plant health inspector can coordinate and fulfil these requirements.

Phytosanitary Certificate Application

  • Contact Relevant UK Plant Health Authority: Apply for a phytosanitary certificate through the relevant UK plant health authority. This is a prerequisite for exporting regulated plants and plant products.
  • Professional Operator Registration: Ensure you are registered as a professional operator, if you haven’t done so already.

Private Citizen Export

  • Special Considerations: If you’re exporting as a private citizen (rather than a registered company or sole trader), reach out to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) for guidance.

Complete government-approved guidance on exporting plants and plant products from Great Britain and Northern Ireland is available on

Exporting Plants to the EU

Note that the following information also applies when exporting to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and when moving goods to Northern Ireland.

Regulated plants and plant products exported from Great Britain are subject to import controls, which may include documentary, identity, and physical checks at the border control point.

For instance:

  • Plants intended for planting
  • Root and/or tubercle vegetables
  • Some common fruits
  • Cut flowers
  • Seeds
  • Plant / forest reproductive material
  • Some leafy vegetables
  • Some wood products
  • Machinery, equipment, or vehicles for agriculture or forestry

Are Any Plants Exempt?

Some species and products are exempt from checks – they do not require plant health controls for import / export.

You will not need a phytosanitary certificate to export these goods:

  • Pineapple
  • Coconut
  • Durian
  • Bananas
  • Grain
  • Products (eg., vegetables) that have been processed and packaged such that they represent zero biosecurity risk
  • Composite products (eg., seed butters) containing processed fruit or vegetables

High-Risk Plants

It is illegal to move plant species and products that are considered high-risk from Great Britain into the EU or Northern Ireland, until a risk assessment is performed by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority).

Plants Considered High-Risk:

Does not apply to seeds, fruits, leaves, tissue culture material, dwarfed woody plants of these species.

  • Acacia
  • Acer
  • Albizia
  • Alnus
  • Annona
  • Bauhinia
  • Berberis
  • Betula
  • Caesalpinia
  • Cassia
  • Castanea
  • Cornus
  • Corylus
  • Crataegus
  • Diospyros
  • Fagus
  • Ficus carica
  • Fraxinus
  • Hamamelis
  • Jasminum
  • Juglans
  • Ligustrum
  • Lonicera
  • Malus
  • Nerium
  • Persea
  • Populus
  • Prunus
  • Quercus
  • Robinia
  • Salix
  • Sorbus
  • Taxus
  • Tilia
  • Ulmus

Prohibited Plants

Some plant species and products are prohibited from being exported from the UK. The only exception is when the receiver holds a scientific licence to hold them.

Plants Prohibited From Export:

  • Isolated bark of Castanea
  • Plants of Vitis (other than fruits)
  • Plants of Citrus, Fortunella, Poncirus, and their hybrids (other than fruits and seeds)
  • Tubers of Solanum tuberosum, seed potatoes
  • Plants for planting of stolon / tuber-forming species of Solanum, and hybrids
  • Soil consisting partly of solid organic substances
  • Growing medium (other than soil) consisting of solid organic substances, (other than when entirely of peat or fibre of Cocos nucifera, that has not been used for growing or agricultural purposes
When exporting to EU Protected Zones of fireblight, the following species (excluding their fruit and seeds) are also prohibited:
  • Amelanchier
  • Chaenomeles
  • Cotoneaster
  • Crataegus
  • Cydonia
  • Eriobotrya
  • Malus
  • Mespilus
  • Photinia davidiana
  • Pyracantha
  • Pyrus
  • Sorbus

Exporting Plants Further Afield

Planning to export plants and plant products to non-EU countries? In that case, you’ll need to follow the import regulations of the country you’re exporting to.

(Be sure you request an official document containing the rules in that country. This helps UK inspectors prepare your shipment.)

APHA can also provide advice on relevant regulations and rules.

As with other food and POAO, a phytosanitary certificate and plant export certificate may be required if you intend to export:

  • Products including fruit, vegetables, cut flowers
  • Seeds
  • Grain
  • Bulbs
  • Potatoes
  • Machinery / equipment
  • Wood / wood products

In addition to a phytosanitary certificate, some fruits and vegetables will also require a certificate of conformity.

And, a word on exporting grain: if there is no recent history of trade with your intended export destination, you may need a phytosanitary certificate. It’s worth checking the GSOP (grain standard operating protocol) before preparing your shipment.

Applying to Re-Export Goods

If you’ve imported goods into Great Britain and aim to move them to a different country, you may need a re-forwarding certificate. This certification is essential for ensuring compliance with the destination country’s import requirements.

Plant health inspectors play a pivotal role in this process. They will issue a re-forwarding certificate only if they are confident that the goods meet the import requirements of the destination country.

Note that the inspector can stipulate a further inspection. You will be responsible for bearing the cost of this.

The original phytosanitary certificate, or certified copies, used for the initial import must accompany the goods during re-exportation. This serves as a record of compliance.

Governing Bodies

If you’re unsure whether the plants or plant products you intend to export are subject to specific controls or legislation, your best bet is to seek partnership with independent trade experts. These specialists are equipped with the knowledge and expertise to ensure your operations run smoothly.

It is also possible to contact you relevant authority for more information related to plant product exports:

England and Wales

APHA (Animal Plant Health Agency)

Contact APHA

Telephone: 0300 1000 313 (option 2)



SASA (plant health)

(Scottish Government Agriculture and Rural Economy Directorate)

Telephone: 0131 244 8890


Northern Ireland

Plant and Tree Health Department

Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA)

Telephone: 0300 200 7847


Channel Islands and Isle of Man

These areas have their own plant health authorities:

How to Avoid Plant Export Penalties

Trading plants internationally brings a number of commercial opportunities – but also the obligation to adhere to regulations. Here’s a recap on steering clear of potential penalties and ensuring a smooth, cost-efficient operation:

  • Stay Informed: Keep your team updated on the latest requirements of both the exporting and importing nations.
  • Regular Checks: Periodically review regulations.
  • Essential Documentation: Ensure that each consignment of plants is accompanied by the required phytosanitary certificates.
  • Risk Assessments: Conduct thorough risk assessments for your plant exports; identify potential risks and strategies to mitigate them.
  • Proactive Communication: Maintain open lines of communication with plant health authorities. If in doubt about specific regulations or if unforeseen challenges arise, seek guidance.
  • Correct Use of Certificates: Ensure that all information on phytosanitary certificates is accurate and up-to-date. Any discrepancies or inaccuracies may lead to penalties or delays in customs clearance.
  • Invest in Expertise: Consider seeking advice from experts in plant health and international trade.

To hear more about how clearBorder can help you trade seamlessly across borders, contact us now.