Importing and exporting trees, hedges, and shrubs

Importing and exporting trees, hedges, and shrubs

Last Edited: 13/06/2017

Making the most of your garden often means looking further afield than your local garden centre for plants. You may need a rare or unusual tree, hedge or shrub. But where will it come from, and what does it take to ensure it's safe and secure for the environment? At Todds Nursery, we have wide experience of procurement and work with trusted specialists around the world to import and export plants in a safe and environmentally friendly way. Here’s what you need to know.


Safeguarding the health of plants in Britain is crucial to both national and international conservation. Importing and exporting plants poses risks such as the spread of pathogens, pests or invasive species. This includes plant products such as bark, soil, non-manufactured wood products and forestry machinery. To combat this, statutory controls have been designed to safeguard plants and plant products. This means that products being moved are subject to precautions which vary depending on where they have come from or where they are going.

What’s involved?

All the plants supplied to our customers adhere to phytosanitary standards, something which is crucial if anyone needs to move plants from country to country. This is a certification required when plants are coming from outside the EU. Inside the EU, it isn’t always required, with no border checks between member states. There are a few exceptions but generally, plants can be moved fairly freely. 

Outside of the EU, plants coming in or out must be free from signs of pest and disease and are limited to smaller amounts intended only for household use. It’s also important to check that any wild plants are not endangered in their country of origin. Many native plants are protected and the removal of them can leave people subject to fines.

Using a trusted supplier who already has the links and connections to safely and legally procure plants is the best advice we can give.

What’s the risk?

Protecting native plants whilst encouraging diversity in our gardens is a tricky balance. Instant hedging using semi-mature trees and shrubs often requires stock from suppliers overseas. DEFRA holds the UK Plant Health Risk Register, which records and rates risk posed to UK trees, ecosystems and gardens from pathogens and plant pests. Often, organisms which do not cause problems in their native habitat can become unstable and virulent when introduced to a new environment. 

Work has and continues to be done by agencies to prevent threats to native plants entering the country and to control and manage those already here.

Our taste for exotic plants and ready-made gardens may seem to have left us with a lot of work to do to combat potential problems. However, the benefits of doing this in the correct way and using an experienced company like Todds Nursery are worth it. A beautiful garden full of native and non-native species not only looks great but makes a difference to the environment and ecosystem.