Bringing back plants and seeds from holiday

There are a number of restrictions on what plants, seeds and other plant products can be brought into the UK. The rules change from time to time and if you are unsure as to what can be imported into the UK and what cannot you should seek clarification from the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera).

Travelling from an EU country

When travelling from a country within the European Union (the “EU”) and certain other countries, you can bring into the UK any plants, seeds, bulbs and similar plant products provided that the following conditions are met:

  • they must have been grown in an EU country or one of the countries treated as an EU country set out in the list below;

  • they must be free from pests and diseases (The Plant Health (England) Order 2005 sets out the types of pests which cannot be lawfully brought into England);

  • they must be for your own personal consumption.

Commercial importers will be required to obtain a licence before they can import such products into the UK.

Which countries are within the EU?

The rules relating to imports from the EU cover EU countries as well as certain other countries. For these purposes the following countries are within the EU:

  • Andorra;

  • Austria;

  • Belgium;

  • Bulgaria;

  • Cyprus (however, these rules only apply to areas effectively controlled by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus);

  • Czech Republic;

  • Denmark;

  • Estonia;

  • Finland;

  • France;

  • Germany;

  • Greece;

  • Hungary;

  • Ireland, Republic of;

  • Italy;

  • Latvia;

  • Lithuania;

  • Luxembourg;

  • Malta;

  • The Netherlands;

  • Poland;

  • Portugal (including the Azores and Madeira);

  • Romania;

  • San Marino;

  • Slovakia;

  • Slovenia;

  • Spain;

  • Sweden;

  • Switzerland;

  • The United Kingdom (including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man).

For the purpose of these rules Gibraltar and the Canary Islands are not treated as being part of the EU.

Travelling from other European and Mediterranean countries

If you are travelling from certain other European and Mediterranean countries not listed above you are allowed to bring into the UK the following:

Seeds

You are allowed to bring into the UK up to 5 retail packed packets of “restricted seeds” (not all seeds are restricted and the importation into the UK of potato seeds is prohibited). If you wish to bring into the UK more than 5 packets you will need to obtain a phytosanitary certificate or a licence.

Phytosanitary certificates are issued by the Plant Protection Service situated in the country from which goods are to be exported and licences are issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) or the Forestry Commission.

Other plants and tree seedlings with or without soil

You are allowed to bring into the UK up to 5 plants. If you wish to bring into the UK more than 5 plants you will need to obtain a phytosanitary certificate or a licence.

Bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes

You are allowed to bring into the UK bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes (but not potatoes) weighing in total up to 2kg. If you wish to bring into the UK more than 2kgs of bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes you will need to obtain a phytosanitary certificate or a licence.

Citrus and vine plants

You are not allowed to bring into the UK citrus or vine plants unless you have a phytosanitary certificate or a licence.

To which countries do these restrictions apply?

These restrictions apply to imports from the following countries:

  • Albania;

  • Algeria;

  • Belarus;

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina;

  • Bulgaria;

  • Canary Island;

  • Ceuta;

  • Croatia;

  • Egypt;

  • The Faroe Isles;

  • Gibraltar;

  • Iceland;

  • Israel;

  • Joran;

  • Lebanon;

  • Libyan Arab Jamrahiriya;

  • Liechtenstein;

  • Macedonia;

  • Melilla;

  • Republic of Moldovia;

  • Morocco;

  • Norway;

  • Romania;

  • Russia (but only from certain parts of Russia);

  • Serbia and Montenegro;

  • Syrian Arab Republic;

  • Tunisia;

  • Turkey;

  • Ukraine.

Travelling from other countries

If you are travelling from a country other than one of those listed above you are only allowed to bring into the UK up to 5 retail packed packets of “restricted seeds” (not all seeds are restricted and the importation into the UK of potato seeds is prohibited).

You are not allowed to bring into the UK any plants, tree seedlings, bulbs, corms, tubers, rhizomes, citrus or vine plants from such countries unless you have a phytosanitary certificate or a licence.

Declaring items at Customs

If you are bringing any plant products into the UK from a non-EU country you should declare them when you go through customs. If you fail to declare them you could be prosecuted.

Endangered plants

You are not allowed to bring into the UK, without a permit, any plants or parts of plants (including seeds) which are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Endangered species include orchids and cacti.