Can I take plants to France after Brexit?

The rules have changed on taking plants to France (c) Dennis Vdw Getty Images

The rules have changed on taking plants to France (c) Dennis Vdw Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

You can no longer transfer plants from your UK garden to your French property, but can you take garden centre-bought plants to France?

Due to Brexit, the UK is now subject to strict rules to prevent pests and diseases entering the EU. In the past, British owners of French property were able to transfer plants from their gardens in the UK to gardens in France (or vice versa) but this is now forbidden.

Soil and other substrates are strictly prohibited, as are vine plants, citrus fruit plants and seed potatoes, even if they have been bought from a UK garden centre.

Technically speaking, other plants, seeds, cuttings and cut flowers are allowed as long as they are presented to inspectors at the French border and come with a phytosanitary certificate, proving their provenance and that they are do not pose a risk to France. However, it is doubtful that members of the public will be able to get hold of this paperwork, so in practice it would be wiser not to try to cross the border with plants but to buy them once you’re in France.

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Lynda Harris, a landscape architect based in France, said: “I think it will be too much hassle for nurseries to provide phytosanitary certificates for small orders of lower value plants, but we will see. It may be possible for larger orders, say more than 50 plants.”

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Even wholesale growers are struggling, with many UK nurseries and seed companies stopping wholesale export to Europe because of the cost of paperwork and checks, says Lynda.

The rules will also apply in the other direction. In the past, British horticultural fans would go to plant festivals at Chantilly and St-Jean-de-Beauregard, near Paris, on garden tours and holidays, bringing choice specimens home to the UK. Unfortunately, this will no longer be possible.

The regulations will also apply to items sent by post.

As blood and bone products are prohibited, plant food containing this would also be banned.

Complete France has asked a number of UK plant retailers whether they will issue phytosanitary certificates to general customers and on what terms. As and when we receive their responses, we will add them here.

“I get the impression that the horticulture industry and customs are rather feeling their way for the moment and that things will become clearer,” says Lynda. “On the positive side it may slow the transfer of plant diseases between continental Europe and the UK. The UK is getting more and more plant diseases from imported material, one example of which is Xylella. Some come in on timber for the building trade, or on plant material that has a certificate, but Monty Don is always telling us not to import seeds or plant material, and he is probably right!”

For more information what you can and can’t take into the EU as well as information on driving and taking pets to France, see What are the rules for travelling to France after Brexit?