Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Plant Passports: possibly the final word?

After a hectic week of the "small" plant growers of the UK collectively shouting at APHA (Animal and Plant Health Authority) concerning the unworkable and unenforceable new Plant Passports (PPs) Directive which, as it stood, was the DEATH of plant sales in the UK - cheers and applause, APHA have changed their guidance.

For a while, they were telling us that we needed to undergo Registration (free, quick, easy) AND to also apply for Authorisation to Issue Plant Passports (PPs), which is potentially very expensive.

This is now their policy concerning the new Plant Passports (PPs) Directive, as it applies to those of us who propagate our own plants at home:

" For all these situations you would only be required to be registered. (ie You are growing the plants yourself, and selling them face-to-face; you are growing them yourself, advertising them online, but handing them over face-to-face with money exchanging hands on the doorstep; you are growing them yourself, advertising them online, taking payment online (ie Paypal etc) then handing the plant over face-to-face.)"

In a nutshell, if you sell plants by post/courier, ie not local, then you need to do Registration, and you also need to go through the (expensive) Authorisation process as all plant movements require the plants to have PPs.

However, if you sell plants face-to-face, ie from your garden, at boot fairs, locally, then you do need to do Registration, but you don't need to issue PPs.

Thank heavens for that! A huge sigh of relief is now wafting up from all the millions of specialist "amateur" growers, the hobbyists, the clubs, the charities, and all of us who supplement our jobs/pensions with selling a few plants on the side.

The email finishes:

"Our guidance on this has changed following feedback and a review of the application process. As we deal more with the application side rather than the specifics of policy, we can only follow the guidance we are given, but I apologise that the initial guidance you were given on this has changed."

Yay! That beeping sound is APHA reversing their decisions, changing their minds, responding to our somewhat heated feedback, and amending the restrictions! So hooray for common sense, and well done to everyone who pestered APHA with endless emails!


Guess what: there's another squiggle in this ridiculous story.

The latest twist is that APHA are now saying that Amateurs and Hobbyists do not need to Register ("if they are only selling face to face".... if you sell by post, you still have to do the full Passport thing).

And what is their definition of an Amateur/Hobbyist? Someone who does not make a profit, does not have a website offering  the plants for sale, and does not have a Price List.

If you do any one of those three things - make money, have a website, or have a price list - then you are officially a business, as far as APHA are concerned, and need to Register.

They seem to be trying to exclude the very, very small people who just flog off half a dozen plants once a year. Anything more than that, and you have to Register.

To the best of my understanding so far, if  you sell them by post - then yes, you still have to have Plant Passports, which means by definition, you have to Register first, then apply for permission to issue PPs. Some people are being told that the first inspection will be free, but this has NOT been confirmed officially by APHA.


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  1. I don´t see any positive changing here. For a tiny,tiny intended grower ( like me) having to pay around £123 in half hour to have an inspection to see if I am eligible to issue any passport, it does not make any sense, as I haven´t started any business yet. My current job (in Hospitality Industry) pays me low wage, £ 8,71 per hour and If I want to become a self employed having a business of cuttings for example I will to pay a money that i don´t have for myself! What is the point?

    1. I feel your pain, Vanessa: but going up against professional nurseries, and the big garden centres, you are always going to struggle to make a decent profit, APHA or no APHA.

      I know that you are too far away to come and be my trainee for a year (*laughs*) but if you love plants, and want to become self-employed, have you considered becoming an actual gardener? There is a ton of work out there, there is a drastic shortage of competent, professional gardeners, and you can very much set your own hourly rate - within limits, obviously - and your own working hours. And once you have gardening Clients, you will have a built-in outlet for all those plants!

      Check out my book - the bright blue box, top right of this page, is a link to Amazon Kindle Store, where you can find it: if you have Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime then it's free!! And don't worry if you don't have a Kindle - Amazon kindly provide a free programme (or "app" as the kids call them) to allow you to download it to your laptop, to your pc, even to your phone. Go on, give it a go!

  2. Do we know what the rules are on Houseplants? I have seen very little advice that confirms whether houseplants are included in these rules?

    1. APHA keep changing the interpretation of the rules, but the last time I looked, they applied to ALL plants being sent by post, so yes, that includes houseplants. Plants, bulbs, seeds, cuttings, hydroponics, air plants: although the actual wording is "all plants for planting" APHA have said that this rule covers all plants and seeds.

      However, it does appear that different APHA reps are giving different advice, so the best I can offer, is to suggest that you speak in person to your local APHA rep: they are the one who would report you, so they are the one whose viewpoint you need to understand.

      Sorry I can't be more helpful!

  3. So if I'm selling just face-to-face, I have to register (which is free?) but I don't need to issue plant passports?

    1. Hi Ruth, yes, that does appear to be the situation.

      They want to regulate plants being moved any distance around the country, ie being posted. Because that's a great way to spread diseases.

      But if you are selling face to face (or "mask to mask" as it is these days) then the plant is not going to be moved more that a few miles, so it doesn't need to be traced.

      Of course, with C-19, selling face-to-face has it's own set of problems...!

  4. Thanks very much for an informative post, just to clarify If I am selling structures like bespoke shelves etc that come with plants, and I go to fit them in someone's home, that would still be considered face to face sale?

    1. Hi Lozza, I don't think that structures of any sort are part of the APHA rulings, so I really can't comment on that.

      If you are selling the plants as part of the shelf-and-plant package it is still a plant, and if you are taking them there yourself, then I would think it would count as "face to face" sales... but if in doubt, contact your APHA rep - they seem to be trying hard to be as helpful as they can.
      Just don't make it sound as though you are trying to find a loophole!

    2. I was on the understanding that aslong as you are not making profit on the plant . So selling a Plant in a home made pot/ stand & charging for that & "giving the plant for free" I think is ok. ?

    3. Honestly, Maz, APHA haven't quite got their act together on this point yet: the reason for introducing this legislation is nothing to do with profit, it's about tracking plant movements. So really, if you are moving plants from one area to another (ie selling by post) then records should be kept. Best advice: contact APHA and ask your local rep for their opinion: they should have the most up-t0-date information.

  5. How to I register for APHA ?.I just want to sell plants face to face.

    1. HI Kev,

      Simple - just type "how to register with APHA to sell plants"..... and follow the link: the first one that pops up will be the Gov.uk site. Yes, it says to issue Plant Passports, but follow that link anyway.

      Scroll down at (at them time of writing!) the second item on the list is "Apply to be authorised". click on that one, and away you go. There are two documents - the first one is application to register, which is the one you want. This is for the UK, if you are in Wales or Scotland then you may need to dig a little deeper to find the right details - but you are, at least, now in the right place!

      A word of advice: the info given out by APHA changes with the wind, so before committing yourself to filling in the forms, you might want to contact your local APHA rep, to discuss what you are doing. Every page has a link to Contact APHA, just keep following them.

      Depending on how many plants you sell, what sort of plants, etc, you may not even have to register.

      Good luck!

  6. Hello! Thanks for the update!
    Before the apah reviewed their regulations, they initially stated 'all plants for planting' however under the seeds section it stated a list of around 20 seeds that would need plant passports. Its my understanding that if I'm only intending to sell seeds (not the ones on that list) then I only need to apply for registration? Do you know if this is correct?


    1. HI Chelsea,

      Honestly, I'm so confused that I can't give a solid answer to that one: I'd suggest contacting APHA, they will assign you a rep: yes, and actual real live person! Ask them: they will be the person who "enforces" your area, so it makes sense to ask them what their interpretation of the rules is.

      And good luck with the seed sales!


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