The UK is a small and crowded island, and there is not enough land to grow crops to meet the demand. Flowers and plants have to be imported. This is particularly important during the winter months, when low light and heat levels mean that some crops are impossible to grow economically. Other countries have brighter light, warmer weather, cheaper land and labour costs - which outweigh the high cost of exporting flowers and plants.
UK grown flowers
Only about 5% of cut flowers are sourced from the UK these days, despite a growing fashion for all things British-grown and made.
However what we do grow is fabulous. When it comes to crops like daffodils and outdoor tulips, or specials like sweet peas (we grow the best in the world), stocks, alstroemeria, pinks and peonies we are a tough act to beat while our plant production is second to none, helped by the fact that many supermarkets like to stock British only. You can buy UK grown hydrangea, ranunculus, begonias... we even do phalaenopsis.
95% of the UK's cut flowers are imported. 77% of those come from the Netherlands, 9% from Kenya, 6% from Colombia, 1% from South Africa, 1% from Spain and the remaining 5% from various other countries. (source: HM Customs & Excise)
The above figure, the 77% of UK imports that come from the Netherlands, includes all flowers that come to us via the Dutch auctions from Kenya, Ethiopia, Israel, Belgium, Ecuador, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Zimbabwe and Italy. (source: FloraHolland)
While many countries are starting to grow flowers and plants commercially, there are a small number of countries from which the UK imports most of its products. These are listed below, together with the main crops they grow.
Belgium – pot plants
Canary Islands – chrysanthemums, roses
Caribbean – tropicals, foliage
Chile – carnations, roses
Colombia – standard & spray carnations, roses
Denmark – pot plants
Ecuador – carnations, roses
Holland – all flowers and pot plants
India – roses
Israel – roses, gypsophila, waxflower, anigozanthos, all summer flowers
Italy – carnations, chrysanthemums, foliage, foliage plants
Kenya – roses, carnations, spray carnations, statice
Malta – chrysanthemums, `Paper White' narcissi
Morocco – spray carnations
South Africa – proteas, strelitzia, roses, exotics
Spain – carnations, chrysanthemums
Thailand – orchids
Turkey – spray carnations
Venezuela – carnations, roses