About Us

Tropical Britain


Rare and Unusual Plants   Palms   Hardy Exotics 

Architectural and Sculptural Plants   Jungle Gardens

Desert and Mediterranean Plantings

Drought-Resistant and Xerophytic Plants

British-Grown Plants 

Our Mission : To promote, celebrate and champion Exotic Gardening and to bring to public awareness the wide range of plant species that can be grown in a changing climate

We don't import plants! We grow them ourselves here in Tropical Britain

Tropical Britain is an online plantsman nursery specialising in exotic plants. Rare, unusual and exotic plants are our passion. What excites us is seeing a garden full of species that look like they belong more in the tropics - or on another planet - pull through the harsh British winter and then go on to thrive.

Part of our vision is to celebrate and share our enthusiasm for exotic plants and love of exotic garden style - in all its many different strands.

This website is for those who share our passion: the plantsmen and plantswomen of Great Britain, that wonderful, very special and often eccentric breed of people who delight in growing things – rare things, strange things, things of beauty - against the many wild vagaries of the British climate.

But it is also a place for those discovering exotic gardening for the first time. Here at Tropical Britain you will find a wealth of useful botanical and horticultural information, a place for plant-lovers to wander around in - a bit like a garden really - and enjoy yourself, the views, the little corners or larger vistas, the occasional snippet that gets you thinking, that inspires you to try something new or different.

Whether you are inspired to create a jungle garden lush with palms, bamboos and bananas or the drier more open requirements of a Mediterranean terrace; whether you wish to design the arid landscape of the desert; to recreate an enchanted woodland with ferns and Arisaemas or the slopes of a Chilean mountainside or a New Zealand bush gully ... whatever your vision, it is the overall atmosphere - the ambience of the space created - that matters.

It is always better to work with Nature than try to challenge it. So much can be achieved through reliably hardy species and then - within that solid framework - a personal vision can be slowly realised and less-hardy species gradually introduced. 

Over the last 40 years the British climate has changed noticeably. As we monitored this change our interest evolved from just growing hardy exotics to increasing our range of drought-tolerant plants. We now stock the largest range of hardy desert plants in the UK, particularly Agaves and other large xeric succulents - all seed-grown by us. Climate change will have a massive effect on British horticulture. Gardens will need to be more resilient to drought. The dominant style in British garden design has for many years focused on herbaceous perennials soaking up large quantities of water. As we move into a hotter drier future, many public gardens and garden designers will use more plants adapted to dry conditions, combining hardy desert species with drought-resistant perennials to create a new style. Fifty years from now, British gardens will look quite different.

We are constantly adding new plants to our range and 99% of our plants are propagated by us at our Surrey nursery; they are British grown plants. Our plants are free from the Xylella pathogen that is currently ravaging ornamental stocks throughout Europe. Under the new Plant Health Regulations 2016/2031 (PHR), implemented from 14 December 2019, the scope of plant passporting is greater than before. All plants for planting need a plant passport to move within the EU, including within the UK. Tropical Britain Ltd is authorised by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) (an executive agency within DEFRA) to issue Plant Passports. This tightening of biosecurity on the movement of plants both within the UK and within the EU is a welcome move. A changing climate, rapid population growth, the ready availability of international travel and the spiralling pace of plant mass-production have all combined to create conditions that are fertile for new biosecurity threats. The importance of plant provenance has never been more relevant. 

One of the guiding principles at Tropical Britain is generosity. We have always modeled our business on the abundance of Nature. Every year, plants produce thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of seeds. They just keep giving. Our business model tries to emulate this... the incredible abundance of Nature. We regularly give away extra plants for free, give out tons of useful informational content on our website and provide regular generous discount codes to our Plant Alerts newsletter subscribers.

Back in 2011, I was in reaction against the bland experience of many British garden centres with the same old generic poorly-labeled offerings - usually imported from Holland - and staff who had little passion for plants. Many of the online stores also seemed either to focus simply on making the next sale or were hopelessly outdated and impossible to navigate.

All good ideas start with a seed. Or in the case of Tropical Britain, millions of seeds.

I set out to create a brand new nursery from scratch and at the same time build an online presence, a multi-functional website that was intuitive and user-friendly but also had as much useful botanical, horticultural and cultivation information as possible. I was more motivated to create a resource for like-minded souls than a place to just spend money - like a wiki for each plant listed. What I didn’t want to do was create yet another internet gardening shop, another soul-less supermarket-style website but rather a place for people who love plants to explore and come back again and again to discover something new.

We grew fast. Word spread... first amongst the exotic gardening enthusiasts and then out into the larger gardening community keen to try new plants. Designers, Landscapers, Private Estates, Botanic Gardens  and other public collections all followed.

We outgrew our first two nurseries very quickly and today have over 22,000 square feet under glass. We grow the largest range of hardy exotic plants in the UK and are continually expanding our range.

It's been an enormous work. There have been many challenges. In early 2014, the large Palm House at our second Nursery in Chobham was entirely destroyed in a freak tornado. We had to rescue all the plants in driving rain and falling glass. And moving our millions of plants down the road to our new Nursery in New Haw was a task that took six months of constant effort. Somehow, through all this, we managed to get the orders out every day.

There was a time when you were very lucky if you lived close to a specialist plant Nursery. That is still the case but we now live in a different world. The garden centres have lost their soul and many of the older, smaller family-run Nurseries that have been such a wonderful, integral part of British gardening are closing. We hate to see that happening as much as you. Keeping the widest possible choice of plants available is part of our vision. Modern technology now allows us to reach a wider audience than ever before so that you, the customer, no longer has to travel hundreds of miles to find the specific plants you want.

We are essentially an online Nursery, however, for select customers, we do offer a range of larger specimen-size Botanic Garden grade plants that are available for collection strictly by appointment. Enquire here.

As you browse through the various corners and turnings of this site I hope some of my passion and enthusiasm for plants and exotic design will inspire you to follow your own gardening vision.

John Edmiston

Tropical Britain




Trachycarpus wagnerianus

Trachycarpus wagnerianus