For the first time in its 108-year history, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is postponing RHS Chelsea Flower Show until the autumn because of coronavirus.

The 2021 show, which would have taken place between May 18-23, has been moved to run from September 21-26.  The RHS, the show’s organiser, will still hold the event at The Royal Hospital, Chelsea.

The RHS had tried to ensure the show could happen safely in May with numerous additional health and safety measures, such as reducing visitor numbers and extending the show over an extra day.

However, with the coronavirus infection rate currently so high across the UK and no guarantee on what tier London may be in over spring, it says that it has a responsibility to its exhibitors and everyone involved in the show, to delay the 2021 RHS Chelsea Flower Show to later in the year.

Whilst the September show will be very different to the usual spring event, the RHS believes it will celebrate the best of autumn horticulture. Exhibitors who were to take part in the cancelled May event will all be given the opportunity to be at the autumn RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  RHS will also be opening up applications for new gardens, nurseries and content.

In addition to the autumn event, the RHS will once again hold its RHS Virtual Chelsea Flower Show online, during the May show week, which millions of people across the UK and around the world tuned in to enjoy last year.

Sue Biggs, RHS director general, said: “In these challenging times we have always followed Government advice and made difficult, responsible decisions with the health and safety of people our key concern.

“Whilst we are sad to have had to delay RHS Chelsea and are sorry for the disruption this will cause, we are excited that we are still planning to bring the world’s best loved gardening event to the nation at a time when more people are gardening more than ever.

“We know that the autumn dates may not be suitable for everyone, but with our fantastic industry partners we will do everything we can to support them and create a show that will be a moment in history.  It will be exciting to see different horticulture and showcase the key autumn gardening season at the world’s most famous flower show.  We believe many designers and nurseries will look forward to working with different plants that would not be available or at their best in May.

“Never have so many people gardened in recent times, nor needed the benefits of gardening more, so we will do our utmost to deliver a beautiful, uplifting and different RHS Chelsea safely in September 2021.”

As was planned for the event in May, RHS Chelsea Flower Show in September will be spread over six days instead of five, with the same reduced number of visitors.