About the Scheme

What is the Gardening Responsibly Scheme?

The Gardening Responsibly Scheme is a free, voluntary, industry-led initiative to promote the supply of and demand for Certified Gardening Responsibly plants.

Who can join the Scheme?

Scheme membership is open to all greenlife industry businesses including:

  • Landscape architects
  • Landscapers
  • Plant breeders
  • Plant brokers
  • Retail nurseries
  • Wholesale nurseries
How did the Gardening Responsibly Scheme come about?

In 2015, stakeholders from industry, government and the community came together in a number of workshops to find solutions to the ‘wicked weed problem’. In 2017, the NSW Environmental Trust commissioned a two-phase project to research, design and build a voluntary industry certification Scheme, governed by a Consortium.

The NSW Environmental Trust-funded pilot program ended in December 2022. The Consortium is now transitioning to a new governance and funding model, and in 2023 will form a new not-for-profit company limited by guarantee.

Project Phases

Who owns the eco-label and governs the Scheme?

The Consortium owns the eco-label and is responsible for governing the Scheme. However, a Technical Panel is responsible for endorsing the certification of ornamental plants.

The Technical Panel currently consists of researchers from Macquarie University. During the pilot phase, Macquarie University researchers acted as an interim Technical Panel and were responsible for designing the Ornamental Plant Decision Support Tool and categorisation process, as well as conducting the plant risk assessments.

How will the Scheme be funded in future?

That’s up to our supporters!

If you think the greenlife industry, governments and the community should continue to work together to tackle the wicked weed problem, please support us to continue this work. We are eager to risk assess the more than 30,000 varieties of plants currently traded in Australia. It takes 2–5 hours to research each plant, and while this is currently free and open to anyone to conduct a risk assessment using our Research Portal, we need further investment to expand the operations of the Scheme and assess more plants.

If you are a commercial supplier or a government agency, we can help you ‘check your choice.’ We accept a fee-for-service to complete bulk plant risk assessments.

If you are a gardener, why not visit our shop on Redbubble? We receive 20% of each sale, which goes back into the Scheme to help us discover and certify more beautiful low-risk garden plants.

We welcome sponsorships, financial partnerships and philanthropy to support this win-win-win initiative.

You can also contact our Consortium members to further support this initiative.

The Gardening Responsibly Movement

What is the Gardening Responsibly movement?

The Gardening Responsibly movement is all about encouraging people to create beautiful, healthy gardens and protect the environment by preventing future landscape-scale weed invasions.

Being a part of the movement means you can create awareness and encourage people to ‘check their choice’ before buying and installing plants in their gardens.

We love to imagine a world where checking that an ornamental plant has a low risk of invasion is common practice for all Australians.

How does the Gardening Responsibly movement work to prevent future landscape-scale weed invasions?

We’re looking to ‘turn off the tap’ and prevent future invasive weeds.

To do this we need to influence commercial markets. The greenlife market currently trades more than 30,000 different ornamental plant varieties and currently, we do not know which ones might become invasive in Australia in the future. Influencing this commercial market is tricky, as we need to reach:

  • more than 2,000 individual commercial nurseries
  • that are selling more than 2.5 billion plants
  • to more than 17,280 landscapers, 3,037 landscape architects and designers, 562 local government authorities and 11 million gardeners.

Our strategy for change is:

Push-Pull Supply Chain Strategy

The Gardening Responsibly push-based model promotes environmental stewardship behaviours in producers, at the manufacturing end of the supply chain. The pull-based model promotes sustainable sourcing behaviours in consumers, at the customer end of the supply chain.
How do I join the Gardening Responsibly movement?

We’re looking to collaborate with like-minded changemakers to join our movement and help reach the over 11 million gardeners across Australia!

We’ve got lots of information on why you should garden responsibly and how to garden responsibly, as well as a Community Campaigner Kit to help spread the word and grow the Gardening Responsibly movement.

Join our mailing list, become a partner, and follow us on our social channels to stay up-to-date with workshops, new resources, events and to share your gardening responsibly adventures!

The Plants

What is a Certified Gardening Responsibly plant?

An ornamental plant that has been assessed through our Research Portal as having a low invasive risk, which means it won’t jump the garden fence and cause harm to our environment.

How do I know if a plant is a Certified Gardening Responsibly plant?

You look for our Certified Gardening Responsibly eco-label — the gardening responsibly tick of approval!

Only greenlife suppliers who have joined the Gardening Responsibly Scheme can sell or provide plants with our tick.

Are Certified Gardening Responsibly plants guaranteed not to spread and become invasive?

Certified Gardening Responsibly plants are only recommended as being low risk of invasion. They can’t be guaranteed because each plant is a living product and may behave differently in different environments and under different climatic conditions. Plant status may change as conditions change, and as more evidence emerges about the plant’s behaviour and impact on the environment.

The risk assessment tools and plant categorisation processes are designed to allow for re-assessment when new information becomes available about plant risk. We encourage you to check out our Terms of Use to understand how best to use this site.

What do I do if I already have a high-risk plant in my garden?

Removing and safely disposing of a high-risk plant from your garden is your best option. However, if you’re not ready or able to do that, you should do your best to understand the plant you have, take steps to manage the plant’s spread and monitor it for any invasive behaviours. For example, it may be as easy as cutting off the seed heads of a plant before the fruits mature, and disposing of those in your bin!

What happens if my business uses high-risk plants?

The intent of the Scheme is to make it easier and to encourage people to choose plants with a lower invasive risk. Until we have risk assessed more of the 30,000 different varieties of plants sold, the focus will be on encouraging low-risk plant use rather than discouraging other plant use.

If you discover that a plant you sell or promote has a high risk of invasion, we encourage you, where possible, to take action to mitigate any invasive risk factors.

You can find out more about specific plants and factors of invasion in our Research Portal.

What styles of gardens are best?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!  We celebrate ornamental gardens for their creativity and the joy they bring, as long as their plants have a low risk of becoming an invasive weed.

We surveyed over 1,000 gardeners in NSW and discovered that 71% of people prefer to garden with a mix of both native and exotic garden plants. There are all sorts of garden styles and you can decide which one you prefer. We encourage all gardeners to choose the right plant, for the right place, for the right purpose!

Why not download our Garden Design Planning Workbook to help develop your garden style?

Our Research Portal

How do I nominate a plant to be risk assessed?

To nominate a plant for assessment, you’ll need to set up an account in our Research Portal. Once logged in to the Portal, you can nominate a plant for assessment, or even conduct the assessment yourself using our custom-designed risk assessment tool.

Why can’t I find a plant in the plant search?

There are a few reasons why you may not have found the plant you searched for:

  1. Spelling — You may have spelt the keyword incorrectly or differently to how it appears in our database. You could try searching using the filters or with different keywords.
  1. Misidentification All plants follow specific naming conventions. Your search must be using the correct and current scientific species name or cultivar name. You can find out more about identifying and naming plants correctly in our Are You Plant Sure? booklet. 
  1. Your plant hasn’t been assessed yet — The plant search on our site shows only the plants that have been assessed through our program so far and that have been found to be low risk. With over 30,000 ornamental plants in trade, it will take a while to assess them all! You can create an account in our Research Portal, where you can carry out a more detailed search and see if your plant is in the process of being assessed, or you could nominate the plant for assessment, or you could complete an assessment yourself.
  1. Your plant has been assessed but it was found not to be low risk — As mentioned above, the plant search on our site shows only the plants that have been assessed through the Scheme so far and that have been found to be low risk. If your plant was assessed and was found not to be low risk, then it won’t appear in our search. You can create an account in our Research Portal and carry out a more detailed search to see if your plant has been assessed and what its risk outcome is (low, medium or high risk).
  1. Your plant is out of scope for the Scheme — If the plant you’re searching for is a regulated plant, i.e., listed as a weed by a State or Territory government, it isn’t part of our Scheme. Additionally, aquatic plants are also not currently within the scope of our Scheme.


Who benefits from using the eco-label?

Everyone! A voluntary Scheme must be a win-win-win.

  • Industry gains a value-add to traditional ornamental plant sales.
  • Governments gain access to new predictive knowledge about plant biosecurity risk.
  • Community gets to enjoy their gardens proudly for the benefit of the environment and all Australians.

The Scheme follows a ‘shared value’ business model.

  • Creates measurable environmental values
  • Creates measurable business values
  • Is linked — business value creation relies on envrionmental outcomes improving
  • Is scalable
  • Improves competitive positioning — a different approach to competitiors
Who are suppliers?

Suppliers include wholesale and retail nurseries (greenlife industry), landscapers, landscape architects and designers or anyone growing, selling or recommending ornamental garden plants.

Who or what is the greenlife industry?

The greenlife industry is broad and encompasses the ornamental plant market, and supplies starter plants for fruit and vegetable production, as well as stock for landscaping, forestry and revegetation.

The Australian greenlife industry is a community contributing to Australia and all Australians through the uniqueness and diversity of its product and its people. The industry significantly underpins the food, fibre and foliage plant production in Australia, contributes significantly to the economy, and provides aesthetic and scientific solutions to climate change.

Why can’t I find a supplier?

Our suppliers list shows only those suppliers who are members of the Gardening Responsibly Scheme. This will keep growing as the movement grows! We encourage all relevant plant suppliers and businesses to sign up.

If you have a regular supplier and they’re not in our suppliers list, please tell them about us and pass them a link to this website! We welcome all businesses who are proud of the plants they grow and strive for best practice, sustainability and good environmental management.


Want more information about weeds?

Our voluntary Scheme is focussed on encouraging gardening with ornamental garden plants with a low risk of invasiveness.

If you have questions about known weeds, noxious weeds, plants not to be sold or invasive weeds on your property, please contact your local control authority, local Council, Local Land Services or visit NSW WeedWise.

Loss and degradation of native plant and animal habitat by invasion of escaped garden plants, including aquatic plants” was listed as a key threatening process in January 2010 under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

See the Australian Government threat abatement advice for more information.

Where are our infographics sourced from?

The Gardening Responsibly Initiative is a transparent, trusted platform and part of our purpose is to grow our scientific understanding about plants and our environment. Our Research Portal helps us to better share the science, information and evidence about plants from multiple, reliable sources including scientific literature, commercial trials and community observations, to drive innovation and knowledge of horticulture and botany in Australia.

The infographic data has been extrapolated from:


Exotic plants are not native or endemic to Australia, e.g., Magnolia grandiflora, commonly called Teddy Bear Magnolia, which is native to the USA.

An invasive plant is a plant that is not native to the environment where it is planted and escapes, spreads and causes negative impacts to the economy, environment or human health.

An invasive weed is a plant that is not native to the environment where it is planted and escapes, spreads and smothers other plants or otherwise causes negative impacts to the economy,  environment or human health.

Native plants are those endemic to Australia, e.g., Callistemon citrinus, commonly called Crimson Bottlebrush.

Ornamental gardens have plants that are designed more for their aesthetic pleasure and appearance than for production of crops or food. Ornamental gardens can include native and exotic plants, such as flowering plants, foliage plants, ornamental grasses, shrubs, climbers and trees.

A weed is a plant in the wrong place or a plant where it is not wanted.