The Chelsea Flower Show 2024: A Blooming Brief Guide

Last Updated 27 May 2024

The Chelsea Flower Show 2024: A Blooming Brief Guide
Chelsea Flower Show 2023: Two Chelsea pensioners in their red uniforms - one with a plant pot, the other a wheelbarrow full of flowers
It's the Glastonbury Festival of the horticultural world. Image: RHS

What is the Chelsea Flower Show exactly?

The RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) Chelsea Flower Show is a five-day-long annual spectacular of flowers, plants and show gardens, hosted in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

For visitors, it's one of the places to see cutting-edge garden design, discover new plants and trends, and take home a wheelbarrow of flowers/tools/inspiration. For exhibitors, it's the chance to show off their concepts/green fingers, and maybe scoop a coveted award or two.

TL;DR: Think of it as the Glastonbury Festival of the horticultural world. Or, if that comparison's not working for you, a really upmarket garden centre.

Chelsea Flower Show 2023 Carol Kein in a floral dress, reflected in a pond
Expect to see gardening royalty like Carol Klein (and maybe actual royalty too). Image: RHS

When is the Chelsea Flower Show?

It runs from 21-25 May 2024, although the first two days are reserved for paying members of the RHS. From 23-25 May the hoi polloi can get get their gardening mitts on tickets.

How much are tickets?

The cheapest day tickets for non-members are now £47.85 — and you'll want to grab them soon, because they will sell out.

A giant afternoon tea stand decorated with cakes and macarons made from flowers
Free alternatives are taking place nearby. Image: Chelsea in Bloom

That's too spendy for me

Fair. Well, the BBC offers comprehensive coverage of the show on TV, and there are plenty of other RHS shows with a smaller price tag you can go to instead, including one in Hampton Court in July. Then there's Chelsea in Bloom — a free flower festival, taking place 20-26 May 2024, which sees around 100 shops in this part of west London transformed with eye-opening floral displays. This year's theme is food, so expect giant floral macarons and oversized bags of popcorn. Belgravia in Bloom (20-27 May) is a similar event taking place at the time, one neighbourhood over. It has a 'Floral Fun and Games' theme for 2024, and is also free.

What are the highlights of the 2024 Chelsea Flower Show?

A garden with church walls
Image: St James’s Piccadilly/RHS

Chelsea is best known for its display of pocket gardens. This year that includes a selection of show gardens (eight announced at time of writing), plus a smattering of balcony gardens, sanctuary gardens and others. Here are some themes to look out for:

  • Water: As we continue to see climate change take effect, it's no surprise to see a Flood Resilient Garden on show this year, featuring an elevated deck, and channels that lead rainwater into a feature pond. The Ecotherapy Garden, meanwhile, features a series of step-down pools fed by antique water spouts and, elsewhere, you'll find a Water Saving Garden and a WaterAid garden with a fetching rainwater harvesting pavilion.
  • Health: Gardens are good for mental health, and physical wellbeing too. The Bowel Research UK Microbiome Garden inspires people to 'rewild' their diets and appreciate the links between the healthy soil and healthy humans. Muscular Dystrophy UK's Forest Bathing Garden provides a soothing sanctuary, inspired by the Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku. After going on show at Chelsea, it'll be relocated to the  Institute of Developmental and Regenerative Medicine in Oxford. Look out, too, for the vibrant National Autistic Society Garden.
  • Architectural: Many of the gardens feature built components, which will appeal to the architecturally-minded; among them, St James's Piccadilly: Imagine the World to be Different — a pocket park with walls constructed using rammed earth (this will be relocated to central London); the Freedom from Torture Garden, with its sculptural streams of willow, and the Sanctum, with its charred wood pod in the centre.

There's also a wealth of other exhibitors at the Chelsea Flower Show — from plant nurseries, to sculpture makers, to greenhouse specialists. Check out the full list here.

Do I need a garden to enjoy the show?

We won't lie, you'll probably feel more invested in the Chelsea Flower Show if you have a garden of your own. However! It is a day out in its own right, where you get to admire a host of exclusive gardens in one place. Plus the gardening community these days aren't all land-owning, secateur-wielding know-it-alls. There's also stuff aimed at people with limited space, for example, bonsai trees, cacti and container plants.

Chelsea Flower Show 2023 topiary elephants
Topiary elephants at the show in 2014. Image: Eva Rahman Nishi in Creative Commons

What's the history of Chelsea Flower Show?

Its historical roots run deep. Before moving to Chelsea in 1912, the show was initially called 'The Great Spring Show', and was first held in Kensington in 1862. Before THAT, it was hosted from 1833 in the RHS's garden in Chiswick. Between 1888 and 1912, it was the Temple Flower Show, located in Temple Gardens, off Fleet Street.

What celebs will be at the Chelsea Flower Show?

You're bound to run into a green-fingered celeb or two. You'll probably spot the common-or-garden Gardeners' World presenter (Monty Don, Frances Tophill, Carol Klein, etc). But many other famous faces flock here — in recent years, the likes of Dame Judi Dench, Ainslie Harriott, Bill Bailey, Ronan Keating, Katie Piper and Deborah Meaden have shown up. It's also a hotspot for royalty — although this might not be the best year for that.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show, 21-25 May 2024