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Temperate House

The largest Victorian glasshouse in the world
first opened
plants in total
metres square
panes of glass

About the Temperate House

This Grade I listed building is the largest surviving Victorian glasshouse in the world.

It was built to display Kew’s temperate plant collection. These plants need to live under glass where the temperature stays above 10°C.

It is home to 1,500 temperate species from five continents and 16 islands. These are some of the world’s rarest and most threatened temperate plants.

History of the Temperate House

  • Designed by Decimus Burton, who also designed the Palm House for tropical plants
  • Opened in May 1863 but construction continued for 36 years
  • Built on a mound of gravel and sand, the spoil from Kew's Lake
  • 127 bombs dropped on Kew during WWII caused structural damage to the Temperate House

Five year restoration project

We’ve recently reopened the Temperate House after completing the biggest restoration project in our history.

From 2013 to 2018 our team repaired the entire framework of the building and replaced thousands of panes of glass. We housed around 500 plants in a temporary nursery and propagated more to increase the collection.

Restoration in numbers

  • 400 people worked on the project
  • Took 1,731 days to complete
  • 69,000 items cleaned, repaired or replaced
  • 180km of scaffolding required
  • 5,280 litres of paint used


Step-free access is available via the western side of the building

Level pathways throughout the ground floor

Balcony not accessible for wheelchairs or buggies

Closest entrances: Victoria Gate and Lion Gate

Nearest Kew Explorer land train stop: Stop 2

Highlights and floorplan

Amazing plant stories

Discover incredible survival stories of plants from all over the world, like the Cayman sage (Salvia caymanensis) which was lost for 40 years. And the whorl heath (Erica verticillata) which is extinct in the wild but soon to be restored.

Statues at the front entrance

The statues are believed to be Flora (Roman goddess of flowers) and Silvanus (Roman god of woods and fields).

Hidden chimneys

The terracotta urns on each corner of the central building concealed chimneys. They released steam from the old heating system.

Fake urns

116 pale urns around the outer edge are all copies made in the 1970s. The originals may have been sold to fund previous restoration.


The glass roof has a localised sensored opening mechanism. Vents open when the temperature exceeds 12°C to avoid overheating and humidity.

Displays in the octagons

In the Weston Octagon find a display about the State of the World’s Plants and in the Wolfson Octagon a history of the Temperate House.

What is temperate?

Temperate zones of the world are not too hot, not too cold, not too wet, not too dry. They occur between the tropics and the poles in both hemispheres. We also find temperate pockets in unexpected places such as high up on mountains in the tropics or on remote tropical islands.

Temperate regions are also where most of us live, build our cities and clear land for agriculture.

Plants native to temperate areas are at the frontline of global change and many of the risks they face are caused by humans.