RETAILER John Lewis is selling fake daffodils for the first time as the relentless cold weather delays the arrival of the spring blooms.

The long winter means spring flowers will bloom late this year and has led to daffodil shortages for events such as Mother's Day and Easter - driving an 18 per cent increase in sales of fake bouquets at the department store compared with this time last year.

The store, which has a branch in Bluewater shopping centre, has also introduced artificial bluebells, another spring flower expected to make a late appearance.

It already expects to sell around four times the number of fake blooms it originally planned for this year and has expanded its range to cater for increased demand.

John Lewis gifts buyer Dan Cooper said: "Spring's no-show shouldn't be any reason to stop displaying flowers in your home. “Artificial flowers are now very realistic, and are also more in-tune with prevailing fashion trends.

"A bunch of daffodils or bluebells will add a splash of colour to your Easter table, whilst reminding you that summer is meant to be just around the corner."

Claire Taylor, chairwoman of the British Daffodil Growers' Association, said daffodils were about a month behind "at the moment".

She said: "We are very far behind on production, about a month. We'll see them in stores when it becomes warm, and who knows when that will be.

"There's not a lot about."