Unlike parks which are only for public viewing and recreation, botanical gardens are intended to manage habitat areas and display exhibits of living collections. Some botanical gardens are also associated with zoos and aquaria.
Tourists enjoy not only the different displays of indoor and outdoor plants from various places in the world but also the knowledge of horticulture and hints of history portrayed by the plants.
In the United States alone, there are hundreds of botanical gardens and related organizations that have varying size, themes, plant collections, and activities.
So if you are looking for a list of the must-visit botanical gardens in the US, you have come to the right place.
Below is a list of the top 15 botanical gardens showing how biodiverse and dynamic the United States plant life is.
Table of Contents
- Best 15 US Botanical Gardens
- 1. Sonnenberg Gardens (Canandaigua, NY)
- 2. Missouri Botanical Garden (St.Louis, MO)
- 3. Chicago Botanic Garden (Glencoe, IL)
- 4. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens (Gainesville, FL)
- 5. Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Garden (Dallas, TX)
- 6. Fort Worth Botanical Garden (Fort Worth, TX)
- 7. Longwood Gardens (Kennett Square, PA)
- 8. Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Gardens (Columbus, OH)
- 9. New York Botanical Garden (Bronx, NY)
- 10. Brooklyn Botanic Garden (Brooklyn, NY)
- 11. Brookgreen Gardens (Myrtle Beach, SC)
- 12. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (Coral Gables, FL)
- 13. Allerton and McBryde Gardens (Kauai, HI)
- 14. Desert Botanical Garden (Phoenix, AZ)
- 15. San Francisco Botanical Garden (Golden Gate Park, SF)
Best 15 US Botanical Gardens
1. Sonnenberg Gardens (Canandaigua, NY)
Tracing its establishment date since the Victorian era, the Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park is known to be one of America’s most preserved country estates.
- Built in 1887 (Architectural Style: Queen Anne), this botanical garden display different styles like Victorian, Colonial, Japanese, and Italian designs.
- With a total area of more than 50 acres, this garden features the Lord and Burnham Greenhouse and Solarium, views of the nearby Canandaigua Lake, and of course, the spectacular formal and informal gardens.
- Apart from 9 beautiful gardens and Victorian style mansion, this botanical garden also hosts the Finger lake wine center from local breweries.
More Info: Sonnenberg Gardens
2. Missouri Botanical Garden (St.Louis, MO)
Founded by Henry Shaw in 1859, the Missouri Botanical Garden is considered to be the oldest US botanical garden that is still in operation.
- With more than 79 acres, this botanical garden (Architectural Style: Late Victorian) displays a wide variety of horticultural displays, the original estate home of Henry Shaw, the most significant collections of endangered and wild orchids, and lastly, a large Japanese style strolling garden.
- Aside from that, the botanical garden is also into education and plant research.
- Missouri Botanical Garden also runs the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House in another town called Chesterfield. The Butterfly House has about 8000-square-foot indoor butterfly conservatory and an outdoor butterfly garden.
More Info: Missouri Botanical Garden
3. Chicago Botanic Garden (Glencoe, IL)
Designed by Geoffrey Rausch and John Simonds in 1890, the Chicago Botanic Garden spans more than 385-acres and houses 26 different gardens in habitats like shores, woods, lakes, and prairies.
- A member of the American Public Gardens Association and accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Chicago Botanic Gardens is known to be one of the most visited tourist destinations in the US and considered to be a leader in plant science research.
- The Chicago Botanic Garden was selected by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2008 as the only North American host for World Environment Day with the slogan “CO2-Kick the Habit!: Towards a Low Carbon Economy“.
- Project BudBurst is an American initiative to assist biologists learn the impacts of climate change on plants by recording the plant life cycle. Project BudBurst is co-managed by NEON (the National Ecological Observatory Network, Inc.) and the Chicago Botanic Garden.
More Info: Chicago Botanic Garden
4. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens (Gainesville, FL)
Located in Gainesville, Florida, the Kapanaha Botanical garden is the next US botanical garden, which is composed of more than 24 different display collections of plants like bamboos, oaks, hummingbird gardern, cycad garden, azalea and roses.
- Interestingly, the botanical garden houses the most extensive collection of bamboos (of different species) in the whole United States.
- Aside from that, numerous ponds with giant Victorian water lilies and breathtaking views of the nearby Lake Kanapaha will surely amaze visitors.
- Kanapaha botanical gardens was opened to public in 1986.
More Info: Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
5. Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Garden (Dallas, TX)
With an area of about 66 acres, the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden in Texas is one botanical garden that offers seasonal color during the entire year.
- This US botanical garden (Architectural Style: Spanish Colonial Revival) is most famous for the Dallas Blooms Spring, the largest outdoor flower festival in the Southwest.
- Aside from that, the garden is also famous for its overlooking view of the nearby White Rock Lake.
- Various amenities like the Hoffman Family Gift Shop, Rosine Hall, CampHouse, and DeGolyer Home are also available for tourists.
More Info: Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden
6. Fort Worth Botanical Garden (Fort Worth, TX)
The city of Dallas in Texas is very popular for being the home to one of the best zoos in the US. Aside from that, the city also boasts the very popular Fort Worth Botanical Garden, the oldest garden in Texas.
- This 110-acre garden (Architectural style: Renaissance) is home to more than 2,500 plant species & exotic plants in 21 specialty gardens and is composed of different displays like the Japanese garden with bridges and waterfalls.
- This American botanical garden also has a research institute where various educational facilities can be found.
- The Fort Worth botanical garden was found in 1934 and is the oldest botanic garden in Texas.
More Info: Fort Worth Botanical Garden
7. Longwood Gardens (Kennett Square, PA)
Famous for its seasonal garden exhibits like the Orchid Extravaganza and A Longwood Christmas, the Longwood Gardens is a 1,075-acre garden located in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
- This landmark consists of gardens, meadows, and woodland and is home to various indoor and exotic outdoor plants.
- The Longwood gardens contain more than 10000 plant species ranging from Australian native plants collection, Bonsai & Penjing collection, Magnolia collection, Waterlily collection and much more.
- The most important aspect of this US botanical garden is the spectular light shows during the evenings in summer months. This garden attracts more than a million visitors each year.
More Info: Longwood Gardens
8. Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Gardens (Columbus, OH)
As its name suggests, this spectacular tourist attraction is a botanical and a conservatory at the same time.
- Home to more than 400 species of plants ranging from Himalayan to tropical to native trees like the Ohio Buckeye, the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is also known to be the first ever US botanical garden to feature butterfly exhibitions.
- Aside from plants and butterflies, tourist can also visit glass blowing exhibitions and watch more than 7,000 LED lights at night.
- This US botanical garden has the historic glass structure known as the Palm house.
9. New York Botanical Garden (Bronx, NY)
Home to more than a million plant species, the 250-acre New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) in the Bronx is very famous not only for having one of the largest numbers of plants but also for its educational contribution to more than 90,000 students.
- The park (Architectural Style: Victorian era) is also known for having the nation’s largest glasshouse which contains the largest indoor collection of palm trees in the world.
- Founded in the 1890s, this National Historic Landmark is visited by more than one million tourists annually.
- NYBG runs one of the world’s extensive plant research and conservation programs employing more than 500 staff members.
More Info: New York Botanical Garden
10. Brooklyn Botanic Garden (Brooklyn, NY)
Located at the heart of Brooklyn, New York, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a 52-acre garden and considered to be one of the most beautiful public gardens in North America.
- The garden was founded in 1910, and at present, the garden displays various horticultural and urban gardening exhibits.
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) is very popular for its celebration of the arrival of the cherry blossom season during March or April. Such celebration includes hanami (a month-long celebration of their arrival), and a Sakura Matsuri (a week-long cherry blossom festival).
- BBG was the original Japanese garden to be showcased in an American public garden during 1914/15.
More Info: Brooklyn Botanic Garden
11. Brookgreen Gardens (Myrtle Beach, SC)
Often considered to be the most educational botanical garden in the US, the Brookgreen Gardens, aside from its spectacular array of plant life, offers tons of educational programs in the region.
- The Brookside Gardens (Architectural Style: Sculpture gardens) also features a full zoo and vast collections of outdoor sculptures by 300 of the best sculptors in the US.
- Brookgreen Gardens was inaugurated in 1932, and was built on four then rice farms, getting its name from the former Brookgreen Plantation.
- Interestingly, a single admission in the botanical garden is valid for a week. In other words, you could visit the place daily for days! Who would not want that, right?.
More Info: Brookgreen Gardens
12. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (Coral Gables, FL)
If you love tropical plants, visiting the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Florida is perfect for you.
- Recognized by the American Public Gardens Association, the cycad and palm collections of the garden is believed to be the best worldwide.
- During the 1980s, the botanical garden became a member of the Center for Plant Conservation in the United States. This particular organization is a network of different botanical institutions that aim to conserve and restore the disappearing flora.
- At present, the garden has numerous field programs in more than 20 different countries worldwide.
More Info: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
13. Allerton and McBryde Gardens (Kauai, HI)
The next US botanical garden in this list is famous not only for being a tropical paradise but also for being the setting location for blockbuster movies like the Jurassic Park and the fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
- Previously known to be a sugar plantation, this garden in the ancient Hawaiian island of Kauai is now home to the world’s biggest collection of Hawaiian plants.
- This garden was formerly called Lāwaʻi Garden. However, the garden was renamed in the year 2000 as a result of a large gift from the McBryde descendants.
- This US botanical garden hosts the largest ex situ group of native Hawaiian flora as well as large farmings of palms, flowering trees, heliconias, orchids and other exotic plants obtained from tropical regions.
More Info: Allerton and McBryde Gardens
14. Desert Botanical Garden (Phoenix, AZ)
Unlike most US botanical gardens in this list, the Desert Botanical Garden is a one of a kind 140-acre botanical garden that features a world-class collection of more than 50,000 desert plants in an outdoor display.
- The garden offers five different trails showcasing different topics like desert wildflowers, life in the desert, Sonoran Desert plants and people, as well as various conservation efforts. Check out this page on desert birds.
- This botanical garden, located in Galvin Parkway in Phoenix, Arizona, was founded during the 1930s.
- The popular plants that can be found in this botanical garden are the rich collection of agave and cacti plants (especially Opuntia sub-family) which grow in the extreme hot conditions.
More Info: Desert Botanical Garden
15. San Francisco Botanical Garden (Golden Gate Park, SF)
Last but not the least is the 55-acre San Francisco Botanical Garden (previously under the name Strybing Arboretum) which is considered to be the home to one of the world’s most naturally diverse botanical garden.
- With more than 8,000 plant species from different regions of the world, this botanical garden is sure to be a heaven for nature lovers.
- Furthermore, the botanical garden different themes like high-elevation gardens, Magnolia garden, and one where visitors could do moon-gazing.
- This botanical garden hosts Mediterranean, mild-temperate climate, and Montane tropic plant collections.
More Info: San Francisco Botanical Garden
Amidst our busy schedules of housework, schoolwork, or employment work, we still need to have some relaxation time. Indeed, botanical gardens are some of those great places that you could visit to do so. With this list as your guide, plan your trip as early as now!