North America

The 10 Best Botanic Gardens in The US

Denver Botanic Gardens1.Denver Botanic Gardens (Denver, Colorado)
The Denver Botanic Gardens have been a Colorado favorites since first opening in 1951 at its current central Denver location. Today the 23-acre original site includes immaculately manicured grounds and an educational center. The Gardens have also expanded to three other sites including a 750-acre plant refuge in the suburb of Littleton, an alpine trail on Mount Evans west of Golden in the Rockies that is lined with natural mountain wildflowers, and Centennial Gardens originally commemorating the Colorado Centennial. Throughout the year the Gardens’ website tracks what is in bloom. There is so much to see here with all corners of the globe well represented. All locations are not to be missed.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden2.Brooklyn Botanic Garden (Brooklyn, New York)
Located in the heart of one of New York City’s five boroughs, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is the most visited botanic garden in the US. Truly an oasis within an urban jungle, the area provides a stark natural and beautiful contrast to the surrounding area. There are over 12,000 unique plant varieties located on 52 acres full of immaculately manicured grounds full of winding paths. Founded in 1910, the experience includes a cherry tree avenue, a rose garden covering 1 acre and a fragrance garden designed for the blind. Where else in New York City can a visitor spot rabbits and turtles in their natural environment? The experience is so engrossing one might forget where they are.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden3.Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (Coral Gables, Florida)
The Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, located on the outskirts of Miami, Florida, is America’s preeminent collection of rare plants of the tropical variety. Established in 1938, the 83-acre garden’s official mission is to conserve tropical plants by promoting tropical plant diversity and is the founding member of the Center for Plant Conservation. Many exotic species can be viewed here including over 100 rare species indigenous to southern Florida and the Caribbean. Highlights in the garden include a huge variety of palms (over 550 identified species) and cycads – one of the most ancient varieties of plant life and, consequently, threatened with extinction.

Chicago Botanic Garden4.Chicago Botanic Garden (Chicago, Illinois)
The world-renowned Chicago Botanic Garden has been in existence for over a century but became what it is today in 1965 after a long period of inactivity. The Garden covers 385 acres situated on nine islands encompassed by lakes at the outskirts of the city. Today, it has developed into a world leader for scientific research and a great educational center for the public. The Chicago Botanic Garden boasts the highest membership of any US botanic garden at over 46,000 and is the second-most visited with over 750,000 visitors a year. The whole display includes some 9500 unique plant varieties.

Arnold Arboretum5.Arnold Arboretum (Boston, Massachusetts)
Maintained by Harvard University, the Arnold Arboretum is the oldest such public display in the United States and is a world leading plant research center. First established in 1872, the Arnold Arboretum covers 265 acres of land in the Jamaica Plain area of Boston. Truly a Boston urban oasis, over 7000 plant varieties are represented with special emphasis on the many varieties of plant life found in North America and eastern Asia. The collection includes some original plants used to introduce new species to North America from Asia. Detailed records are maintained that can show the precise location of every particular plant on the grounds.

Davis Arboretum6.UC-Davis Arboretum (Davis, California)
The University of California – Davis Arboretum, located about 15 miles west of Sacramento, California, is home to over 4000 species with emphasis on the variety that thrive in Davis’ widely varied temperature, which ranges between 14°F and 118°F yearly. The Arboretum covers approximately 100 acres and is the premiere garden of its type in California. Highlights here include the Carolee Shields White Flower Garden – designed after moon-viewing gardens in India and Japan that feature light shaded blooms, and the Redwood Memorial Grove full of the famous giant trees. For the full effect of the White Flower Garden, visit at night during a full moon.

National Tropical Botanical Garden7.National Tropical Botanical Garden (headquarters in Kauai, Hawaii)
The National Tropical Botanical Garden is actually composed of three gardens on the island of Kauai (McBryde, Allerton, and Limahuli), the Kahanu Garden on the island of Maui, the Awini and Ka’upulehu preserves on the Big Island, and The Kampong, across the continental United States in tropical Coconut Grove, Florida. All are located in the only authentic tropical locales of the United States and feature tropical plants. The Garden was created by a congressional charter in 1964 and a network of gardens was deemed necessary in order to encompass the varied ecosystems of tropical plants. The Kampong, Malay for “cluster of dwellings” was the personal collection of Dr. David Fairchild who founded the Fairchild Tropical Garden in Coral Gables, Florida. All are located in beautiful, pristine locations and should not be missed.

Memphis Botanic Garden8.Memphis Botanic Garden (Memphis, Tennessee)
The Memphis Botanic Garden is the American South’s finest example and is a showcase of plant life indigenous not only to the area, but to the far-reaches of the planet. Covering 96 acres including lakes, woodlands, gardens, the revered Japanese Garden of Tranquility, and the Sensory Garden, this attraction brings in over 150,000 visitors annually. A visit here is an educational one where 23 specialty gardens emphasize different types of plant life from cactuses, to dogwoods, to magnolias, to a garden designed specifically to attract butterflies. The W.C. Paul Arboretum is a showcase of rare trees and is a must see for horticulturalists.

United States Botanic Garden9.United States Botanic Garden (Washington DC)
Officially maintained by US Congress, the US Botanic Garden includes the Conservatory, National Garden, and Bartholdi Park and is located adjacent to the grounds of the US Capitol. Congress first designated the grounds in 1820 and in recent years the whole area has seen a lot of new development with the National Garden opening to the public on October 1, 2006. Bartholdi Park was created in 1932 and is a popular location for public gatherings. A butterfly garden, rose garden, and the First Ladies’ Water Garden can be viewed in the National Garden. The original conservatory, built in 1933, recently went through a 3-year renovation project. Yearly, the US Botanic Garden features a holiday-themed display called ‘A Midnight Clear’ that is sure to please holiday visitors to the nation’s capital.

Missouri Botanical Garden10.Missouri Botanical Garden (St. Louis, Missouri)
Created by St. Louis businessman Henry Shaw when he opened his garden to the public in 1859, the Missouri Botanical Garden today includes the original home of Mr. Shaw located on 79 acres of lush grounds in the heart of St. Louis. Highlights include the 14 acre Japanese garden named Seiwa-en (garden of pure) that is the largest such garden in the Western Hemisphere, the Climatron geodesic dome conservatory featuring exotic tropical plants, and a children’s garden complete with a limestone cave and tree house. The Missouri Botanical Garden also features an extensive collection of camellias, a type of tea flower. Mr. Shaw’s mid-19th century country home has also been immaculately maintained, as have his original gardens.

26 Comments for "The 10 Best Botanic Gardens in The US"

samantha says on June 28th, 2008 at 1:32 pm:

Thanks for the post..my favorite part of these gardens is bringing my kids to see the TickleMe Plants they have there. My kids tickle these plants and they fold their leaves and lower their branches.
Now we grow our own TickleMe Plants at home…its a childhood gardening experienec no child should miss…just google tickleme plant seeds to find some

Joe Carr says on August 23rd, 2008 at 4:37 pm:

I found a great TickleMe Plant Greenhouse at the Denver Botanical Gardens.
To grow a sensitive plant like the TickleMe Plant and watch it close its leaves and move when Tickled is unforgettable.

Phipps says on April 21st, 2009 at 4:40 pm:

I have a difficult time seeing the Brooklyn gardens at #2. I live in Brooklyn and visited the garden recently and I was not impressed one bit. Admittedly, I am a native of St. Louis, but I must say that the Missouri Botanical Gardens (Shaw’s Garden) greatly outshines the Brooklyn gardens.

Dan johnson says on August 13th, 2009 at 1:48 am:

Wow I am just awestruck you did not put St. Louis as number 1. The best you could do was 10? Whoever made this list was born yesterday or is from another country.

Jake Duffner says on January 9th, 2010 at 4:21 am:

I have only been to the Memphis and St. Louis gardens on this list and have been to many others around the country that are not on this list. I live in Memphis and that has to be one of the least fun gardens to visit. I have seen homes with better gardens. It is very diverse but everything is so spread out that it can be several hundred yards before you see anything but grass in a variety of spaces.

On the other hand, the St. Louis garden is great. The Climatron is incredible and the bird gardens are fun. The vegetable gardens are amazing and the compost education area is a wonderful area for teaching kids and adults how to compost food scraps. Very disappointed in this list.

Dr. Don says on January 28th, 2010 at 1:10 am:

My wife and I have visited both the Brooklyn and St. Louis Gardens in the past 18 months. There is absolutely no comparison. St. Louis has it hands down and Memphis ( agreat place for rock & roll history), please not even in the running. We love Longwood Gardens in the Philly suburbs too. The Huntington in Pasadena in rose season is a must see too. So many beautiful places like Keukenhoff in Leiden, Holland.

Shahid Iqbal says on February 6th, 2010 at 8:55 am:

I like green area as botanical garden in the world.

ChrisLM says on February 26th, 2010 at 5:17 am:

I’ve been to several of these and agree with many posters. You could squeeze the DC (National) Bot Garden in the St. Louis Climatron, so how it ranks above is beyond me. St. Louis (MBG) is my favorite by far. Well organized, diverse, well managed, tasteful, and tranquil. The Lineaus House on a rainy Spring day (camelias blooming, mid-week, hardly any foot traffic) is unbeatable.
I was surprised to not see the Atlanta or Minnesota gardens on the list either. I wonder what the criteria was and who compiled the list.

Jennifer in Florida says on February 27th, 2010 at 2:48 pm:

I was disappointed to not find: Longwood Gardens (in PA) and Chanicleer Gardens (also in PA) not on the list. Also with Victoria, BC so close to the US its hard to think there’s not even a mention of this area either.

Think you needed to do a bit more research on this.

Olivier says on March 26th, 2010 at 4:58 am:

I don’t know how they compiled their list either but based on what they picked and on what the main mission of botanical gardens is, I would say that they picked pretty well. Their main criteria was probably the number of plant taxa, which is really what it’s all about. Chanticleer and Longwoods are not botanical gardens. They are pretty, no doubt, but attach little to no importance to the plant species. If it was possible climatically, the ideal botanical garden would have one representative of every plant species in the world, have a number on the plant to allow tracking and a sign in front of it to tell the visitor what it is.

Vic Carr says on April 22nd, 2010 at 2:55 am:

I just visited the St. Louis Garden after seeing Asheville NC Botanical garden. St. Louis is awesome. I didn’t get to go inside the big green house and I still got more than my $8.00 worth. My wife and I took a total of 1000 photos. Awesome place to visit. So who is really number one?

James Reid says on June 2nd, 2010 at 6:22 pm:

I am English so I’m not biased towards any of the states or cities. I went to the Denver and Chicago gardens on one trip (unfortunately missed the NY one) and I was surprised to see Denver at the top. It was good yes, but it was so small, it was overlooked by lots of blocks of flats and other buildings which I found off putting. I thought the outside was pretty good, where it did pull it out of the bag though was the tropical inside area as it was really big and highly impressive. The cafe area and it even had a giant electronic globe depicting ecological….things. They have clearly made the best of the space they have. It was complete with dart frogs, water features and a rooftop garden. In contrast, the Chicago garden was just alright inside. It had a series of small greenhouses which were still good, but compared to the Denver one I had gone to a few days earlier, it wasn’t anywhere near as impressive. Outside however, Chicago destroys Denver. It’s got nearly 400 acres compared to Denver’s 23. Chicago’s had different islands you could go on with different themes. I spent a few hours at the Denver one and pretty much the whole day at Chicago’s. So both had their great selling points, I couldn’t comment on the others as I haven’t been there but if I had to choose, although Denver’s inside is amazing, I’d say Chicago’s was better. You felt like you were in a different world, whereas I couldn’t ever feel that way at Denver simply because of being overlooked by houses which I didn’t like. Hopefully I’ll get to see some others when I go back.

Katie Parvin says on July 21st, 2010 at 8:21 pm:

I used to live and St. Louis and loved their gardens. I’m in Dallas now and am completely shocked that the Dallas Arboretum isn’t on the list. It’s 66 gorgeous acres of amazing plants.

Karl Gercens says on August 20th, 2010 at 12:49 am:

Maybe the criteria for this list is that the name must have the word “Botanical” in it. Longwood Gardens is a display garden and it blows the socks off the majority of places in this list. Check out my website where I’ve photographed more than 500 gardens around the world including the “Best” in all 50 states. http://www.KarlGercens.com

Kevin M. Ross says on September 6th, 2010 at 9:12 pm:

What is the date of this list? The date of the last
update of this site should be prominently displayed.
As a St Louis native, I think ours should be higher.

Joe says on March 20th, 2011 at 6:07 pm:

I’ve been to quite a few gardens and must agree that Longwood is probably near the top in terms of “experience”. Most people regard it’s green house as one of the best in the world. Just based on that, it deserves mention. I get that a botanical garden focuses on science vs aesthetics but I’m not so sure that’s even relavent to anybody outside of the study of botany. Furthermore, Longwood IS considered a “botanical” garden. It does have a scientific/educational function and boasts something like 11,000 plant species. I believe that is more than most on this list. I think it may also be the largest on this list. Longwood is massive at 1077 acres. I realize it may not be tops as a pure scientific garden, but from the perspective of almost any visitor, does this really matter? These lists are compiled for visitors, not scientists and should be a list of the best overall gardens in the US in terms of experience. Based on that, Longwood is easily in the top 3.

mike says on June 7th, 2012 at 7:22 pm:

Living in Denver and waiting to work at its botanic garden soon, I’m happy to see it made it on the 10 best list. Not sure if as #1, cause Brooklyn’s is also amazing, but not surprised it is thought to be one of the most beautiful and well designed.
Looking forward to visiting many other gardens in the coming years! Enjoy – mike -

Michael J. Matusinec says on June 15th, 2012 at 3:52 am:

Today I visited the Missouri Botantical Garden, they have the
Lateen Festival which is awesome. Plus I love the Day lilies
I only had two hours,you need at least 6 hours or more to cover the gardens.

rosemary says on July 16th, 2012 at 2:21 am:

I have been to the Denver botanical garden, it’s nice, but not better than the St Louis botanical garden.

I can’t say about the other botanical gardens, because I haven’t been to the others.

timothy says on May 16th, 2013 at 1:24 pm:

I went to the one in dc after going to the one in Denver a few times and can say that the Denver botanic gardens is easily superior. I was disappointed by what our tax dollars bought us

woody says on September 2nd, 2013 at 1:07 am:

TripAdvisor rated the Coastal Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine the number 1 Botanical Garden. Miss them?

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