Florida’s mild to tropical climate makes it ideal for
growing a large variety of plants. The huge population explosion in recent Sunshine State history makes the best botanical gardens even more attractive.
Many of them are old and established and some are on the National Register of Historic Places.
They are peaceful oases that provide refuge and quiet in the increasingly urban environment of Florida. Many of them have educational programs that will help you plan your own home garden.
Here are some of our favorites:
Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales
Bonnet House Museum and Gardens, Fort Lauderdale
Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens, Williston
Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Jacksonville
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Coral Gables
Florida Botanical Gardens, Largo
Leu Gardens, Orlando
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota
Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, Delray Beach
Naples Botanical Garden, Naples
Sunken Gardens, St. Petersburg
Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, Palm Coast
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Bok Tower Gardens
1151 Tower Boulevard
Lake Wales, Florida 33853.
Bok Tower Gardens was dedicated on February 1, 1929, by the president of the United States, Calvin Coolidge. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Landmark.
Its most famous landmark is the beautiful tower and its 60-bell carillon that plays periodically and enhances your visit.
Bok Tower Gardens has become a popular site for weddings, in addition to being one of the major Florida tourist attractions.
The architecture of the tower with its carvings and mosaics is worth the visit alone and would make this one of the most popular Florida tourist attractions even without the beautiful gardens.
Bonnet House Museum & Gardens
900 N Birch Rd
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304. Tel: 954-563-5393
A visit to this estate is a unique experience. Bonnet House is a 35-acre estate on the heavily developed Fort Lauderdale Beach oceanfront. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The main house is full of furniture and art from the personal collections of the families who lived on this 35-acre estate over the years. The grounds include one of the few remaining native barrier island habitats in South Florida.
5 different ecosystems can be found on the property, and complementing the natural flora is a desert garden composed of arid plants, a hibiscus garden, and a main courtyard planted with tropical vegetation.
There are many orchids in this garden. Various blooming specimens are rotated throughout the Orchid Display House.
Bonnet house is a haven for migratory birds, and occasionally even manatees will come into the estate’s Boathouse Canal.
Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens
4990 NE 180th Avenue
Williston, FL 32696. Tel: 352-529-0055
This attraction began as a 110 year old abandoned limestone quarry. It is still somewhat of a secret garden since it started out as a private hobby venture.
Over a 27 year period, Dr. Raymond Webber and staff transformed what was almost a swamp into a series of different islands with pools, waterfalls, gazebos, pavilions and bridges.
He also took up gardening as his hobby and created one of the most unusual botanical gardens in Florida. Dr. Webber donated the entire 20 acre botanical garden and 64 acre surrounding woodlands to Conservation Florida in order to protect them in the future.
Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
829 Riverside Avenue
Jacksonville, FL 32204. Tel: 904-356-6857
These gardens were bequeathed to the museum by Nina Cummer. They were designed by several famous landscape architects including the Olmstead Brothers.
The gardens are more than 100 years old and are located on the shore of the St. Johns River. The gardens include many rare species of plants and are sheltered by a canopy of ancient live oak trees.
The formal garden has fountains, arbors, reflecting pools and many sculptures arranged around the garden grounds.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
10901 Old Cutler Road
Coral Gables, Florida 33156. Tel: 305-667-1651
This 83-acre garden is considered to be one of the world’s best tropical gardens. It has extensive collections of rare tropical plants and has the largest collection of palms in the United States.
You will become immersed in tropical beauty as you walk along the many paths and enjoy the displays.
It is much more than a tourist attraction. It is one of the leading conservation and educational facilities in the world.
Fairchild is heavily supported by the community with over 45,000 members and 1,200 volunteers who work in the gardens.
Among many things you will see are orchids. Fairchild is the home of the American Orchid Society.
1920 N Forest Avenue
Orlando, FL 32803. Tel: 407-246-2620
Harry P. Leu Gardens is north of downtown Orlando on 50 acres of some of the most beautiful botanical gardens in Florida.
It has been a popular attraction since 1961 and was the home of the Leu family. They donated it to the City and the gardens have been expanded since then.
The property is divided into more than a dozen specialty gardens connected by sidewalks, so you can enjoy self-guided tours.
The variety of plants is amazing and includes bananas, bromeliads, birds of paradise, cactus, bamboo, herbs, citrus and vegetables.
They have a particular focus on Florida native plants. No irrigation is used; all plants are sustained by natural rainfall.
Some of their vegetable harvest goes to local food banks, and some is used in cooking classes that are held on the property in the Garden House.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
900 S Palm Avenue
Sarasota, FL 34236. Tel: 941-366-5731
This small botanical garden is only 15 acres, with 9 acres of display gardens. It is unique, however, as the only botanical garden in the entire world that is dedicated to epiphytes.
That’s the name for any plant that grows on the surface of another plant.
At Marie Selby the focus is on orchids and bromeliads.
The gardens feature more than 20,000 living plants including 5,500 orchids, 3,500 bromeliads, and 1,600 other plants.
There are also banyans, bamboo, live oaks, palms, mangoes, succulents, wildflowers, cycads, a butterfly garden and a scent garden.
There is also an interactive children’s rainforest garden.
The gardens are located on the former estate of Marie and William Selby of the Texaco Oil Company.
Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens
4000 Morikami Park Road
Delray Beach, Florida 33446. Tel: 561-495-0233
Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens has Japanese cultural exhibits that educate and inspire visitors.
The history of this attraction has its roots in Yamato Colony, a small community of Japanese pioneers in 1904 near Boca Raton and Delray Beach.
The museum building is modeled after a Japanese villa and has exhibition rooms surrounding an open courtyard with a dry garden of gravel, pebbles, and small boulders.
The building also has a 225-seat theater and an authentic tea house and a café. The 16-acre grounds around the museum include Japanese gardens with walking paths, rest areas, and a large bonsai collection.
The entire park contains 200 acres and has nature trails, pine forests, and picnic areas. It is a great place to learn about Japanese culture and bonsai plants.
Naples Botanical Garden
4820 Bayshore Drive
Naples, FL 34112. Tel: 239-643-7275
This unique garden calls itself the “Gardens with Latitude”. That’s because they focus on collections and habitats of plants that primarily exist between 26 latitude North and 26 latitude South.
The garden features plants from all over the world that grow within this zone. The exhibits are arranged in several different gardens that include Asian Garden, Brazilian Garden, Caribbean Garden, Children’s Garden, Florida Garden, and Water Garden.
The Chabraja Visitor Center contains Kathryn’s Garden, Irma’s Garden (chosen for captivating colors), and LaGrippe Orchid Garden.
There is also a 90-acre nature preserve with several native Florida habitats where you can see eagles, otters, tree frogs, and gopher tortoises in their natural setting.
1825 4th Street N
St. Petersburg, FL 33704. Tel: 727-551-3102
Sunken Gardens is a century old botanical garden in the middle of busy urban St. Petersburg.
You will enjoy winding paths surrounded by exotic plants from all regions of the world. You can also sign up for garden tours, horticultural programs, special events and field trips.
Your tour will take you past cascading waterfalls, demonstration gardens, and more than 50,000 tropical plants and flowers.
Some recent special events included Frogs and Toads, Colorful Caladiums, and Easy-Care Natives and Wildflowers.
When you check into the gardens you will be provided a map that gives you details on the various plants. Parking is free.
Florida Botanical Gardens
12520 Ulmerton Rd
Largo, FL 33774. Tel: 727-582-2100
This garden has 100 acres of diverse natural resources including many types of flora and fauna. The surroundings have been created to showcase environmentally sound gardening techniques.
These demonstration gardens include the Butterfly, Cactus/Succulent, Cottage, Herb, Majeed Discovery, McKay Creek Plaza, Native Plant, Palm, Rose, Topiary, Tropical Courtyard, and more.
There is also a vinery that showcased various temperate and tropical vines, and a boardwalk through protected wetlands. This botanical garden has become a popular wedding destination.
Washington Oaks Gardens State Park
6400 North Oceanshore Blvd
Palm Coast, FL 32137
This unique state park is on State Road A1A in the historic hammock area on the barrier island near the modern city of Palm Coast.
The park has thankfully preserved 425 acres of great coastal scenery and natural areas.
The main feature of the park is its coastal scrub community that displays ancient live oaks, magnolia and hickory trees. Located along the Matanzas River on its west side, the park has wonderful views of the tidal marshes.
Within the hammock, 20 acres of formal gardens give you a wonderful place to gaze or relax.
OTHER GARDENS AND NATURAL AREAS TO VISIT
Alfred B. MaClay Gardens, Tallahassee
Flamingo Gardens, Davie
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, Gainesville
McKee Botanical Garden, Vero Beach
Mead Botanical Garden, Winter Park
Mounts Botanical Garden, West Palm Beach
Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens, Port St. Lucie
Vizcaya Museum Gardens, Coconut Grove (Miami)