The 15 Most Beautiful Botanical Gardens In The South

<p><a href="">Jumping Rocks</a>/Getty Images</p>

Jumping Rocks/Getty Images

No matter the season, the South's botanical gardens beckon with fresh air, blooming plants, and room to roam. Their pathways wind past sights and sounds that, depending on the day, might offer tranquility, spark curiosity, or inspire you to get into your backyard and plant something new. On your next road trip, seek out a botanical garden to visit, and you'll be rewarded with the wonders of nature. These places showcase some of the region's most beloved native plants as well as impressive plantings of Southern-favorite flowers like roses and camellias. There's bound to be a garden on this list close enough for a visit, whether that's the South Carolina Botanical Garden in Clemson, South Carolina, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden in Fort Worth, Texas, or the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Florida. Visit a few of the South’s most beloved botanical gardens this year, and you're sure to find memorable moments down the pathways, beneath the trees, and among the growing things.

How We Picked This List

These botanical gardens were picked by the editors of Southern Living who report, research, and visit gardens across the South throughout the year.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

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Coral Gables, Florida

There’s never a dull moment in this sunny slice of Florida paradise. Throughout the year, Miami-area nature lovers flock to the 83-acre Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden to experience the glories of plants that love warm weather and humidity, such as succulents, cycads, ferns, and palms. There are many can’t-miss spots here, including the leafy allée and overlook, which offer panoramic views of the watery lowlands; aquatic exhibits set in shimmering lakes and pools; and the light-filled Clinton Family Conservatory, which holds dozens of fluttering butterflies. You’ll also discover a sunken garden, a rain forest, and a rare plant house, plus the Keys Coastal Habitat, which has mangroves, ironwoods, and sea grapes as well as populations of migratory birds that visit during their yearly flights. The Montgomery Palmetum, another fascinating feature, covers 13 acres and is home to hundreds of palm species.; 10901 Old Cutler Road Miami, Florida 33156

Sarah P. Duke Gardens

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Durham, North Carolina

This wooded wonderland got its start in the 1930s when Dr. Frederic M. Hanes, a horticulture buff and Duke Medical School faculty member, engaged the help and monetary support of his friend Sarah P. Duke. In addition to her name, she lent momentum to Hanes’ efforts, and in the years since, the park, which is located on the lush, tree-canopied Duke University campus, has become one of the most beloved green spaces in Durham. When you visit, you can enjoy 5 miles of walking paths; the Historic Gardens, which are home to seasonal delights like irises, roses, and camellias; the H.L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, in which grows hundreds of regional species as well as a carnivorous plant collection; and the Doris Duke Center Gardens, where you will find the water-lily-filled Virtue Peace Pond. Before you go, check the website to find out what plants are in bloom and which areas are currently in season.; 420 Anderson St Durham, NC 27708

Birmingham Botanical Gardens

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Buyenlarge/Getty Images

Birmingham, Alabama

The lush oasis of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens beckons guests with free admission and a big calendar of events that includes biannual plant sales as well as shows highlighting flowers such as orchids, roses, and violets. A visit here provides access to the 65-plus-acre grounds and its many scenic spaces. They encompass the Dunn Formal Rose Garden and the Ireland Old-Fashioned Rose Garden plus the Jemison Daylily, Bog, Japanese, and Kaul Wildflower gardens. In the main building, you can linger in the library (a space that is stewarded by the Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens and serves as a resource for all manner of horticultural reference information) or browse at an outpost of the popular local shop Leaf & Petal (which purveys plants, pots, and other gifts).; 2612 Lane Park Road Birmingham, AL 35223

South Carolina Botanical Garden

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Jumping Rocks/Getty Images

Clemson, South Carolina

A favorite botanical escape in the Palmetto State is a tree-shaded oasis that stretches across 295 acres. There are a variety of customizable tour options here, from a basic overview to an in-depth program covering the Natural Heritage Garden, which unearths the area’s long ecological and social legacies. It’s dog friendly too. Pups are invited to enjoy the property as long as they’re leashed and stay on the walkways; the only section they are not allowed to enter is the Natural Heritage Garden Trail. Don’t miss the Bob Campbell Geology Museum to learn about the area’s mineral makeup and the Fran Hanson Visitor’s Center & Art Gallery for exhibits. The visitors’ center is located in a structure that was built during the 1990s as the first Southern Living Idea House (Wren House, SL-252).;  150 Discovery Lane Clemson, SC 29634

Atlanta Botanical Garden

<p><a href="" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="1">Michael Warren</a>/Getty Images</p>

Michael Warren/Getty Images

Atlanta, Georgia

When you think of bustling Midtown Atlanta, you might picture skyscrapers rather than flowers, but those who have visited the Atlanta Botanical Garden know that there are plenty of natural wonders to find here too. Founded in 1976, it spreads over 30 acres adjacent to the grassy sprawl of Piedmont Park, and its footprint includes the Lou Glenn Children’s Garden, Storza Woods and Kendeda Canopy Walk, and Skyline Garden as well as a plethora of art. There’s also a huge display of breathtaking pieces by glass artist Dale Chihuly, a grouping that has the distinction of being the largest permanent exhibition of Chihuly works displayed in a botanical garden. As you explore, don’t miss the Fuqua Orchid Center, where you can see one of the most diverse collections of these plants in the world (it contains over 2,000 species of the delicate blooms).; 1345 Piedmont Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30309

Garvan Woodland Gardens

<p>Robbie Caponetto</p> Anthony Chapel at Garvan Woodland Gardens

Robbie Caponetto

Anthony Chapel at Garvan Woodland Gardens

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Wind along the paths threading through Garvan Woodland Gardens, and you will be surrounded by forests so serene that the idea of getting lost will seem like a delight. Throughout the grounds, you will encounter statues rising from the earth—or from the water—and pieces of art nestled among the trees. Owned by the University of Arkansas and located on a peninsula almost entirely surrounded by the Ouachita River and Lake Hamilton, the gardens have more than 4 miles of shoreline. Anthony Chapel is also among the trees here; it is an architectural marvel that lifts its walls of glass and timber into the forest canopy. It provides both a quiet place for reflection and a beautiful venue for weddings.; 550 Arkridge Rd, Hot Springs, AR 71913

Norfolk Botanical Garden

<p>Courtesy of Norfolk Botanical Garden</p>

Courtesy of Norfolk Botanical Garden

Norfolk, Virginia

You would expect the largest botanical garden in the state to be a blooming wonderland in the spring, and this place fits the bill. From Mirror Lake (which is surrounded by vibrant azaleas planted by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s) to the Enchanted Forest (a woodland escape with shaded trails and bountiful opportunities for bird-watching), there are no shortages of magical corners to explore. The Flowering Arboretum, Four Seasons Garden and Wildflower Meadow, Rhododendron Glade, and Virginia Native Plant Garden are some of the most popular springtime spaces, though you can always check the website to see which nooks to visit during the year. In March, glimpse camellias, Yoshino flowering cherries, and saucer and star magnolias. In fall, see the ginkgoes and trifoliate oranges (which produce bright fruits resembling golf balls along their slender, thorny branches).; 6700 Azalea Garden Rd, Norfolk, VA 23518

Cheekwood Estate and Gardens

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Nashville, Tennessee

A historic property with both gardens and an arboretum, Cheekwood has long been the place where Nashville residents go to unwind. Spanning 55 richly landscaped acres, the centerpiece of this West Nashville destination is a 1929 structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This estate was built in the American Country Place Era style, a movement that had its heyday in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is distinguished by European influences in architecture and landscape design. The building now houses a museum displaying permanent and traveling exhibitions that include paintings and sculptures as well as decorative arts. The grounds teem with spring blooms (250,000 bulbs are planted here) and the many maples and oaks shed their vibrant foliage every autumn. During the summer months, the wisteria arbor unfurls its fragrant purple blossoms. The Martin Boxwood Gardens date to the late 1920s and feature the namesake shrubs in terraced layouts as well as a reflecting pool and burbling fountains. With the help of a calendar of fun-filled festivals, holiday celebrations, and light shows, Cheekwood hosts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, and its popularity only continues to grow.; 1200 Forrest Park Dr, Nashville, TN 37205

United States Botanic Garden

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Washington, D.C.

Amid the carved marble of the capital city’s most famous monuments lies the leafy expanse known as the United States Botanic Garden (USBG). With a goal to “inspire people to appreciate, study, and conserve plants to enrich society locally and globally,” the property is not only a retreat but also a mission-focused organization. Through urban-agriculture programs, USBG partners with local communities to combat food insecurity and to expand educational resources across the country. Stroll through the conservatory (which features sections on medicinal, primeval, and desert plants), and afterwards, venture outdoors. Don’t miss the eco-friendly Bartholdi Fountain or the commemorative First Ladies Water Garden for peaceful scenes.; 100 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, DC 20001

Ladew Topiary Gardens

<p>Helen Norman/Southern Living</p>

Helen Norman/Southern Living

Monkton, Maryland

Shrubbery is anything but ordinary at Ladew Topiary Gardens, which is named (and known for) shaped hedges that take on many delightful forms across the 22-acre grounds. Ladew features more than 100 of the carefully clipped topiaries—the vision of developer Harvey S. Ladew—and each offers a whimsical photo opportunity. You’ll want to meander through the different gardens, some of which are organized by flower type (like roses or irises), a single color (pink or yellow), or a theme (Victorian or woodland). Or head out on the Nature Walk, a mile-long trail through the property. The property’s on-site butterfly house teems with delicate wings, which you can glimpse on the short guided tours that area offered with admission. Located around 25 miles from Baltimore, Ladew is open seasonally, so be sure to check the website for hours and ticketing information.; 3535 Jarrettsville Pike Monkton, Maryland 21111

Fort Worth Botanic Garden

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hartcreations/Getty Images

Fort Worth, Texas

Not far from downtown Fort Worth, this attraction anchors the city’s Cultural District, which is also home to the Will Rogers Memorial Center. A favorite feature here is the 7.5-acre Japanese Garden, where visitors can find an intricate lace of walking paths beneath cherry and magnolia trees. There are also ponds filled with the sparkling scales of koi circling just beneath the surface of the waters. In fall, Japanese maples canopy the walks with swaths of tangerine-hued leaves. Also in the facility’s 120-acre footprint is the Botanical Research Institute of Texas.; 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd, Fort Worth, TX 76107

Jungle Gardens

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Diane D Miller/Getty Images

Avery Island, Louisiana

One of the state’s most legendary and off-the-beaten-path destinations is the Jungle Gardens of Avery Island, which has been open to the public since 1935. Its connection to the McIlhenny Company (which created and still produces bottles of the famed Tabasco hot sauce) runs deep. The gardens were established by Edward Avery “Ned” McIlhenny, former company president and the son of the inventor of the sauce. McIlhenny cultivated the land for conservation and research, eventually expanding it to more than 170 acres. Located around a 45-minute drive south of Lafayette along Bayou Petite Anse, Jungle Gardens is an ideal spot for glimpsing wildlife. In fact, there are so many avian creatures here that one exhibit has been named Bird City and serves as a refuge and sanctuary. To see the beauty of Avery Island for yourself, you can traverse the grounds via automobile on a self-guided jaunt—just be sure to get the most out of your ticket and save time for a tour of the nearby Tabasco factory.; Louisiana 329 &, Main Rd, Avery Island, LA 70513

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

<p>Courtesy of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens</p>

Courtesy of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Sarasota, Florida

Two campuses—one downtown and the other in Historic Spanish Point—offer many opportunities to see the wonders of coastal Florida. Both locations front sparkling Sarasota Bay and contain a wide array of plants totaling around 5,000 species. Marie Selby maintains a remarkable assortment of neotropical plants in the Herbarium with a particular focus on epiphytes (species such as ferns and air plants that grow on other organisms). It showcases these live specimens (which include many thousands of orchids and bromeliads), while the Spirit Collection acts as a library of preserved ones.; 1534 Mound St, Sarasota, FL 34236

Missouri Botanical Garden

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ksteffens/Getty Images

St. Louis, Mississippi

What better place to see a natural showcase than the Show-Me State? The most popular attraction at the Missouri Botanical Garden is the Climatron. The geodesic dome was fashioned into a conservatory, and today, it is filled with thousands of fascinating plants, including 1,400 tropical species. Despite how futuristic it sounds, the feature opened to the public in 1960, and you can still view all of its blooming inhabitants from vantage points scattered throughout the dome. Beyond the Climatron are other must-see areas such as the Jenkins Daylily Garden, Samuel and Heckmann Bulb Gardens, Cherbonnier English Woodland Garden, Lehmann Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, and Goodman Iris Garden. Each invites guests to linger awhile among the verdant fronds and frills of the resident plants and trees. Visit the Linnean House, which is said to be the “oldest continuously operated public greenhouse west of the Mississippi River” and is named for Carl Linnaeus, who developed the taxonomic systems we still rely on to classify organisms today. Many people choose to wander through the 79 acres on foot, but if you prefer, you can also take in the scenery by embarking on a tram tour, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.; 4344 Shaw Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63110

The Crosby Arboretum

<p>MSU Extension Service/Kevin Hudson/Getty Images</p>

MSU Extension Service/Kevin Hudson/Getty Images

Picayune, Mississippi

Environmental education is at the heart of The Crosby Arboretum’s mission. With a focus on preserving the native plants of the Pearl River drainage basin, the facility invites visitors and researchers to experience the rich biodiversity displayed on its broad campus. The arboretum’s interpretive site spans more than 100 acres and
features savanna, woodland, and aquatic exhibits. Explorers will find over 300 species, including native trees and wildflowers, within the bounds of the property. In addition to public access, the preserve allows these plants and animals to be observed and studied in situ over time, which can offer insights into important (and sometimes subtle) changes happening in the region’s complex ecosystems.; 370 Ridge Rd., Picayune, MS 39466

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