With Sims Bayou running through and around the northern edge of the site — creating two distinct spaces, the Island and the South Gardens, connected by a bayou bridge — the Houston Botanic Garden features 132 acres of horticultural displays, natural ecosystems, and walking trails.
Park Place Entry
The Entry Garden—with seasonal color and a mix of textures provided by a variety of species—gives passersby a glimpse of what they will find beyond the Garden's gate.
Botanic Lane—our entry drive lined with live oaks—helps visitors transition from the hustle and bustle of the city to the serenity and calm of the Garden.
In the Picnic Grove, which is accessible with or without an admission ticket to the Garden, a selection of oaks provide a shady, grassy place for all to gather.
The Pine Grove greets visitors as they pass through the entry gate and provides a shady space for gathering and relaxation.
The Welcome Fountain—with aquatic plants around the base of and tucked within the natural cavities of exquisite coralstone blocks from a quarry in the Dominican Republic—greets visitors with the calming sound of soft falling water.
Global Collection Garden
The Global Collection Garden—with three acres of themed tropical, subtropical, and arid zones—demonstrates a wide variety of diverse and beautiful plants from around the world that flourish in Houston’s climate.
For many, the tropics have a romantic allure and often bring to mind the exotic. No wonder tropical locations are popular vacation and honeymoon destinations. The Tropical Heart – with plants displaying some of nature’s most captivating shapes and vibrant colors, including diverse varieties of Colocasia (elephant ears) and a Hymenocallis (spider lily) collection – serves as the geographical center, as well as the lowest point, of the Global Collection Garden. The adjacent Rainforest, with its misty trail and a number of Musa (banana) and Phoenix (date palm) overhead, provides visitors with a lush and beautiful escape from the ordinary.
Subtropical sections of the Global Collection Garden present important plants from temperate regions of practically every continent. From Mediterranean North Africa, through the monsoonal climates of East Asia, to deciduous forests above the lowlands of North and South America, the subtropical species represented have experienced and adapted to a changing world as some of the most enduring and influential cultures and people groups have flourished alongside them for centuries. Some of the plants, like bamboo and Pinus (pine), have widespread commercial uses; others, such as Camellias and Rhodedendron (azaleas) are prized for their blooms. A wide variety of pollinator-friendly plants throughout the subtropical sections draw non-human visitors to the Global Collection Garden on a regular basis.
Arid portions of the Global Collection Garden create a dramatic contrast to the tropical and shady subtropical sections. Sparsely scattered drifts of grasses and a variety of succulents growing among Arizona onyx boulders that bring to mind the colors of the Grand Canyon dominate under the full sun. Many of these plants commonly found in desert-like locations have unique leaves, stems, and other structures that allow them to thrive on limited sources of water. Although some, such as Agave americana (century plant), take a long time to flower, the variety of sharp, spiky leaves make for a show-stopping environment year-round.
The Culinary Garden features edible and medicinal plants—many of which visitors could grow in their own yards—that have served as a basis for economic and cultural exchange across the history of the world.
Ancient civilizations viewed agriculture not only as a form of nourishment, but also as a context through which they could make economic progress and express their cultural and religious heritage. In the boomerang-shaped area of the Middle East known as the Fertile Crescent, people started clearing and modifying natural vegetation to grow domesticated plants as crops. The Mediterranean Terrace in the Culinary Garden highlights delicacies like Olea europaea (olives), Vitis (grapes), and aromatic herbs that are closely tied to the agriculture legacies of the Mesopotamian, Greek, and Roman cultures that trace their origins back to the “cradle of civilization.”
The agricultural history of the Americas has produced farming techniques and staple crops that reflect the influence of European settlers while honoring the legacy of its indigenous people groups. For instance, companion planting practices – such as the “three sisters,” in which growing Cucurbita pepo (squash), Zea mays (corn), and Phaseolus vulgaris (common bean) together benefits all three in complementary ways – and the use of natural remedies – including chewing the bark of Zanthoxylum clava herculis (toothache tree) to produce a tingling numbness to sooth pain in the mouth – were common among Native Americans spread broadly throughout various climates from north to south.
HEALTH & WELLNESS
The Culinary Garden’s Apothecary Corner highlights some herbal and medicinal species that are believed to boost immunity and possess other healing qualities. Salix (willow), Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower), Sambucus nigra (elderberry), and other natural remedies featured in the space have been popular among those focused on the use of plants to promote health and wellness, even before advances in scientific research helped explain the chemistry behind their effectiveness.
The Woodland Glade—with its magnolia trees and sculpted hedges—offers an intimate-yet-open space visitors can rent to host weddings and other celebrations surrounded by the beauty of nature.
To learn more about our indoor and outdoor spaces available for event rentals – including the Woodland Glade for small weddings and other celebrations – please complete our Venue Rental Inquiry form.
The Stormwater Wetlands is a natural habitat that attracts wildlife while exhibiting how green infrastructure can help with flood control and water purification.
Planted with Purpose
Wetlands are an essential part of ecosystems around the world, providing a natural defense against flooding and necessary habitat for wildlife, while also improving water quality. The water level in the Garden’s Stormwater Wetlands along the Sims Bayou meander rises and falls with rain events. As stormwater filters through the detention basins, the plants and soil —a variety of native wetland plants, grasses, and trees shown to thrive when inundated with water—pull pollutants, bacteria, and metals from the water before it cycles back out. These plants then absorb nitrogen and release oxygen, which is especially important in Houston, where bayous are impaired due to low oxygen levels.
The Coastal Prairie is a sustainable habitat of prairie grasses and other native species that promotes conservation of soil, water, air, and wildlife.
Susan Garver Family Discovery Garden
The Susan Garver Family Discovery Garden presents opportunities for families to engage with nature in hands-on ways, including simple water machines, a boardwalk maze around a lagoon, and plenty of space to roam and explore.
Playing in and manipulating water fosters learning in multiple developmental areas for children of all ages. They can gain understanding of simple math concepts, experience physics, and develop problem-solving skills. In the Water Play area of the Susan Garver Family Discovery Garden – with its pumps, dams, and other simple machines—children can also enhance their language, social, and emotional skills by working together to turn water on, move it from one place to another, and direct its flow.
The young, and the young-at-heart, can discover the marvels of nature in the Susan Garver Family Discovery Garden, where sticks, branches, leaves, and pine cones – known to childhood development practitioners as loose parts – create endless opportunities for hands-on imaginary play and creativity. There is plenty of space beyond the Pinus taeda (loblolly pine) trees above the lagoon where families can expend some extra energy or relax while engaging all of their senses in the natural environment. The boardwalk maze surrounded by Iris hexagona (Louisiana iris) and Taxodium distichum (bald cypress) is ripe for exploration too.
The Community Garden provides bed space, supplies, resources, and classes to allow neighbors to come together to grow organic produce, learn new planting techniques, and deepen their understanding of the nutritional importance of plants.