With its warm climate and generous sunshine, Florida is primed for botanical beauty. From coastal habitats to rolling inland countryside, these gardens let you escape the crowds and reconnect with nature. Even better, many include a little something extra, whether it's art, architecture or a flock of flamingos.
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1. Vizcaya Museum & Gardens (Miami)
Built by one of early 20th-century America's richest men, Vizcaya is nothing if not extravagant. The grounds evoke a Mediterranean villa, with parterres, fountains, shell-lined grottos and sculptures, the latter of porous coral for that authentic, weathered look.
The mansion faces the bay (wealthy guests would arrive by boat), where a stone barge decked with obelisks and mermaids serves as an elaborate breakwater. Don't skip the house. Besides the palatial rooms, there's a glass-domed courtyard enclosed by loggias and overflowing with greenery.
Cost: $18 for adults (buy tickets online before you go)
Address/phone: 3251 South Miami Avenue; 305-250-9133
Hours: 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. ( 5 p.m. for the house), Thursday–Monday
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2. Flamingo Gardens (Davie)
It can be hard to give proper attention to the scenery at Flamingo Gardens with the free-roaming peacocks doing their best to upstage the flora. But the setting — a preserved oak hammock where trees drip Spanish moss and orchids — is a slice of pure Old Florida that's home to botanical gardens and Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary. The arboretum boasts 15 champion trees (the largest of their species) and specialized gardens for crotons, bromeliads, hummingbirds and butterflies.
A free tram tour takes you into the farther reaches of the 60-acre sanctuary, among the wetlands and tropical fruit trees. There are also exhibits with native animal, including alligators, otters, a free-flight aviary and, of course, flamingos.
Address/phone: 3750 South Flamingo Road; 954-473-2955
Hours: 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. daily
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3. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (Miami)
Lakes and lush flora cover the 83 acres of this South Florida garden famous for its biodiversity. Discover unique ecosystems, including the rainforest and the spiny thickets of Madagascar. Admire exotic flowers alongside Chihuly sculptures in the conservatories.
Before you visit, be sure to check the calendar. The garden hosts events throughout the year, from exhibits, like the life-size dinosaurs in the Jurassic Garden, to the annual International Mango Festival in July, when you can taste the garden's favorite fruit in recipes curated by local chefs. Summer is also when the world's largest water lilies bloom.
Cost: $24.95 for adults 64 and under; $17.95 for adults 65 and up
Address/phone: 10901 Old Cutler Road; 305-667-1651
Hours: 10 a.m.–4 p.m. daily
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4. The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory (Key West)
For most visitors, the appeal of this popular Key West attraction isn't the showy blossoms but the hundreds of butterflies that flit erratically throughout the conservatory. Yet the insects’ tropical buffet is equally enchanting. West Indian jasmine, yellow elder, lantanas and more complement the vivid green foliage. Flowers are everywhere, hanging in pots, from trees and on the walls. Waterfalls, butterfly-shaped benches and over 20 species of birds, including two flamingos named Rhett and Scarlett, complete the scene.
Cost: $15 for adults 64 and under; $12 for adults 65 and up
Address/phone: 1316 Duval Street; 305-296-2988
Hours: 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily
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5. Society of the Four Arts (Palm Beach)
The four arts of this Palm Beach society are music, art, drama and literature, but horticulture gets its due in the brilliant gardens covering the 10-acre campus.
Explore the Sculpture Garden and its 20 artworks before venturing into the nine intimate garden rooms. They were designed in 1938 to inspire gardeners, though anyone can appreciate the romance of wrought-iron gates, a fern-covered wishing well or purple queen's wreath drooping over a Spanish doorway. Bring your camera.
Address/phone: 100 Four Arts Plaza; 561-655-7226
Hours: 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily
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6. Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens (Delray Beach)
Less floral, more stone and water, the Morikami gardens are an unexpected find in Delray Beach. Designed for tranquility, they showcase the diversity of Japanese gardens across 10 centuries.
Begin at the Wisdom Ring, a giant stone lantern, and cross the bridges to the islands as you slowly loop your way around the lake. Your journey takes you past bonsai, bamboo, a pagoda, several Buddhist statues and a Zen garden, where raked gravel and rocks reveal delicate patterns.
Cost: $15 for adults 64 and under; $12 for adults 65 and up
Address/phone: 4000 Morikami Park Road; 561-495-0233
Hours: 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Tuesday–Sunday
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7. Naples Botanical Garden (Naples)
Sprawling across 170 acres, the Naples Botanical Garden grows plants from around the world in creatively themed sections. It's hard to decide which is the prettiest.
The central lily-strewn Water Garden evokes a Monet painting. The Lea Asian Garden has temple ruins, groves of lychee and starfruit, and a Thai pavilion overlooking a lotus pond. In the Brazilian Garden, a multicolored mosaic crowns a waterfall framed by orange bromeliads. But the orchids, delicate and fragrant year-round, steal the show.
Address/phone: 4820 Bayshore Drive; 239-643-7275
Hours: 9 a.m.–2 p.m. daily (June–September); 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily (October–May)
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8. Edison and Ford Winter Estates (Fort Myers)
The grounds of the neighboring winter retreats of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford are steeped in history. Visitors can enjoy not only 19th-century buildings, like Edison's botanic laboratory, but also hundreds of flowers, shrubs and trees, many originally planted by the two inventors.
Highlights include the formal Moonlight Garden, a 1920s swimming pool fringed by banana plants, and a massive maze of a banyan tree at the entrance. During the holidays, go after sunset, to see the gardens sparkle with thousands of lights.
Cost: $25 for a self-guided adult tour ($20 for Holiday Nights self-guided tours)
Address/phone: 2350 McGregor Boulevard; 239-334-7419
Hours: 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. daily
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9. Sunken Gardens (St. Petersburg)
Unlike the estates built by the rich and famous, Sunken Gardens was dreamed up in the early 1900s by a plumber with a green thumb. On the rich soil of a former lake, he added dense tropical plantings, several birds, a souvenir shop and more, eventually charging people for entrance.
The kitsch is mostly gone, but the magic of feeling like you've found a secret oasis remains. The collection, now owned by the city of St. Petersburg, has grown to more than 50,000 plants in a kaleidoscope of colors. Winding paths curve past coconut palms, bougainvillea, parrots and a pond with flamingos.
Cost: $12 for adults 61 and under; $10 for adults 62 and up
Address/phone: 1825 4th Street North; 727-551-3102
Hours: 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Monday–Saturday; 12–4:30 p.m. Sunday
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10. Bok Tower Gardens (Lake Wales)
Built on one of the highest points in Florida, Bok Tower Gardens’ most famous feature is a 60-bell carillon with intricate carvings of herons, cranes, jellyfish and other Florida wildlife. The neo-Gothic tower reflects perfectly in the pool below — the classic photo — and overlooks gardens designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.
Spring is the gardens’ best season, beginning with camellias in January and culminating in late March and April with thousands of azaleas. Other must-sees include a whimsical children's garden and the Mediterranean-style Pinewood Estate, with its grotto, moon gate fountain and expansive views.
Cost: $15 for adults
Address/phone: 1151 Tower Boulevard; 863-676-1408
Hours: 8 a.m.–6 p.m. daily
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11. Hollis Garden (Lakeland)
Just a few steps from downtown Lakeland, Hollis Garden looks more like the backyard of a European castle than a free city park. Neoclassical architecture pairs nicely with the flower beds and boxwoods. Urns, fountains and statuary add the right touch of stateliness. Baroque music plays in the background from hidden speakers.
The garden makes the most of its 1.2 acres, descending in terraces toward Lake Mirror so that nearly every vantage point comes with sweeping vistas. Some 20,000 flowers are changed out seasonally, meaning you're guaranteed a color show whenever you go.
Address/phone: 614 East Orange Street; 863-834-2280
Hours: 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Tuesday–Sunday (April–August), 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Sunday–Thursday, and 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Friday–Saturday (September–March)
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12. Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens (Jacksonville)
Facing the St. Johns River, the Cummer Museum opens onto graceful formal gardens. To the south is the English Garden, where wisteria drapes a curving pergola and parallel brick walkways border annual flower beds. To the north, the Olmsted Garden features a rubble wall and staircase facing broad, floral lawns. The Italian Garden, meanwhile, celebrates water — in its triple-tiered fountain, reflecting pools and even the arched gloriette, creating green windows to the river.
The best time to visit is early March, when the azaleas, camellias, delphinium, wisteria and foxglove bloom in concert.
Cost: $10 for adults
Address/phone: 829 Riverside Avenue; 904-356-6857
Hours: 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Tuesday and Friday; 11 a.m.–4 p.m., Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday
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