The following is a list of criteria that may be met in part or whole by any institution that is considered to be a botanic garden.
- A reasonable degree of permanence.
- An underlying scientific basis for the collections.
- Proper documentation of the collections, including wild origin.
- Monitoring of the plants in the collections.
- Adequate labelling of the plants.
- Open to the public.
- Communication of information to other gardens, institutions and the public.
- Exchange of seed or other materials with other botanic gardens, arboreta or research institutions.
- Undertaking of scientific or technical research on plants in the collections.
- Maintenance of research programs in plant taxonomy in associated herbaria.
The above list does not, however constitute a comprehensive summary of the activities undetaken by botanic gardens.
BGCI has considered what makes a botanic garden different from a public park or pleasure gardens.
In the international Agenda for Botanic Gardens in Conservation the definition is as follows:
Botanic gardens are institutions holding documented collections of living plants
for the purposes of scientific research, conservation, display and education.