The Des Moines Botanical Center opened in 1979, although a city-owned greenhouse occupied the site since 1939. The grounds of the 14-acre (six-hectare) botanical garden contain trails which wind among beds of native and other temperate-climate plants; conifers and deciduous trees; rose gardens; herb gardens; water gardens; and a cascade.
Indoor exhibits include seasonal displays of plants; flowers; a pond stocked with goldfish, catfish, and turtles; and free-flying birds under one of the largest geodesic domes in the nation, at 150 feet (46 meters) in circumference. There are over 15,000 tropical, subtropical, and desert plants on display under the dome.
Its collection of Japanese bonsai trees is one of the ten best in the nation, and its outdoor display of cactus is the largest cactus and succulent garden in the Midwest.