The gardens were founded in 1787 by Colonel Robert Kyd, an army officer of the British East India Company, primarily for the purpose of identifying new plants of commercial value, such as teak, and growing spices for trade. Joseph Dalton Hooker says of this Botanical Garden that “Amongst its greatest triumphs may be considered the introduction of the tea-plant from China … the establishment of the tea-trade in the Himalaya and Assam is almost entirely the work of the superintendents of the gardens of Calcutta and Seharunpore (Saharanpur).”
A major change in policy, however, was introduced by the botanist William Roxburgh after he became superintendent of the garden in 1793. Roxburgh brought in plants from all over India and developed an extensive herbarium. This collection of dried plant specimens eventually became the Central National Herbarium of the Botanical Survey of India, which comprises 2,500,000 items. During the early years of the garden Joseph Dalton Hooker writes:… contributed more useful and ornamental tropical plants to the public and private gardens of the world than any other establishment before or since. … I here allude to the great Indian herbarium, chiefly formed by the staff of the Botanic Gardens under the direction of Dr. Wallich, and distributed in 1829 to the principal museums of Europe.
Over the years attractive display gardens for the public have been developed and many kinds of plants have been cultivated for scientific observation. During the 1970s the garden initiated a program to introduce improved food plants and other varieties of economic benefit to the people of India.
The Garden was designated the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden on June 25, 2009 in honor of Jagadish Chandra Bose, the Bengali polymath, and natural scientist.
This garden is a No Plastic Zone.