Being established in the early nineteenth century, the National Botanic Gardens are a pioneering botanical institution in Sri Lanka. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya (1821); Botanic Gardens in Hakgala (1861) and Botanic Gardens, Henarathgoda, Gampaha (1876) were established by the British to conduct experiments on exotic economic plants and explore plant wealth in the colony. These institutions are responsible for all major plant introductions for economic and environmental development in this country. Activities that followed resulted in the development of economic and plantation crops, emergence of important state departments such as Department of Agriculture (1912), Forest Department (1887)and institutions for the development of Plantation Crops such and Tea and Rubber.
After the establishment of Department of Agriculture in 1912 the botanic gardens functioned as a division under it and in 2006 the Department of national Botanic Gardens was established.