The first 15 years saw the construction of its primary buildings and landscape features, including the Montgomery Palmetum, Bailey Palm Glade, Allee and Overlook, Vine Pergola, Amphitheatre, Gate House, Montgomery Library and Museum, 11 lakes, stone terracing walls, irrigation systems, Moos Sunken Garden, and Nell Montgomery Garden House auditorium. Later buildings included the Davis House (1953), Hawkes Laboratory (1960), Robbins Plant Science Building (1967), Rare Plant House (1968), Corbin Education Building (1972), and various additions over the years. A comprehensive master plan developed in 1993 provides a framework for continued growth and development. The Rare Plant House, now called Windows to the Tropics Conservatory, was totally renovated in 1995, as was the Gate House, a locally-designated historic landmark.
Assembling and maintaining an outstanding botanical collection has been a fundamental part of the institution's existence since 1938. Indeed, even before Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden was created, Robert Montgomery and David Fairchild dedicated themselves to collecting, documenting and studying tropical and subtropical plants from around the world, especially the palms and cycads which are still the most significant Fairchild collections. Other major contributors to the Fairchild collections include Elmer D. Merrill, Liberty Hyde Bailey, Harold Moore, Jr., John Dransfield, Alwyn Gentry, Richard Howard, Stanley Kiem, and John Popenoe, director from 1963 to 1989. In 1984, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden became a member of the Center for Plant Conservation, a consortium of botanic gardens involved in preservation of endangered U.S. flora. Since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Fairchild plant collecting efforts have intensified dramatically, as scientists seek not only to restore the FTBG collections, but also to identify and save endangered plants throughout the tropics.