During the 19th and 20th centuries, Belgian horticulture was world-famous, especially for its camellias, orchids, bromeliads, begonias, and azaleas among others. However, many of these old varieties have disappeared from modern cultivation because they no longer meet requirements or have fallen out of fashion.
Although the focus of botanical gardens is on the conservation of wild plant species, Meise Botanic Garden also preserves a number of heritage collections of old Belgian cultivated varieties. Besides their heritage value, these also form an important gene pool for future horticulture.
Examples of the rich and colourful collections are Begonia rex (20 cultivated varieties), Codiaeum (60), Ficus (30), and Pelargonium (45). More recently, a number of collections of pot azaleas (Rhododendron simsii) (45 cultivated varieties) and Fuchsia (180) were added. These last two groups can be viewed in and around the Plant Palace.