Norfolk Botanical Garden is filled with a wide variety of plants. Permanent plantings throughout the Garden are part of the formal collection, which is cared for and managed by two curators. Annuals and other plantings used for seasonal displays are not considered part of the permanent collection.

The permanent plant collections consist of six primary collections and several other noteworthy collections. Primary collections are a group of plants, usually a genus, that makes up a significant part of the Garden inventory and is considered an important feature of the Garden. The primary collections have been assembled with the purpose of either collecting the largest number of taxa adaptable to the Hampton Roads area or displaying a significant number of representative taxa. Other collections are thematic or taxonimic groups that makes up a small but noteworthy part of the Garden inventory of plants.