The most basic level of accreditation requires achievement of the following standards:
- An arboretum plan: documentation of some sort, such as an organizational plan, strategic plan, master plan, or other, that defines the purpose of the arboretum, its audience(s), the types of plants that are to be grown to achieve that purpose and serve those audiences, provisions for the maintenance and care of the plants, and provisions for the continuing operation of the organization through time with a clear succession plan.
- An arboretum organizational group of people or governing board or authority that is dedicated to the arboretum plan and its continuation beyond the efforts of a single individual. Such an organizational group can affirm fulfillment of standards and authorize participation as an accredited arboretum.
- An arboretum collection with a minimum number of 25 kinds (species or varieties) of trees or woody plants that have been planted and are growing in accordance with the arboretum plan. Plants in the arboretum collection must be labeled in some way as to identify them taxonomically, including scientific name and cultivar if applicable, and documented in some way so that information on their acquisition (source or origin, date of acquisition, etc.) is available for access.
- Arboretum staff or volunteers who ensure fulfillment of the arboretum plan and provide for the basic needs of the arboretum collection and functions of the arboretum.
- An arboretum public dimension that includes some level of public access, and at least one public event or educational program each year focused on trees or arboretum purposes (for example, an Arbor Day observance).