In the 1800s and early 1900s, all self-respecting manor house owners had their own arboretums. Niskala arboretum was the show park for Jakob Kavaleff, who was particularly fond of conifers and their special shapes. He imported seeds and saplings from abroad and experimented with them in his nursery and arboretum. The first trees were planted in 1905. Ownership of the arboretum transferred to the City of Helsinki in 1961.
During the last ten years the arboretum has been renewed by planting new species. There are now over 750 different plant species from different parts of the world. New trails and signs help visitors to get acquainted with the area.