Rooting for Flowers

The first day of spring is in one week, but the Virginia Zoo’s Horticulture team has been preparing for spring plantings for months! Now that the weather appears to be consistently warming up, it is time to start planting for the new season, and we’re not just talking about growing delicious veggies and greens for the animals. Today is Plant a Flower Day, so let’s plant some flowers!

Located behind-the-scenes is our nursery and our greenhouses. In these climate-controlled buildings, our horticulture staff are able to shield crops from excess cold or heat and unwanted pests, and can grow certain types of plants like fruits, veggies and flowers, year round. With the weather in Virginia being unpredictable this time of year, our staff are able to start growing plants from seeds and cuttings, and will then transfer them to their new homes to grow and bloom around Zoo grounds for guests and animals to enjoy.

For Plant a Flower Day, Horticulturist Kelly picked one of her favorite flowers, calendula (Calendula officinalis), to begin planting. Calendula, commonly called pot marigold, is a bright-yellow to deep-orange flower that can grow annually.

Kelly got to work starting in the greenhouse. Using seeds from previous years’ plantings, Kelly planted the seeds in potting soil, covered them in a layer of soil and watered the area over the seeds. After watering for a few weeks, the seeds sprouted into seedlings, then began growing leaves.

Kelly then transferred the small plants into individual pots, which were then transferred to their new locations around the Zoo where they would eventually bloom. One of those locations included the Animal Wellness Campus Garden. After six weeks of being planted as seeds, the calendula began blooming into flowers!

Calendula flowers are a popular treat for many animals at the Zoo. Below you can see one of the Zoo’s two bison, Oakley, enjoying the calendula among her browse during a special Animeals.