The snapdragon flower (Antirrhinum majus) is a standout addition to any flowerbed. A great way to introduce spring color to your garden, this attractive, mid sized plant can add height, texture, fragrance and color to a space.
Old fashioned and attractive, snapdragons are so called because the flower is thought to resemble the jaws of a dragon. If you gently squeeze the sides of the flower the jaws appear to open and close. Antirrhinum Majus, the plant’s botanical name, means like a snout.
Elegant and attractive, antirrhinum is a popular ornamental flower suitable for a range of planting schemes.
These spiky plants produce long lasting, sweetly fragrant blooms that come in a range of eye catching colors. Also known as dogs mouth, lion’s mouth or toad’s mouth this flower is a tender perennial which is usually grown as an annual. Once established they are pleasingly easy to care for and surprisingly resilient.
Originating in Europe and North America. The plants are hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 10. Flowering in the spring, with a little care they can be encouraged to flower again in the fall.
Despite the delicate appearance of the flower, these are pleasingly resilient plants. In fact, planting a collection of snapdragon flower plants can be one of the first late winter tasks you undertake in the garden each year.
One of the easiest plants to grow, even if you are a complete novice gardener, this is your complete guide to the snapdragon flower.
Snapdragon Flower Varieties
Depending on the size of your garden you can grow either dwarf, intermediate or tall varieties. The plants range in size from about 6 inches to 3 ft. This makes them ideal for a range of situations. The distinctive flower also comes in a wide variety of colors.
Taller varieties such as Animation and Rocket reach a height of between 24 and 40 inches. Coming in a range of colors these are ideal for cut flower displays as well as adding height to the garden. Another popular tall variety is Snappy Tongue. Producing the classic snapdragon flower, look closely at Snappy Tongue’s blooms. Some produce what appears to be a tongue in their mouths.
Mid sized varieties, reaching 15 to 30 inches, include the popular Liberty and Arros cultivars. The latter is prized for its vivid blooms. Arros reaches a final height of about 2 ft.
Dwarf cultivars reach 6 to 15 inches. Floral Carpet and Tom Thumb are two reliable varieties. The bushy Floral Carpet cultivar is a particularly useful way to fill a border or large space.
You can also grow trailing varieties, such as Fruit Salad, Cascadia and Luminaire. These can be trailed over hanging baskets, pots or window boxed.
As well as the typical dragon jaw shaped snapdragon flower varieties, there are also butterfly flower types. Butterfly blooms do not snap but are fused. Chantilly and Pixie are common butterfly types. Another popular butterfly variety is La Bella. This cultivar produces blooms in a range of colors. Particularly attractive is La Bella Red which is prized for its cherry red blooms.
Antirrhinum comes in a range of sizes and colors, including double and variegated varieties.
There are also double flower varieties, also known as double azalea snapdragons. These include Double Azalea Apricot and Madame Butterfly.
For something really unusual you can also grow multicolored plants such as Lucky Lips. This cultivar produces purple and white blooms. There are also varieties that produce interesting foliage. Bronze Dragon is grown for its dark red, almost black leaves. Frosted Flames is less eye catching but still attractive, producing white and green variegated foliage.
While garden stores often sell ready to plant snapdragon plants, if you want something a little unusual you may need to find a specialist nursery. Alternatively, many seed companies sell seed mixes. This is an affordable way to grow a range of different colored plants.
Growing from Seed
The snapdragon flower is commonly purchased as a young plant, ready to plant out. You can also grow the plants from seed. While they can be difficult to establish, with a little extra care it is possible.
Snapdragon flower seeds are slow to start. They germinate best in cooler temperatures.
Sow seeds indoors 6 to 10 weeks before the last predicted frost date. You can also sow seeds outdoors, after the last hard frost has passed. However, germination undercover is easier.
To sow undercover, sow in pots or trays filled with a well draining potting mix. Dampen the mix, it should be moist not soggy. Sprinkle the seeds over the potting medium, pressing them lightly into the soil. Do not cover the seeds. They need light to germinate.
Place the pots or trays in a propagator or somewhere where you can maintain a temperature of about 65 ℉. The Super Sprouter Propagation Kit comes with a grow light built in. This enables you to maintain an even temperature and provides lots of light to help the germination process.
In ideal conditions, seeds germinate in a couple of weeks. Don’t worry if it takes a little longer, the seeds are notoriously slow starters.
Post Germination Care
Following germination, place the trays about 4 inches below grow lights for 16 hours a day. A bright windowsill can also be used, but may not be bright enough.
Air should be able to circulate freely around the seeds. A small fan can be placed near the seedlings to encourage air to circulate. This not only prevents mold but also encourages stronger seedlings to grow.
As the seedlings grow try to keep the potting soil evenly moist. Once the seedlings have developed two sets of true leaves thin they can be thinned out.
Fertilize around 4 weeks after sowing with a water soluble or liquid indoor plant fertilizer diluted to about half strength.
When the seedlings are about 4 inches tall and have produced 6 true leaves pinch off the top of the stem. This encourages the plants to branch and become bushier.
Allow the seedlings to grow on before transplanting outside following the last hard frost. Always remember to harden off the seedlings before transplanting.
Sowing Seeds Outside
You can also sow seeds in their final position.
Sow seeds in a well worked, loose, rich soil in a full sunlight position. Sprinkle the seeds lightly on the soil, pressing them down. Moistening the soil before sowing helps the seeds to stick in place.
Do not cover the seeds. Water only to keep the soil evenly moist. Do not overwater the seeds.
Seeds can be started in pots or their final position. Just make sure that they have access to lots of light.
Where to Plant the Snapdragon Flower
The snapdragon flower does best in well draining soil in a full sun location. They can also grow in partial shade positions. A partial shade position helps to keep the plants cool and in flower during the warm summer months.
Snapdragons are at their best if temperatures are in the low 70 ℉s in the day and low 40℉s at night. Once established they can withstand colder, even sub-freezing temperatures.
Dig over the soil well and work in organic matter, such as compost, before planting. The soil should be well draining and either neutral or slightly acidic. A 6.2 to 7.0 range is ideal. If you are unsure of the condition of your soil a soil test kit will answer all your questions, allowing you to make any necessary amendments.
How to Plant
Remember to harden the plants off before planting. If you are planting in beds or borders you may also need to prepare the soil before planting.
Take the time to properly prepare the soil before planting. This helps the plants to thrive.
When you are ready to plant, dig a hole in the soil large enough to hold the plant in its pot. This is an easy way to ensure the hole is large enough.
Carefully remove the plant from the pot and position it in the center of the hole. The flower should sit at roughly the same level as when it was in the pot.
Backfill the hole, being careful not to sink the plant. Water well and firm down the soil.
Planting in Pots
An ideal container plant, the snapdragon flower is a great option in thriller, filler, spiller style plating scheme. A versatile plant, they can brine height, color and fragrance to pots.
Plant in pots filled with well draining potting soil. There should be drainage holes in the bottom. If you want to create a low maintenance garden, plant in self watering pots. Plant in the same way as you would if planting in the ground.
Do I Need to Stake my Plants?
To help them remain upright, taller varieties require staking. Stakes are best installed during planting. Grow!t Bamboo Stakes provide a robust, natural way to support taller plants.
Taller varieties may require staking to prevent them from snapping in the wind.
Caring for a Snapdragon Flower
Once established these are pleasingly low maintenance plants that are surprisingly hard to kill.
When to Water
In the first few weeks after planting, keep the soil moist. Once established reduce watering to a couple of inches a week if there is no rainfall. Only water when the top inch of soil looks and feels dry.
When you water the plants, water the soil as near to the crown as possible without getting the foliage wet. Keeping the foliage as dry as possible helps to keep the plants healthy. I find that a watering can gives you more control than a hose, particularly if you are watering pots.
Plants in pots require more regular watering than those in beds.
Fertilizing antirrhinum Plants
There is no real need to feed the snapdragon flower. This is because they are not long lasting plants. However a top dressing of organic mulch helps to keep the plants healthy and prolong flowering.
A fertilizer can be applied when the plants begin to flower. A well balanced or all purpose 10-10-10 fertilizer is ideal. Water well before fertilizing to reduce the risk of nitrogen burn. Watering first also helps the fertilizer to soak down through the soil and reach the root system.
Apply at a rate of roughly three pounds per 100 sq ft of flowerbed. Consult the packet for exact dosage.
A layer of organic mulch can have a number of benefits. Helping the soil to conserve moisture and protect against cold weather, as it breaks down the mulch returns nutrients to the soil.
Mulching your Plants
Mulching the soil around the snapdragon flower helps to keep the soil and roots cool. As well as improving moisture retention, keeping the roots cool also helps the snapdragon to bloom during the summer months.
Cold Weather Protection
Established pants can withstand sub-freezing temperatures. During cold periods keep the plants well watered and cover the soil with a layer of organic mulch such as pine straw.
If you are growing the snapdragon flower in a pot, simply move it to a more sheltered position.
How to Prune
Deadhead or cut away spent blooms. Use garden scissors to cut away blooms as they start to fade. In mid summer, cutting the plant back by a third to a half encourages more blooms to form in the fall.
Clip or pinch out the top stem. Do similar to any long side shoots that may emerge. This encourages the plants to become bushier and more flowers to emerge.
A tender perennial, if the plants survive the winter prune them back by about a third to encourage new growth to emerge.
However, snapdragon flower plants are rarely consistently good year after year. It is better to sow seeds and start again every year. Many varieties are capable of self seeding, meaning that they will return year after year with no encouragement from you. Be warned, hybrid varieties are rarely the same as the original plants.
Snapdragon is a cool weather flower. They make a good companion plant for heat loving plants such as Angelonia. This allows you to create a long lasting floral bed.
A deer resistant flower, planting snapdragon at the edge of your vegetable garden can help to deter deer. However it should not be the only deterrent measure that you take.
A reliable companion plant, Antirrhinum works well in a range of mixed planting schemes.
How to Propagate the Snapdragon Flower
Antirrhinum are easily propagated from seed. You can also propagate the plants from cuttings or root division.
How to Save Seeds
Allow spent flowers to remain on the plant. Seed pods develop from the base of the spent flower. Initially light tan, the pods turn a darker shade of brown as they mature.
To collect the seeds tie a paper bag around the pods. Use an elastic band or garden tie to hold the bag in place. This catches the seeds as the pod splits. When the pods are fully ripe cut them stem from the plant. Shake the pods to dislodge any remaining seeds into the bag.
Harvested seeds can be stored in a marked paper envelope in a cool dark place until you are ready to sow. Sow seeds as described above.
As well as harvesting seeds, you can also propagate healthy plants by cuttings or root division.
Propagation from Cuttings
Take cuttings from healthy sections about 6 weeks before the first predicted fall frost. Dipping the cutting in a rooting hormone encourages roots to form but isn’t necessary.
Plant in pots filled with a warm, moist potting soil. Keep the soil moist and warm and allow the cuttings to grow on over winter. Successful cuttings can then be planted out the following spring.
You can also divide by root division in late summer. Dig up the entire plant and divide into as many pieces as possible. Each section should have a good section of root and some foliage. Plant each section in a clean pot, about 1 gallon in size, filled with fresh potting soil.
Keep the divided section indoors during the winter before planting out in the spring once the last frost has passed.
Common Antirrhinum Problems
Once established this is a surprisingly resilient plant.
Bacterial leaf spot, botrytis, powdery mildew, damping off and rust can all affect the snapdragon flower. Most of these diseases can be prevented by adopting good growing practices. Watering the soil, not the plant and correctly spacing the plants can all help to reduce the risk of disease and keep plants healthy.
Copper and sulfur sprays can help to prevent disease. Neem oil can also be used to treat mildew and rust issues.
Particularly diseased plants should be dug up and destroyed. Never place diseased plants on a compost heap.
Regularly check the plants for signs of infestations by pests such as leaf miners, cutworms, cyclamen mites and spider mites. Cut away and destroy affected foliage.
Aphids can also target the plants. Wiping the foliage with a homemade insecticidal soap can cure aphid infestations.
Elegant and attractive this flower is a great addition to any garden. Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/flower-snapdragon-red-yellow-pink-1526461/
A standard part of a cottage garden, the fragrant snapdragon flower can also be used in a range of planting schemes. A great way to add height and color to a garden, snapdragon flower plants are pleasingly easy to grow from seed and care for. This old fashioned favorite still has a place in the modern garden, why not plant yours today.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.