945 Antirrhinum majusCommon Names: common snapdragon Family: Scrophulariaceae (figwort Family)
The common snapdragon is one of our most familiar flowers, brightening cottage gardens and fascinating children on both sides of the Atlantic for centuries. Snapdragons have upright stems dressed with two-lipped tubular flowers that come in an almost endless palette of colors, from white to yellow to orange to red, to purple and almost black. True blue is the only color not available. When squeezed side to side, the snapdragon flower opens wide, delighting children of all ages. There are hundreds of snapdragon cultivars, usually listed under one of five groups: Tall (2-3 ft/0.6-0.9 m in height), Intermediate (1-2 ft/0.3-0.6 m), Short (9-12 in/22.9-30.5 cm), Dwarf (4-9 in/10.2-22.9 cm) and Trailing. Some fairly recent introductions, the "butterfly" cultivars, have open faced flowers, with either single or double petals. Tall cultivars include the mixed color collections: 'Rocket', 'Bright Butterflies', 'Supreme Double', with fine ruffled flowers, and the open-faced 'Madame Butterfly'. 'Monarch', 'Pixie' and 'Vanity Fair' are Intermediate mixtures. Single type Intermediates include 'White Wonder', 'Black Prince', with dark purple leaves, and 'Rembrandt', which has gorgeous red and yellow bicolored flowers. 'Coronette', a mixture in the Intermediate group, is said to be especially tolerant of poor growing conditions. Popular Short snapdragons include the mixtures 'Tom Thumb' and 'Floral Carpet', and the bicolored 'Peaches and Cream'. 'Magic Carpet' and 'Little Gem' are popular Dwarf mixtures
Native originally to North Africa, Spain and along the Mediterranean to Italy, snapdragons have become naturalized in temperate regions in North America and elsewhere.
CultureSnapdragons need a very well drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Pinch back your snapdragons when they are a few inches tall to encourage branching, and remove old flowers after they have bloomed. Some of the tall varieties may need to be staked. Use a twiggy branch for an inconspicuous support. Light: Snapdragons do best in full sun, but can tolerate partial shade. Moisture: Snapdragons need frequent watering for the first couple of weeks after transplanting (daily watering in sandy soils). Once established, water when the top 1 in (2.5 cm) of soil feels dry to the touch. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 11. Snapdragons perform best in cool weather, and most cultivars can tolerate frost and an occasional light freeze. They don't do well in summer heat, and in zones 9-11, snapdragons are grown in the winter. Propagation: Although technically short-lived perennials, snapdragons are usually grown as annuals. Most cultivars come true from seed. In zones 4-7 sow snapdragon seed in spring after danger of frost has passed. Better yet, start your snapdragons indoors 6-8 weeks before the expected last frost. Snapdragon seeds need light to germinate, so don't bury them - just sprinkle them on the surface, then press them down. If starting in containers, water from below so you don't wash the tiny seeds away. In zones 8-11 you can set out plants or sow seeds where they are to be grown in fall or winter, and let them overwinter. Cover with mulch if a hard freeze is expected. Under favorable conditions, snapdragons will self-sow in the garden.
Snapdragons are usually planted as bedding annuals, often with petunias or pansies. Space plants 10-14 in (25-36 cm) apart, and don't plant too deeply, or they may rot at the stem. By early summer in the south, snapdragons are usually replaced with warm season flowers such as marigolds, scarlet sage, celosia or pentas. The short and dwarf snapdragon cultivars are excellent for border edges, raised beds and rock gardens. Use the taller snaps in the background or as the main feature in a mixed bed. Snapdragons make great cut flowers, and the tall varieties are often grown in the cutting garden for use in bouquets. The dwarf and trailing cultivars are great in containers, too.
There are about 40 species of snapdragons, but the common snapdragon, which the famous garden writer, Gertrude Jekyll called "one of the best and most admirable of all garden plants", is by far the most well known. There are more than 3000 species in the Scrophulariaceae or figwort family. Foxgloves, penstemon and butter-and-eggs are other well known "scrophs."
Steve Christman 3/1/02; updated 2/16/04