Growing in tall spikes covered with double-sided, rounded-petaled blooms, the snapdragon is actually a collection of interesting buds. When a single flower head is picked from the stalk and pinched in the middle, it will open, revealing a hairy, colorful throat. Popular in English-style gardens as well as in cut flower arrangements, this pretty summer bloomer comes with some surprising symbolism.
Before exploring the meaning of a flower, it is best to be sure you have the correct one to avoid confusion. Antirrhinum majus, the common annual snapdragon, includes a number of varieties suited to many locations. Dwarf varieties will grow to 6 inches tall in bunchy clumps, while taller species may reach up to 36 inches. Spikes produce blooms in a range of colors including white, pink, red, orange, yellow, purple, and some bi-colored species. Preferring well-drained, moist soil in full sun, the snapdragon may reseed, providing additional seasons from one crop of plants.
A Victorian term for the ascribed meaning of various flowers, floriography is actually a discipline rooted in more ancient cultures. Chinese, Egyptian, Roman and Greek civilizations all have very early records of the attachment of a sentimental or symbolic meaning to a floral species. Japanese call the same discipline Hanakotoba, and although meanings will vary between cultures and time periods, the use of flowers to express emotions, feelings or symbolism continues today.
The snapdragon's Greek botanical name is antirrhinum. "Anti-," a prefix meaning "like," plus "-rhin," meaning "nose," provides a visual image of this bloom. The rounded edges of the flower's irregularly shaped upper petals are slightly larger than the lower petals, resembling a proboscis. The modern term snapdragon refers to the snapping mouth that can be created when pressing on the sides of the bloom and the sound that is created when the petals close again.
Meaning 1: Deception
Legend has it that the suitor who hides a snapdragon has allure and an appearance of congeniality. From this concealment may have arisen the tradition that snapdragons signify deception. Deception can be an accusation, a query, or a private meaning for an individual circumstance. When combined with another flower, such as purple hyacinth which expresses an apology, the general message could be a humble plea for forgiveness of an indiscretion.
Meaning 2: Graciousness
Gracious--synonymous with benevolent, courteous, and obliging--is a secondary meaning for the snapdragon. When given to a hostess, the snapdragon presents the perfect picture of formal appreciation for kind hospitality. Used in bridal bouquets, the snapdragon may represent a wish for a fortunate and blessed marriage.