Snapdragons, with their tubular flowers that "snap" open and shut are an old-fashioned garden favorite, particularly with children. Also known by the Latin name Antirrhinum majus, the snapdragon is native to the Mediterranean and a member of the Foxglove family. The large, fragrant flowers are long-lasting and come in many shades including white, yellow, red, purple, bronze and pink. The darker colors are particularly rich. With varieties ranging from 6 inches to 3 feet in height, snapdragons are versatile. Plant the tallest in the middle or back of the border; use dwarf varieties for edging or in rock gardens. They will flower all summer long but prefer cooler weather, so plan to showcase them in the spring and fall.
Plant seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. The seeds are tiny and take several weeks to germinate. They require light to germinate, so sprinkle them on top of the soil rather than burying them.
Plant the seedlings outside after the danger of frost is past. Space small varieties 6 to 8 inches apart, large varieties 12 inches apart.
If preferred, purchase young snapdragon plants from a garden center in the spring. Pinch them back at planting time if they look spindly; this will encourage branching.
Water young plants frequently after they are first set out. Provide them with a deep watering during the summer heat.
Keep plants deadheaded to encourage more flowers.
Provide good air circulation and avoid overhead watering to avoid rust disease.
Fertilize snapdragons once a month. Stake tall varieties if needed.
Don't be too quick to cut down snapdragons in the fall. Although usually treated as annuals, they are actually half-hardy perennials and will withstand a light frost.
About this Author
Gwen Bruno has been a full-time freelance writer since 2009, with her gardening-related articles appearing on DavesGarden. She is a former teacher and librarian, and she holds a bachelor's degree in education from Augustana College and master's degrees in education and library science from North Park University and the University of Wisconsin.