This Plant is a Snap to Grow
I was first introduced to snapdragons as a child in my grandmother’s zone 5 garden. They filled a perennial bed at her back door every spring and provided my sister and me with colorful talking floral puppets until frost. While we snapped the fused petals of the double lipped flowers open and closed in playmaking, bumblebees squirmed in and out of blossoms pollinating. The snapdragon being in the figwort family of plants is bee pollinated, and the flower design provided a landing platform for bees (the lower lip), an entry door, and a reward for work done.
When I moved to South Carolina snapdragons, Antirrhinum majus, appeared in garden centers in the fall, a clue to their cold tolerance. They are treated like cool season annuals here and are pulled up in late spring along with pansies and violas. Rust, powdery mildew, and verticillium wilt can be major problems for snapdragons in hot and humid summers.
Snapdragons come in a variety of heights and just about every color but blue. They are classified by height. Dwarf varieties like ‘Floral Showers’ and ‘Floral Carpet’ are 6”- 8” in height and come in 10 colors. Intermediate varieties like the ‘Liberty’ and ‘Sonnet’ series reach 18”-24.” The tall varieties like ‘Rocket’ stand tall at 36”- 48.” The latter are grown commercially for the florist industry and by homeowners with cutting gardens. Space tall varieties a foot apart and dwarf ones 6” – 8” apart.
Snapdragons are easy to grow in full sun but can tolerate light shade. They like humus rich well-drained soil, slightly acidic to slightly alkaline. Since local soils tend to be acidic, many gardeners choose window boxes, containers, or raised beds for their snaps. Use an all-purpose flower fertilizer once a month.
Root, stem, and crown rot become problems in poorly drained soil. Aphids and spider mites could be a problem in warmer weather.
Snapdragons have come a long way since my childhood. There are snapless varieties with open flowers resembling azalea blossoms in single or double form. Rust resistant varieties have been bred too.
Despite these changes snapdragons are still a classy old-fashioned flower and in the words of famous garden writer, Gertrude Jekyll “one of the best and most admirable of all garden plants.”